Sum 41 @ Victoria Warehouse, Manchester - 26.06.19 / Louder Live
’76. ’94. Both heralded as something of a ‘Year Zero’ when it comes to punk’s notoriety within the mainstream music culture. Since the second wave of chuggy guitars and unapologetically coarse, direct lyricism, however, one could be forgiven for thinking that punk had somewhat waned out of the spotlight, in favour of the more modern trends of emo, metalcore, and most recently, alt pop and emo-rap. To all such naysayers, I say only this- get yourself down to a Sum 41 show.
Bringing just one support on the UK leg of their run, Sum 41 shone the entire spotlight of the opening hour on to Sydney-based pop punkers Yours Truly. The band have seen a meteoric rise to prominence since the beginning of the year, catalysed in part by the burgeoning popularity of bands such as Stand Atlantic and Hot Milk. Yet over the course of their half-hour set, Yours Truly proved beyond doubt that they possess an allure that is all their own. The vocal talents of frontwoman Mikaila shoneon the heart-wrenching ‘Afterglow’, with its poignant lyrics that are dripping in with deep desperation, while the pulsating melody of ‘Circles’, overtured with soaring vocal lines and a delectably scything guitar tone was a riotous delight. Closer ‘High Hopes’ was in no way eclipsed by the recent earth-shattering success of the Panic! at the Disco hit with the same title: on the contrary, it’s brittle lead guitar, set over a relentlessly lively bassline, made it a fist-waving pop rock anthem in it’s own right.
Despite focusing solely on the talents of a single support act, Sum 41 still enjoyed toying with the suspense in which they held their avidly expectant crowd- as the set time ticked ever closer, each song would fade almost entirely, bringing about rapturous screaming, before a new bassline would kick back in, bringing some amused and some mildly frustrated sighs bubbling up across the room. When they did enter the fray, however, there was no doubt about it- Sum 41 were here to shake Manchester to its foundations!
Following a dramatic curtain drop, and a roar that was almost demented in its promise of impending anarchy, the band launched straight into one of their second tier of hits, ‘Motivation’. The reaction was instantaneous. A mosh pit widened, like the gaping mouth of the skull on the artwork for their upcoming album, ‘Order in Decline’, and then collapsed in on itself with the arrival of the raucously undulating guitar line! The ferocity with which the whole room sang, danced and bounced was unparalleled- the years seemed to fall away all at once, and the passionate spirit that fuelled the rise of punk rock twenty years previously came flooding back in with the force of a tidal wave!
Despite the majority of the general public associating the band with one or two of their radio smash hits, Sum 41 pulled tracks from across their discography, and each was met by the crowd with just as equal vigour as the next. Celebrating 15 years of ‘Chuck’, the band’s oft forgotten third full-length record, ‘No Reason’ and ‘Some Say’ highlighted perfectly why overlooking this record is a mistake to make at one’s own peril. The former boasted darkly rumbling basslines, punching gang sing-alongs, and vocals tinged with a sharper veil of anger flickering beneath and stoking them to grittier new heights. By contrast, the latter juxtaposed those grittier vocals with a bittersweet, melodic tone, wonderfully blending defiance with an audible hue of some hidden ache. Another under-recognised gem of a record, ‘Underclass Hero’ yielded similar delights- the title track, ‘Underclass Hero’, brought waves of frustration and disillusioned anger seething like waves through your chest, with its chorus line of ‘We’re doing fine… and we won’t give you control’ as much a delight to the politically disenfranchised adults in the crowd as it was to their angst-ridden, teenage selves. The potency of the melodic sections that bookend ‘Walking Disaster’, meanwhile, offset the wild central choruses, as feelings of imperfection morphed into those of sweet sentiment in wonderfully poetic fashion. Ricocheting right back up to the present day, the singles from their soon-to-be-released 7th album drew on those darker influences from ‘Chuck’, making them faster, heavier and opaquer. The response? Deafening. The metal-inspired opening of ‘A Death in the Family’ descended into an unbridled anarchy, while lead single ‘Out for Blood’ bubbled up from pulsating electronics, thundering through an impossibly fast peltering of a drum roll, into verses left sparse enough for the unbridled voices of the crowd to rise up over an almost tribal drum beat, and choruses that cantered at an irrepressible pace, pumped full of adrenaline and youthful fervour.
While the uniting force of shoving your mates and complete strangers around in the pit was indeed in full coalescence, and the lulls in the set were few and far between, when they did arrive, they brought moments of poignancy unrivalled by any of the more raucous tracks from the band’s discography. As downcast as it is building towards burgeoning hope, ‘Pieces’ was utterly entrancing, as a spattering of glinting phone lights swayed delicately above the heads of the crowd. Entirely differing in tone, yet equally as affecting, was beautifully candid, romantic ballad ‘With Me’. It’s acoustic opening guitar rang out over an enraptured audience, as long-time lovers and complete strangers alike took each other in their arms- a spirit reflected in the encore when the impromptu inclusion of the band’s newest release, ‘Never There’, prompted a similarly unplanned circle of the most hardcore moshers to open up, the space that was the pit now ringed with people, arms thrown around each other’s shoulders, all swaying in unison to the delicately rousing melody. A family reunited again.
That aforementioned encore, of course, always plays home to the band’s biggest closing tracks, however, of Sum 41’s two most idiosyncratic commercial hits, one came a little sooner than expected! The unmistakable introductory guitars and infamous chugging chorus of ‘In Too Deep’ set even the fringes of the crowd alight with wild anarchy, as not a single pair of feet remained planted on the ground- a reaction so vigorous, even seasoned frontman Deryk Whibley’s eyes shone with something like disbelief! And, of course, the final track of the night was never in question- it could only be ‘Fat Lip’. Not a single word or beat was missed, as the unmistakable chorus burst out through the sweat-filled air of the room- a testament to both the enduring power and the palpable relevance that makes punk a stalwart genre for the ages.
Sum 41's new record, 'Order in Decline', is due for release on July 19th via Hopeless Records.
Check out the video for the latest single, 'Never There', below:
Sum 41 still have a few festival appearances scheduled for this summer- full dates and tickets are available here.