Offspring Put The Punk In Arena Rock

Riding a wave of success with Americana, Southern California band thrills sold-out crowd.

LOS ANGELES -- Offspring singer Dexter Holland is 15 years older than most

of his fans, but he knows what they like.

That became particularly clear here Friday night, midway through the Orange County rock

band's headlining set at Universal Amphitheatre. That was when the 34-year-old Holland --

dressed in a black T-shirt and dark blue jeans -- took a baseball bat to blow-up dolls

standing for members of the teen-dream pop group the Backstreet Boys, and the crowd

reacted with cheers and laughter.

Just before, the Offspring took a brief break while the dolls were being set up in a line

onstage, facing the sold-out crowd. Then came an announcement over the loudspeakers:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Backstreet Boys."

The chorus of the Boys' song "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" blared over the speakers,

before being cut off, repeated and then cut off again. From the left side of the stage,

Holland emerged with a red plastic baseball bat in his hand.

"I f---ing hate the Backstreet Boys," he proclaimed, before proceeding to whack down each

of the dolls.

The crowd's response -- which intensified through the next Offspring song, "It's Cool to

Hate" -- was as though nothing could have been more profound. And it likely was

profound for the bulk of Offspring's fans, considering that most of them probably spend

lunch time in the cafeteria throwing Cheetos at the kids who listen to the Backstreet Boys.

The Southern California-bred Offspring may be enjoying the massive success of their latest

album, Americana, but Holland's Backstreet Boy "massacre" was a clear sign that

his punk-rock attitude is still in good form.

Like their larger-than-life sound, the Offspring's current production -- with elaborate lights

and changing backdrops -- conjures arena rock. Yet the foursome still manages to maintain

the intimacy and intensity of punk rock, even with a crowd of more than 6,000

people.

It helps that almost all of the Offspring's songs have a rousing, anthem-like quality and an

explicit, sing-along accessibility. On Friday, that was clear -- from

href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-music/Offspring,_The/Bad_Habit.ram">"Bad

Habit" (RealAudio excerpt), off 1994's Smash album, to their latest hit

single, "Why Don't You Get A

Job?" (RealAudio excerpt).

Those qualities appeared to inflame their fans. "I wanted to get into the pit and get tossed

around," 15-year-old Brandon Helland said. "But the security guard wouldn't let us

through."

Onstage, the Offspring show every sign of a band that's been together 12 years. Never

mind that none of them knew how to play their instruments when they started.

Friday's concert was the first of two performances at the Amphitheater with opening acts D

Generation and the Living End. Throughout their headlining set, the Offspring showcased

a tight, razor-sharp sound with adrenaline-pumping rhythms and attack-dog guitar playing.

The band -- guitarist Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman, bassist Greg K. (Kriesel) and drummer

Ron Welty -- was accompanied by two touring musicians for several songs, including a

drummer wearing a black mask and a multi-instrumentalist who switched from keyboards

to percussion.

Though the show never hit a slump, highlights came in the obvious places: renditions of

the Offspring's megahits "Come Out and Play"

(RealAudio excerpt) and "Self Esteem" off 1994's Smash album, and

href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get-

music/Offspring,_The/Pretty_Fly,_For_A_White_Guy.ram">"Pretty Fly (For a White

Guy)" (RealAudio excerpt) from Americana.

The latter tune featured an appearance by the kid who plays "the white guy" in the song's

accompanying video. Wearing his red hat and baggy pants to make him recognizable (even

to those at the back of the venue), the kid strutted about the stage in his signature bogus

hip-hop dance.

Another amusing moment came during a mid-show "intermission" break -- an idea the

Offspring first debuted on their last tour, while promoting their previous album, Ixnay

on the Hombre.

During Friday's intermission, the bandmembers took their seats in chairs brought out by

stagehands. Meanwhile, bubbles blasted out of bubble-making machines and a variety of

characters -- including a fat guy wearing the bare minimum -- provided a few minutes of

circus-like entertainment.

"The intermission was dope," 15-year-old Nathan Rendon said after the show. "I wanna

come back tomorrow."

"I like that you get surprised," answered 9-year-old Joe Wilson, when he was asked about

the best part of seeing the Offspring play live. Apparently, he had plenty to compare it to.

"It's not your typical rock concert," said Wilson, who attended the show with his brother

and father.

For his part, Holland seemed satisfied with his band's performance. "I've got

the biggest smile on my face, and I'm not even drunk or nothin'," he said

during the set.