There’s a fascinating variety to a pop-punk show’s crowd; there’s easily as many Daniel Bryan shirts on display tonight as there are band tees. The grand setting of London’s Scala makes this gathering all the more bizarre but with over a thousand diehards rammed in, The Wonder Years are unlikely to care about their immediate surroundings. This is a band that’s been on the up for sometime and with ‘The Greatest Generation’, they’ve added another brilliant record to an already sterling back catalogue. Clearly they’re going to be selling out venues much bigger than this in years to come but is the hype justified?
First though, State Champs arrive for their first gig in London, though you wouldn’t know it from the massive welcome they receive. They bound onto the stage like homecoming heroes before ripping into opener ‘Nothing’s Wrong’; vocalist Derek Discanio’s energy immediately getting the front rows involved. Their debut album ‘The Finer Things’ was easily one of the best releases of last year and it’s great to see it transition so well into a live setting; it helps that the band don’t put a foot wrong throughout their half hour set. Set closer ‘Elevated’ incites the biggest singalong with the incredibly apt line: “This is where you need to be”; don’t miss these at Slam Dunk.
After nearly a decade of activity, A Loss For Words are elder statesmen of the pop-punk world nowadays, but their arrival on the Scala stage is noticeably muted compared to their younger counterparts. Still, that’s not going to put off a frontman like Matty Arsenault. In his own words, he’s “not afraid to get rowdy” and he moves around the stage like a man possessed, trying to rinse every ounce of energy from the front rows. He even climbs in the pit to kickstart some movement for ‘Stamp Of Approval’ and their Jackson 5 cover, ‘I Want You Back’, gets the sort of reaction you’d expect. ‘Conquest Of Mistakes’ from their newest album sees The Wonder Years’ Soupy get involved too but there’s no doubt that for whatever reason, A Loss For Words simply missed the mark with tonight’s crowd.
Perhaps the fault instead lies with the band at the top of the bill. The Wonder Years have quickly become the kings of the pop-punk genre with latest album ‘The Greatest Generation’ and as a result, Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell has become one of rock’s most unlikely heroes. To put it bluntly, the dude can write and while ‘The Greatest Generation’ is loaded with self-examination and criticism, it’s also dripping in melody and hooks. Played live, these tracks sound huge and it helps when they’re played to a crowd as vocal as this. ‘The Devil In My Bloodstream’ unites the whole room in song while one fan takes ‘Came Out Swinging’ incredibly literally, seeing it as the opportune moment to scramble across the venue to climb onto the stage. Security aren’t impressed but Soupy’s wry smile paints a thousand words.
The band close with the awesome ‘I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral’; just like on record, it’s a beautiful closer which draws lines and inspirations from across ‘The Greatest Generation’, almost like taking a greatest hits package and rolling it into one song. It might also be a statement of intent; this show could be the final London date for a while due to the band presumably moving onto writing new material. If so, this is one hell of a send off for one of the greatest records in modern pop-punk.