The Wonder Years' sold out show on April 15th began not with the typical bang, but with the whisper of "There, There." Frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell - sporting a beard that would make Daniel Bryan proud - crooned the opening of the first track from the band's new album, The Greatest Generation, before being drowned out by the 2,000+ strong crowd at Worcester, MA's The Palladium.
"I'm sorry I don't laugh at the right times."
When the song kicked in, the band and the crowd alike lost it, beginning a 70-minute cathartic release set to some of the best pop-punk songs of the modern era. The Wonder Years have refined their craft both musically and on stage, while their draw has continued to grow exponentially over the years. They are one of the tightest live bands in the scene, achieving the perfect balance between high energy and strong musicianship.
As a longtime fan of the band, it would be hard to ask for a better setlist. The run - their first proper U.S. headliner in quite some time - is dubbed The Greatest Generation World Tour. They played several standout tracks from their latest effort, including "The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves," "The Devil in My Bloodstream" and "Dismantling Summer." They also played choice cuts from Suburbia and The Upsides. A highlight of the night came when the band, after an impassioned speech by Campbell about their meaning, played a pair of non-album tracks, "An Elegy for Baby Blue" and "I Was Scared and I'm Sorry."
Always one to end on a high note, the Philadelphia sextet concluded with an encore of "I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral." The Greatest Generation's 7-and-a-half-minute closing opus interweaves lyrics and themes from other songs on the album, serving as a highlight real. In a live setting, the song hits even harder, providing the perfect bookend to the set.
The Wonder Years brought along a collection of bands they admire, which doubles as a veritable who's who of the current pop-punk scene. Their longtime friends and frequent tourmates in Fireworks provided direct support (replacing Defeater, who were forced to drop off due to a health issue). Although some fans evidently haven't had enough time to familiarize themselves with the band's brand new album, Oh, Common Life, the older material remained crowd pleasing. The set closing "Detroit," in particular, set the audience off.
It's rare for lower billed bands on a package tour to elicit such rambunctious crowd reactions, but Citizen, Real Friends and Modern Baseball were all well-received, to say the least. Although this tour is a great opportunity for each of them, many audience members were already familiar with the bands, displaying their approval with copious crowd surfing and singing along.
The Greatest Generation World Tour is yet another testament to why The Wonder Years are the gold standard for the genre. Between their honest songs, their tight stage presence, their rabid fanbase and even the bands they surround themselves with, The Wonder Years have set the bar impossibly high for any other band hoping to take the pop-punk throne.
After spending the fall as direct support for Yellowcard, pop punk heroes The Wonder Years were eager to return to more intimate settings. For their current headlining run, they called upon some of their best friends (and common tourmates) in Fireworks, Hostage Calm and Misser to hit up smaller venues in B-markets (so as to not interfere with their main stage slot on this summer's Warped Tour). I attended the second date of the tour, which took place at Pawtucket, Rhode Island's The Met on March 9th.
Having seen them threetimesat larger locations throughout 2012, it was thrilling to see The Wonder Years back in a small club. Upon selling out the 600-capacity venue, the band had the option of upgrading the venue to the significantly-larger Lupo's in Providence, but they chose to keep it intimate. As a result, stage dives, pile ons and sing-alongs were in full effect throughout the hour-long set, even with six musicians crammed on the little stage.
Since the band had just announced their highly-anticipated new album, The Greatest Generation, a few days prior, I was hoping they would preview a new song. They chose not to, but it's hard to complain after such a strong performance. The set featured most of the fan favorites they've been playing since the release of Suburbia, along with a few deep cuts ("I Won't Say the Lord's Prayer," "It's Never Sunny in South Philadelphia," "Summers In PA") to keep things interesting.
The band exited the stage after "And Now I'm Nothing," an apropos closer, but they weren't finished yet. Frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell and guitarist Casey Cavaliere returned to perform "Living Room Song" (electrically, for a change) with lively crowd participation. The other members then reappeared for "Came Out Swinging" and "All My Friends Are in Bar Bands." For the latter, Fireworks' Dave Mackinder and A Loss For Words' Matty Arsenault (who was there as a guest) joined Campbell, as they do on The Upsides, to sing the closing. They also allowed the crowd to join in, and the rabid fanbase enjoyed every second of it.
Fireworks came out strong with two of my favorite tracks, "When We Stand on Each Other We Block Out the Sun" and "The Wild Bunch." This energetic opening compelled the previously-apprehensive audience to ignore the venue's "No stage diving" signs. (Thankfully, the threats of being thrown out proved to be untrue.) The crowd continued to go hard for the entirety of the band's 45-minute performance.
Although he's not listed as an official member, Fireworks were once again joined by an additional musician, Adam Mercer (who was also with them on last year's Warped Tour). His contributions included keyboard, guitar, percussion and vocals as needed, adding an additional dimension to the group. Meanwhile, Arsenault joined the band for their performance of "Come Around." The set culminated with "Detroit," an anthemic number that makes for a perfect closer.
Although not everyone in the room was familiar with them, Hostage Calm's half hour set provided plenty of crowd sing-alongs. The audience was particularly emphatic for into to "The M Word," the catchy "Woke Up Next to a Body" (for which Tym of Some Stranger/ex-Daytrader sang guest vocals; an unexpected treat) and set closer "Patriot." The band just started playing the latter live for this tour and, based on fans' unanimously positive reaction, they'll be keeping it in their set.
I'm a longtime fan of Transit and also enjoyed This Time Next Year, so I was excited to see Misser opening the tour. The project was created by Transit guitarist Tim Landers and former TTNY guitarist Brad Wiseman, and their live line-up also features Torre Cioffi (Transit), Mike Ambrose (Set Your Goals) and John Dello Iacono (Code of Kings). They received a strong reaction for openers (even bigger than that of Hostage Calm, although that can be attributed to the fact that 3/5 of the bi-coastal line-up is from nearby Massachusetts).
Their half hour performance kicked off with the killer intro, "Permanently." It seemed like a missed opportunity not to play "Time Capsules" immediately after, as it follows on the album, but they did play it later in the set. In addition to material from their full-length debut, they also busted out an older track ("Just Say It") and a new song ("Gaddamn, Salad Days"). They ended with "I'm Really Starting To Hope The World Ends In 2012," which transitioned into a unique take on Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (perhaps ironically, considering the song's subject matter) followed by a bit of jamming.
The Wonder Years put forth all of their energy at every show, but there's something special about seeing them in a small club. Both the band and the fans relished the intimate setting. Adding a strong line-up of genuine musicians - really, any band on the show could have headlined to a solid turnout - was merely the icing on the cake. Don't miss this tour if it's coming anywhere near you, because The Wonder Years probably won't be playing venues this small for a while.
There are few bands that I've consistently enjoyed over the years more than New Found Glory and few albums that I've sung along to more than their 2000 breakthrough, New Found Glory. When it was announced that the band would be playing the entire album from front to back in celebration of its ten year anniversary and that fellow pop-punk upstarts Saves the Day would also be on the tour, I knew that I couldn't miss the nostalgic show when the tour rolled through the House of Blues in Boston on February 21st.
Kicking the night off was Michigan's Fireworks. The quintet were a fitting choice for openers, seeing as how they probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for New Found Glory's self-titled effort. They played their blend of pop and punk with plenty of energy, even though they seemed a bit awkward on such a big stage. The band was unknown to the majority of the crowd but still had a few people singing along, especially during their catchy closer, "Detroit". It's no wonder that this is the second time that New Found Glory has taken them out on tour.
Hellogoodbye were the oddballs of the tour. After the success of their debut EP back in 2004, the band had a fairly big following, but they've since been plagued with record label woes and, as a result, lost a lot of momentum. The crowd was largely uninterested, many of them talking over the band or yelling directly at them, especially when they played new material. The two old songs that they did play, "Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn" and "Dear Jamie... Sincerely Me", received warm reactions. After imitating an exaggerated Bostonian accent, to get in good with the crowd keyboardist Joseph Marro joked that all of their songs were actually slowed, unrecognizable versions of songs by hardcore legends American Nightmare and Converge. For a group once known for zany stage antics such as playing in costumes, they've really come into their own as musicians without losing that sense of fun, regardless of the lack of crowd enthusiasm.
The show really got going when Saves the Day hit the stage. They toured with New Found Glory a decade prior, and both bands are still going strong as if no time had passed. Save for vocalist/guitarist Chris Conley, the rest of the band members were replaced last year, but the new line-up sounds as tight as ever. Their set contained a good mix of material spanning their career, but old favorites such as "At Your Funeral" and "Rocks Tonic Juice Magic" received the biggest reactions from the audience.
With anticipation growing for the arrival of New Found Glory, the house lights finally went down and Miley Cirus' "Party in the USA" blared through the sound system. The Floridians took the stage and immediately set it off with "Better Off Dead". As promised, they played their self-titled effort from beginning to end. Even though you knew what was coming next, each song was exciting. It was particularly cool to hear songs that the group rarely plays live, such as "Second to Last" and "Eyesore", and get some insight on the songs (for example, "Black and Blue" was the first song written for the album). The band's energy was reciprocated by the audience, with plenty of singing, crowd surfing and lighthearted moshing. For album closer "Ballad for the Lost Romantics", guitarist Chad Gilbert went on the barricade with a microphone so the crowd could partake in the anthemic singalong.
After the completion of their rendition of the record, the band came back for an encore containing popular singles and fan favorites, including "All Downhill From Here" and "Head On Collision". Following a quick cover of Gorilla Biscuits' "No Reason Why", the band concluded the night with "My Friends Over You", which had the entire sold out crowd singing along so loud that they nearly drowned out the performers.
I've had the pleasure of seeing New Found Glory so many times that I've lost count, but they never disappoint. This was perhaps the best show I've ever seen them play. The band was having a good time not for themselves nor the mainstream audience, but rather, as Gilbert pointed out, the the entire tour was for the old school fans. The band proved that the album is just as sentimental to them as it is to their fans. It's great to see that they still has as much passion as they did ten years ago.
Also be sure to check out all of my photos from the show here.