A wise man once said that the only source of knowledge is experience. Good Charlotte have toured venues of this size on this side of the pond for the better part of 20 years, so it can be assumed that they’re well practiced in the art of putting on a good old fashioned punk rock show.
Last year’s tour in support of ‘Youth Authority’ was the band’s first since ending a six year hiatus, and very much an exercise in testing the water of the enduring fandom. Understandably-for that tour-more effort was put into perfecting the set-list, than the onstage set design.
This year, the staging couldn’t be more different, as the pop-punk stalwarts come armed with professional lighting rigging, and LED towers, which display lyrics and images relevant to the song being played. Compared to 2016, this is a much more slick and professional operation.
Hitting the stage to the power-chords of ‘The Anthem’, Good Charlotte get things started perfectly. Having set the tone, the band run through old favourites from 2002’s ‘The Young and The Hopeless’-their breakthrough record. ‘The Story of My Old Man’, ‘My Bloody Valentine’ ‘Riot Girl’ and especially ‘Girls and Boys’ get the crowd suitably excited through a combination of solid pop hooks, and good old fashioned nostalgia.
When introducing ‘Riot Girl, frontman Joel Madden takes the opportunity to acknowledge an ongoing blight on pop-punk, as the shadows of historic and current misogyny and abuse loom large over the scene. He does this with strength and sensitivity, as he dedicates the song to women, without pretending to speak for them and their experiences-rather giving them a platform to prove their own strength. By bringing Milk Teeth and Against the Current-both bands fronted by female singers-on tour with them, Good Charlotte have more than backed up their words with actions.
Taking it back to the old-school, the band play ‘Predictable’ and ‘The Chronicles of Life and Death’ from the gloom-pop infused album of the same name. Going back even further, they play ‘Motivation Proclamation’ from 2000’s ‘Good Charlotte’. These tracks go down a storm with the crowd, who pump-fists enthusiastically, and open up multiple circle-pits.
Having delivered the classics with as much cheer as the lyrics allow, the band address another serious issue within the pop-punk and emo scenes. Good Charlotte, have lost friends and contemporaries far too early, and know more than most the pain and absence left by suicide. The untimely death of L’il Peep-the rap sensation who recently died in tragic circumstances-make this moment all the more poignant. The Maddens introduce ‘Hold On’ with the affirmation that it’s better to be here than not. At a show like this, it’s hard to disagree with them.
The mood picks up with ’Makeshift Love’, a track which Joel Madden describes as a “Straight-up pop-punk jam.” This begins a sequence of some of the band’s greatest hits, from across their extensive back catalogue, including the synthy ‘Keep Your Hands Off My Girl’, the heavy ‘War’ and the classically juvenile ‘Little Things’. These tracks couldn’t be more different, but all show Good Charlotte’s ability to wear than one musical hat, and to pull it off impeccably.
Having played ‘The Young and The Hopeless’ (the single), four fifths of the band depart the stage, leaving Benji Madden alone on-stage. This gives the first major surprise of the set, as Madden plays the acoustic ‘Emotionless’-a maudlin track which hasn’t featured in a live set for more than ten years. The track is a welcome, if sad and unexpected addition to the set.
The rest of the band return to the stage to play an encore, with the majority of tracks coming from 2007’s ‘Good Morning Revival’. This provides another surprise, as the track ‘Misery’ is dusted off for a rare appearance. This number features a dancy, electronic sound, which the band has largely left behind, but clearly remembers fondly. This is followed by set-regulars, and fan-favourites, ‘The River’ and ‘Dance Floor Anthem’. Both of which keep the energy levels up, and the fans dancing, even at this late stage.
As always, the set is closed with 2002 single ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’-a classic within the band’s back catalogue, and the pop-punk genre as a whole. The crowd pogo along accordingly, and do their utmost to bring the house down.
Delivering both the familiar and the unusual, Good Charlotte deliver a set, which for all intents and purpose is perfect. The old and the new, the pop-punk and the not-so-much, are all covered, and everyone in the crowd leaves with a smile on their face.
Before departing, the Madden’s hint at a new record, and another U.K. tour next year. Based on tonight’s evidence, both would be a very welcome return indeed.
‘Youth Authority’ is out now via MDDN.