I'm just a sucker with no self esteem

I always wondered what it would be like to be one of the oldest people at a concert. I got a chance to find out at the D-Generation, The Living End, and The Offspring concert at the San Jose Events Center in San Jose, California. The amount of youthful energy was tremendous and the enthusiasm of the crowd was infectious and intense. As soon as I started bouncing around, my age (just turned 27) became irrelevant.

I am not a big fan of mainstream music, and The Offspring definitely belong in that category. As with other popular "punk rock" bands like Green Day and Nirvana, the music The Offspring make is what I'd call "pop with noisy guitars". The songs are incredible catchy and some of the riffs and bass lines (such as those in Smells like Teen Spirit or When I Come Around or Gotta Get Away) would do a band like ABBA proud! The Offspring are among my favourite mainstream bands of the 90s because of their consistency in making this kind of music. All their previous releases, from their self-titled debut to the recent Americana are laced with melodic sing-a-long tunes.

The show itself started off in a rather dry manner and I was worried the Rolling Stone review about them being a lame live band would be true, but they improved as the show went along. The Offspring are a band with a fair number of radio hits, some more of a hit than the others. The band slowly introduced them to the audience one by one, starting with Americana and culminating in the entire audience bouncing along to Self Esteem before the encore. The songs they played in-between included Gone Away, Have You Ever, She's Got Issues, The Kids Aren't Alright, She's Got Issues, Why Don't You Get A Job?, Walla Walla, Cool to Hate, Pretty Fly (for a White Guy), Gotta Get Away, Come Out and Play, For the encore, the band played Pay the Man and a cover of the Morris Albert classic Feelings.

In my review of Americana, I mention that The Offspring actually appear to be experimenting, moving from their traditional pop-punk approach. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the song Pay the Man which features a long instrumental introduction which rips off from Saint-Saëns' great classical composition, Sampson and Delilah. The Jello Biafra-based Intermission, where a roadie carried around an "intermission" sign and handed out drinks while soap bubbles flew over the heads of the audience, was pretty cool as well. During Pretty Fly, there was a boy on stage with a baseball cap (worn backwards, of course) dancing around to the tune which was comical. The light show was quite good, and the projection of the swinging kid on a backdrop which changed into a skeleton as the show ended was a nice touch.

What is amusing to me about all this is the image of The Offspring as punk rockers rebelling against the establishment: to me, they're no different from the Spin Doctors or many other bands that make catchy music, except for their consistency. What is even more ironic is that during the middle of the show they decided to make fun of The Backstreet Boys by parodying a song (and having vocalist Dexter Holland smash the mimics with a baseball bat), except that half the audience identified with the tune! The subject matter of the lyrics embody existential angst, but the music is upbeat happy music, reflecting, in general, a happy generation (and demographic). The issues bands like The Offspring preach about are far removed from the more serious issues of our day and age (issues related to freedom, such as intellectual property and cryptography). In this respect movies today, more than music, convey these messages more aptly (such as the information control depicted in Enemy of the State) in the mainstream.

D-Generation opened. Hailing from New York, the band's early efforts were reminiscent of the music done by the New York Dolls, but their music has gotten less energetic and interesting over the years. Their set featured their hit No Way Out and Frankie. The Living End, from Australia, who came on second, is just another punk-rock band. Their music is more serious than The Offspring's. The band was fairly tight and had some good riffs going, but the music was fairly derivative (Green Day, The Clash).

A fun show. I highly recommend checking out The Offspring in concert, particularly if you get into their radio hits. Oh, and age has nothing to do with my analysis here. I've been this way for as long as I can remember.

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org || March 30, 1999