The Offspring / Sum 41 / Frank Turner @ NYC 7/8

August 3, 2009

The “Shit is Fucked Up Tour”, featuring The Offspring and supporting acts Sum 41 and Frank Turner rolled into Midtown, New York City, on a warm Wednesday afternoon. The tour began in mid-May and concludes the end of July, zig-zagging across the United States–The Offspring’s first such tour in four years.

Singer-songwriter Frank Turner, former vocalist of the now-defunct Million Dead, opened the evening. The British guitarist played a strong set, surprisingly winning over a crowd of radio rock-loving twenty year olds. Drawing primarily from 2008’s Love Ire & Song, Turner’s blend of folk and punk-rock was an enjoyable way to pass the time and enjoy a few beers.

Sum 41 played next as direct support to The Offspring. In a set filled with frontman Deryck Whibley’s unnecessary overuse of “fuck”–even for a tour titled “This Shit is Fucked Up”–the band proved without a doubt that they have shed any of their “punk” roots; they are now a novelty act, spending their late twenties cashing in on former versions of themselves. The entire set reeked of pre-planned stage antics and well rehearsed cues; it felt devoid of soul.

The band has never been about introspective lyrics or technical ability, instead focusing their energy on three minute punk-pop singalongs. Songs like “Fat Lip”, “Still Waiting”, and “In Too Deep” were undeniably enjoyable and engaged the entire crowd, but that’s where the fun ended; lesser-known songs and constant stage banter were quite boring. Sum 41 did their best, but ultimately their set was forgettable.

The Offspring came out blazing with the tour’s namesake, “Stuff is Messed Up”, followed immediately by the road-rage inspired “Bad Habit” from their 1994 breakthrough Smash. The band kept things rocking with “Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)” and a few other fast-paced cuts. The one-two punch of “Have You Ever” segueing into “Staring at the Sun” was excellent, and then things stopped and the lights went out.

Frontman Dexter Holland came out alone to a piano. In a ridiculously cheesy and rehearsed act, Holland asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a song he had practiced on piano. When the response wasn’t strong enough, he stormed off stage in a fit. It took The Offspring’s lead guitarist, Noodles, to start a “Dexter! Dexter!” chant to bring Holland back.

Holland returned to play “Gone Away”, a song written in 1997 that is rumored to be about the death of his wife in a car crash. The song was emotional but lacked the punch of the original version found on Ixnay on the Hombre. After another slower song (“Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?”), things exploded with “Genocide” making a rare live appearance.

The Offspring

The Offspring

The band took a brief “Intermission” (from Ixnay on the Hombre) before returning with “Americana”, the 1998 title track that had the entire crowd singing its “well, fuck you!” hook. “All I Want” kicked things up a notch, showcasing The Offspring’s penchant for writing arena-rock styled punk rock songs that beg to be played live. The band wrapped up with a few more Americana cuts–bringing the night’s total to seven, the most from any album–before walking off stage.

The encore began with “Hammerhead” and then moved onto the only Conspiracy of One song of the evening, “Want You Bad”. The band closed with “Self-Esteem”, one of the band’s most popular songs that still remains a hit fifteen years since first hitting FM radio (remember when New York City had a rock station?). The full setlist:

Stuff Is Messed Up
Bad Habit
You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid
Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)
Walla Walla
Have You Ever
Staring at the Sun
Gone Away
Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?
Why Don’t You Get a Job?
All I Want
Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)
(I Can’t Get My) Head Around You
The Kids Aren’t Alright
Want You Bad

The Offspring’s performance at Roseland was distinctly two things:

First, and foremost, it was an incredible live performance by one of the most important bands in punk rock’s storied history. Even in their forties, it is apparent that The Offspring can write a punchy punk rock romp and pull it off live.

It was also a document of The Offspring’s current status as a band who has spent the last decade touring the world’s biggest arenas, perfecting and rehearsing their live show. It’s somewhat disheartening to see a band rooted in punk rock resort to rehearsed banter (“Gone Away”) and a setlist heavily loaded with singles–the night’s set felt half phoned in, as if the band was going through the motions.

Still, there’s no denying The Offspring’s ability to craft stellar punk songs even in 2009, more than twenty years since the band’s inception. At 43, frontman Dexter Holland is still a force to be reckoned with. And The Offspring are still a must-see band.

Photos by: Ashley Romano