Simple Plan know what a noisy, sweaty old-school rock show needs. The psyched audience scream on command. The showman singer likes to leap off the monitors, continually whips the crowd up into a frenzy, and suddenly appears at the mixing desk. The wild drummer stage dives and crowd surfs. Fog blasters and streamer cannons go off with wild abandon. Bras are thrown up onto the stage. T-shirts and giant beach balls get lobbed into the crowd (complete with a “playing with my balls” joke from the frontman). And the band unleash one riotous punk anthem after another.
Tonight the majority of those anthems come from the Canadian band’s debut LP No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls, which they play from start to finish, chronologically, in celebration of its 15th anniversary. The 13-track collection is a typical teenager: wild, carefree, and tireless. And, despite being released in a time before Instagram, twitter, Facebook, and free porn (as vocalist Pierre Bouvier points out), judging from the average age of the young audience, the album’s clearly still relevant. Musically, the 2002 release holds up just as well, especially when performed as enthusiastically as it is at the Kentish Town Forum tonight.
I’d Do Anything sounds as fresh and exciting as it did the first time, the punchy You Don’t Mean Anything easily gets 3000 fists raised, and, even when played by men in their late 30s, The Worst Day Ever basks in the glory of youth. With lyrics like “nobody cares because I’m alone in the world” the angsty I’m Just A Kid will remain topical as long as there are teens, and the startlingly confident Addicted is a vivid reminder that they’ve always had more in common with Green Day and blink-182 than with their own contemporaries Good Charlotte and Sum 41.
That confidence is even more apparent on the subsequent hits Bouvier, guitarists Jeff Stinco and Sébastien Lefebvre, and drummer Chuck Comeau party through to round out their set. From 2004’s Still Not Getting Any, the defiant Shut Up! is still as in your face as ever, the jagged Jump does exactly what it says on the tin, social awareness rocker Crazy (addressing celebrity-obsessed me-culture) hasn’t dated one bit, and the sentiments of Welcome To My Life will sound familiar to anyone who was once 16. The supersonic singalong Jet Lag and poolside celebration Summer Paradise, both on 2011’s Get Your Heart On!, are the perfect soundtrack to a hot night in June. And the effervescent Boom!, from last year’s Taking One For The Team, proves they’ve still got it.
But there’s more to Simple Plan than adrenaline and testosterone. The despairing Your Love Is A Lie contrasts outright anger with sensitivity. Perfect, which begins as a solo acoustic performance lit by the audience’s mobile phones before hitting that spectacular chorus, is the night’s musical highlight. And Bouvier repeatedly shows he’s not just about ball jokes. Like when he abruptly stops a song to make sure that a fainted audience member is OK, and then apologises for the delay. Or when he delicately addresses the absence of bassist David Desrosiers, who’s sitting out this tour to battle a major bout of depression. Now that’s pure class, especially for a noisy, sweaty old-school rock show.
Supporting Simple Plan at Kentish Town Forum were not one, not two, but three UK pop-punk bands. The Bottom Line, who name the headliners as one of their influences, play an energetic set, including cuts from their new I Still Hate You EP, that sets the tone for the evening. Hyperactive Mancunian five-piece Milestones, whose choruses are as big as their on-stage leaps, keep up the pace with highlights from their debut release, Equal Measures.
And Saint Albans’ Trash Boat, playing their first home show since returning from an eight-week US tour, deliver songs from their Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through album with all the swagger that comes from two months on the road.
Live review of Simple Plan @ Kentish Town Forum by Nils van der Linden on 9th June 2017. Photography by Edyta K.