“This wasn’t one of those half-arsed, tired performances of a past-their peak band – the sound was slick, the enthusiasm fresh and the energy electric”
As we celebrate 40 years of punk rock here in London, I head to the Hammersmith Apollo to see close cousins of the same era, American punk rock legends The Offspring and Bad Religion – and whether the hype still holds up
Motorhead, NOFX, Black Flag, Rancid, Bad Religion, The Offspring. The sea of t-shirt backs in front of me provide a roll call of the Californian bands and gigs which constitute what might now seem a bygone genre. But not to their owners. As Bad Religion explode onto the stage with their opening track, nodding, predominantly-balding heads with periodically closed eyes, each mouth each word in perfect unison.
I’m at the Hammersmith Apollo to see infamous punk rock band The Offspring, supported by less mainstream but equally revered Bad Religion. After first hitting our airwaves in the late 80s, punk rock enjoyed something of a cult following in the decades that followed, reaching a peak of mainstream success in the late 90s, after which time however, the genre seemed to fade. But not for the die-hard fans, many of a certain age, all fired up to see them as they hit London as part of a world tour.
In the company of a geeky-level fan and faithful follower of the punk rockers, I’m slightly less out of place than otherwise but feel it necessary to move my lips vaguely in time with the crowd, even if I have to wait for The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” before I can accurately get them round any lyrics.
Bad Religion only play for 45 minutes but from the short break we have to reflect on their performance, it’s all gushing “they’ll be a tough act to follow” compliments. And I’m also impressed – the guy who had bounced on stage looking like someone’s overzealous Dad had given out vocals to match any 20-year-old in their prime.
And The Offspring had no problems to follow them – Dexter Holland’s voice didn’t miss a beat, hanging on impressively to its distinctive and youthful edge, and their hypnotic riffs carried the enraptured audience through a high-octane hour and a half set.
With my expert on hand I could chart the changes in style in their prolific back catalogue through the 80s, 90s and 00s, with those from the old days very fast, very dirty, very punk. The lyrics political, protesting. Then the later tracks softer, more melodic, the choruses catchy and poppy.
Having been more familiar with the British variety, the Americana of it all felt slightly cloying – Noodles: “What do you do when the crowd is too sexy? You are all going in my spank bank!” – and more cringeworthy than establishment shattering – “I got a lot of hy-per-bo-le.”
But this certainly wasn’t one of those half-arsed, tired performances of a past-their peak band you often end up seeing from a few thousand heads away at an overpriced festival – the sound was slick, the enthusiasm fresh, and the energy electric. At least enough to have some of the crowd moshing and crowdsurfing – a nostalgic shadow of their 14-year-old sweaty selves perhaps – but it added an edge nonetheless.
And a pretty special performance of The Clash’s “Should I stay or should I go” couldn’t fail to strike a few chords with an audience in the thick of a history-setting EU Referendum.
Apparently lot of the bands from the height of the era simply don’t exist any more. So those that do, everyone goes to see live – you don’t know when might be the last time.
You can catch The Offspring on tour dates across Europe until mid July.
Take a look at what some of the audience thought below: