Los Angeles – Saturday night’s double shot of pop-punk bands Good Charlotte and Sum 41 at the Universal Amphitheater may have been kids’ stuff, but there were plenty of ’em there for it.
Taking the closing spot, Good Charlotte was clearly the bigger draw. Screams from the teen and pre-teen girls told the story. The Florida band – especially frontman Joel Madden and his twin brother, singer-guitarist Benji – are the tattooed rock boys you can bring home to mom. There were plenty of moms present, too, with 12-, 13- and 14-year-old daughters in tow.
A stage decorated with tombstones, red-eyed gargoyles and cemetery gates that said “Nevermore” was perfect for the Halloween weekend concert, though the band’s idea of dressing up was singer Madden in a black v-neck sweater and tie, looking collegiate.
Good Charlotte’s new album, “The Chronicles of Life and Death,” is mighty ambitious but sinks from overreaching attempts at deeper themes with overcooked arrangements. The new songs fared better live, but tats do not a punk make – it was the group’s well-crafted power-pop hits that had the crowd in the throes of delight.
The band’s often-sophomoric notions of emotions are just right for teen girl angst, with crowd sing-alongs in hooky tunes like “Bloody Valentine” and “Girls and Boys.” The sincere anti-suicide “Hold On” brought a glowing sea of cell phones held up high.
Canadian punkers Sum 41 took the stage following a perhaps Halloween-appropriate video of a one-on-one basketball game that turns ugly. One band member brutally kills the other, drags the body back to his apartment, chops it up and cooks it. How charming.
The band unleashed a catchy salvo of speedy songs. Diminutive singer Deryck Whibley took glee in attacking easy targets like Anna Nicole Smith
. Sum’s new album, “Chuck,” also tries to up the intelligence ante while staying punk and even hard core, but well-meaning attempts at social commentary falter with vague lyrics.
Crowd faves like “Fat Lip” were mixed with new numbers that included “We’re All to Blame,” and “I’m Not the One.” Some of the material veered into the metal camp, its shredding pace driven by Metallica
licks from guitarist Dave Baksh.
For the most part, Sum 41 still comes off as junior varsity punk rock, third or fourth generation, depending on one’s perspective. The group still has possibilities, but right now it goes for showmanship over real conviction.