Simple Plan's pop-punks wear their hearts on their sleeves
Barry C Chung
Over the years, Simple Plan has been called many things - from a great band, according to fans, to less flattering labels from hard-core punk fans who dislike their pop-friendly sound.
Now we can add 'peacemaker' to the list after their show this week at AsiaWorld-Expo, their first since 2002. As the band returned for their encore, a mild commotion broke out in the crowd, which was dealt with calmly by frontman Pierre Bouvier. 'Are you fighting? No, man! We're cool!' Turning to a security guard about to break up the tussle, the singer adds: 'Mr Security, we're cool.'
As quickly as it started, the troubled died down just as the opening bars of I'm Just a Kid rolled out.
Bouvier introduced each song with a witty reference, play on words or something more profound, as in I'm Just a Kid: 'I dedicate this to anyone who refuses to get old. Stay young in here [points to self].'
Simple Plan has been around for more than a decade. They epitomised the slacker, I'm-a-loser-but-proud-of-it culture of the late 1990s. With that in mind, you'd expect concert-goers to be nostalgic 30-somethings, but you'd be wrong. Teens and hipsters in their early 20s made up the majority of the crowd - a real shock if you consider that Simple Plan's debut was released in 2002, probably just a few years after some of the fans were born.
Overall it was a high-energy show where the Canadian band, especially Bouvier, appeared to be overly courteous and sometimes sheepish. The lead singer kept on apologising for their now infamous cancelled gig in August.
While the exchanges were genuine, it felt like the band was there more to please the crowd than to simply rock out. Don't get me wrong, they did rock (maybe they just didn't have enough roll), but the show didn't have the unfettered craziness I was hoping for. I guess this fuels naysayers' chief complaint: Simple Plan is too commercialised.
The 19-song set featured a mix of old and new, from fan favourites such as Addicted and Welcome to My Life to new tracks like Jet Lag and Astronaut, with Loser of the Year, I'm Just a Kid and Perfect.
At the end of the fun night, the crowd left with the distinct feeling that the nice boys of Simple Plan are just that: simple, humble and sincerely grateful to their fans. Certain other bands, take note.