“The last time we were here,” declared Deryck Whibley from the stage, “two girls came up and made out.”
The pronouncement by Sum 41’s singer/guitarist Tuesday at CBGB was met with screams and raised hands, an indication that several fans were willing to participate in a reenactment.
“This time we have to top it,” the adorable, spiky shorn frontman added, and approached bassist Cone McCaslin, tilted his head and parted his lips.
Psych! Both pulled away at the last second. “No way!” they said in unison.
The fourth stop on the band’s Sum On Your Face club tour wasn’t filled with such homoerotic near-misses, but the juvenile joke was a slice of the kind of fun Whibley, McCaslin, guitarist Dave Baksh and drummer Steve Jocz were having in the intimate setting.
Billed as a live preview of new songs such as “Over My Head, Better Off Dead,” “Hell Song” and “All Messed Up” from their new album Does This Look Infected? due November 26 (see “Sum 41 Ask, Does This Look Infected?”), the show served as a fitting playground for Sum 41 to boast confident punk skills while flaunting their inner metalheads.
Baksh was first to cut loose with a behind-the-head guitar solo on set opener “Machine Gun,” off 2000’s Half Hour Of Power, before closing the song with a guttural scream that would have made Cannibal Corpse proud. Opposing “Nothing on My Back” and other straightforward songs their fans adopted as anthems were those that served as vehicles on which to hang recognizable riffs from Judas Priest and MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e. Iron Maiden, whose signature guitar scales greatly influence Does This Look Infected? received the greatest homage when their classic “The Trooper” was given a honorable send-up. Even the Strokes got skewered when Sum 41 launched into the Tom Petty-purloined bridge from “Last Nite,” whose video is the target of Sum 41’s parodic clip for Infected’s first single “Still Waiting”
On their three records, Sum 41 use time-tested punk elements like jabbing stomps and whoa-whoa choruses to engage their audience, and their live shows are no different. The problem Tuesday was that not everyone at the show was receptive to the bait. Sure, “special” New York gigs are notorious for being filled with distracted members of the music industry, but considering that the only way attendees obtained their tickets was through Sum 41’s Web site and the local rock radio station, the overall level of enthusiasm was surprisingly low. When Whibley called for a “41 Salute” – four raised fingers on one hand, and only the middle digit standing tall on the other – only the first three or four rows heeded his words.
Excitement surged, naturally, for the singles. Even the casual fan, industry personnel or a parent chaperoning their 16-year-old showed signs of life for “Motivation,” prompting the crowd’s pogo-ing peak, “In Too Deep,” and “Fat Lip,” which fostered a sing-along for the slacker mantra, “Don’t count on me” in the song’s bridge.
After fulfilling a request for Half Hour of Power’s “Makes No Difference” as an encore, Whibley thanked the crowd and informed them that “All She’s Got” would be Sum 41’s last song of the evening.
Though another tune was rendered, Whibley wasn’t lying. “Pain for Pleasure,” by Sum’s alter ego Pain for Pleasure, featuring Jocz and Whibley swapping instruments, closed the set with metallic mastery. Jocz’s soaring vocals climbing way up in the operatic register, and the show ended fittingly tongue-in-cheek – even if not everyone in the room thought the flavor funny.