Review: Good Charlotte at The Commodore Ballroom
“Which of you listened to this music in middle school? High school? Your dorm in college? Oh… you’re educated, huh?” Benji Madden, lead guitarist and one half of the infamous Madden twins who make up pop punk group Good Charlotte, addressed the band’s crowd without any beating around the bush. “What you guys are saying is that we’ve really been through some shit together… lots of memories coming back.”
As Good Charlotte launched into “My Bloody Valentine”, the crowd boldly sang along at full blast with Benji’s lead singer brother Joel, just as they’d done on the opening pair of tunes, and would continue to do for the remainder of the band’s action-packed 90 minute set. The Commodore Ballroom dance floor was built for shows like this– hit parades packed with catchy, bouncy, sing-alongs that remind a legion of fans of old memories and still manage to elicit a fun party vibe in a group setting.
This revival of the Waldorf, Maryland group is perfect timing for long term fans, especially Canadian audiences who haven’t seen them live in over a decade. The boys are all grown up now, having traded in liberty spikes for goatees, and anti-celebrity anthems for marriages to Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie. But the music is still just as fun, empowering, and thrilling now as it was in the band’s formative days.
Most of the set featured throwback tunes to as early as the band’s self-titled 2000 debut, making it fun to see longtime fans belting along to old school favourites like “Little Things” and “East Coast Anthem” along with younger kids who would’ve been in diapers when this music was initially released. Two thirds of the set was comprised of material off the band’s first two records, with the remaining half dozen tracks consisting of other big hits and a few new gems. Nostalgia provided a lot of the fuel on this evening, but the members of Good Charlotte did their part in both satisfying the crowd’s sentimental ties to their tunes as well as updating their own position in the entertainment realm in 2017.
Old party tunes were given a fresh perspective through the band’s banter in between songs. Before busting into the Hot Topic-ready, punk princess-celebrating “Riot Girl”, Joel told the crowd “I never really got this song until I had a little girl. I have a nine-year-old daughter.” He then updated “Riot Girl”‘s stance in the position of feminism, telling the crowd “I want my daughter to grow up in a world that’s not sexist. Speak your mind, live how you wanna live– you’re the ones who make this world a better place- I wanna thank you for being you. Those are the girls we’re singing about.”
Later, Benji took his turn to address the crowd for “the only time I’m gonna get serious tonight” before the inspiring slow jam “Hold On”, speaking to the legions of Good Charlotte’s self-identifying ‘weirdo’ fans, many of whom related to this music in the first place as outsiders struggling with life struggles and personal identity. Benji told the crowd, “When it feels like there’s too much to take, like you don’t wanna be here anymore… you came to the right place tonight. Everybody’s got a different story. Never give up. Always get back up one more time and start again.” Turns out there was always more to Good Charlotte than heavy eyeliner and piercings for those willing to dig a little deeper.
The band peppered in a few tracks from last year’s Youth Authority, their first record in six years and also first as a label-free band. “We decided if we were gonna do this again, we were gonna make a record for us,” Joel Madden told the crowd. “We’re an independent band now. That’s why we’re back.” The band then played Authority‘s “Life Changes”, an emblazoned rock track about maturity. Later, the band tried on “Outfield”, Benji Madden’s favourite track from the new album. These new tunes were fine and good, but were undoubtedly met with a clear dip in energy from the crowd. The latter acted like an updated part two to the band’s classic “The Young and Hopeless”, referencing that earlier track in its lyrics “We were the young and hopeless / We were the broken youth / You’re not the only one they used / I was in the outfield too”. Watching this lyrical cycling back was actually quite satisfying and clever in its cohesiveness.
What’s remarkable is how well this music has aged. Good Charlotte songs go down smooth decades later, it turns out. On a decade-hopping section of the show in which Benji and Joel date checked different time stamps on various singles, they paid homage to their own tenacity and resiliency. 2004’s “Predictable” was met with a rowdy mosh pit thrash, and 2000’s “The Motivation Proclamation” turned into a shouting match between Joel and the crowd with each party vying for the title of loudest singer.
The rest of the performance acted like a greatest hits package mainly, celebrating big smash singles like “I Just Wanna Live” and “Dance Floor Anthem (I Don’t Want To Be In Love)”, both of which came during the “breakup section of the show”, as Joel called it. “The River” was played after a personal moment when Joel told the crowd how Good Charlotte had actually come to Vancouver to record two different records, and how special this city is to the whole band.
For a closing act, the band pulled out their arguably most notorious tune, 2002’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, a single that actually put them on the international map upon its release. “Now that we’ve done this show together, can we turn this into a good old fashioned Good Charlotte show from, like, 2002?” Joel asked the crowd. “When we bring this in, I wanna go all the way back ok? Just us and you.” And then everyone in the house, young and old, bounced in unison for one last time before the Madden boys and their band mates called it a night.