Kerrang! Relentless Tour featuring The Wonder Years, Framing Hanley, Four Year Strong and Good Charlotte
The Kerrang! Tour is notorious for bringing together some outstanding acts – in the past, Coheed and Cambria, Bring Me The Horizon, Biffy Clyro and All Time Low have all embarked upon the magazine’s tour up and down the UK. However, it has also become somewhat synonymous with less than credible, with the appearances of The Audition in 2007, Fightstar in 2008, and My Passion in 2010. Having seen both Four Year Strong and Good Charlotte in the past, I was fully expecting the 2011 tour to be a rare occasion where the support acts overshadows the headliner. But thankfully, this was not the case.
Opening this evening were The Wonder Years, a pop-punk outfit hailing from Philadelphia, who were clearly very at home on the stage. Their presence was outstanding, and given that the Guildhall was only half full at best at this very early stage of the night, they succeeded in drawing immense amounts of energy from a rather thin crowd. Their sound is somewhere between New Found Glory and Set Your Goals, with a little bit of pop a la Motion City Soundtrack thrown in for good measure. But oddly enough, it didn’t feel tired or derivative. Their short set demonstrated versatility that meant every song was fresh and exciting, skipping over genres like they’ve been playing for years. Highlights included ‘Washington Square Park’, which had some outstanding guitar work that was often akin to Alexisonfire, and ‘Melrose Diner’ which epitomises everything we have grown to love about pop-punk.
Following from The Wonder Years were Framing Hanley from Tenessee, an act who, given the volume of the wailing that filled the Guildhall as they bounded onto the stage, I had high hopes for. But about three songs into their set, I began to think that the masterminds behind the Kerrang! tour had somehow done it again – Framing Hanley were shocking. They sound like every other middle of the road ‘alternative rock’ act that you have ever heard, with a lead who evidently was more worried about his hairstyle than the quality of the music they produce. Granted, it was largely inoffensive pseudo pop music, and a large proportion of the crowd were lapping it up, but there was something huge missing. It has all been done before and was nothing to get excited about.
But thankfully, the rest of the show demonstrated how the music moguls at Kerrang! are completely in tune with the current rock music scene. Four Year Strong, an act whom I have seen and truly loved before, were nothing short of phenomenal tonight. The pop-punk quintet from Massachusetts USA managed to inject so much energy and enthusiasm into a night that was threatening to fall a little flat from the second they appeared on the stage, that I was completely and utterly enthralled from start to finish. And I was not the only one. Four Year Strong had every crowd member hanging on their every word, dancing and singing along in unison. But what really makes the quintet stand out, is their simple refusal to rest of their laurels. Everything they produce pushes their own boundaries, which makes for a varied and interesting setlist. Personal highlights included single ‘Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)’, which pulsed with such harsh and driving drum beats that it was impossible to keep still. As the beats drop out in the bridge, the crowd clapped and sang their hearts out as one, making it not just an excellently performed track, but engaging and a proper crowd pleaser in the truest sense. Other highlights came in the form of ‘It Really Must Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now’ and ‘What The Hell is a Gigawatt?’ It truly was an explosive set from start to finish which not only prepared the ground for the headliners, but demonstrated that Four Year Strong will soon become household names on the live circuit.
Yet nothing could prepare me for the headline act. Given that I completely expected Good Charlotte to be droll and dull as they have been in the past, I have never been so pleased to be proved wrong. As they exploded onto the stage with ‘The Anthem’, it was clear that in a few years Good Charlotte have grown into a band who knows how to please a crowd and command a stage space. Their presence was electrifying – the way that the Madden brothers engaged with all their audience members left me in complete awe, from encouraging crowd surfing, arm swaying, phenomenal circle pits to sing-a-longs that were all encompassing. And even though some of the tracks could have done with their tempo being upped – ‘Riot Girl’ being a prime example – they still managed to ensure that their performance was upbeat, engaging and interesting, something which I had not expected.
What is more, their choice of setlist was excellent. Given that the crowd was comprised of an almost equal percentage of tweenies and age-old fans, their set straddled the old and new perfectly. This, in itself was surprising: never before had I heard Good Charlotte perform anything from their debut self-titled album, so when they kicked into ‘Little Things’ I was practically giddy with excitement. It was like a musical Tardis, propelling me back into my teenage years at the speed of light. For me, this is what Good Charlotte are all about: epitomising the angst of teenagehood, and they allowed me to get into this nostalgia almost guilt free. They even drew on enough material from follow-up The Young and the Hopeless to remind me what it was like to be 15, and that, in my books, can only be a good thing.
But what was even more surprising about this show, was their relevance. The new material they showcased was outstanding, and although it was worlds away from the sound that made me fall in love with GC at 13 years old, it is this maturity that makes it so attractive. They appear to have grown up with us, and what we now have is a band that remembers 10 years ago like it was yesterday in the same way we do, but do no want to return to it any more than we do. ‘Last Night’ and ‘Silver Screen Romance’ are thoroughly enjoyable offerings, and are confirmation that Good Charlotte will be around for quite some time yet.
Rounding off the night was a suckerpunch of a track duo: ‘Movin’ On’ and noughties smash hit ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’. We all knew it was coming, but somehow, a double dose from The Young and the Hopeless was somewhat unexpected. It was energetic, entertaining and at times, bloody insane, but it was a phenomenal way to round off what turned out to be an amazing night of pop-rock and pop-punk music. Whoever said that pop-punk was dead was lying: nothing could be more alive or more relevant right here, right now.