Dear reader, I write this to you from the mildly humid location of Brisbane, Queensland, as I’m currently waiting in line for the Lana Del Rey concert tonight in the state’s capital. Now, it’s because of that impulsive decision that I was also able to attend one of Good Charlotte’s very few Download Festival Melbourne sideshows that tragically skipped Melbourne itself. But I’m sure as shit not complaining!
Opening tonight’s truly stacked five band bill was Australia’s own Chase Atlantic. The indie-pop group worked their way nicely through a set of big sounding songs; a nice blend of The 1975’s emotive melodies over synth and guitar-driven instrumentals. I had no qualms or issues with the songs being played, however, the band’s stage presence is something that I felt definitely needs to be tightened up. There’s an air of them trying a little too hard to be cool that rubbed me the wrong way. Loudly pronouncing: “This song is about drugs!” as a joke felt immature and childish and doesn’t set a good tone going right into said song either. The performance also felt at times sloppy and uninspired and in some instances, almost lazy. As a still relatively young band, this is something that’ll be ironed out in time and no doubt them playing a very big show like this can leave room for a couple faults to slip through.
Next up on the bill was Issues. For the uninitiated, these guys write music as if Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson were fronting a 2010 MySpace post-hardcore/metalcore band. It’s all the best bits of soulful melodies, pop and R’n’B sensibilities with some solid riffs, dual-vocals and breakdowns thrown in. And the band delivered on all of that and then some live!
The band’s recent Download Festival Melbourne show was actually the first time they played as a four-piece, since the recent omission of their screamer Michael Bohn and man, this band were on smooth sails by all appearances. Guitarist AJ Bends and bass player Skyler Acord did fantastically to fill in Michael’s no- missing screams where needed, whilst singer Tyler Carter took over any of the rapping that comes up in their songs. Issues sounded as tight and as huge as you’d want any band to live, with tracks like ‘Coma‘ and ‘Never Lose Your Flame‘ going down an absolute treat. The choruses seemed to sweep the crowd up in their tight embraces and then let them go and unravel in energy whenever a breakdown would make an appearance.
Standing back and watching Issues do their thing, it’s hard not to see how goddamn well they do said thing! Realistically, on tracks like ‘The Realest‘ is when the band’s skills really come out to play, what with Skyler’s bass slapping being the literal driving force behind that song’s momentum. And then AJ throwing down chugs tightly whilst Carter’s vocals soar high and above the grooves laid down. All together they bring about an eclectic energy that draws you in as an audience and strives to keep you there in the moment. Once again, these Georgian boys have proven they always know how to put on a good time.
Now, let’s get this straight: Ronnie Radke is a piece of shit. He knowingly admits this in their set closer of ‘Just Like You‘ and it’s the truth… but holy shit, do Falling In Reverse know how to put on a good show! There is something just so unfathomable about Radke and co. as they bound across the stage playing some of the catchiest hooks and biggest breakdowns in the goddamn game.
Opening their set with ‘I’m Not A Vampire‘ was an interesting choice but one that I wasn’t at all upset about. The song, though pretty corny, is catchy, fun, heavy and everything that makes this band the joyous experience that they are. It sets the tone of the room, or in this venue’s case, the field, really well. There’s a lightness that takes any stresses and woes weighing you down off of your shoulders. As even song itself says, “for the next half an hour you don’t have to give a fuck“.
And yes, ‘Alone‘ was fucking amazing as was the rap bridge in ‘Rolling Stone’. Both of these songs are mammoth in their scope, depth and all around energy and I couldn’t help but sing every single word. ‘Cause this is where Falling in Reverse gets you. They’re so much fucking fun. Their laughter, their smiles and energy are as contagious as smallpox and probably just as good for me, but fuck it. I never fail to have a good time when I see this band live and I think that really counts for something.
However, I was saddened and disappointed that the band’s most recent and arguably best record, 2017’s ‘Coming Home‘, got only one bloody look in. However, if there was one song I had to pick for them to play from that record, it would easily be ‘Fuck You And All Your Friends‘. And that’s the exact song they played here! Not only is it the highlight of ‘Coming Home‘, it’s also the best songs in Falling In Reverse’s entire discography. It’s chorus is absolutely HUGE with blisteringly powerful verses in between that elicits a visceral response from me. It’s an oddly heavy and dark song yet the second that massive hook kicks in I’ve got the biggest smile beaming from ear to ear.
As mentioned before, the band finished their half-hour of power off with ‘Just Like You‘, and it’s easy to see why. Much like ‘I’m Not A Vampire‘, it’s a dose of cheesy good fun that sounds suspiciously like a Christmas banger in its intro. The chorus is one of the band’s best that they’ve ever concocted up and through playing it, Falling In Reverse know how to get the crowd right up on their feet.
If you bothered to read my Top 20 albums of last year you’d know that I put Neck Deep’s ‘The Peace and The Panic‘ in the high end of my list, and if you read my sheer thesis of a review on that album then you’d also know I love that record and this band. You need to know this going in as when it came to expectation and hype versus reality I was the most let down by Neck Deep, actually.
To be fair, before diving in this wasn’t exactly their fault, as for most of their set it was all guitar. Like, seriously all guitar. Ben Barlow’s vocals were seemingly buried beneath a wall of sound perturbing from Matt West’s and Sam Bowden’s guitar playing. It washed out the bass too, though thankfully, Danny Lee’s drumming was loud and proud in all of its beauty. That man knows how to work a kit and get the absolute most out of some drums and just two sticks. The saving grace here was that I knew all the lyrics, regardless if I could hear Barlow or not, however, it was far from ideal. I want to experience the band in full and as they’re supposed to be, not just the guitar elements of their sound.
Things got slightly better as time went on yet even then the band only got a measly half-hour slot despite being the main support for this sideshow. As such, the band had to cram as much material as they could in and they did a splendid job. Opening up with the rambunctious lead single of ‘Happy Judgement Day‘ and then the bouncy pop-punk anthem ‘Gold Steps‘, they sure knew how to pick ’em. The crowd served as my lead vocalist as we sang along to every syllable that fell from Barlow’s mouths and our fingers pointing aggressively in the air.
‘Motion Sickness‘ took things up a gear however with its deliriously catchy melodies that just make my heart race a million kilometres an hour whilst ‘Don’t Wait‘ grabbed all that energy and excitement and took it in a dark and foreboding direction. AJ from Issues came out to fulfil Sam Carter’s position on guest vocals for what was a very cool moment of their set. Of course, the now fan-fave ‘In Bloom‘ was absolutely stunning live. The song is beautiful on the record and even through all the overbearing guitar mix, I could make out the rest of the track. Backed again by the crowd’s collective voice, it was so satisfying to hear this song in a live setting surrounded by fans of British pop-punk royalty.
Closing proceedings for them were ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots‘ and ‘Where Do We Go When We Go‘ and although I can see the appeal of having the latter be the closing song, it just feels like it’s missing that extra something to properly send them off. On the record, it works and it makes so much sense but in a live set it’s lacking that extra “wow factor”. Nevertheless, it’s an amazing song and Neck Deep were as amazing as ever yet they were plagued by a big mixing flaw tonight.
When we were much smaller lads then we are now, your faithful editor Alex Sievers and I received a Good Charlotte album for Christmas. It was ‘Good Morning Revival‘ and although we spun that CD till the label was wearing thin, I think it had a more profound effect on me then it did my older brother. Good Charlotte would go on to be a defining band that would shape my taste for years to come. Alongside Green Day and Simple Plan, these guys got me hooked on pop-punk and alternative music and I’ve never been able to get off of it ever since. I would go on to collect every Good Charlotte album, load them onto my computer and then onto my tiny MP3 Player just to hear it everywhere I went. Yet the record of theirs that stuck with me the most out of all them was no doubt ‘The Young And Hopeless‘. If that wasn’t an album that shaped not only listeners but the entire pop-punk genre then I don’t know what is, and I fucking loved it!
Originally, we’re talking primary school me screaming his longs out to songs about high school bullies, girls, heartbreak and things that were so far from my loved experience. Now “primary school” Matty is nineteen years old, soon going on the big 2-0, situated two states away from his home and watching Good Charlotte play in Brisbane and opening up their set with ‘The Anthem‘. What the fuck?
Within two minutes my throat was burning. I couldn’t help but yell the words at full volume. I’ve been waiting for this moment for over a decade and to see it come to life in front of me… it took a minute or two to fully process. Before I could even digest ‘The Anthem‘ fully, the band were launching into ‘The Story of My Old Man‘, another cut from ‘The Young and the Hopeless‘. The classic pop-punk tune has the crowd lapping every second up. We were in the palm of their hands, unbeknownst to what we had in store. Because right after our lungs were heaving from the two opening songs, we were treated to ‘My Bloody Valentine‘… and then ‘Girls and Boys‘… and then ‘Riot Girl‘. Five tracks from ‘The Young and the Hopeless‘ in a row – I was livid! Every song that would come next I would simply turn to my friend, mouth agape and in shock that I was actually here in this moment seeing these throwback songs live. All those years just practice singing these choruses to myself in my room were finally coming to fruition.
Good Charlotte stepped off the ‘The Young and the Hopeless‘ train for a minute and took a track from 2016’s ‘Youth Authority‘, ‘Life Changes‘. Unlike some, I actually loved that record. It was pretty much old Good Charlotte just with excellent production quality and that track is sensational in every aspect so you can bet I was screaming just as loud to it as all the others. It was also so heartwarming to hear other fans singing just as enthusiastic and as loud as me to these newer ones.
The anthemic and dark ‘Predictable‘ from ‘The Chronicles of Life and Death‘ made an appearance and thank god it did. Not only is that album underrated and underappreciated, that song itself is a hidden gem in the Good Charlotte catalogue. The band threw it back even more with ‘Little Things‘ from their debut self-titled record that is pretty much as old as me which is a weird thought. But nevertheless, what a great song live!
‘Keep Your Hands Off My Girl‘ gave me flashbacks to being at primary school class parties all over again. It was a wave of nostalgia for so much more than just the song. It was a nostalgia for a time when things were so much simpler and easier. Carefree and youthful, it was a time that I long and earn to return to and all of this was only reinforced by the trifecta of ‘Misery‘, ‘The River‘ and ‘Dance Floor Anthem‘ from ‘Good Morning Revival‘.
Closing out with ‘I Just Wanna Live‘ and ‘Lifestyles of The Rich and The Famous‘ I was in utter disbelief that I had just gotten to witness Good Charlotte live and in the flesh. This was something that I had waited too long for, that it almost seemed like it was just never going to happen. Yet here I was. In front of them, singing their songs as loud as I could and loving every single second of it.
Primary school Matty, I hope you’re happy. Because God knows that present-day Matty couldn’t be happier!
All PC: Maddie Bell. Follow more of her work here!