The Offspring & Sum 41 played at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena on Wednesday, 7th December. Brenton Harris reviews.
Taking the stage at the unfashionably civilised time of 7pm, Sum 41 exploded onto the stage with a spirited rendition of the All Killer, No Filler favourite ‘Motivation’. An equally energetic reading of the Does This Look Infected? anthem ‘Hell Song’ followed, and the tone for the evening was set.
Spiky-haired vocalist Deryck Whibley darted across the stage, spitting out lyrics in his signature nasal tone and inciting the crowd as the band tore through ‘Over My Head (Better Off Dead’) and Chuck standout ‘We’re All To Blame’.
Guitarists Dave “Brownsound” Baskh and Tom “Brown Tom” Thacker each took turns in the spotlight, displaying impressive technical ability, while the overt enthusiasm of bassist Jason “Cone” McCaslin was matched by drummer Frank Zummo’s pounding of the skins.
After Whibley called for the lights to be switched off, 10,000 mobile phones went up to create a swarm of digital fireflies for the tender ballad ‘Pieces’. What Whibley lacks in technical singing ability, he made up for in sincerity and showmanship, which was on full in display during a cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’.
The moment Baskh played the opening riff of ‘Fat Lip’, the John Cain Arena floor turned into a flurry of activity. Everyone in attendance rediscovered their inner bratty teenager, and that energy remained through the set closer ‘Still Waiting’. The final chorus was paired with an impressive pyrotechnic display, and even the previously uninitiated were left pondering, “How are a bunch of 50-year-old punks supposed to follow that?”
Sum 41 – ‘Fat Lip’
After an intermission that featured an inflatable blimp dropping guitar picks and a guy in a gorilla mask firing merch into the crowd, as well as every type of gimmick-cam you could think of, The Offspring hit the stage to a deafening roar. Without hesitation, touring drummer Josh Freese played the opening beat to ‘Come Out And Play’ and everyone lost their mind.
28 years may have passed since Smash took the world by storm, but its signature tracks are ageless, even if Dexter Holland’s voice occasionally proved not to be. Ixnay On The Hombre banger ‘All I Want’ whipped up a circle pit and Conspiracy Of One’s ‘Want You Bad’ was greeted with approval. The band paid scant attention to their recent records throughout the show, to the complaints of no one.
One newer song to get an airing was ‘Let The Bad Times Roll’. Guitarist Noodles announced the song by revealing his love for Amyl and the Sniffers, which almost made up for the song’s overall mediocrity. A ripping take on the Americana favourite ‘Staring at the Sun’ and the surprise inclusion of Smash album track ‘Genocide’ put things back on track.
Being at an Offspring gig can often feel like you’re watching two different bands. There’s the revered punk band that turned the independent music world on its head in the early to mid-’90s and then there’s the radio cheese of songs like ‘Original Prankster’, ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’ and ‘Why Don’t You Get A Job’.
But the OC punks’ ability to allow these competing dynamics to coexist is part of the appeal for many. The latter two tracks received some of the biggest responses of the night, and honestly, why wouldn’t they? They’re fun songs that were made even more fun by bouncing beachballs and inflatable “pretty fly guys.”
The Offspring – ‘All I Want’
One thing that didn’t go over so well was the mid-set break where Noodles played guitar along with a cartoon version of himself and then performed a rendition of ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’ (which also features on the band’s latest album). It at least gave us a chance to marvel at Josh Freese’s drumming. The band’s newest recruit, and a permanent member of Devo and The Vandals, sure can hit a skin.
It also gave a Holland’s voice a moment of respite, which paid dividends during a fierce ‘Gotta Get Away’ and a sombre solo piano version of ‘Gone Away’. The latter showed that Dr Dexter Holland is indeed a man of many talents. Another one of those talents is witty banter, and it was a delight to see that the natural chemistry between Holland and Noodles is alive and thriving.
Closing with a note-perfect take on the Americana single ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’, the Offspring made their temporary exit before their trusty blimp started flashing and a giant red version of their emblem lit up the stage, heralding their return. Thank yous were proffered and then the earworm that is ‘You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid’ dropped in.
Noodles took a moment to heap praise on Holland for not only writing that song but for piloting a jet and completing a PhD in molecular biology, before Holland’s voice let rip on the opening “la-las” of ‘Self-Esteem’. Surely the most beloved song about a depressed cuckold of all time, ‘Self-Esteem’ was the perfect end to a night when Gen X, Y and Z all tripped hard on punk rock nostalgia.