Undoubtedly, Jaret Reddick is best known for being the lead singer of legendary pop-punk band Bowling For Soup, famed for hits like ‘1985’, ‘High School Never Ends’, and ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’.
It’s odd then, that he’s going to be performing tonight in a small, intimate, and mostly seated venue – but this is not a regular Bowling For Soup show. This is a stop on Reddick‘s solo acoustic ‘Heartache & Hilarity’ tour, and, without a drum kit or guitar cab in sight, it’s an entirely different setting and atmosphere.
First up are Lacey , and this isn’t their first rodeo, having toured with Bowling For Soup back in 2016. Their brand of smooth, soulful alternative rock is very well suited to the quiet setting, and the shared vocals of Graz Turner, Josh Lewin, and David Pearson sound remarkable as there’s nothing to overpower them. A solid cover of Yellowcard‘s ‘Ocean Avenue’ brings a wave of welcome nostalgia, and their own material is pleasant enough, though nothing groundbreaking.
Next are husband and wife duo The Dollyrots , whose bubblegum punk jams are a bundle of fun. The likes of ‘My Best Friend’s Hot’ and ‘Jackie Chan’ are so tongue-in-cheek that they can’t fail to put a smile on your face, and Kelly Ogden is as witty as she is charming. “In the UK apparently this song is a joke about farming!” she laughs before launching into a quirky cover of oldie ‘Brand New Key’ by Melanie (or ‘Brand New Combine Harvester’ to us). They’re likeable as can be, but, much like Lacey, it’s good rather than great.
The same can’t be said for Jaret Reddick . He’s welcomed by huge cheers, so it’s no wonder he’s all smiles as he takes a seat in the center of the stage, armed only with an acoustic guitar. It’s a varied setlist as he pulls out tracks from Bowling For Soup‘s fairly vast catalogue, from ‘I’m Gay’ to ‘Friends Of Mine’.
In between, Reddick tells stories about how and why the songs were written, and some are hilarious (‘Wetherspoons’, an ode to the British institution, is a particularly funny highlight), and others are heartbreaking – just as the tour name suggests. One of pop-punk’s most iconic voices sounds incredible in such a stripped back setting, notably on ‘Turbulence’, which is preluded by a heartfelt and characteristically candid speech about mental health. “I saw Chester Bennington’s dick once,” Reddick remarks. “And you know what? I should be able to see it again, because he should still be here.”
Later, a brilliant rendition of ‘Almost’ has everyone singing along, and gooey ballad ‘Catalyst’ is sentimental and sweet – but naturally, it’s ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’ that brings the show to a triumphant close.
Reddick has stated that the purpose of this tour was to show that the songs of Bowling For Soup have more substance than first meets the eye – something that, with the help of a great sense of humour and utmost sincerity, he’s undoubtedly achieved.