It's all about smoke & sweat.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Good Charlotte @ Bukit Jalil

Pre-Concert; the big debacle

The target demographic was there – the tweens and teens with their palaver of Valley-inflected, American English affectations, some with their parents tagging resolutely along for a wholesome, standard, MTV pop-punk experience. Punctuating the drizzling, arboreal evening air were lusty ejaculations of ‘FUYOH’ – already, Digi’s VIPs and cadre were plugging the sponsor’s name for the cameras and anyone who cared. Teenaged girls caked in mascara and dressed in minis, boots, heels and (your standard clubbing fare) prowled the yard, a familiar sight reminiscent of Muse’s gig not too long ago (which I’d also attended), looking, as they were, like it was Tiesto’s instead of Good Charlotte’s show. The media booth (the one manned by BMG Sony) was finally operational come 7pm, and it soon dawned on the some of the media members that a PR travesty had occurred. Plagued by management glitches resulting in many media personnel being denied a media pass (and thus forced to queue with the mortals), some of the media representatives were already seen haranguing on their flip phones over the sponsor’s deportment, bewailing their stripped cushy status which includes access to the media tent (where the artistes mill and congregate after their performances) and the MEDIA/VIP pit with its plum view and proximity to the stage area. Perhaps by dint of my effervescent companions, the queuing was not torturous. Lesson learnt: always attend concerts with cool people. The bulk of the VIP seats – it was revealed later – were reserved for DIGI FUYOH subscribers, of which there was a major surplus – and safety concerns barred more from entering its hallowed (if rickety) terraces.

The Malaysian Invasion
The stage itself, plus two giant screens – filled one end of the rectangular-shaped parking area’s breath. Veejays Denise and Colby appeared at 8.30pm– after what seemed like endless screenings of MTV fodder (a whole hour) – which included MORE plugging for hip hop / pop acts Ne-yo and Natasha Bedingfield (cookie cutter hip pop acts at a punk rock concert? Blasphemy!) And just as the aforementioned vee-jays moseyed off stage with intimations of the concert finally kicking into gear, up came another gratingly random, redundant video. When One Buck Short appeared at 8.41pm to deliver us from the senseless boredom of more MTV fare, it was with aplomb. Launching headfirst into their set with hits ‘That Day’, ‘Fast Times’ and (new tune) ‘R.I.P’ after a lengthy drums solo, the veterans proved their underground mettle and popularity– replete with guitarists (Rahul and bassist Izal) who wantonly flung their instruments away at their set’s conclusion – and gleefully jumped into the crowd (or was it the barricade? Cant tell – too far away). Estranged flounced onto the stage bathed in a pall of purple light and instantly milked the teenaged throng with their breakout (and relatively mellow) anthem ‘Itu Kamu’ – the catalyst for the first major sing along of the night – before slipping back into their default nu-metal styling with ‘Enjoy the ride’ and ‘Velocity’. Lo ably capped the Malaysian Invasion with crowd favourite ‘Operator this line is dead’ – in all its twinkling strings glory - and gave a wistful (if funny) aside about how ‘MTV Asia played ‘Evening News’ only once – six years ago’. As the first strains of ‘Evening news’ twanged across the leveled parkway, thoughts of Good Charlotte was momentarily suspended. Trust Lo to engineer the biggest sing along yet at that juncture for the Malaysian crowd – with scenes of girls actually pogo-ing to ‘Old Newspaper’ (Lo: yat ee san sei!) and the aptly titled closer ‘Malaysian Invasion’ being a noted achievement for the local front.

The Show
The switch from Lo to the headliners pilfered another half hour of our lives as the twin screens projected yet more recycled hip/pop MTV commercials. At 10.15pm, the crowd had grown listless, with many spotted lying, lounging, sleeping and sipping overpriced soda at RUUMS concession stands. Good Charlotte’s eventual surfacing was greeted by a constellation of illuminated hand phone screens – all set at ‘video record’. (Ironic – considering how thoroughly we were patted down by security detail for ‘recording devices’ at the entrance earlier)

Garbed in a Johnny Cash-like all black ensemble with aviator glasses, Joel Madden and Good Charlotte tore into an obscure track off ‘Good Morning Revival’ – ‘Misery’- ….with dismal results. The crowd, clearly anticipating a cogent intro to communicate a much delayed gratification was left in interrupted aural coitus – with a few luke warm and disparate, wilted pumping of fists and cheers. There were exceptions though – that being the horde of screaming, nubile things at the front who regard the band as the personification of something or rather. So much was their reverence for the band that the Maddens’ every pause and cliched line was the cue for them to empty their lungs with the highest of shriek frequencies, squealing like syncopated war klaxons. The overall mood improved when the band rang in the familiar riff for ‘Lifestyles of the rich and the famous’ and continued with a retinue of MTV hits up to the industrial-rock leanings of ‘Keep your hands off my girl’. However, it was in plundering their early catalogue of hits off their debut that the crowd began to be more generously raucous in their cheers and applause and participation.

‘Cheese’ was the operative word for the band’s rapport with their adoring audience, though – with the brothers Madden spewing lines which sound suspiciously scripted. Consider this cinderblock from Joel’s speech: ‘we would like to move to Malaysia (cue: banshee screaming). And to get citizenship we have to marry an Asian girl (high pitched shrieks here)’. And this sentiment was repeated VERBATIM by Benji, amidst other throwaway, puke-worthy philosophical froth like ‘reach for your dreams and believe in it’. The corniness even trickled down to their insistence on endeavoring the lighter-in-the-sky schtick (for ‘hold on’ and ‘we believe’) – though this is admittedly a de rigueur one for arena concerts, of which this is NOT.

However, whether the band was exhorting the crowd into a lusty frenzy of call-and-response or instructing them to pogo; it was undeniable that they had (most of) the audience firmly by the gonads. Aiding this was the stellar sound system (which lent an almost CD-like quality to their live sound) and the tight instrumentation throughout.

That aside, the waning fan energy was again resuscitated for ‘dance floor anthem’ – with the crowd cheerily chanting ‘I don’t wanna be in love’ to the pulsating synths and the more prominent bass line of the song, and carries the momentum through the pandemic ‘the river’ – and topped with a cherry from the past – ‘I just wanna live’. And the whole kit and caboodle would have ended on THAT denouement if Good Charlotte had not taken the stage for the requisite (unasked for, at least from my vantage point) encore. By this time, a sizeable portion of the crowd had already broken away from the body of people in front of the stage and was heading towards the exit. Flagged enthusiasm of the fans notwithstanding, Good Charlotte plowed through three more songs: ‘all black’ and ‘march on’ (both from the new album) and ended the set with crowd favorite ‘the anthem’.

It certainly was a triumph for MTV crowd that night, though many with a predilection for edgier music had certainly advertised their affiliation by leaving after the Malaysian assault had ended, leaving the salivating mass of youth to lap up MTV’s product. Perhaps this explains the voluminous number of Good Charlotte tickets handed out free on the night.

Scrutinized from Jarrod's memory. :)