Photo by Martin Kaluza
Forget starting at the beginning, I’m going to get right into this one and jump straight to the main course because after all, Bowling For Soup are not your straight forward start-to-finish kind of band. After 17 years we have all grown to expect the big hits, the witty playful banter, and lots of sing-along songs and all round good laughs along the way.
So what happens if you take two members from the band away, replace their instruments with two simplistic acoustic guitars, and stick them in a sold out Sugar Mill with soft lights, a few pictures, adjustable chairs, a table and even a rug? The answer’s simple; you get everything you would expect from BFS and more. The set up makes it feel as though Jaret Reddick and Erik Chandler are playing an intimate gig in your very own living room, and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to feel.
As though to test the crowds singing voices they kick off with ‘Almost’ before tearing their way through an extensive 11-album back catalogue ranging with everything from new single ‘S-S-S-Saturday’ through to a lighters-in-the-air acoustic rendition of ‘Belgium’. Even more impressing, Jaret was quick to challenge the audience from the off to pick songs for them with nothing more than a couple of music sheets for any track they may be a little rusty. Given the volume of their back catalogue, this brave effort was very commendable.
Having a two and a half hour set with no set list shackling them, they were able to open up and have some fun. It wouldn’t be a Bowling For Soup show without the stories, the banter, or the interaction with the crowd and it wasn’t long before we had all three. The duo was joined on stage by two girls from out of the crowd to act as Jaret’s kazoo assistant, and a tambourine player who they described as ‘jumping around like a Hari Krishna’. They went on to explain that earlier in the day they got lost in the ‘mall’ which was instantly met with shouts of ‘shopping centre’ from the teasing crowd. Song requests were coming in thick and fast throughout, and at one point Erik playfully asked a fan requesting Weezer to let him do his job, before telling him ‘I don’t come to where you work and tell you the fries are done’. All-round banter.
Successful bands can often be cursed by a big hit, and I wondered whether Bowling For Soup suffered this burden or if they still enjoyed playing the songs such as ‘1985’ and ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’. Just before Jaret left the States for the UK tour he told me that “We never get fed up of playing the hits, because the audience’s reaction to that no matter where we play in the world is always amazing. I don’t know how I could ever get sick of it.” The one song that they did ‘put on vacation for a few years’ was ‘Emily’ and that they claim they got a lot of s*** for not playing it when they’re in the UK. So it was nice to see that they have brought that one back out of the woodwork.
A few covers were thrown into the mix with a bit of Bon Jovi, and they were re-joined on the stage for crude song DVB by Linus of Hollywood who had earlier entertained the crowd with a set in which he got the crowd to chose a famous actress before re-naming one of his songs to be about a ‘Keira Knightley Poster’ complete with a funny impersonation. But it was the big hits which really stole the night. Punk Rock 101, Ohio (Come back to Texas), and High School Never Ends induced screams from the crowd before rounding the show off with Girl All The Bad Guys Want and 1985. The crowd reaction and the look on Jaret’s face said it all. Erik claimed earlier on in the night “We’re Stoked to be in Stoke” and I think it’s fair to say, so was everyone else.
At least we have their new album ‘Fishin For Woo’s’ out on April 26 to keep us entertained until we get the whole band back to the UK for a full tour later this year in October.