CHICAGO — Pubescent fans of Simple Plan and MxPx began lining up in front of the Riviera Theatre in subzero temperatures as early as seven in the morning on Friday, 11 hours before show openers Motion City Soundtrack hit the stage, just to get within spitting distance of their heroes. By the time Simple Plan hit the final note of their touching punk ballad "Perfect," not a soul regretted risking pneumonia for the chance to get sprayed with the very bottled water frontman Pierre Bouvier and bassist David Desrosiers had swigged from. It's like a baptism, only
with fewer clergy and a lot more profanity.
What the sold-out crowd witnessed didn't surprise anyone who'd purchased Simple Plan's only album, No Pads, No Helmets ... Just Balls since its release nearly two years ago. Excepting "My Alien," the Montreal quintet played the entire album, including the bonus tracks "Grow Up" and "Crash and Burn" from the "Big Package for
You" DVD, along with a caffeinated cover of the Turtles' "Happy Together" and a blast of Pink's "Get the Party Started."
Simple Plan are fairly derivative of fellow Canadian punk-poppers Sum 41, minus the killer guitar hooks. Still, hairless lead guitarist Jeff Stinco managed some sugary guitar lines on "God Must Hate Me," "I Won't Be There" and "Addicted." Bouvier's voice is serviceably typical of the genre, and he snarled adequately during harder-edged songs like "You
Don't Mean Anything" while lathering it up on the sensitive
tunes "Meet You There" and "Perfect."
The band's stage banter, on the other hand, borders on the
ridiculous. "We're stupid," confessed Desrosiers at one point. Like co-headliners MxPx, Plan wasted set time soliciting cheers and shrieks from their fans.
With eight albums to their credit, you've got to wonder why MxPx spent half their 65-minute set babbling and bringing two girls onstage to play bass for nearly 10 minutes of entertainment akin to a root canal without anesthesia.
When MxPx put the clampdown on audience participation, they assembled a solid set of catchy punk-pop confections. New songs like the anthemic "Play It Loud" and the syrupy ballads "Don't Walk Away" and "Quit Your Life" went over well, as did such back-catalog staples as "My Life Story" and "Responsibility," which had frontman/bassist Mike Herrera sounding like Elvis Costello covering the Clash. Speaking of the Clash, Tom Wisniewski played Mick Jones to Herrera's Joe Strummer on a cover of "Should I Stay or Should I Go," singing lead on the Combat
Herrera resumed vocal duties during a souped-up cover of Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69," a year virtually no one in the venue had experienced. The Washington trio ended their set with the spirited "Punk Rawk Show," which, like everything that came before, was to be expected.
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