Sum 41 – Manchester, UK (26th June 2019)

While the headliners are certainly Pop-Punk’s old-guard, getting things underway are Australian new-comers: Yours Truly. What’s clear from recent release ‘Afterglow’ is that this is a great young band, with a lot of potential. There are some truly great pop-punk tracks, on their debut. ‘High Hopes’ in particular has all the hallmarks of a modern classic. Sonically, Yours Truly are reminiscent of early Paramore, even if it seems lazy to compare a female-fronted pop-punk band to Hayley Williams’ troupe. They suffer slightly due to the echoey acoustics in the former warehouse; Mikaila Delgado’s vocals in particular don’t quite live up to the power demonstrated on the record. However, these are only minor gripes, considering this is the band’s first tour of the UK. Time and experience will breed confidence that the band need; and they have every chance of being a huge band in the scene in the coming years.

After a plain white curtain is dropped to reveal drummer Frank Zummo pounding the opening drum beats to 2001’s ‘Motivation’, the rest of Sum 41 bound onto the stage. It’s clear that the entire band is here to have a good time; none more so than frontman Deryck Whibley. Since his hospitalisation in 2014, following years of alcohol abuse, Whibley has rebuilt Sum 41   from the ground up, and the change is there for all to see. Deryck Whibley version 2.0 is everything that a frontman should be. Strutting around the stage like a blonde Billie-Joe Armstrong, he leads the crowds in sing alongs, circle pits and whoa-ohs; it’s great to see him in such rude health.

Following an introduction of ‘Motivation’, ‘The Hell Song’ and ‘We’re All To Blame’, it’s apparent that this will be an evening of circle-pits, sweat and good old-fashioned punk-rock.

Sum 41 as a whole wears their influences on their sleeves. Whibley is clearly a fan of 90’s punk-rock, clad in a denim vest pogoing around the stage, and extending most songs by at least 3 minutes due to his crowd interaction. Bassist Jason ‘Cone’ McCaslin almost looks like he’s entered a Mike Dirnt costume competition, mimicking the Green Day bassists’s look down to his on-stage power-stance. It’s not purely punk rock though; a giant inflatable skeleton-featuring on the cover of pending album ‘Order in Decline’-looms behind drummer Frank Zummo and bears more than a passing resemblance to Iron Maiden mascot, Eddie. As with the titans of metal, the stage setup is all lights, smoke machines and confetti cannons.

Sum 41 has more than their fair share of the scene’s most talented musicians in their ranks. Aside from bearing a striking resemblance to Travis Barker, Frank Zummo delivers blast-beats at a quality which isn’t far off his lookalike’s. Nowhere is this clearer, than during an interlude; his band mates having left the stage, he drums along to a pre-recorded Linkin Park medley.

The return of Dave ‘Brown Sound’ Baksh-arguably the best guitarist in the genre-has added another layer of quality to their live set. With Whibley on rhythm guitar, and Tom Thacker hovering between lead and rhythm, Baksh is free to add metallic solo flourishes to the live tracks, while the back-up from Thacker and Whibley ensures the songs still sound full and heavy. This is especially apparent than on ‘Goddam I’m Dead Again’ from 2016’s ‘13 Voices’, which almost feels like an old-school thrash-metal number, rather than a pop-punk track with intricate guitar work.

As live sets go, Sum 41 would be hard-pushed to plan it any better. Boasting tracks from all seven studio albums, there’s something for fans old and new. 2004’s ‘Chuck’ is perhaps the best represented album with four-and-a-half tracks making the set (the band play the guitar solo and breakdown from ‘88’ at the end of ‘Motivation’). The reward for old-school fans, is a rare outing of ‘Machine Gun’ from debut album ‘Half Hour of Power’. This provides a nice juxtaposition against the three tracks debuted from upcoming album. What’s clear is that the band has always been able to write catchy, memorable, and above all, great songs, but their talent as musicians and songwriters have increased tenfold, since they first arrived on the scene.

As the set draws to a close with classic track ‘Motivation’ the overriding sense is that this band still know how to have fun, and have plenty of fuel left in the tank. The band has promised that upcoming record ‘Order in Decline’ will be their heaviest and best album yet. With Whibley the healthiest he’s been in years, Baksh welcomed back into the fold, and the rhythm section all firing on all cylinders, you definitely wouldn’t put it past them!  

‘Order in Decline’ is out on July 19, via Hopeless Records.