It was maybe four songs into the Offspring's set -- somewhere around "Days Go By" and "Have You Ever," that the message became clear: Purists be damned. Frontman Dexter Holland looks every bit of his 46 years, and if his band didn't want to play punk music in its unvarnished, long-since formulated form, then goddamn it, they wouldn't. Last night's Offspring concert attempted to cover the generational and stylistic gap between its indisputably over-thirty fanbase and the kids young enough to be their own, uh, offspring. The results were mixed.
Before Holland and his mates took the stage, a weird thing happened. Dead Sara, an enormously talented Los Angeles band that should be headlining its own show (though perhaps they're not quite ready for a venue of this size), came out and played. That band's performance is not the odd part though.
Neon Trees was. This is a criminally overhyped act that sounded like a Duran Duran ripoff, whose lead singer G.G. Allin would gladly have given a bloody nose to. The audience, a mix of graying rockers and blackshirted kids half their age, was not amused either. It's easy to imagine the Offspring's management, pre-tour, trying to devise a way of making the band appeal to a wider (read: younger) audience. "I've got it!" someone at a boardroom table would say. "We'll pair them with Neon Trees -- the kids can't get enough of those groovy pups." Cue the collective mass eye-rolling.
So when the Offspring finally took the stage, the audience in the half-full venue was not quite primed for a good time. The band didn't help change the tenor much, either. Holland walked onstage as casually as if he were about to order a cheeseburger, then began singing "Hurting as One" (from the band's latest release, Days Go By). Following that was an older but still lesser-known track from the band's golden era, "All I Want" (from 1997's Ixnay on the Hombre).
Those two songs sound as if they could have been written the same night, though they spanned across fifteen years between recordings. Such is the corner the Offspring has painted itself into: a hooky, occasionally blast beat-heavy, if cheesy variety of skate punk that is formulaic to the point of being inflexible.
Where does a band go from there? The opposite direction, apparently. The band oscillated between this prototypical SoCal punk style (shout out to Pennywise!) and more adult contemporary fare. The latter was best exemplified with "Gone Away," a song that featured Dead Sara singer Emily Armstrong. It also happened to be one of the few truly spirited tunes of the night that was not one of the Offspring's '90s megahits.
That and the following tune, "Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?" (from 2008's Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace), another somber number featuring acoustic guitars, reminded listeners that Green Day is not the only punk band in the world that can play softly without going soft. Although these songs lacked the urgency of the Offspring's more pulsating rock anthems, at least they sounded honest.
By that point in the night, Holland, whose pipes were no match for the rigors of singing at such a hypoxic elevation, sounded exhausted. His band, with the possible exception of drummer Pete Parada, was not faring much better. When the band hit a high note, it arrived in the form of two of the outfit's biggest hits, "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" and the grand finale, "Self Esteem." Naturally, mass singalongs were in order.
Personal Bias: As a child of the early '90s, I was front and center in the days of "Self Esteem" and "Come Out and Play," so this was a pretty nostalgic journey back to the days of awkward childhood.
Random Note: There were panties on the floor near the women's restroom. PANTIES.
By the Way: Westword named the Fillmore "The Best Place to Run Into a Hippie Turned Yuppie" in our 2006 Best Of Denver issue. The same could be said last night for punks-turned-yuppies.
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