A couple of years ago, the journey was almost completely over for Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley. Suffering from kidney failure and liver problems, many weren’t sure if Whibley would make it through alive. Luckily he did, and now he and his band are back on top form with a comeback album on the way later this year. Having just rounded off a headline stint on the annual Kerrang! Tour, Whibley and co. played the first show of their proper European tour at the Melkweg in Amsterdam last night.
Support on this brief tour comes from Manotick outfit Hollerado and Stockholm’s very own Newdrive. The former band spent roughly thirty minutes entertaining a half-full room, with their songs encompassing lighter alt-rock elements which are a world away of what most people were there for on the night. The latter band, on the other hand, were essentially the human embodiment of what punk is all about. Swedish quartet Newdrive meant business from the word go, playing an eight-song set which drew from their upcoming debut studio album. Set opener Nowhere to Run utilized hard-hitting guitars and forceful percussion, before set highlight Stereo On made for one massive party which leant more towards the pop side of punk’s wide spectrum. Although nobody in the room was actually aware of Newdrive’s music before their show, it quickly became evident that the quartet made a whole spate of new fans post-set. Expect their debut album to hit hard when it comes out.
Sum 41 took to the stage some ten minutes later, with their show opening on a prolonged playback intro featuring excerpted snippets of classic 80s tracks. As the band ran onstage individually, new drummer Frank Zummo amongst them, frontman Deryck Whibley silenced proceedings to instantly engage with the 1,500-strong crowd. 2002’s Over My Head (Better Off Dead) opened the evening in rousing punk fashion, its fast-paced guitar lines (courtesy of Whibley and returning six-stringer Dave ‘Brownsound’ Baksh) intertwining alongside a thundering rhythm section. It was the first of four songs taken from 2002 release Does This Look Infected?, which was further represented by the in-your-face Mr. Amsterdam, anthemic Still Waiting and fan favourite The Hell Song. With no new music concretely on the horizon, Sum 41’s 19-song set was essentially a well-rehearsed greatest hits set. Not that this was a bad thing, though, because Sum 41 are the kind of band who you should see at least once before you die.
Despite being out of action for so long, you wouldn’t have thought so based on the way the band dressed. Deryck Whibley and bassist Jason McCaslin both look like they haven’t aged a day since their raw beginnings, with the energy levels equally high. What’s great about Sum 41 is that their show is effortlessly encapsulating, regardless of how well you know their music. During Chuck track We’re All to Blame, Whibley careered around the stage as he hand-picked fans to watch the show from the side of the stage. The six fans chosen eventually had the opportunity to watch eight songs stageside under the supervision of Sum 41’s personal bodyguard. One of the highlights of this eight-song spell was the more ‘recent’ Screaming Bloody Murder, which is lifted from 2011’s record of the same name. “I’m not quite myself these days” sang Whibley during its eerie, darker intro before the pace was picked up by means of a pulsating rhythm section. Its sound is notably different to that of Sum 41’s older output, signalling a significant shift in direction which the band undertook before Whibley’s stint in rehab ended things for a while.
Aside from the music, parts of the show were also filled with unexpected gimmicks which added to the evening’s entertainment value. At one point in the show, Whibley played a little game of Call and Response with the crowd as he pulled some classic rock riffs out of the bag. Smoke on the Water was described as “the first song I ever learnt on guitar”, a remark which most guitar players in the room clearly resonated with. He followed it up with a brief rendition of Seven Nation Army, completely unaware of what the Dutch fans had chosen as its substitute lyrics. Later on in the show, ahead of main set closer In Too Deep, the band played a full-on Metallica medley. “We’re all gonna go to hell, guys. So I guess that we’re just gonna go to hell playing Metallica” declared Whibley, before he and his band (completed by live member Tom Thacker) pulled For Whom the Bell Tolls out of the bag. A powerful rendition of Enter Sandman followed, before an extended Master of Puppets snippet ended their tribute to James Hetfield and co. The main set came to an end on In Too Deep, one of Sum 41’s most recognizable hits.
Returning for a two-song encore, Whibley enthusiastically asked the crowd if they were “ready to f*cking party”, his query met with loud screams across the length and breadth of the room. Underclass Hero opened the encore, before standout hit Fat Lip brought the whole night to a massive finale. Its swaggering guitar line and half-spoken vocals saw Whibley and guitarist Brownsound exchange vocal duties throughout, before a huge chorus saw one of the evening’s biggest pits erupt. “I don’t wanna waste my time” enthused Whibley, with his declaration very much ringing true in this day and age. He may have faced an extremely difficult point in his life, but it hasn’t stopped him from rejuvenating himself and injecting a huge breath of fresh air into one of punk’s most loved bands. He and the band are lucky to be here, and the world is just as lucky to have them back. Welcome back, Sum 41.