What do Gandalf, Santa Claus, Professor Dumbledore and Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell all have in common? Aside from ridiculous beards, they all possess a certain je ne sais quoi, a magical aura that casts a spell upon those luckily enough to cross their path and immediately warrant attention. That’s exactly what Soupy exuded as he stepped onstage at The Institute, flanked by his band of merry brothers.
But first it’s down to local lads Light You Up to muster enough energy to…ahem…light up the crowd. With Tom Napier putting on a brave whilst battling a bout of tonsillitis, their brand of pop-punk goes down like a lead balloon, until closer ‘Foxfire’ finally conjures a few nods from the unimpressed gathering.
Like kids being let loose in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, State Champs bounce onto the stage with youthful exuberance. Springing into ‘Over The Line’ the Americans have got an arsenal packed with tunes that make you move as though gravity isn’t an issue. With only one album to their name, ‘The Finer Things,’ it’s amazing how the quintet are never in danger of flatlining as ‘Critical’s’ rhythms soar the mass heaving in front feel every moment and erupt for the hooks of ‘Elated.’ They may have been in the UK for two days but lyrics “rainy days make me feel like the dream is dead,” don’t seem to have been applied here.
A Loss For Words, however dampen the spirits somewhat. Not for the lack of trying mind. Frontman, Matty Arsenault has bundles of energy, unfortunately the jelly beans consumed beforehand don’t inspire all but a handful. The generic riffs of ‘Honeymoon Eyes’ don’t help, but alas things pick up with Michael Jackson cover ‘I Want You Back,’ and they earn major brownie points when messiah Soupy makes an appearance on ‘Conquest Of Mistakes,’ no coincidence that this is the most well received track they play.
Huff and puff as they might, shit goes cra’y when The Wonder Years pop up. This is pop punk for the generation who weren’t around for the dick jokes of old and who needs them, when you can call upon the heartfelt ‘There, There’ to kick things off.
There is no mistaking The Wonder Years are tight. Undeterred from van troubles plaguing the start of the tour and with no signs of jetlag Soupy and co annihilate ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ before stepping up with the thinking man’s ‘Local Man Ruins Everything.’
With every song providing an honest outlook on life that connects on more levels than Mario there is no wonder that the Philadelphians have amassed such a following and with ‘The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves’ causing carnage through the thrilling refrains of “I came here looking for a fight” there is no need for the bearded wizard as the sea of people in front drown out his vocals.
With emotions running high through punk-ballad ‘The Devil In My Bloodstream’ there’s barely anytime to wipe bleary eyes before hit-anthem ‘Came Out Swinging’ literally does that and tare’s The Institute a new one proving that the greatest bands are defined by those that don’t need gimmicks or needless banter to wow a crowd, they just let the songs do the talking. Tonight Soupy and co do just without a wand, sleigh or staff in sight.