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SUM 41
Fort Canning Park, 30 July

It's surreal. Imagine this happening in $ingapore in the '70s — in an effort to tell the rest of the world that ‘hey, $ingapore’s OK, come back, tourist dollars!’, the government actually played a role in bringing a snotty-nosed punk band to $ingapore. Of course, ‘punk band’ here refers to the top 40-friendly, politically safe and sweetly palatable teenage fodder that is Sum 41 but still, we’ve come a long way since spiky hairdos and anarchy symbols got lumped in together with the ‘yellow culture’ that were officially banned when Johnny Rotten and ilk first appeared 30 year ago. Lest they corrupt young impressionable minds, you understand.

But it's 2003 now, and the $ingapore Tourism Board has gone new economy so why not rope in Sum 41 as one of the star attractions of the $ingapore Roars campaign? Nevermind that they’re the type to talk to the crowd of mostly pre-pubescent teens about famous prostitute joints in $ingapore or get them to raise their middle fingers in wild abandon — they’re bona fide rock stars, and they’re here live in Fort Canning!

To give these Canadian boys credit, they put on a really good show — really. It’s easy to dismiss them as third-rate MTV pop-punkers (after Green Day broke the scene in 94, and subsequently Blink 182) but listen to their music properly and you can see that they’re songwriters who have done their homework. It's not a lazy marriage of sweet melodies and punk rock power chords; Sum 41 have songs that have obviously been laboriously worked on. They’ve got big choruses in the hits and crowd pleasing songs like Hell Song, Fat Lip and In Too Deep but what really impresses is when they plough into the Iron Maiden bits without sounding too cheesy. Eighty per cent of the young crowd might not have recognised it but one of the highlights of the night’s show (other than the spirited support shown to local openers PugJelly) was when they ripped through the solo, bridge and chorus to Metallica’s Master Of Puppets. Respect.

It’s telling that there was hardly anyone over 17 in the thousand-plus strong audience (not counting the staff, media and various chaperones). The band itself looks barely out of their teens so it's hard not to see why the juvenile Anna Nicole Smith jokes go down so well at the gig. There were even a couple of kids who proudly carried a placard proclaiming that the drummer, "Steveo32," is their god (although when quizzed, they claimed that "Stevo32" himself, in an email, made them do it). Yes, this was a show for the kids, albeit priced a bit extravagantly (how many school kids can afford more than $100 for tickets?) but it was polished, there wasn’t any unwarranted incidents and everyone left promptly after the last song ended, all smiles and in time before one thousand curfews kicked in. — Eddino Abdul Hadi




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