There are entire industries built around the pursuit of eternal youth, be it pharmaceutical, fashion, or cosmetic. People have long hunted for the Fountain of Youth, and much like Ponce de Leon before them, the dream has always been eroded by the sands of time. We all have these moments, that we would love to revisit and savour that nostalgia, even if it’s only for a short period. Much like the sense of smell, our auditory system can instantly transport us back to the moment we first heard a song, which is why when a band from our past comes to town, we flock to the venue to revel in those memories that we hold so dear.
On Tuesday night, the Scotiabank Centre played host to a trio of bands, two of whom are juggernauts in the Punk Rock resurgence of the 1990s (Sum 41, and The Offspring) and an English alt-rock band who are carrying a torch for that very Grunge/Punk scene of the ’90s (Dinosaur Pile-Up). For the majority of those in attendance, The Offspring was a key fixture in many a school-yard soundtrack and the band was in high rotation on MuchMusic (back when videos were still played on television). Sum 41’s success followed closer to the end of the decade; their scrappy sardonic punk aesthetic and metal leanings garnered the band worldwide acclaim thanks in part to their inclusion on multiple iterations of The Warped Tour. When the Halifax date of the tour was announced, the buzz was palpable. It goes to show that there are still legions of fans out there, who are ready to bust out their thread-bare concert tees, Day-Glo hair dyes, and skate shoes, all for the opportunity to indulge their former fifteen-year-old selves.
Fans new and old alike crammed into the Scotiabank Centre for an old-fashioned rock-n-roll show. Dinosaur Pile-Up was making their Halifax debut, and while the band was largely shrouded in shadow and darkness, they dialed up the bombast and bass, shredding through more than a few unprotected eardrums throughout their 20-minute set. The band closed out its set with the kick-ass track “Back Foot”. The set was one that got people’s attention and fired up the room for the bands to follow.
After a short changeover, Sum 41 took to the Halifax stage for the first time in 15 years. During the band’s extended absence, Dave “Brown Sound” Baksh left and rejoined the band, former GOB founder Tom “Brown Tom” Thacker joined in 2009, and drummer Steve Jocz exited, making way for Frank Zummo to take over behind the kit. It was great to see that Sum 41’s beloved original line-up was largely intact, and performing here in Halifax in 2019, and was only bolstered by the addition of Brown Tom. For the next 70 minutes, Sum 41 went to work on wowing the packed Scotiabank Centre with a set list jam-packed with hits such as “Fat Lip” (the true Sum 41 pre-requisite), “In Too Deep”, and “The Hell Song”. There were a couple of extra-special moments during the band’s set: first was when front-man Deryck Whibley headed off the stage and made his way to the back of the Scotiabank Centre where he performed the heart-wrenching tune “Pieces”, and there was also the moment that the crowd realized that an enormous inflatable demon was rising up behind the band, taking residence at the back of the stage for the tail end of the set. Sum 41 sounded better than they ever have, appeared to be energized and reinvigorated, and hopefully are around for a great deal longer.
Many folks believe that The Offspring are one of the many acts of the mid-’90s who found themselves to be something of an overnight success, when in actuality that couldn’t be further from the truth. The band formed a decade before the 1994 breakthrough of their album Smash. While Dexter Holland is the lead singer of this So-Cal punk-rock band, it’s clear that his counterpart Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman is the gregarious M.C. of the organization, as he was ready with the buttery compliments such as this was the best looking North American city they’ve played on this tour (the Canadian tour kicked off in Halifax), and the cheap pops continued whenever Halifax, Nova Scotia was name-dropped. When the band wasn’t bantering with the crowd, they were tearing through a fan-friendly set which incorporated the band’s breakthrough singles “Self Esteem”, “Come Out and Play” and “Gotta Get Away” which incited the mosh pit to churn with an intense fervor, and more than a handful of patrons took to riding the crowd out and over the barrier only to be cycled to the back of the room. I even had the opportunity to relive my first Offspring show, when a piano and a backing candle arrangement were wheeled on stage for Dexter to play. He sat behind the keys and performed a beautifully stripped-down arrangement of “Gone Away”, much like he did a decade prior on Citadel Hill. The set was rounded out with well-known cuts such as “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, and after a short absence, Dexter returned to the stage sporting a Halifax Mooseheads jersey before closing the night out with “Self Esteem”.
The Offspring put together a set that had many in attendance fired-up, but it ultimately failed to exceed the bar set by Sum 41’s exceptional performance. It was a night that allowed the legion of Haligonians to set aside the troubles of the day, and to revel in a night of nostalgia and punk-rock from a couple of acts that were titans of the 1990s and still remain a Fountain of Youth for many, if only for a few hours. We need more of these well-known rock shows out on the East Coast of Canada.