Gig review: The Offspring at First Direct Arena, Leeds
“Control is telling me that’s we’ve got twenty-one million, one-thousand, three-hundred-and-seven people here tonight!” The Offspring’s lead guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman bellows excitedly halfway through the band’s show at Leeds’s First Direct Arena. “That means we beat Manchester last night by one person!”
His statement conjures up rowdy cheers from the considerably smaller-than-stated crowd in the pit and in the risers; clearly, the Californian veteran knows his British geography well enough to stoke an audience.
Not that those in attendance have needed further prodding; on what is comfortably their biggest tour of the United Kingdom for the best part of two decades, the aging punk rockers have arguably never sounded tighter, rattling through a svelte 80-minute set mostly trimmed of extraneous fat and only occasionally prone to momentum-stalled indulgence. They remain one of the genre’s most steadfast Nineties revival holdouts, three-chord devotees well into the new millennium even as their peers shot for broader territory.
That they have returned to venues of this magnitude indicates that the lust for their sweaty brand of guitar music remain undimmed. Frontman Dexter Holland – heavyset, with an earnest grin and a spring in his step that belies middle-age, much like his half-and-half-peroxide quiff compatriot – may be the only other long-standing member of their heyday now, but they, bassist Todd Morse and the rest of their five-piece Garden Grove outfit, infuse near-quarter-century songs that should have aged considerably less well with such light-headed verve that they transcend their time and place with cathartically riddled panache.
Nearly all the old staples are present – Come Out and Play, Want You Bad, Original Prankster – with beer cups summarily thrown through mosh circles – while there are enough surprises to keep those attuned on their feet – a rare tour outing for the frenetic All I Want, a classy piano rendition of Gone Away.
The ska-punk singalong of Why Don’t You Get a Job? sits surprisingly seamlessly into a protracted instrumental jam around Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, while new cut Let the Bad Times Roll has a satisfying alt-rock swing that blends in well with the cavernous settings.
By the time the home stretch arrives – the scrappy hooks of era-defining Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), the superlative crash of The Kids Aren’t Alright, plus the one-two encore punch of You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid and Self Esteem – it’s hard to keep the giddy smiles down.