LIVE: Bowling For Soup, Leeds O2 Academy, 3/12/18

How could we possibly get through the year without a Bowling For Soup tour cropping up somewhere? It may be December and dangerously close to the end of 2018, yet here we are catching BFS on a cold Monday night on the Almost Christmas tour they’ve squeezed in right before the ball drops for 2019.

Always ones to take a chance on bands they believe in- in spite of age, location or other people’s opinions- BFS have this time opted to bring Texas-based girl band Not Ur Girlfrenz out as their first support. These gals are a trio, with ages ranging from 12 to 14; but do not be fooled! There’s a very good reason why BFS brought them (and their parents) all the way to the UK for this tour. The short answer is, they’re excellent. Having already taken on Warped Tour this summer, they definitely rock harder than a lot of bands out there today (not to mention bands that are way older and more experienced). Second track New Kids In America has a very sophomore Green Day kind of vibe when it kicks in. They follow this with a cover of My Chemical Romance’s I’m Not Okay, which not only fits in with their set and sound perfectly- but was a very clever choice given their current audience. Anyone that wasn’t listening before has now snapped their gaze instantly towards the stage.Second support Patent Pending have been long supported by Jaret Reddick and the rest of Bowling For Soup. A sort of younger, more spritely version of the headliner, Patent Pending bring the energy and infectious choruses, before BFS bring the staple pop-punk veteran classics. Shake Weights and Moving Crates gets things moving in this set, and it doesn’t even matter if you know the lyrics or not, its impossible not to join in with the fervour (not least because the riff is nostalgically similar to New Found Glory’s My Friends Over You).

New track Let It Burn is next LEVEL catchy, feat. some groovy brass, a stomping chorus and complete with ‘the roof is on fire’ sample. Fan favourite Hey Mario never fails to do its job, with frontman Joe Ragosta jumping perfectly in sync to each game sound effect. However the highlight of this support slot is their cover of Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, taken from their 2017 covers album, Other People’s Greatest Hits. Closing with Brighter and it’s uplifting message, followed by Douchebag and its undeniable charm, it is clear that if you don’t enjoy Patent Pending- even just a little bit- you’re definitely taking yourself too seriously.Bowling For Soup are something else entirely- these are four men who definitely don’t take themselves seriously at all, and in doing so, make sure their audience can’t fail to have the best possible time.

Entering to a little intro number, and bedecked in Christmas decorations (Jaret is sporting a hat complete with flashing Christmas lights), they launch into part 1 of 3 of Corner Store On Christmas- a little arduous but charming nonetheless. This is followed by Almost (obviously, because it’s the Almost Christmas tour).

‘We brought younger bands out with us so they could do all the moving and we didn’t have to do any jumping around or anything,’ explains Jaret on why Bowling For Soup’s set is primarily a stationary affair. This being said, there’s something pulling about this band that makes their stage show so entertaining, it really doesn’t make a difference whether or not they stand on the same spot for the whole set; though it probably isn’t a coincidence that they have knack of chatting with the crowd in a way that makes them feel they’re just part of a group of people singing songs and talking, rather than the usual artist/performer situation.Punk Rock 101, a classic executed briskly and perfectly as always, is punctuated by another BFS set staple, the ‘musically enhanced photo opportunity’, another moment that highlights how in touch they are with their fans instead of being strangers on a platform in front of them.

Trucker Hat is pleasantly uplifting, swiftly followed by instalment number two of Corner Store On Christmas. Then it’s High School Never Ends into Emily (none of which have aged at ALL despite having been played hundreds of times), followed by Jaret attempting to entice a ‘Yorkshire’ chant from his audience, after all he’s a seasoned professional and knows how things go at basically ANY show in Yorkshire. He briefly brings Not Ur Girlfrenz out for a rival ‘Texas’ chant, but they’re soon drowned out by all the obliging Yorkshire-men.  A cover of Fountains Of Wayne’s Stacey’s Mom is obviously well received, because apparently people think it’s a BFS track anyway… and then the encore. ‘You know it’s five fucking flights of stairs to our dressing room!?’ Complained guitarist Chris Burney, followed by a honest statement from Jaret; ’we just stayed at the back of the stage and had a beverage instead, everyone knew what was going to happen ‘cos we only have 4-6 major hits and TWO of them were missing from the set!’ Of course its Girl All The Bad Guys Want and 1985, which needless to say, go down an absolute storm.

The thing about Bowling For Soup is that their music, style and charm is just timeless; the songs never get old and the band never lose their touch, as they’re just as tight as ever. No matter how many times one hears tunes like 1985, they can still be listened to again and again. This, and their brutal honesty in voicing everything the audience is thinking (such as people want a good picture, they’ve maybe only come for a couple of songs etc). Bowling For Soup are veterans of pop-punk, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone to quite fill their shoes.

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