MADISON, Wisconsin — What a difference five months and a half-hour make.
The last time Good Charlotte came through the Midwest, they used their slot between Less Than Jake and New Found Glory to pummel the crowd with an hour of their fastest, most furious tunes (see "Good Charlotte, New Found Glory Let The Music Talk At Civic Tour Stop"). As they kick off their Young and Hopeless Tour as headliners, though, they took their extra 30 minutes onstage to focus on quieter, more thoughtful material. If you didn't know any better, you'd think these guys had grown up a lot since April.
While that's probably true — being on the covers of top music magazines and taking the Viewer's Choice Award at the MTV Video Music Awards will do that — the extra time just gave the Washington, D.C., quintet a chance to highlight the fact that its music's never been as one-dimensional as its detractors have claimed.
The show at the Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall began in familiar fashion, with the sounds of "A New Beginning" swelling up while the stage was still hidden behind a huge banner of the Young and the Hopeless cover. The band then kicked things off with the one-two-three punch of "Anthem," "Festival Song" and "Riot Girl." Clad in its usual all-black, the band came out with a sense of purpose that showed its ready for its headlining status, and played everything with more confidence and punch than the recorded versions suggest.
Running back and forth across the stage, Joel Madden mixed adolescent humor with an arena-rock sense of purpose. His singing was stronger than ever, and he even closed "Girls and Boys" with some goofy yet entirely appropriate vocal riffing. The set's first half-hour focused on crowd pleasers, but Good Charlotte's expanded time slot let them throw in tunes like "Seasons" from their debut CD, and the crowd responded with just as much fervor to the pensive guitar strumming and harmonics of "Motivation Proclamation" as it did to the fist-pumping choruses of "The Click" and "Hold On."
The night's real surprise came when Joel and his brother Benji sat down on stools for an acoustic take on the beautifully vulnerable ballad "Thank You Mom." Don't think the Good Charlotte's gone all serious, though; before they began, Joel rejoined his brother's question, "You guys ready to take a little break?," with the smart-aleck reply, "You guys can all say, 'Shut up, Benji.' " The rest of the band then joined them for the live debut of "Emotionless," the Maddens' open letter to their absent father.
Coming out of the acoustic set ("I feel like we're Dashboard Confessional," joked Benji) with "Say Anything" and "The Day That I Die," the band closed things out with "Waldorfworldwide" before an encore that featured "The Young and the Hopeless" and "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." The band continues the tour Friday (September 19) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (see "Good Charlotte To Reward All The Good 'Boys And Girls' With New Tour").
Something Corporate's 45-minute set featured a more textured brand of punk-pop than either Good Charlotte or openers Saving Face, but proved that "piano-driven rock" doesn't necessarily mean "wimpy." Slightly out of place on the night's bill — sounding like a cross between Ben Folds and Cheap Trick, and with lead singer and pianist Andrew McMahon perhaps the only person in the venue wearing sandals — the Orange County band rocked as hard as either of the other bands and explored many of the same lyrical themes of alienation and frustration.
Most everyone in the crowd sang along with the pounding "If You C Jordan," from the band's 2002 full-length debut, Leaving Through the Window, and "Space" from their upcoming release, North (due October 21). They even stood rapt for ballads like "Konstantine," despite McMahon's admonition that "If you haven't heard us before and don't like us, this might be a good time to go to the bathroom."
Original openers the Living End had to cancel when the U.S. government failed to issue the Australian rockers' visas in time. Saving the day was Madison's own Saving Face, a frenetic trio led by bassist Sarah Roney and guitarist Ryan McClain. It was the biggest crowd the locals had ever played for, and they rose to the occasion with a pounding 20-minute set focusing on material from their second album, Holiday Cruise 365, which has just been picked up by High Fidelity Records. Purveying three-chord punk with a healthy nod to the quirkier chord progressions of early 1980s new wave, the group got things off to a rousing start and it finished just as triumphantly.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.