While The Neighbourhood's brand swirls around black-and-white aesthetics, the Cali band's sold-out Crystal Ballroom set showed a more colorful side of their dramatic pop.
Like The 1975, California quintet The Neighbourhood put a heavy focus on their aesthetics. The band has played the Rose City many times, with both the Roseland and the Crystal Ballroom hosting them over the years. Touring for their last two albums, I Love You. and Wiped Out!, the production has always reflected this, with dark, monochromatic lighting highlighting their famous black-and-white brand. The pattern seemed to be continuing with their latest record, the self-titled The Neighbourhood, the cover of the album featuring a black-and-white portrait of vocalist Jesse Rutherford and the band. However, Wednesday night's sold-out Crystal Ballroom show proved to be more colorful than expected.
The venue was already packed when the first act, Field Medic, took to the stage. There’s a certain kind of sound that you expect to come out of the opener for a band. For The Neighbourhood, it’s expected you’ll find a similar sound, poppy and possibly melodramatic. However, Field Medic did not fit this description.
Self-described on his Bandcamp page as “freak folk/bedroom pop/post country,” it was hard in the moment to label exactly what Field Medic (real name Kevin Patrick Sullivan) was. Based on the cowboy hat and the twang in his voice, it's clear he's been inspired by country songwriting.
HEALTH was the next band on the bill, trading out Sullivan’s chilled-out folk for hefty noise rock. Though the country beginning of the night wouldn’t have seemed to work well on the billing, the sharp songwriting and captivation it inspired meshed perfectly. HEALTH, on the other hand, didn’t seem to blend quite as well.
While the members of the three-piece experimental group certainly showed a lot of energy on stage, the whole of the set felt fairly one-dimensional, and the feedback from the crowd didn’t seem to pack the energy to match the band’s output. Their lack of interaction with the crowd certainly didn’t help, and their musical offerings seemed a bit too off the wall to appeal to The Neighbourhood’s more mainstream fan appeals. Perhaps with a crowd more invested in the heavier, experimental side of rock, HEALTH would thrive. However, this particular setting let them fall flat.
With two near-polar opposite opening sets, neither fitting with the headliner's sound, the expectations for the rest of the night were unclear. But perhaps, like the curveballs thrown with HEALTH and Field Medic before them, the band would surprise with something different. Upon their arrival, it was clear that they still stood exactly where they always have, with one difference.
Taking the stage to "Dust," a cut from their newest album, the always reliable vibe of the band remained intact. While the sound stayed the same, the stage lighting, though, had changed. The Neighbourhood’s stage presence has always used simple lighting to promote their monochromatic themes. This time around, the band had loosened their color restrictions, playing with vibrant blues, reds and yellows.
Though this color made the show pop a bit more to the eye, the rest of the set didn’t seem to build upon what they’ve already shown in performances prior. The band seems to have found a formula, one that works well and appeals to their devoted crowd; however, it may be worth their time to explore and expand. There were moments throughout that seemed to show this full potential.
On tracks like “Heaven” and “R.I.P. 2 My Youth,” The Neighbourhood’s showed a heavier hip-hop side. When Rutherford is able to showcase his ability and energy in hip-hop, The Neighbourhood morph out of their sometimes tired pop niche into a more fully realized and exciting production. While there was a hint of this throughout the set, and a few moments of its full realization, the majority of the set sat comfortably within their box. And with 20 songs packed into only an hour, the end result left the headline set feeling a bit rushed and lacking in substance.
Without the rabid fan base, The Neighbourhood may have fallen flat. Luckily enough, the sold-out crowd at Crystal Ballroom ate up every moment of the show, especially during the band's biggest tracks, “Sweater Weather” and “Scary Love.” Both tracks taking the last two spots of their set, The Neighbourhood ended on their strongest notes, causing an uproar from the crowd, cell phones raised above their heads.
While the majority of their hour may have been lacking in this visceral energy, the end note of the set proved that their formula will always deliver. However, further exploration of their heavier influences may prove to be their future key to greatness. —Brendan Swogger