no pads, no helmets...just balls!
Simple Plan @ NEX, Newcastle NSW Australia 26/04/2018 written by Brendan Lewis
Gather round team, let’s go over our strategy one more time! Tonight we’re up against the mighty pop/punk pioneers Simple Plan, and they’re taking on Newcastle as part of their ‘No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls’ 15th anniversary tour! The band will no doubt be on the offence, hitting us with everything they’ve got with hits from the album like ‘Addicted’, ‘Worst Day Ever’ and ‘Perfect’ and other hard-hitting smashes from their artillery of hits, so keep your guard and fists up! It’s a full-house tonight of eager fans, and anyone that missed out on this momentous occasion is absolutely crazy!
As the lights go down and the crowd erupt into cheers, the show is kicked off with emergency sirens blaring with red lights circling with them. The band now charge onto the stage, running head-first into the set with opening song off ‘No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls’ ‘I’d Do Anything’. As the intro starts, lead singer Pierre give us a “Newcastle, how you doing?!” before his cue to sing. The band all move around the stage in high-energy, passing the ball of energy to one another stunning the crowd from the starting line, then Pierre tackling the crowds’ attention by instigating a clap along to the songs’ beat in the bridge section, followed by a crash-course in melodic vocal-hook sing alongs to eg-on the crowd. For the first half of this song, Pierre’s vocals seem to be struggling to break-free from the other sounds surrounding them in the otherwise well constructed teamwork of sounds, but just when it seems like the vocals weren’t going to make it to the goal posts, Pierres voice picks up it’s game and slide tackles it across the line in the second half.
After a massive touchdown finale to the first song, the band run straight into the next three songs (yes, the next three consecutive songs off ‘No Pads.. etc’), ‘Worst Day Ever’, ‘You Don’t Mean Anything’ and ‘I’m Just A Kid’. The band slow their sprint around the field/stage ever so slightly in ‘Worst Day Ever’ and really focus on the sound, which sees Pierre’s vocals huddle in the mix of sound more evenly for this song. One of Pierre’s fellow band mates now helps carry the vocal density with some complimenting harmonies to Pierre’s lead vocals charging towards the goal posts, and raising the buzzing hype in the room with the songs’ anthemic choruses and uplifting pop/punk charge. Pierre now throws more engaging energy at us in the crowd by pausing the song in the bridge section, then commanding us “on the count of three, scream!” and as the drums start their rapid build up for the final chorus, Pierre reaches three and the entire band drop-kick the energy high out of this room as they all rock out hard for the final stretch.
The onslaught of energy from the band rages on both musically and charismatically, with ‘You Don’t Mean Anything’s with a fast stamping drum intro progressing into a mid-tempo major-key aggression and Pierre diving head-first into the other team (us, the crowd) as he jumps off the stage and leans into the crowd before returning to his band mates on stage, and finishes off the songs’ stride of energy as he stands tall on a fold-back speaker.
Pierre now revs up the crowd with an engaging pep talk to fire us all up for ‘I’m Just A Kid’. The crowd start singing along straight away in the stripped-back intro, which Pierre pauses to let the crowd take the ball for a line, as if toying with the other team letting them think they’re in the lead, before the song charges full force in the first verse. The sound is now perfect and quite pleasant on my musical palate, it seems the sound mixer just needed to warm up… he might’ve skipped the pre-game training. The songs’ tempo is slightly slower, but the pace of energy keeps speeding up, and I’m quite surprised that apart from jumping to the beat-drop in the songs’ final chorus after Pierre egs us on in the bridge, the crowd are not getting their mosh-on like at a typical Simple Plan show, instead, are simply content in musical fixation.
Charging through the rest of this album, ‘When I’m With You’ keeps the high-energy pop/punk vibe running, with beat-synced strobe-lights. ‘Meet You There’ slows the energys’ assent to a mid-tempo stride, yet dual layer vocals help drive the song to greater complimenting heights. ‘Addicted’ now boots the positive energy sky-high with it’s uplifting dumb-love vibe anthemic choruses of sing-alongs, perfectly justifying execution of the song by the band and Pierre letting the crowd sing “I’m a dick” for him, like that smart-ass player doing a dummy pass to make the other side trip over themselves.
The rest of the set is littered with intimate cheeky humour from Pierre mixed in with fun-fact anecdotes like how the band wrote this album in 2002 before Instagram, before Twitter, before Myspace even, before YouPorn and before free porn in general (now we know how Pierre spends his down-time these days) and quirky funny chats here and there, like how Pierre “always dreamed of one day travelling the world and having people play with my balls” after the band keeps the audience occupied with a flurry of beach balls launched into the crowd...which I did not see coming, in ‘One Day’. Along with the quirky humour, the set throws at us more differing pop/punk vibes of differing intensities, in-song engaging rev-ups from Pierre, plus guitar solos and drum solos to knock us all over with.
Like a final blaze of glory to charge the team into victory (before the encore of course), ‘Perfect’ is just that. The song starts with just Pierre on acoustic guitar and his candid emotional vocals crying out to his father and the audience lighting up with otherwise darkened room with phone lights, twinkling all around me before the rest of the band charge forth after the first chorus. This song really is a brilliant way to finish an album and thus a set, with it’s powerful vocals carried by dramatic guitar riffs and a steady beat which is performed perfectly!
As momentous and special as an anniversary show is with it’s respective album being played in it’s entirety which is a rare treat, I have been getting a little tired of the album and repetitive pop/punk vibe as engaging as it is, so luckily there’s an encore which will hit us with hard-hitters from the rest of the bands’ catalogues of hits to reacquaint my interest!
The band storm back out on stage after their half-time break and start the final charge/encore with power-surging pop/punk bite of monstrous proportion, ‘Shut Up’. This song charges the energy right back up, getting the whole crowd (including me) singing along and rocking out in defence of the bands’ on-stage energy and musical might, making this a strong re-opening song!
‘Jump’ raises the energy dramatically getting the whole crowd jumping to the beat and singing along to this rebellious pop/punk anthem, and for the rest of the long encore/short second set, the final charge to the finish line picks up in furosity and climactic energy full of sing alongs to ‘Boom’ and it’s clichè pop romance, as if fraternizing with the other team, ‘Jet Lag’, Summer Paradise’, ‘Crazy’ and grand finale, ‘Welcome To My Life’. Pierre invites the lead singer of supporting band Stateside, out onto the stage to sing the female vocals of ‘Jet Lags’ call and response, but I feel the Stateside singer isn’t doing the song justice and is a bit of a let down, made worse by her vocals not being loud enough to start with, but the crowd around me aren’t phased, and still in high spirits at this loved Simple Plan hit. Pierre now asks if anyone would like to join him on stage for an Instagram photo, then proceeds to invite fans (including me as he recognizes my apparently memorable curly hair) for a big group photo before the feel-good summer cruiser, ‘Summer Paradise’ then pleading declaration of surging power ‘Crazy’ with a dramatic build up/pause in the bridge and rev up from Pierre leading into the final chorus, and finally, the classic emo yet anthemic uplifting hit ‘Welcome To My Life’ which takes me back to when I was a wee-lad of 10 years old and is filled with a burst of sing along energy, smashing a final triumphant win at the games’ end!
Well done team, your energy was high and sustained throughout the set with differing dynamics to keep your opponent stunned, your musical techniques were sharp and precise and all worked well with one another, and your charisma and on-stage charm won over the audience from start to finish! ….Now hit the showers ladies!