This review's been pending for a little while, apologies for the delay.
The Offspring are a funny old band in terms of punk rock. They're almost like the forgotten ones from the mid-90s - whilst Rancid have achieved cult status and Green Day are happily riding a wave of commercial success, The Offspring are still ploughing on, doing what they've always done. Many people don't appear to take them seriously, pointing to the jocular, MTV-baiting hits 'Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)' and 'Original Prankster' and dismissing them as some sort of joke band. The truth is, though, The Offspring are probably the single most underrated band in the history of punk, and for those in the know, they are, quite simply, legends of almost unparalleled status, with a back catalogue packed full of brilliant records - 'Smash' needs no introduction, and neither does the blinding 'Americana', whilst 'Ixnay on the Hombre' is one of my personal favourite albums of all time. Last year's 'Rise & Fall, Rage & Grace' was a proud statement of intent from the Orange County boys, proving that despite being in the game for over 20 years, their drive and talent for writing great songs had not dimmed at all, and I was one of the first to snap up a ticket for their return to London.
I arrive about 20 minutes before they hit the stage, skipping the support bands - a friend of mine who was there for the duration tells me that Broadway Calls were very good, wheras Rival Schools were terrible - and at around 9:30pm, the lights flash, the intro to 'Stuff is Messed Up' crashes out and the fun begins. Several things were immediately obvious - frontman Dexter Holland, who is now shorn of his mid-life-crisis hairstyle, is a subtle and commanding presence, and his voice is clear and powerful as he belts out his lyrics. The band as a whole are an incredibly tight unit, and there is no stand-out performer out of the four-piece plus additional guitarist in the background - they all mesh together to form a perfect wall-of-sound. Bassist Greg K is unfussy and workmanlike as always, guitarist Noodles busts out his leads with his usual wry smirk, and drummer Pete Parada bangs and crashes with ferocious precision. Very impressive stuff.
As for the songs, well there are no real surprises in terms of the setlist, with the only exception being the criminally underrated single 'Million Miles Away', which gets a rare airing tonight, much to this author's delight. 'Gone Away' also received a gorgeous makeover, as it was performed solo by Dexter on a piano, adding extra poignancy to the lyrics. Aside from that, all the classics are present and correct - the menacing and chaotic 'Bad Habit' ('you stupid dumb shit goddamn motherfucker!'), the firecracker 'All I Want', the anthemic 'Staring at the Sun', the stomping 'Come Out And Play' - the list goes on. More recent tracks 'You're Gonna Go Far, Kid' and 'Half-Truism' augment the overall attack, and the pace is unrelentingly quick, with the only slowdowns being for the aforementioned 'Gone Away', newie 'Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?', the hilarious 'Intermission' (complete with dancing roadie), and the Beatles-mimicking 'Why Don't You Get A Job?' which has the entirety of the 5,000 strong crowd ('surprisingly round number, don't you think?') singing along with massive grins on dials.
You know that The Offspring have such a strong back catalogue when they can afford to leave out 'Original Prankster' and 'Gotta Get Away' and still have an absolutely killer set, and the encore is one of the finest that any band could possibly cook up - 'Hammerhead' threatens to blow the roof clean off the Academy with its muscular guitars and powerhouse drumming, 'Want You Bad', with it's Stiff Little Fingers-esque classic punk riffs, is quite simply awesome, and as they roll out the timeless 'Self Esteem' to finish, I can't see a single person in the audience NOT jumping up and down and bellowing the words back at the band.
If I'm being picky, I could point out such things as the fact that some of the songs are not quite as fast as they used to be, or that there isn't a tremendous amount in the way of audience participation or stage banter, but do you know what? Tonight is not about needless sniping - it is about celebrating a band which have weathered the mainstream storm and remain, to this day, one of the kings of modern punk rock.
Overall Rating: 9/10
1. Stuff Is Messed Up
2. Bad Habit
3. You're Gonna Go Far, Kid
4. Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)
5. Million Miles Away
6. Have You Ever
7. Staring at the Sun
8. Gone Away (Piano Version)
9. Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?
12. Hit That
14. Why Don't You Get a Job?
15. All I Want
16. Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)
17. (Can't Get My) Head Around You
18. The Kids Aren't Alright
20. Want You Bad
21. Self Esteem