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REVIEW: The Offspring start sluggish, finish strong in Victoria debut

When they found their groove at the midway point, the results were immediate and impressive


Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
When: Sunday
Rating: ★★★1/2 (out of five)

The Offspring’s concert Sunday at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre was a two-pronged production. One half was great. The other? Not so much.

Singer-guitar Dexter Holland and his bandmates spent a portion of their first-ever performance in Victoria in search of something remarkable. They were flat and largely uninspired off the top, and the first 10 songs suffered from the formulaity. But when the five-piece from California found its groove at the midway point, the results were immediate and impressive.

Fatigue may have been a factor. The concert was the finale of an 18-date Canadian tour with Simple Plan, which got underway Oct. 31. It was evident early that Holland’s voice needed some rest and recovery, but he would not find any on this night. Some of the band’s more melodic material (such as Let the Bad Times Roll and Original Prankster) requires a dynamic range, which left straight-ahead material like Hammerhead and Bad Habit to carry the load early.

The group, which also features guitarist Noodles, bassist Todd Morse, and touring members Jonah Nimoy (guitar, percussion) and Josh Freese (drums), eventually shook off the rust. With solid staging, and loads of on-stage and off-stage ephemera, shortcomings were overcome by sheer will at points.

The show was sold-out, with nearly 6,000 fans in attendance. That isn’t a surprise, given The Offspring’s legacy. Few alternative-rock hitmakers from the 1990s and early 2000s can match with the longevity of the band behind the hits Self Esteem, Come Out and Play, and Gotta Get Away, and there were examples aplenty Sunday as to the impact those songs had on music fans of all ages Sunday.

The audience, which skewed heavily male, was a mixed bag of 30-something party machines and diehard fans in their 40s and 50s, some of whom brought their teenaged kids along for the ride; the constant crowd surfing and a pervasive mosh pit made the floor a look similair to concerts from 25 years ago, further adding to the throwback nature. Despite the heavy drinking and floor-level aggression — shirts were optional, it would appear — the night was largely harmonious.

Credit that to the headliners, whose woefully scripted banter and early shortcomings did not derail the concert. Their set started with Come Out and Play, the song that introduced The Offspring to the alternative nation in 1994; hundreds who remained stuck in long lines for food, drinks, and merchandise were forced to sing along from the main floor concourse, as marathon-like line-ups in every direction were a problem early. Once fans were in their seats, the hit parade brought everyone together, underneath a blanket of beach balls pinging about.

The Offspring didn’t favour one era exclusively, though the biggest bangs of the night came via the band’s breakout album, Smash, a defining moment in ’90s culture. The album’s malleable brand of punk brought the genre out of the underground and into the mainstream, and the key songs remain in heavy rotation today, thus paying divendends for The Offspring in concert.

A highlight from that album, Gone Away, was the turning point of the evening. Holland performed the song on piano without accompaniment, offering a sonic alternative to the bombast. The moment appeared to revive the group, and led to energized versions of Why Don’t You Get a Job? and Pretty Fly (for a White Guy), two of the goofiest songs by a group that has no shortage of them. The momemtum carried through to the night’s final song, Self Esteem, one of the best singalongs in the rock business.

Montreal pop-punks Simple Plan, whose songs have enjoyed a resurgence via TikTok, were serviceable in the opening slot. Energy or competence wasn’t an issue, but why the reliance on non-ironic and completely unnecessary versions of Smash Mouth’s All Star, Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi, and The Killers’ Mr. Brightside for impact? Simple Plan were so-so, to the point of being forgettable. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

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