Few bands dole their live sets with as much energy and effervescence as New Found Glory: it’s why the pop-punk legendaries have reigned high on the food chain for 20 years straight – well, that and the storied legacy of dangerously catchy tunes – and it’s why tonight’s sold out show at the Metro Theatre is one we won’t soon forget. The foursome are in town to celebrate that aforementioned 20 years of bandom, taking five from promoting this year’s Makes Me Sick to shower fans with nostalgic hits and deep cuts aplenty. It feels like we’ve stepped back in time to our high school days – y’know, minus the bad grades, social faux pas and ill-fitting uniforms.
Immediate is the inkling that New Found Glory haven’t aged a day since their nascency. There’s no warm-up period or ‘kick-in’ moment; from word go, the Floridian powerhouse are riffing and raging with the youthful sprightliness of a band on their first label contract. With but a mic to hold him down, Jordan Pundik sprints laps around the stage between singalong-able verses and puts his knees to the test on hop-heavy choruses. His vocals are bright and cut like a butter knife through a melodic onslaught of dusty Telecaster juts, most of which courtesy of the ever enigmatic Chad Gilbert.
Even when he’s waist-deep in a backing vocal, locking eyes with swooning fans or dodging shoes (none of which met a drop of the band’s rider, much to the pit’s dismay), Gilbert is a axeman worth every inch of his pedestal. He’s never a chord out of step, and every chunky, ’90s-channeling riff he belts from his fretboard has the veteran crowd in a moshing flurry. On that note, it’s hard to look away from bassist Ian Grushka for the 90 minutes he’s perched to our left: the bearded mecca rips thick licks the likes his contemporaries wish they could, all the while indulging attention-desperate fans and pulling taunts at our photographers (see above).
Such is something New Found Glory have always relished in to their advantage: an ability to make punters feel like a vital component of their wider performance, while still tearing through jams with unrivalled precision. There’s no barrier between us and the band – more than just an assailment of teenage anthems, the set is consistently and genuinely fun, and it never feels like they’re onstage ahead us purely for their paycheques.
As for the setlist, it’s hard to complain with a 27-track showcase built on cuts from 2006’s career-defining Catalyst and 2009’s scene-cementing Not Without A Fight – arguably New Found Glory’s best two albums. The songs are jumbled together which keeps things feeling as fresh and dynamic as any regular set, but with the added amenity of knowing exactly what’s in store. The records still hold up, unsurprisingly: “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” is a melodic riot calling for messy pits and pumping fists, and “All Downhill From Here” is so infectious that Pundik is almost completely washed out by our ardent chants.
The sole new song to hit our ears tonight – the buoyant, if stale “Happy Being Miserable” – garners little more than obligatory headbangs, but it’s played with earnest poise nonetheless.
We’ll admit it: nostalgia is one hell of a drug. In the era sheathing ’06 and ’09, our biggest concerns surrounded the likelihood of finishing our homework on time; nuclear war wasn’t a valid fear for most, and nobody knew what the f*** a chia seed is – it was a simpler time, and reverting to it for a bit over an hour feels comforting. But all of that aside, the fact is that New Found Glory are still just a great band – live, at least. They make a moderate-sized theatre show feel like a sweaty, history-making festival set. They carry a vibe that only they do, and even after 20 years, they still bring it to life night in and night out with the same eruptive indignation.
Here’s to another 20 years of pop-punk!