It took three decades, but The Offspring  finally made it to Bethlehem on Saturday (September 8) to play their first concert in this eastern Pennsylvania town, where the SoCal band peppered a diverse crowd at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center with 90 minutes of punk-pop hits and new tracks from their ninth album "Days Go By."
The quartet (plus a touring guitarist on a riser) wasted no time when they hit the stage, launching into blistering versions of new track "Hurting as One" and fist-swinger "All I Want," the lead single off 1997's "Ixnay on the Hombre." Next came "Come Out and Play," the playful alternative hit that intro'd the then-indie punk band to mainstream fans in early 1994. The band has sold 16.6 million albums throughout their career, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Frontman Dexter Holland, sporting a large bowling shirt and signature spiky blond locks, spent the night roaming the stage but said little during the set, instead letting guitarist Noodles handle crowd control. "This is where where we ask how you guys are doing!" The packed house -- which ranged from pumped twentysomethings to grizzled Gen-Xers in faded Ramones tees -- roared in response.
The band dedicated a third of the night's set to songs off "Days Go By," which has sold 53,000 copies, according to SoundScan. The album's title track came early in the night and fans sang along to the buoyant and melodic Offspring track. It's no wonder it reached No. 4 on Billboard's Rock songs chart earlier this year.
Other new songs included "OC Guns," "Turning Into You," "Dividing By Zero" and "Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell."
But the highlight moments for most in attendance arrived whenever one of the Offspring's many alt-rock hits popped up... something that happened often. Two competing mosh pits near the center of the floor sprouted up periodically, but always seemed to intensify with each familiar radio hit. When drummer Pete Parada and bassist Greg Kriesel rolled into the extended intro for "Gotta Get Away" -- also off "Smash" -- the fans took that as their cue to start moving/pushing/surfing/smiling -- yet not a bit of rage in the bunch.
For another hit, 1997's "Gone Away," Holland and co. brought out Emily Armstrong, lead singer of opening band Dead Sara (who earlier played a brief set of songs off their debut album, including the single "Weatherman"). The duet, a set fixture on this tour, was a clear highlight with both voices finding each other perfectly.
Thankfully the Orange County punk veterans didn't shy away from their more poppy cuts, a good call seeing as they happen to be some of the band's biggest hits. "Why Don't You Get a Job," with its Ob-La-Di-esque qualities, got the entire crowd singing along, and by the time "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)" arrived late in the set (song No. 17) there were more people pogoing than standing still.
The group kept the encore short, playing "Americana," (Can't Get My) Head Around You" and closing with "Self Esteem," one of their nine hits that have reached the Top 5  of Billboard's Alternative Songs chart.
Openers Neon Trees warmed up the crowd with a streamlined set worthy of their own top-billing. The event center was two-thirds full for most of the band's performance and frontman Tyler Glenn had a legion of devotees hanging on every note for songs like "Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night)." When the anthemic "Animal" got cranking, you could imagine a light going off in the heads of many Offspring fans: "So, that's who sings that!" By the time they played their biggest hit to date, "Everybody Talks," which reached No. 6 on the Hot 100 this year, the place was ready for more.
- Live