Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Fri 16 Feb
The Get Happy tour was in full swing and celebrating a number of milestones, including Army Of Freshmen’s 20th anniversary and The Aquabats’ first UK tour in five years. Reaching the Welsh capital, however Bowling For Soup could tick one more goal off their bucket list: playing their first ever headline arena show in over two decades of being a band.
Admittedly, the Motorpoint Arena didn’t come close to selling out, but those in attendance were treated to a well-rounded, highly entertaining evening. Army Of Freshmen immediately enriched the atmosphere with Chris Jay leading their Californian pop-punk charge, bounding about the stage with an enormous grin. Firing up with Wrinkle In Time and continuing with Juliet, Get Them Up and 10,000 Years, the group gave us many memorable moments: goofball choreography, Jay’s unyielding persistence in involving the crowd and lastly Kai Dodson, Aaron Goldberg, Owen Bucey and Dan Clark all interlocking instruments and forming one integral human cog.
Five years without these particular superheroes had left the UK to run amok but tonight marked the long-awaited return of The Aquabats in Wales, ready to step in and exploit said wild nights with a steady stream of acrobatic oddities, poppy ska-punk and a tidal wave of inflatables. The MC Bat Commander and his shark-battling compadres were met with raucous applause as they launched into their Super Show! theme song, prancing from left to right with Charles McLarson laying down sweet basslines. Goofball antics, quick wit, energetic tunes and two young audience members taking part in an inflatable pizza slice crowdsurf race, personified this faction of flamboyant defenders.
Bowling For Soup’s pop-punk powerhouse Drunk Enough To Dance was released in 2002, and arguably holds many of the group’s greatest hits, so when the tour was announced, you can imagine the reaction from diehard fans. Emily and Girl All The Bad Guys Want had admirers jumping around and belting out lyrics from the off; guitarist Chris Burney remained on top form, while Erik Chandler and Gary Wiseman took the professional helm for the Texan quartet. Punk Rock 101, High School Never Ends and Almost were three of many tracks which saw feet and hands fly up into the air in adoration, each also interspersed with a wonderful array of sarcastic and harebrained banter.
words and photos NATHAN ROACH