There's an old joke amongst my friends and I about Rancid shows: "What's the best part about Rancid playing coming to town on a Saturday night? All the cleanly shaved heads on Sunday!" [Insert Statler & Waldorf laughter here]
I realize there is a faction of people rocking this style all year round, but the sheer volume (both numerically and of the hair in question) leads me to believe that at least some people see these shows the way others would see Comic Cons or midnight screenings of "Rocky Horror Picture Show," where dressing the part is all part of the immersive experience. Either way, the mohawks were in full effect this Saturday evening in Toronto.
I didn't arrive on time to see Fat's first Toronto signing, the Flatliners, but made sure to get there before NYHC heroes H2O made their triumphant return. Anyone who's heard Nothing to Prove can attest to their seven-year break doing nothing to slow the band down, and their performance confirmed that. Coming on stage to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (which was faded out, not stopped abruptly -- "Sopranos" style), the band opened with album opener "1995."
The band's set was short, maybe 10 songs, but enjoyable as always. Highlights included "Family Tree," "One Life, One Chance" and mashing up the intro of "5 Year Plan" with Black Sabbath's "War Pigs." The set ended much the way it began, mirroring the new album with "What Happened?" having Rusty Pistachio filling in on Matt Skiba's closing vocal. They were slightly less energetic than I remember, with fewer jumps and mic-passes from Toby, but that can be chalked up to any number of things, and it didn't detract from the set being one of the best show-going experiences I've had in the last year. Welcome back, H2O!
The show was running a bit late, so it seemed like no time at all between H2O finishing and the lights dimming for Rancid's video introduction. In that short gap, my friends and I discussed what an awesome set we'd seen by H2O, and how Rancid really had to put their best foot forward to avoid being completely upstaged. Well, about three songs into Rancid's set, they introduced their secret weapon: Skye Sweetnam.
Yes, Canada's Miley Cyrus-esque tween-pop singer Skye Sweetnam. I'm not sure if she has made any impact at all in the states, but in Canada she made a brief splash a number of years ago with a song called "Billy Shakespere." The crowd, who had been quite lively up 'till that point, didn't seem to know how to react when they began to play "Into Action," which was featured on both Tim's solo record and Skye Sweetnam's album. Some shrugged it off and danced, others stood confused.
Not to be outdone, I sincerely hope NOFX's upcoming set in the same venue features guest spots from a one-hit-wonder Canadian pop singer. Anyone know what Snow is up to? Seeing him sing "Kill All the White man" would be a dream. But I digress...
Apart from that, Rancid's set had very few clunkers. As they're not touring with an album this time around, this was something of a "greatest hits" type of showing, heavy on Wolves and Indestructible material including "Roots Radicals," "Journey to the End of the East Bay" and encore "Fall Back Down." Sadly, the set was light on material from Life Won't Wait (my personal favorite) and Rancid (2000). "Maxwell Murder" featured an extended bass solo by Matt Freeman, at times sounding like the monster intro to "Axiom."
Rancid's set was lively as ever, but due to a few missteps in song selection, from where I was standing (which apparently included a sign nearby that said "pour full cups of beer down this man's shorts" -- it happened more than once) the night belonged to H2O.