[Originally published on Virgin.com, July 2013]
Bowery Ballroom, New York City
June 29, 2013
Los Angeles band The Neighbourhood first caught my attention earlier this year, when ‘Female Robbery’ wafted into the air from an alternative radio playlist. The song had elements of everything I loved about recent obsession Lana Del Rey: it was nearly overproduced in every way, the gravity of the track almost laughable, but the lyrics were sultry and earnest enough that it was impossible to stop listening.
And with The Neighbourhood, the vocalist is a dude, so when he sings things like “Let me hold both your hands in the holes of my sweater”, the tension feels a little spicier. At least for the ladies.
In reality, the crowd at the Bowery Ballroom was a fairly even mix of genders. Apparently, not all Neighbourhood fans are lured by amorphous sexual frustrations.
‘I Love You’ is indeed an intriguing debut album, with relatable angsty undertones and catchy choruses to which many sang along that night. The Neighbourhood know a thing or two about branding, as well; everything about them, their album art, their videos, their photos, are composed in black and white. They’ve nailed the whole noire LA bad boy thing, for sure, and they’ll even let you call them NBHD if it makes you feel cooler.
Frontman Jesse Rutherford clearly knows how to play frontman. He’s also only 22, a fact far more apparent in real life than in the band’s colorless promo shots.
He delivered each song’s vocals with the proper bravado, keeping the audience entertained without any cheese, and the whole band rallied behind the effort. Anyone who fell in love with ‘I Love You’ would’ve been delighted that The Neighbourhood could deliver the same drama from records ‘Flawless’ and ‘Afraid’, for example, in real life.
But where the music reached us, the colorless flashing lights, despite being a signature aesthetic of the band’s, made the whole experience feel slightly impersonal. The sleek visual production, which is more than forgivable in audible form on ‘I Love You’, fairly obscured the rest of the band, getting in the way of what should have been an intimate experience all around.
And, so, the only real trouble with the performance was that The Neighbourhood were playing to a sold-out room of established fans.
Pleasing us was easy; most of us had never seen the band live before, so merely sharing the venue with them was a thrill. It was our plus-ones who needed convincing. If they didn’t know ‘I Love You’, they stood in a strange black-and-white purgatory, unsure of whether this was actually a good show or not. A push in showmanship and relatability probably could have dissolved their ambiguity.
Clocking in at just over an hour with only twelve songs, The Neighbourhood packed all their wares into a tight package. For fans, nothing was left wanting. Hopefully as the Neighbourhood grow, they learn to connect as well with strangers as they do with lovers.
2. Female Robbery
3. Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh Oh)
6. Let It Go
9. A Little Death
11. Sweater Weather