For years now, Good Charlotte has been one of the biggest household names in pop-punk. With hits like “Lives of the Rich and Famous” and “The Anthem” (see, you knew you’d heard of them before), Good Charlotte has made, and kept, a name for themselves through the years and through a fast-changing music scene, at times struggling to stay relevant, but nonetheless keeping afloat. This year sees them on tour for their seventh studio album, Generation Rx, in which Good Charlotte steps up to the plate (as a somewhat youth-oriented band) to address several issues that continue to plague youth. With a long list of openers and a crowd of about two-thousand, Good Charlotte re-centered our focus on the world today, while still managing to show us a good time. Rarely do we ever see a show the night before a major holiday as packed and as busy as tonight was at the Wiltern, but tonight was an understandable exception. While the more-diverse-than-usual lineup drew in an interesting mix of attendees, all of us had one thing in common: instead of standing in long lines to get that Last Minute Turkey™ or preparing those Pies for the Day Ahead, we had all decided to come see an old favorite (or two). Here is a recap of everything you missed at GC’s show while you were putting that casserole in the oven.
The night began with a set from LA-based grunge band The Dose, who channelled Nirvana a little too eagerly but pulled it off slightly better than most, giving us the ‘caged-cat yowl’ we’ve missed and the abrasive, bulldozing reverb we deserved. Next up was Knuckle Puck, a Chicago band who looked like they were about to deliver a hefty dose of pop-punk but ended up giving us a watered-down version of Neck Deep. It may have been due to the less-than-stellar sound system, but much of the grittiness of their studio songs was lost in the transition to live, and it felt like they were not playing to their full potential. Nevertheless, it was still an enjoyable 45 minutes, and it would be nice to see how great they sound on days that were not… today.
Next to the stage was Sleeping with Sirens, playing quite a few throwback hits from their second studio album, Let’s Cheers To This, which appeared to be the most known. Despite the difference in music style, the headlining pair as a combo (Good Charlotte and SWS, that is) offered a heavy dose of nostalgia for the night, as both at one point or another were on heavy rotation on all of our angry junior high playlists. Their pop-punk meshed well with the theme of Generation Rx: singer Kellin Quinn of SWS took the time to address mental health issues and remind us that no one must suffer alone. His heart-to-heart about anxiety and depression before “Better Off Dead” was simultaneously an a uplifting moment and a bittersweet one, as he revealed that he too struggles with mental illness and reminded us that success doesn’t always dictate one’s mental state. “If you’re struggling with mental illness remember that your not alone, I’m right here with you,” he made sure to say, and in a time like this where it’s easy to feel more alone than ever, those words were ones that someone somewhere needed to hear.
As time neared for Good Charlotte to finally take the stage, there was an restlessness in the air— the crowd had sat through so many openers, and had taken to cheering barbarically at even a slight lowering of the music played in between sets; we were so eager to get on with the night that even most blatant of false positives still got the crowd riled up.
Around 9:15PM, a dramatic instrumental of “Generation Rx” and a quite ominous overhead projection of their album cover (and of course, the screams), welcomed Billy, Paul, Dean, and the Madden twins to the stage, and the band slipped immediately into an amped-up version of “Self Help” as an unexpected light show flashed before our eyes. Even live, there was no hiding that “Self Help” was a strange outlier; it deviated so far from their earlier work that it almost sounded like it belonged at a different show. The jump from “Self Help” to “The Anthem” was akin to sailing off a cliff— “The Anthem” is classic nineties punk rock, and “Self Help” classic 2005 rock (yes, that year specifically), with those badly-done vocal cuts and an electronic backing track that shouldn’t have been there. Yet, as insane as it all sounds, Good Charlotte pulled it off well, as somehow their entire setlist fit together like pieces of a puzzle as they milked old favorites to the bone and played newer songs with the freshness and excitement of a new endeavor. They started this band in 1996 (as Joel loved to mention), yet no song sounded tired, worn out, and bored; instead, they played until they had nothing left in them, then recharged and did it all over again.
I’ll admit: listening to the album beforehand made me dread having to hear any of the songs from Generation Rx, as I’d imagined them sounding like I’d gone to see a noughties soft-rock outfit like Nickelback or Dave Matthews Band. “Prayers”, it seemed, would be the worst offender, as it’s a bit of a cheesy song that sounds like it got cut from the soundtrack of an ’80s teen movie. But for all the speculation and the complaints that followed, this wasn’t the case at all, as each song (Prayers included) had its own unique flavor that contributed to the atmosphere of a rock concert, whatever that has evolved to mean. It’s true that if you’re looking for a more rowdy, crowd-surfing type show (like something you’d see when Good Charlotte was out supporting their earlier work), songs from Rx are not it, but the variety is sometimes nice in a show where the artists are known for their consistently upbeat, moshworthy songs that are so quick to burn everyone out. Tonight’s set offered a refreshing mix of ’90s and ’00s, blending the best (and sometimes the worst) parts of the two eras for a rapidly fluctuating show.
But yes, it would be wrong to disagree that this album is for a different crowd— a younger crowd. Those who didn’t go through the stereotypical ’90s afternoons of slamming the door and blasting music on a boombox, just waiting for summer and the Warped Tour to come around; it instead is for a crowd who’d grown up with the soft hand of mid-2000s rock ballads more fit for swaying in unison, lighters out, instead of the ritualized violence that is a mosh pit. It borrows elements more familiar to today’s youth after all, and is aimed directly at them, just with a different kind of revolutionary, a different kind of rebellion, a different kind of eye-to-eye understanding. But, it’s quite frankly fun to see this side of Good Charlotte; they’ve mastered quite quickly how to evolve with the times and still remain enjoyable to both adults and youth alike. It’s how they’ve kept their name alive.
Good Charlotte continues their tour for a few more days, hitting next the dates below.
NOVEMBER (w/ The Dose, Knuckle Puck, and Sleeping With Sirens)
26 – Sunshine Theater // Albuquerque, NM
27 – Diamond Ballroom // Oklahoma City, OK
28 – Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland // Kansas City, MO