One day before Marty was supposed to travel to the future, the Back to The Future Hearts Tour visited Arizona at the Mesa Amphitheater. The tour is co-headlined by All Time Low and Sleeping With Sirens. Before the headlines, the crowd is warmed up with performances from Japan-native band One Ok Rock and British punk rockers Neck Deep.
Ominous clouds in the beginning of the day threatened the outside venue, even though they promised the show would go on rain or shine. Fortunately, it only rained in the early afternoon and it actually cooled down the warm Arizona air. The concert started earlier than any other show I have attended. One Ok Rock began at 5 PM, the sun still shining, and Neck Deep followed as the sun set.
Formed in 2005 in Japan, One Ok Rock is an alternative rock band consisting of Taka, Toru, Ryota and Tomoya. They have gradually been making their break in the U.S., and playing on this tour will surely work in their favor. They performed with great energy and the crowd was attentive, which was pleasantly surprising considering that it is safe to say that the majority of the audience had never heard their music. My eyes were always drawn toward the bassist because his sound was clear and it was the kind of music you could feel in your chest. My favorite song of their six-song set was “Cry Out.” Even though I didn’t know the words, I was still trying to sing along. Welcomed by deafening cheers, Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens joined the band on stage to perform “Paper Planes.”
Hailing from North Wales, UK, Ben Barlow, Fil Thrope-Evans, Dani Washington and Matt West make up the punk rock band Neck Deep. Their music is classic punk – wailing guitars, deep bass sounds, loud drums, scratchy and angsty vocals. It’s not hard to guess the music that they grew up on – blink-182, Green Day, The Descendents – because their sound reflects the artists who influenced them. A sea of cell phone lights lit up the arena as the chorus to “A Part Of Me” began. They were the perfect segway to Sleeping With Sirens.
Sad to say, I wasn’t totally impressed with Sleeping With Sirens. The band has a total of six members: Kellin Quinn, Justin Hills, Gabe Barham, Jack Fowler, Nick Martin and Alex Howard. This was my second time seeing them, and I might just prefer the closer and more intimate show like I saw at Rialto Theater. Of course, I still enjoyed the show and they did an amazing job performing, but something was lacking. Kellin Quinn often hid his face from the audience, whether he realized it or not, but he still made a point to add some talking breaks and speak to the crowd. The lights definitely overexposed the stage, the members appearing more like shadows than anything else. Featuring many songs from their latest album, Madness, and a select few from their earlier material, the setlist was interesting to say the least.
I know I’m touching on the negative sides of the performance, but there was plenty of positive. Kellin Quinn is a fascinating frontman to watch – he would hold the mic away from his mouth, moving it up and down to follow his change in pitch. His voice is higher and he sings with a passion that moves the crowd. He made a shout out to his mother who was present that night and dedicated the song “With Ears To See, And Eyes To Hear” to her. There were two kinds of songs – loud/something to mosh to and sad/something that brought tears to your eyes. For example, Kellin encouraged everyone to open up a circle pit and mosh during songs like “We Like It Loud” and “Congratulations.” Kellin called out all the misfits in the crowd, saying that it is okay to be different, then dives into an emotional performance of “The Strays.” The band finished by playing the fan-favorite, “If You Can’t Hang.” However, it didn’t really feel like a bang. I kept thinking the song was over, then Kellin would add an extra “oh yeah” or something along those lines until it felt like the band filtered off stage.
All. Time. Low. Alex Gaskarth, Jack Barakat, Rian Dawson and Zack Merrick aren’t capable of pulling off a bad performance. It feels like a comedy stand up and a concert all rolled up into one. Amazingly, this was my fourth time seeing All Time Low and this last show was my favorite. Their setlist was a beautiful combination of the best songs from Future Hearts and their most popular songs from previous albums. Mesa Amphitheater is set next to a Marriott Hotel, and Jack and Alex didn’t hesitate to call out to the people watching from their windows. Someone threw a plush eggplant on stage which became a running joke throughout the night. Toward the end of the show, Jack put on a pumpkin shirt – making him just like the actual Pumpkin King (it’s funny because his name is Jack and he has a tattoo of Jack Skellington).
Alex walked on stage to sing the first verse of “Satellite” before the rest of the guys joined him to perform “Kicking an Screaming.” After requesting everyone to howl at the moon, All Time Low went on to perform a new song during this tour from Future Hearts, “Dancing With A Wolf.” Before diving into “Weightless,” Jack gave a brief history of the song. Apparently, the first time the band ever performed the song was at Mesa Amp back in 2009 when they opened up for Fall Out Boy. At the mention of Fall Out Boy, they broke out into the first few notes of “Sugar We’re Going Down” and performed it all the way until the end of the first chorus.
There’s always a moment in the show where Alex goes solo on the stage then asks the audience whether they want to hear “Therapy” or “Remembering Sunday.” Based on the cheers, “Therapy” won. The Future Hearts logo behind him and only an acoustic guitar in hand, Alex performed the song with emotion that I’m sure brought tears to many people’s eyes. The times when the crowd sings back to him are the moments that stand out because at that point everyone in the venue was united by that one thing. Even though the crowd began to chant “Sunday,” Alex moved on to the next ballad: “Missing You.” By far one of my favorite songs on Future Hearts, it’s heartbreaking and comforting at the same time. “This song goes out to anyone going through a rough time right now in their lives, anyone who feels a little left out, anyone that’s a little bit lost. Just know that you will come out of whatever you’re going through stronger, better off. And tonight, everyone has your fucking back. This here is a family. This one’s called ‘Missing You,'” Alex beautifully said before strumming the first few chords. The rest of the band came out during the second verse to add some more sound to the song and everything fell together really nicely. Jack shouting to the crowd, instead of the mic, “don’t lose your fight, kid” made it even better. The spotlight may be placed more on the lead singer, but it was obvious that each member of the band gives their all to make the night perfect.
Possibly my favorite song of the night and from the Future Hearts album (okay, besides “Missing You”) was “Don’t Let Me Go.” It has my favorite drumming off of the album and the lyrics are something you can scream at the top of your lungs. Before starting the song, Alex dedicated it to the fans and said it was written for us. Rian nailed the drums just like he did in the studio. Jack was flailing around like he usually does and collecting bras that fans throw on stage and attaching them to his mic stand (something he does every show). I get tired just watching him, but he’s entertaining to say the least.
The encore consisted of three songs: “Kids in the Dark,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Dear Maria, Count Me In.” Huge inflatable balls were thrown out into the audience, who would end up throwing them back on stage. After the first chorus of “Kids in the Dark,” Alex called the band to a stop because too many balls were being thrown on stage and getting in the way. They ended up just restarting the song after having a laugh. During the second song, everyone got on each other’s shoulders so the venue was now filled with pop punk giants. Alex and Jack made their usual jokes and thanked the crowd before starting “Dear Maria.” Right before he was to begin singing, Alex said “Pray for Zayn.” The dork that he is, he laughed at his own joke and messed up the first line, but the audience kept singing without him. “You guys can’t start before I do,” Alex laughed and the band restarted the song. Silver and blue hearts rained from the sky and the guys ended their performance to remember.
That’s one of the many things I love about All Time Low. You can never see the same show twice. Even though this was my fourth time seeing them (this was the third time I’ve seen them on tour, the other time was at the 2015 APMAs), none of their shows have been the same. Needless to say, next time All Time Low make their way to Arizona, you’ll see me there.
Thanks for reading,
**I have some videos of the concert if anyone’s interested here.