Black Lines‘ transition to full-blown emo may not have been Mayday Parade’s finest release, but the reverberations of its impact can be felt here. On this year’s semi-annual January / February tour, the venues the Florida mob find themselves occupying have undergone a fair leap in size for the first time in quite a while.
Up first though are Beautiful Bodies , and the recollections of their insane live shows seem to be contradicted tonight. It’s largely down to a lurgy-stricken Alicia Solombrino, completely static at the front and centre of the stage and largely unable to pull off her usual vocal power. Regardless, the likes of Animals and Capture And Release sound decent nonetheless thanks to a beefed-up live sound, and while it may be far from perfect, they get points for at least trying.
Have Mercy  are by a fair margin the odd band out on this bill, a hard-edged rock of emo amidst the surrounding sea of pop-rock. They’ve also amassed quite a sizable number who’ve come to see them alone, though it’s difficult to see why. Their songs aren’t bad per se, but the sonic shades of greys and dark greens mean that they sound more or less identical to the countless other acts the scene has spewed out recently. Add to that Brian Swindle’s almost cringeworthy, overly emotive vocals, and the fact that the set’s back half is just dying for a kick in pace, and it doesn’t really see Have Mercy shift from their status as an oddity on this tour.
American Candy was one of the hidden gems of 2015 that was criminally overlooked, so to see The Maine  having the chance to show just how good their latter-day material is to a sold out crowd is a wonderful sight. They’ve been going from strength to strength recently, and this seems to be another one – English Girls fizzes and sparkles with pop-rock goodness, while Am I Pretty? skips along with its breezy little riff, and Another Night On Mars rounds things off with what would be the mother of all drunken singalongs. John O’Callaghan has charisma to burn, with his Matthew McConaughey-esque vocal drawl adding a rustic charm to the likes of Like We Did (Windows Down). It’s a great little set overall, and shows how The Maine are quickly becoming one of the most consistent pop-rock bands in the game.
Mayday Parade  on the other hand haven’t been as consistent in the past, but they do seem to have improved quite a bit. There’s no frills or bells and whistles to their set – just the songs to get the crowd going, and get the crowd going they do. It’s their usual poppier fare that goes down better – Jamie All Over and When You See My Friends were tailor made for rooms of this size, and the epic swell of Three Cheers For Five Years clearly shows they have bigger ones on the brain as well.
It’s in their newer material where things go a bit awry. It may be because it hasn’t had as long to ferment in the crowd’s heads, or simply because it falls short of their previous work, but there seems to be something about the Black Lines tracks that doesn’t seem to click. The acoustic-led Letting Go is the exception to this, but One Of Them Will Destroy The Other seems just a loud, borderline obnoxious mess, while Hollow‘s lumpen, grungy riffs feel ham-fisted.
Still, where Mayday Parade excel most is in their ballads, and they well and truly pull out the big guns here tonight. Notorious tearjerker Terrible Things may lose a bit of its poignancy due to its usual sombre piano being replaced by an acoustic guitar, but Miserable At Best stays true to the original. It’s just frontman Derek Sanders sitting at his keyboard with his hundreds-strong backing chorus, and it’s one of the most spine-tingling moments of the night. People often forget this kind of effect Mayday Parade can have and dismiss them as ‘just another pop-rock band’, but even when they don’t succeed their versatility and ambition shine through. And tonight, Mayday Parade prove that, when they put their mind to it, they can shine amongst the very brightest.
Words by Luke Nuttall