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The Offspring could do no wrong
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The Offspring could do no wrong

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

The Offspring
June 9
WaMu Theater


If you find a pair of eardrums near WaMu Theater, please send them to me. They seem to have slipped out, or rather been blasted out, during The Offspring's cement-splitting performance at the SoDo concert venue this week.

The Southern California quartet pummeled a half-filled arena with an array of hits spanning their 20-year career, opening with a hair-rising version of "Stuff is Messed Up." Lead singer Dexter Holland stood front and center in jeans, black tee, long-sleeve army green shirt, and blond locks spiked like a perfect meringue.

Crowd favorite "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)" energized the already restless pit, just below the stage, and interestingly encouraged some concertgoers to run around the main floor as if it were a sports track - throughout the show, I witnessed people simply jogging around for no apparent reason. But this is part of the fun chaos attached to The Offspring, who I refer to as the NASCAR of punk - similar to their Memorial Stadium appearance at last fall's Bumbershoot Festival, fans line up for the band's concerts from continent to continent to purposely go hog wild.

Indeed, when Holland asked the audience early in the show, "Are you people ready to go crazy tonight?" he likely knew they were midway there. The stocky vocalist-guitarist growled through a set of great tunes, including "All I Want," "Bad Habit" and "Want You Bad." But he also showed his quieter side, performing a solo rendition of "Gone Away" on piano.

"Gotta Get Away" stirred up the crowd, as surfers were hoisted over shoulders and eventually plopped at the base of the stage. Most of The Offspring's live cuts are similar to the album versions, with the exception of an excess of noise - at one point, the group pounded away on four guitars and drums (four guitars, really?). It's true that the acoustics inside WaMu Theater are some of the worst in Seattle, but the sound also seemed to have been turned up to maximum volume - it was too loud at the back of the main floor, though it was fine the closer you moved to the front.

On this night, even with a surprisingly lower turnout than I expected, The Offspring could do no wrong. Even a creative intermission, as carnival music played overhead while the band's crew juggled and tossed beach balls out to the floor, was entertaining. But familiar songs are what everyone came to hear, such as the rowdy "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)." A young pair of sweat-drenched Lesbians caught their breath after it ended, but returned to the action immediately when the group launched into "(Can't Get My) Head Around You."

Minimal stage decor set the tone for a show that concentrated more on the music and less on frills. A highlight of the concert was The Offspring's drilling of the rapid-tempo "The Kids Aren't Alright," which drew fist thrusts throughout the floor and from the back bleachers. College-age folks comprised the largest percentage of the audience, followed by a strong turnout of late 30s fans and a delightful number of cool dads accompanying their waist-high sons.

A three-song encore concluded with the song that everybody had waited to hear, "Self-Esteem." Fortunately, from where I stood, it sounded amazing - just the way it did on that afternoon in '94 when I was pulled over for speeding as it blared on my car stereo. It had the crunch and thrill I was hoping it would have performed live, and helped close out the show on a hell-bent, incredible note.

The Offspring landed on the scene in the early '90s, about the time Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins had catapulted to overnight success. But the California foursome started out strong as a viable punk act and then got silly in the years ahead with gimmicky tracks, often containing downright tacky lyrics. I haven't purchased a thing from the band since their breakthrough release, Smash.

Despite semi-poor sound, The Offspring provided fans a raucous start to summer with a concert that peaked in high energy. It wasn't the songs that were memorable; it was the state of chaos surrounding them.

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