Saturday, 4 March 2017

Sum 41 - Brixton O2 Academy, 02/03/17

I hadn't heard of Hollerado until they were announced as support and I still feel very conflicted about their set, so it's been hard to put my feelings into words.
Starting the set with their newest single, 'Grief Money' - the video for which was released on Tuesday and is a direct attack at President Donald Trump - I was instantly put off by the vocal effect. You could hardly understand a word that Menno Versteeg was singing, and it added a surreal touch to the proceedings: not the strong start that you want for an opening set. Things improved during 'Americanarama' with its "doot doot doo do do doo" chant, but the repetition and the sprawling, overly-lengthy guitar solo made it feel as though it was never going to end. I was bored and disappointed, writing the band off as bland and uninteresting.
Then 'I Got You' began, and my interest was reignited. Menno shared that the song was "about the rich douchebags who're making life a lot harder for the rest of us" (said just after he paused the set to "make it clear that [they] are from Canada and not America", made obvious from his use of "aboot"), and the political lyrics combined with the catchy indie style - sounding quite similar to The Dandy Warhols' 'Bohemian Like You' - brought the fun to a set that had been otherwise dreary.
The bounce continued during 'Eloise', a song Menno wrote for his one-year-old sound, who he said is "really adorable now, but I think she's gonna be a real fuck-up when she's older!". I had the "Eloise, please don't fuck it up like me!" chorus stuck in my head all day yesterday: it's just that catchy! 'Born Yesterday' was also unbelievably fun, and despite most of the people in the room having never heard it before, every was singing along by the time it finished.
Before playing closer 'So It Goes', Menno thanked the crowd, saying "you guys showed up to watch the opening band that you've never seen in your fucking life, and that's pretty fucking cool!". Despite being unconvinced by their first couple of songs, I was solidly hooked by the end of the set, so I'm glad I gave them a chance. It's always fun to discover new music, particularly when a band are playing so many different styles within a six-song set.
Hollerado's new album, 'Born Yesterday', is being released on the 14th of April. Because I love both the title track and 'Eloise', I'm definitely going to be ordering it: I just hope that the rest of the album is as good, because this band could grow on me fast.

Grief Money
I Got You
Born Yesterday
- (unknown song, "You're the best woman I've never ever had") 
So It Goes

Sum 41 are legends. That's an unarguable fact.
They've had more than their fair share of issues throughout their twenty year career. The band have experienced more line-up changes than I can count, most notably the departure of long-serving guitarist and fan favourite Dave 'Brownsound' Baksh, who thankfully returned in 2015. Then there were frontman Deryck Whibley's struggles to contend with: he's dealt with a serious back injury and liver and kidney failure due to alcoholism.
But they've always persevered, and now they seem to be in a much better place. 2016's '13 Voices' is the strongest material they've produced in years. Deryck's personal battle to overcome his addictions has made him a better lyricist and a more passionate performer, and the return of Brownsound has strengthened them further. 
I had tickets to see Sum 41 many moons ago, when they were announced as Kerrang! tour 2012 co-headliners with New Found Glory. They had to pull out due to Deryck's aforementioned back injury, so I'd been waiting a long time to see them live.
The room was buzzing with anticipation throughout the night, but from the moment the ominously intense Introduction to Destruction intro tape began piping through the speakers, the energy increased exponentially. A plain white sheet was hanging in front of the stage, obscuring it from the crowd and allowing strobe lights to flash and flicker across it, giving the crowd a show before the band could even set foot on the stage. I don't know who was in control of programming the lighting, but they're a genius: it was so intricate and there was so much attention to detail throughout every song during the night, making it more fun to watch the lighting than the band at points!
Playing a whopping twenty-five songs, this was a set to please Sum 41 fans both old and new. As they're still promoting their new album, there were six songs from '13 Voices' in the set, but they made the effort to include songs from every one of their full-length releases. They even squeezed in two from 'Half Hour of Power', their debut EP! I can't name one other band who continue to perform such a wide variety of material, and I have a lot of respect to the guys for managing to do it. It must be difficult to choose which songs to put into a set when you have two decades of material under your belt.
This is a band who care about their fans, and want to play a memorable show. During 'The Hell Song', Deryck picked three people from the front row and had them pulled up on stage, where they stayed until the end of the main set, disappearing just before the encore. Some bands let members of the audience go on stage for a song, but to have a specific area side stage for them to enjoy the show in such an intimate manner is a next level gesture of appreciation.
Later on, Deryck decided he'd take their place, going down into the crowd to perform the stripped back 'With Me'. Halfway through 'Makes No Difference' he shouted "I've got an idea, I'm gonna come see all you motherfuckers!", racing off of the stage and reappearing at the back of the standing area to finish the song, before picking us his acoustic guitar to play the poignant ballad surrounded by his adoring fans.
Deryck's gratitude towards the Sum 41 family was most apparent when he was introducing recent single 'War'. "This song is an important song," he shared. "It's a special song to me, because it's all about family - which is important! - but it's about the Sum 41 family. You guys helped me through the scariest and most difficult time of my life".
Yes, things got emotional at times, but that didn't subtract from how fun this show was. During 'Underclass Hero', large balloons poured down on the crowd, and Deryck encouraged fans to push them over the barrier towards him so that he could impale them. Then there was Brownsound's metal medley, leading directly into the first song they ever released, 'Grab the Devil By the Horns and Fuck Him Up the Ass'. Yep, this band are so fun they wage war against the devil himself. 
The crowd were shouting along to every word through their entire set. I didn't think their voices could get any louder, but when they started covering Queen's 'We Will Rock You' towards the end of the main set, the energy levels went through the roof. Deryck looked blown away, taking a moment to pause and sharing "The good thing about being sober is that I don't bullshit. It's all true. I am fucking happy to be here".
My highlight of the set was undoubtedly 'Pain For Pleasure', the only song that featured lead vocals by guitarist Tom Thacker. If you've ever seen the video for 'Fat Lip', you'll know why it was so wonderful: at the end of the video the band dress up as a stereotypical glam rock band, playing a tongue-in-cheek heavy metal song.
I hadn't been expecting them to perform it live, and when they went off stage at the end of 'Fat Lip' I genuinely believed it was the end of the show. A whole lot of people thought the same, and a huge portion of the crowd was flooding out of the doors before the opening strains of the guitar riff rang out, causing them to rush back in as quickly as they could. No one was willing to miss the end of this marathon set. It was brief - the shortest song that they played - but it's a moment I'm never going to forget.
Ironically enough, Sum 41 have been announced for Download festival: after waiting five years to see the band once, I'm seeing them twice in a matter of months! It's going to be interesting to see how a festival set compares to this headline performance, because this was a pretty flawless set.

Murder of Crows
Fake My Own Death
The Hell Song
Over My Head (Better Off Dead)
Goddamn I'm Dead Again
Underclass Hero
Screaming Bloody Murder
There Will Be Blood
Grab the Devil By the Horns and Fuck Him Up the Ass
We're All To Blame
Walking Disaster
Makes No Difference
With Me
God Save Us All (Death to POP)
No Reason
We Will Rock You cover
Still Waiting
In Too Deep
Welcome To Hell
Fat Lip
Pain For Pleasure 

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