All-American Rejects, Hoobastank @ The Enmore Theatre, Sydney (21/08/09)


Finally, after years of wondering in amazement, I have figured out how bubblegum pop-rock bands like All-American Rejects manage to consistently sell out shows almost everywhere they go. It’s all the extra tickets that the responsible guardians have to purchase when accompanying their bundle of 12 year old screaming girls, all clad in synchronised outfits of tight black jeans and white tees with home made flouro scribble slogans like ‘marry me!’ But we’ll discuss that a little later.

The fact that turning up five minutes late meant that I was forced through the suffering of faintly hearing Running Away being belted out by Hoobastank through the grand somewhat soundproof walls of the Enmore Theatre, says more about the band’s dedication to their fans than my punctuality. Despite the objections of many friends who argue the Californian three-piece is nothing more than chart hit rubbish, I took my second row seat on the upper balcony, defiantly rocking out while sitting still to the simple yet effective formulaic pop rock that has defined the band’s last half decade of commercial success.

I had read some interviews with vocalist Doug Robb prior to the gig where he declared that fans of the band who go to the shows expecting an hour of The Reason will be sorely disappointed, and furthermore are fans he’s not too interested in keeping. Thankfully, he is a man of his word. The three-piece (completed by I can only assume a session bass player) kept their hoards of teenage girl fans satisfied by sprinkling their commercial hits throughout a set that can only be described as a tight, solid rock show.

Simplicity was the order of the day with the boys, decked out in a uniform of red Chuck Taylors, straight leg Levis and dark tees. They didn’t hesitate to pull out old favourites like Same Direction and Out of Control that truly got the already excitable crowd moving in their seats and dancing below us. Never letting up, Robb engaged with the audience, wrapping himself around his mic stand, with an almost pained shout asking, “When’s It Gonna Be My Turn?”. With the mic aimlessly pointed out into the sea of dimly lit faces, the crowd followed suit.

Wielding an acoustic but missing Melbourne-based songstress Vanessa Amorosi to play the female lead in a tale of deception and betrayal, Robb carelessly sang the band’s most recent chart topper The Letter, not surprisingly resulting in a chorus of voices emanating from the crowd. After much anticipation from the overzealous teens in the front row of the upper balcony, who clearly only know one Hoobastank song, the theatre erupted in a fit of screaming mayhem as the one-note piano opening sequence that kicks off The Reason thundered out of the speakers. Unfortunately for yours truly and most of the crowd behind me, the rest of the show was a blur of teenage girl shadows and an undecipherable sea of high pitched screams.

As darkness descended upon the theatre to signal the imminent arrival of the headliners, the intro music began to fill the halls. You know that recognisable tune the bands like to have playing as they gracefully appear, one by one, out of the darkness. Metallica have The Ecstasy of Gold. The All-American Rejects have a bewildering symphony of circus music – the kind Patrick Bateman might have oozing out of his iPod as he slashes away at a stray cat.

Dashing onstage in a skinny grey suit, pointy white loafers and a bright red bow-tie that is unmistakably reminiscent of a clown accessory (no doubt furthering the apparent circus sideshow theme of the gig), vocalist Tyson Ritter commences prancing about the stage. He occasionally straps on his red firebird bass as if to show that he actually does possess some talent aside from the dorky polka-meets-two-step dance repertoire.

Momentarily forgetting that the band’s audience primarily consists of pre-pubescent teenage girls and their mothers, Ritter attempts to sex the show up, demanding the crowd of “pretty Aussie girls” say “dirty…” – probably not the most responsible way to connect with the audience, but effective nonetheless. Caught up in the wave of screaming excitement, I did find my feet tapping along to Dirty Little Secret, the band’s breakout single from 2005’s Move Along.

Feeding off the energy from the crowd, guitarists Nick Wheeler and Mike Kennerty truly seemed to be enjoying themselves, but it was hard to compete with the excitable Ritter as he continued to entertain the female demographic.

Every woman in the room felt his presence as they were serenaded with AAR’s latest hit single I Wanna. Ritter sang, “You wanna touch me too”, as sure as I was that every girl in the audience wanted to. Anthemic punk ballad The Last Song filled the theatre as the show seemed to be wrapping up – but of course not, as the quartet belted out their final number, made-for-radio-sing-a-long Gives You Hell, much to the joyful fulfillment of every fan in the room.