Taking to the United Kingdom from Stateside can be tough on one’s pockets, as Bowling For Soup have found, as bassist Erik Chandler explains to a sold-out O2 Guildhall Southampton, “This is not the ‘Farewell to the UK’ tour, it’s farewell to the ‘UK Tour’. Basically we’ll be back!” Despite that reassurance, the band has a bumper 31-song setlist prepared, to perform against a backdrop of their own sobbing caricatures, as though they would never be taking to a stage again.
The band are well on form and full of energy, blitzing through pop-punk hits The Bitch Song and Girl All the Bad Guys Want, and enough odes to booze to last the longest bar crawl. The sheer scale of the set means that it is more a comprehensive compilation of all corners of their catalogue than a best-of, and some material seems lost on the crowd. However, that isn’t to say that the audience chooses not to contribute, as the band fell under a shower of a rubber duck, a credit card (“Who wants to go to McDonalds?” – Jared) and an apparently overly sweaty bra, all in good fun.
This madness is nothing new to their shows, as when Bowling For Soup deem it appropriate, banter isn’t only for between songs. The band shoves aside their instruments midway through Punk Rock 101 to pose at the front of the stage for the traditional Bowling For Soup ‘photo opportunity’ (now enhanced with a specially recorded song with the awe-inspiring lyrics “, before resuming with the final chorus. They even abandoned Ohio (Come Back to Texas) to welcome back support band Patent Pending to complete the song. Even then, the supporters chose not to leave the stage, remaining at the portable drinks bar from which the performers picked beverages over the following two-hours-plus.
The setlist is a bizarre scramble, as the audience takes no issue to screaming along to a punk cover of Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time. Tracks range from penis pun medley My Wena to the Bowling For Soup-penned theme to Disney show Phineas and Ferb. The latter was slightly outside of tonight’s demographics, or so one would hope considering where they took their onstage banter.
In fact, it didn’t even take for frontman Jared Reddick to open his mouth to draw attention to his manhood, as he took to shadow puppetry, noticing that his guitar’s neck cast a giant silhouette between his legs, against the wall, that he caressed as he played. No intimate region had gone verbally (and in some cases physically, as demonstrated by the famously full-of-body guitarist Chris Burney caressed his bare chest) untouched by the end of the night. Perhaps the constraints of festival performances are the way to go for Bowling For Soup, not just to save money, but to leave a bit less room for the dick, pussy and every-substance-that-the-body-can-possibly-produce gags.
Any other band might cut down on the mischief to create a perfectly choreographed performance to be remembered by. However, tonight is a shambles, in true Bowling For Soup fashion, and fans wouldn’t have it any other way.