Date: February 13th 2020
Venue: O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
Support: Simple Plan / Not Ur Girlfrenz
It’s crazy to think that just a few years back, Bowling For Soup almost (sort of) packed it in and called it a day, to the point where they held and went ahead with a “farewell UK tour” in 2013.
Fast-forward to 2020, not only are the band continuing to return to the UK on a somewhat regular basis, they’re also packing out their biggest shows on our shores, and all the while continuing to rear their lesser established peers to follow in their footsteps.
Their fellow Texas based teen compadres Not Ur Girlfrenz  are the latest act that they’re taking under their wing, and, despite their young age (the oldest being just 15), they hold just as much gusto as acts out their more than twice their age, and that’s even taking into account that they’re feeling a little worse for wear tonight.
Coming out to a slightly customised The Powerpuff Girls cartoon intro, the trio get the room pogoing early to the early era Avril Lavigne-esque likes of ‘Warped’ and ‘Song About You’. With only a few songs in their arsenal, they throw in a cover of ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ by My Chemical Romance and ‘Wannabe’ by Spice Girls into the mix so even those less invested have a reason to get involved.
Following up, Simple Plan  waste absolutely no time in diving into their fan favourites, pulling out ‘I’d Do Anything’ right from the off, and already the room is singing back the chorus as loud as the band are. Other fan favourites make an early appearance too, with ‘Welcome To My Life’ and ‘Shut Up’ following up not long after.
Unlike some of the more modern pop-punk acts, Simple Plan and their contemporaries from their era aren’t afraid to keep it light-hearted, and it’s hard to top the care-free and fun side of the genre like throwing in a live rendition of the theme song they created for the What’s New, Scooby-Doo? theme song. That, and vocalist Pierre Bouvier and drummer Chuck Comeau swapping places so that he can crowd surf and crowd… roll across the room during ‘I’m Just A Kid’.
Still, Bowling For Soup  continue to maintain their status as the class clowns of pop-punk, cracking out almost as many jokes during the evening as they are songs. In one moment they point out how simply naming a city that isn’t Manchester will have the crowd booing in unison (actually, what is with that?), the next they’re stopping midway through ‘Punk Rock 101’ for staged band photo moments for the fans, and that’s only when frontman Jaret Reddick isn’t pointing out that guitarist Chris Burney is high or that he has a small – though apparently cute and adorable – penis.
Of course, all of the hits over their now two and a half decade long career make an appearance; ‘The Bitch Song’ is as lovely as it is funny, ‘1985’ is still an absolute bop of the highest order sixteen years after its release, ‘High School Never Ends’ continues to remain as relevant as ever no matter how old you are, new single ‘Alexa Bliss’ gets an airing, and the band invite a fan named Adam on-stage (who in Reddick‘s own words is “dressed like a Vans shoe”) to play the guitar alongside them for ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’.
It’s not all wisecracks and jokes, though. Reddick takes a moment before going into their cover of ‘HRSA’ by Blue October to speak about anxiety and mental illness, the importance of seeking help, and how these things made him not take care of himself and nearly put Bowling For Soup to rest. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and the darkness is only temporary, and with the quartet dancing alongside their fans for the care-free set closer ‘A Really Cool Dance Song’ at their biggest show in Manchester to date, it’s a celebration that the best is still yet to come for you.
A full photo gallery from the event can be found here.
Photos by Charlotte Emily Martin