Words by Charis Griggs
It’s been six years since Pierce the Veil last crossed the Atlantic for a UK tour, and if the dedication of their fans is anything to go by, distance definitely does make the heart grow fonder. When I passed Manchester Academy — the site of tonight’s show, one of a string of sold-out UK gigs — at 12:30pm on my way to a lecture, a queue was already forming, almost a full seven hours before doors opened and in sub-zero temperatures. It speaks volumes about how eagerly fans have anticipated the long-awaited return of the San Diego post-hardcore legends.
First to take to the stage was the infectiously likeable carolesdaughter, moniker of Thea Taylor. Performing a short and snappy 30 minute set, she quickly won over an already packed room with her pop-punk sensibilities and sense of humour (at one point she asked us to cheer if we’d ever felt like the title of her next song, which turned out to be called ‘please put me in a medically induced coma’—relatable for many a uni student). Closing with her viral hit ‘Violent’, Taylor set the tone for the high standard of performance and energy we’d see as the night progressed.
Next up was Against the Current. At the forefront of their performance were the soaring vocals of lead singer Chrissy Costanza, set to the group’s impressive catalogue of polished pop-rock and pop-punk hits. A brief interlude to the set involved the crowd chanting a spirited birthday wish to guitarist Dan Gow. Highlights included a cover of emo royalty Taking Back Sunday‘s ‘MakeDamnSure’, a well-made choice given tonight’s demographic, and new single ‘blindfolded‘. As Costanza told us, it’s the group’s first new music since leaving their former label, and it’s a promising sign of things to come during the next phase of their career.
I grew up in the emo scene, and Pierce the Veil were an integral part of my childhood and teenage years, which I imagine is also true for much of tonight’s crowd. As 8:30pm drew ever nearer, people around me were constantly checking their phones for the time, anxiously anticipating the headliners. I was as excited to see them as I was when I was thirteen, but with a nagging worry at the back of my mind—could they possibly be as good live as they were back then?
Thankfully, it was clear from the get-go that the answer was to be a resounding “yes”. Honouring their Hispanic roots, always an important part of the band’s identity, Mariachi music played over the speakers as they prepared to take to the stage.
As per tradition, the band opened their set with the first two tracks from 2012’s definitive masterpiece Collide with the Sky, an album which dominated the night’s setlist. Only one song proper into the performance and confetti was already bursting from the front of the stage. It added to the fever pitch that the room had already reached, the breakneck energy and electric stage presence of band members Vic Fuentes (lead vocals/guitar), Jaime Preciado (bass), Tony Perry (guitar), and Loniel Robinson (drums) spurring the crowd on further.
The band then launched straight into one of their new singles, ‘Pass the Nirvana’. It’s a tantalising taste of what’s to come from their forthcoming fifth album, The Jaws of Life, slated for release in February 2023. Completely explosive when performed live, it was excitedly received by a crowd who were just as enamoured with these new offerings as they were with the nostalgic older hits.
Following a trio of high-speed tracks, including ‘Texas is Forever’ from 2016’s Misadventures —during which Preciado eagerly (and successfully) encouraged a circle pit amongst the crowd—the pace was slowed slightly with heartfelt new song ‘Emergency Contact’, followed by ‘Hold on Till May’. A fan favourite, there were tears shed amongst the crowd. Throw in a second burst of confetti showering down and it was the emotional high point of the evening.
In a whiplash-inducing move, Pierce the Veil then turned to the absolutely blistering ‘Caraphernelia’ – an offering for long-time fans and one of the night’s standout tracks. Maintaining this frenetic energy, they closed out the main part of their set with another two favourites from Collide with the Sky, ‘A Match into Water’ and ‘I’m Low on Gas and You Need a Jacket’; as Fuentes reminded us, the title of the latter is a reference to his all-time favourite film, Wayne’s World.
After a short delay, Fuentes returned to the stage with an acoustic guitar to perform the first of the night’s encore tracks, a stripped-back solo rendition of ‘Stained Glass Eyes and Colourful Tears’ which allowed Fuentes’ vocals to really shine. It was an intimate moment in an otherwise furiously paced show, fostering a sense of community amongst the fans as the entire crowd sang along. Fuentes mentioned that in the past few years he’d dreamed about returning to the UK to tour again, and at this point in the night it’s clearer than ever that the feeling is mutual.
Having teased fans with mention of the band’s most well-known tune (“Who wants to hear ‘King for a Day’ acoustic? I’d never do that to you guys”, Fuentes had laughed upon picking up his acoustic guitar), he was joined once more by Preciado, Perry, and Robinson for the night’s final track.
There’s an incredibly good reason ‘King for a Day’ became the group’s signature song, and the atmosphere in the room was absolutely exhilarating as everyone – band and crowd alike – gave it one final burst of energy. For good measure, we were doused once more in another whirlwind of confetti. Preciado came down to the barrier to greet the crowd.
Across the stage, Perry had grabbed the strap of his guitar and was whirling the instrument around his head like it was some kind of lasso, in a move that had the health and safety obsessive in me internally screaming. It was a fitting end to a high-octane show that proved Pierce the Veil are as electrifying live as ever, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
You can pre-order Pierce the Veil’s upcoming album The Jaws of the Life here.