5 Seconds of Summer Bring on the Screams

5 Seconds of Summer, Hey Violent
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 8, 2015

There are certain types of live music experiences that every music fan should have at least once, no matter what genre he or she loves the most. These include, but are not limited to, running in a circle pit, having your eyes melted at an EDM festival, singing along with Garth Brooks and getting covered in Faygo at an ICP show.

They should also, probably only once if they value their long-term hearing, experience an ear-shattering boy-band concert.

No one loves music the way girls ages 11 to 16 love music. At that point in their lives, they’ve still got vocal cords strong enough to scream all night, bodies that can hold up to jumping up and down all night on concrete while rocking fancy and/or chunky footwear, and minds still open to experiencing pop music at face value.

Face it: As we get older, most of us become more jaded and less fun when it comes to music. We want shows that have ample seating and end early. We’ll sing along, but mostly reluctantly and certainly not to every song. We’ll talk about how much we love live music, but then find endless things to complain about when we go to concerts.

So 5 Seconds of Summer came to town Saturday night, and ears are probably still ringing across the city from all the screaming. The word "loud" doesn’t really do justice to what their fans did with their voices before and during the show. There were times when it sounded like this show review might not happen because hearing the band over the fans was damn near impossible.

With good reason. After a few tours with the cushiest opening spot in modern music if you’re a moderately attractive group of guys with an accent (i.e., opening for One Direction), it turns out that 5 Seconds of Summer were born to be headliners. Whatever issues they had with their stage demeanor last year have largely been worked out; as headliners they look like the coolest dudes in the world, with stage direction that only enhances their natural charisma.

A long time ago, I said they could eventually be a serviceable blink-182 clone, and that’s still broadly true, although I suspect from their choice to cover “American Idiot” that they really want to be a safer Green Day. Every year their music gets a little stronger and it becomes easier to take them seriously as a real band instead of just some cute guys who happen to play music.

Plus, they’re not playing “Heartbreak Girl” or “Teenage Dream” anymore, both of which I found to be the most problematic parts of previous performances. Good job, guys.

Imagine a timeline, and along this timeline there are dots for the Sex Pistols, Descendents, Green Day, Blink 182 and 5 Seconds of Summer. At every point in this timeline there are dudes singing songs celebrating being an outsider, but every stop the formula gets a little cleaner, a little more family friendly. The further away you get from the beginning, the safer you are.

When you hear 16,000 mostly middle- to upper-middle-class kids singing about being the kings and queens of the new broken scene, it’s easy, tempting and perhaps correct to be cynical, especially after watching them scream for what amounts to commercials between bands. Maybe, for a lot of the kids at this show, music as a passion is a phase they’ll outgrow. But seeing their endless excitement brought a smile to my face that was almost worth the pain in my ears — which is something everyone should see at least once, preferably with earplugs.

So, How Was the Opener? Hey Violet sound exactly the way you’d expect a band opening for 5 Seconds of Summer to sound, which is mostly a good thing. To be precise, it’s a good thing when they’re sticking to their own material; their cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” is just plain bad. But they show promise as songwriters and performers, which is fine if 5SOS isn’t going to give the opening slot to a Warped Tour band.

Personal Bias: I rank Ashton Irwin just behind Harry Styles on my list of “male pop stars whose solo careers I’m looking forward to.”

The Crowd: I don’t know who I respect more: the parents who love their kids so much they bought tickets to watch the show with them or the parents who love their kids so much they bought them tickets to the show, then waited outside the venue on one of the hottest days of the year to walk them back to the car.

Overheard In the Crowd: “I hope it’s a good show because it’s the last one you’re ever going to see,” said my +1, describing what she’d like to say to everyone wearing flannel in 100-degree weather at the show.

Random Notebook Dump: The most popular show of the summer at the Pavilion just happened to be booked for tax-free weekend. That’s some world-class trolling.

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