During one of the scarce quiet moments in Brand New’s high-octane Friday night performance at the Kendall Hall Auditorium, someone sitting in the far-left corner of the balcony screamed, “I love you, Jesse.”
Smirking, Jesse Lacey finished tuning his guitar, raised his fist into the air and then drove it down toward his Fender Telecaster, slamming the opening chord of the band’s oft-quoted “Seventy Times 7,” once again energizing the sell-out crowd that hadn’t sat down since the band kicked off its set around 9:30 p.m.
College Union Board’s (CUB) “Welcome Back Weekend Concert” packed Kendall Hall with 837 students (the auditorium’s capacity) while another 300 or so grumbled outside in the cold, cursing about how they missed their chance to see Brand New and Brooklyn-born singer/songwriter Kevin Devine rock out at one of the most anticipated concerts in recent memory at the College.
Playing a combination of songs from their last three albums, Brand New mixed nostalgia and intensity to keep the crowd on its feet for more than an hour. Old-school fans screamed along with Lacey to hits like “Jude Law And A Semester Abroad” and “Mix Tape” from the band’s 2001 debut album “Your Favorite Weapon,” while newer followers were more than happy to brood in time with the front man as he crowed and growled his way through tracks off the band’s latest album, the more alternative-rock minded “The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me.”
The band spent most of its set delivering the angst-ridden, gut-wrenching, inner-turmoil-driven rock music most College students have grown to love and use for away message fodder, pitching their guitars into the air, letting feedback ring out and close most numbers.
But the Long Island imports had a little fun on stage, too.
After completing the middle portion of the set list, that included the popular combo of “Sowing Season” and “The Archers Bows Have Broken” from their latest disc, several pockets of anxious fans started yelling out requests for older material. Lacey and guitarist Vinnie Accardi bantered for a minute, ignoring the calls while teasing the raucous crowd with half-hearted attempts at the opening lick of “Jude Law And A Semester Abroad.” After a series of intentional mishaps, Lacey sang the familiar kick off line, “Whatever poison’s in this bottle,” before the crowd drowned him out for the remainder of the verse.
Kevin Devine was supposed to be the calm before Brand New’s storm, but with the help of the God Damn Band and some tracks off his upcoming “Brother’s Blood” LP, the meek- looking songwriter provided a solid rock ‘n’ roll performance.
Devine has played at the College twice before, touring the Rathskeller with an ensemble cast that included Lacey, The God Damn Band and keyboardist/vocalist Brian Bonz and his side project, the Dot Hongs.
Bonz had a message for the crowd early in the night.
“If you fuck up in school, you fuck up in life. Word,” the enigmatic Bonz spat before slapping his tambourine and providing a beat box as the band launched into Devine’s “I Could Be With Anyone.”
While the crowd didn’t jump up and riot like they did when Lacey took the stage, Devine’s fans swayed and sang along, waving cell phones through the dimly lit Kendall Hall in place of lighters. The folk rocker played a set weighted down in new material from “Brother’s Blood” and the “I Could Be With Anyone” EP, but he also appeased fans with a few tracks off of his one-time major label release “Put Your Ghost To Rest.”
By the night’s end, every fan in attendance – from the ridiculously devout that stood in line from 2:30 p.m., to the stragglers who squeaked through the front door at the last minute – were swinging and bobbing their heads to Brand New’s maudlin ballad “Play Crack The Sky.” Lacey and Devine crooned the last chorus over and over again, providing a beat for the satisfied crowd as they shambled toward the exits.
“This is the end,” the duo sang. “This story’s old but it goes, on and on until we disappear.”
James Queally can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.