Friday, February 21, 2003

What a difference a year makes for Sum 41

Concert review

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When Sum 41 played Bogart's in October 2001, the Canadian band was new to most of us Americans. The group banged out that familiar brand of poppy punk, popular (on either side of the border) then and now, the same stuff Bogart's showcases once a week or so.

All Sum 41 had going for them that night was the goofy single "Fat Lip," which provided a distinguishing identity among the pop-punk masses. For the remainder of that show, the group tried to keep the between-song chatter as goofy as the hit song, but without a solid set of tunes the whole act came off insipidly. Our great nation provides enough opportunities for Canadian comedians. We didn't need these hacks taking advantage of our benevolence.

In the year-plus since that show, Sum 41 has learned to do better. They returned to Bogart's Wednesday - headlining a four-band bill featuring No Use For A Name, the Starting Line and Authority Zero - and put forth for the sellout crowd a streamlined performance that placed importance on the music.

A new album went a long way in galvanizing their live act. The group's 80-minute set shifted between material from Half Hour of Power, the breakthrough All Killer No Filler and the recently released Does This Look Infected?

Earlier material (if songs from 2000 and 2001 can be described as such) highlighted the first half of the show. "Fat Lip," with its 1980s Def Jam-rap-style verses, and "Make No Difference," with its teases of tunes by Queens of the Stone Age and the Strokes, hit on the right combination of rock and laughs.

Sum 41's straight-ahead punk is still rather generic, but the execution a little more fierce. And as a singer, front man Deryck Whibley has become more of a mannish-boy howler than a little-boy whiner.

Infected? material, namely the first single "Still Waiting" and the follow-up "The Hell Song," beefed up the back end.

The most memorable thing about any of the three opening bands was the Starting Line's regard for the Cincinnati punk scene. The Philadelphia band made mention of their December gig at the Northside all-ages punk club the Void and dedicated a song, "Hello Houston," to a Cincinnati band, Bottom Line. "Keep supporting Bottom Line," Starting Line singer Kenny Vasoli told the crowd. "Those guys are gonna be huge some day."


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