Academy 3, Manchester
5 May 2014
Neon Trees bring their high energy modern disco to the UK. Katie Clare sees them bear their hearts and souls to an emotional crowd in Manchester.
Utah’s Neon Trees have just released their third studio album, Pop Psychology, and true to form Tyler Glenn, Chris Allen, Branden Campbell and Elaine Bradley have provided a new twist on their own brand of alternative rock pop by adding layers of disco and an 80s mall vibe into a healthy handful of the tracks. Prior to an extensive US tour they visited the UK for three dates.
Each time I see Neon Trees the audience dynamic seems to change but the band never fails to deliver a show full of candour, momentum and exuberance. Tonight in Manchester the crowd is full of excited chatter and eagerness and welcome the support band Ghost Beach, a tropical-tinged rock outfit from New York.
This energy is still palpable as the dry ice fills the air, the lights turn neon and Tyler walks centre stage to a reception that is electrically charged and very, very, very loud.
Lessons In Love, a song that nestles somewhere between bombast and ballad, seems a strange opener until the younger audience members start frantically moving to the beats of the bass and drums. The momentum envelops the remainder of the crowd who nearly manage to drown out Tyler’s imploring vocals as the band go straight into Your Surrender.
While occasionally Neon Trees appear to be off the wall and a little haphazard it’s clear that this is no random collision between hollow-cheeked rock chic and bright, glittering disco razzmatazz. They work hard at their sound and image which is honestly delivered. Tyler is the very picture of an open book as he reveals his inner thoughts and feelings, with angst and a bitter sweetness the themes running through many of the songs. Tyler is a man, a songwriter and an artist working out an understanding of himself through his lyrics and music and with which we are fortunate to share.
The middle of the set draws on a mix of tracks from the latest album and the most popular from their first. The audience’s enthusiasm never dips and remains high for the older Animal and the new Text Me In The Morning – the crowd are true “maniacs”!
Neon Trees don’t just do high octane – there are some exceptionally touching interactions between band and audience during the heart-wrenching ballads such as Voices In The Halls. Their final encore, First Things First, comes close to pulling tears and after the thank yous and the farewells the lights come on and the Manchester audience leaves hot, sweaty and grinning from ear to ear.
Neon Trees are that perfect alternative rock pop combination: they write accessibly diverse songs full of openness and feeling and supply a killer live performance that everyone can feel a part of each and every time – oh and as people they are 110% feckin adorable.
Pop Psychology is available now on CD and DL from the usual outlets. You can register for news and information at the official Neon Trees website, like on Facebook and follow on Twitter – the band each have their own Twitter accounts – lead singer Tyler Glenn’s in highly recommended.
All words and photos by Katie Clare. Find her Louder Than War archive here.