You know those shows where the band you love comes to town, offers a perfunctory "What's up, Houuuuston?!" then rolls through its set with nary another word to the audience? Last night's Good Charlotte show at House of Blues was exactly not that. The Madden brothers – Joel on lead vocals and Benji on guitar – were a couple of chatty Cathies, trading the mike throughout the night to trade their thoughts with the crowd, which packed the room with bodies and, as Benji noted, a most excellent vibe.
“We need to take this vibe out into the world,” he said before introducing “Prayers,” which he proclaimed his favorite song from the band’s new album, Generation Rx. “Don’t get tricked into racism, sexism or inequality.”
And so the evening went, with the guys speaking on the state of the world. They asked for prayers for those facing the horrors of the wildfires in California. Joel revved the crowd for “Riot Girl” with a monologue about how much we should value women. Most of all, they reflected on a career that’s spanned more than 20 years, one that’s brought together diverse, cross-generational crowds to hear them wherever they perform.
“We started the band in 1996. What were you doing in ’96? You were two. You were four,” Joel said, acknowledging some of the audience’s younger Good Charlotte fans. “The nineties, man, that was a good decade, you guys. Got to see a lot of good bands. So, we started the band in (bassist Paul Thomas’) living room after school, tenth grade. His mom was at work. She came home and we broke up. We got back together the next day.”
Good thing. The band went on to become MTV darlings whose seven studio albums sold in the millions. Their brand of pop punk was never going to be the background music for the rise of American anarchy, but songs like “The Anthem” and “Little Things” had just enough edge and truth to them to at least start some rebellions in select suburban households.
Throughout the night, they called out the year this song or that one dropped and reminded the adoring crowd that they’ve persisted as an act.
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“You know what, like Joel was talking about, a lot of memories, man, a lot of stories," Benji orated, "so, you know what? I’m just going to think of a year and whatever year pops into my head, I’m gonna think of a song from that year and I want you to think about where were you when you heard that song. What’s the memory?”
Judging by the passionate responses to the songs, especially anthemic stuff like “Hold On” and, well, “The Anthem,” the crowd members were succeeding at time traveling back to the emotional states they existed in when those tunes debuted. But they didn’t dwell on the memories too long. After all, there was singing to do, most prominently on “The Anthem” and “Girls & Boys.” They had to dance, too, down on the standing-room-only floor and up in the balcony, to hits like the show-closer, “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.”
Early on, Joel asked who was seeing Good Charlotte for the first time and the majority of the room responded. They weren’t all newbs, either. Joel thanked “everybody that wasn’t old enough to see us back when they were really little, now they’re old enough to drive and see us.”
“So you started listening to us when you were what,…how old were you? We’re talking elementary school, middle school?” Joel asked. “Seriously, if you’ve been listening to us since middle school, we’ve been through a whole lot of shit together.”
They played the hits, new stuff like “Self-Help” and big rockers like “I Just Wanna Live.” The crowd lapped it up. After all, many had waited to see Good Charlotte since before they had a driver’s license, to hear Joel tell it. Once all the songs were played and all the speaking was done, he just had one thing left to say.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s made our music a part of their life story.”
The Openers: Keeping with the theme, we defer to Benji, who shouted out to each act, including The Dose (“My new favorite band,”he said). “Our boys from Chicago,” Knuckle Puck. And, Sleeping With Sirens. “You know, we just brought them as like a little early Christmas present for you guys,” Benji said.)
Sleeping With Sirens occupied the set just before Good Charlotte and seems to have a strong Houston fan base in place already. Many in the crowd sang along to tunes like “Kick Me” and danced fervently to the band’s Warped-worthy tunes.
Personal Bias: “Little Things” was on repeat in our household when my son was nine years old. If you think it’s not a “real” punk song, or that maybe Good Charlotte’s brand of pop punk is too sanitized to be influential, that’s okay. But you have to acknowledge that, like the songs in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series or tunes in the Jackass movies, Good Charlotte was a gateway for lots of modern-day millennial punks.
The Crowd: In force, about it and out on a Monday night.
Random Notebook Dump: Whenever we attend a House of Blues show, my wife and I always forget to bring along a handful of dollar bills to tip the restroom attendants. They’re always there and ready with a paper towel or a much-needed mint. I know some show-goers consider them a nuisance but it occurred to us just last night that they’re there as a form of security. They’re not just in place to squirt soft soap into your awaiting palms, but because they have seeing eyes and listening ears, lots of questionable restroom behavior is shelved, making the restroom-going experience much more pleasant for us all. Take a handful of dollars along next time to tip ‘em, please.
Good Charlotte Set List
The Story of My Old Man
Keep Your Hands Off My Girl
Girls & Boys
The Young and the Hopeless
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Dance Floor Anthem
I Just Wanna Live
Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous