Anberlin-Band-Picture (450x319)-2@ Newcastle O2 Academy 2, February 3 2013

This was the first time that Florida rockers Anberlin had ventured into Newcastle and they gave the packed Academy 2 plenty to remember them by.

Supported by The Xcerts, whose lead signer Murray MacLeod weathered a storm of heckling with a grace and precision that would leave amateur circuit comedians red-faced, Anberlin prowled and posed their way through an hour-and-a-half long set.

The Xcerts warmed up the Newcastle crowd on a chilly February night with a mixture of good humour and abrasive guitar. Bassist Jordan Smith plays his instrument with the curious mixture of head jutting forward and arms pinned down to his side, his fingers working furiously over the riffs. 

Front-man MacLeod presents himself as instantly likeable to the waiting crowd – thanking them graciously for coming out and making them laugh with a well-placed quip at the expense of the lone heckler in the crowd.

The Scottish trio saved the best for last, playing Slackerpop, the lead single from their latest album. The energy and gusto that they devote to their craft proved to be an excellent barometer of what would come courtesy of headliners Anberlin.

Stephen Christian leads his band with such boyish energy that it rubs off on everybody – the crowd, the bouncers, the band – everybody. He energises the venue as he jumps, sings and talks with a smile on his face that stretches from ear to ear. He simply radiates joy.

Kicking off with Little Tyrants, Anberlin immediately gives the crowd what they wanted – something heavy to rock out to.

Along with Christian McAlhaney, Christian is the engine that propels Anberlin forward on stage. McAlhaney is the quintessential American hard-rocker, sleeveless denim jacket accompanying a rugged beard and rockstar attitude. He puts his foot up on the amp, thrusts his guitar forward and plays like every bedroom guitarist’s fantasy.

This may be the Vital tour, but fans of the band’s older work won’t have left disappointed as Anberlin threw in a good mix of their older songs, including Never Take Friendship Personal, The Feel Good Drag and Dismantle.Repair.

Stephen Christian doesn’t work the crowd in large amounts – he prefers to belt out the lyrics and let the atmosphere build organically – but he does push and prod in it in the right direction. Taking time out to even have a pop at the Trey Songz’ R&B gig downstairs, he says: “In honour of Trey Songz, I’m going to sign the rest of the gig in R&B.”

Finishing with Someone Anymore, Anberlin left their fans with their ears ringing and a head full of memories. They sing “I don’t need a reason, tell me why we need a reason.” Newcastle fans will be hoping that they have given them reason enough to bring their guitars and noise back to the city.

Russell Hughes