LIVE REVIEW: Simple Plan And State Champs' "Where I Belong" Co-Headliner, And Why It's So Important In 2019
Whether you walk into Simple Plan and State Champs' "Where I Belong" co-headlining run as an enthusiast of the anthemic 2000s pop-punk the first reigns infamous for or the high-energy 2010s version like the latter, it's worth heading out to a show wanting to understand what it is about both outfits that makes their live shows something special.
The tour's stop at the Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls, New York was a glimpse of proof that lineups blending acts leaning towards the classic side with newer additions to the scene is something bills need more of in 2019 and beyond. Albany-based quintet State Champs have been dominating both pop-punk and our broader Warped Tour-fueled scene for a solid piece of the decade, undeniably going nowhere but closer to the top, only expanding the word's possibilities every time the peak seems to be in sight.
Fans of the group dedicated to the newer edition of pop-punk over its predecessors may have wondered for a moment upon the tour's announcement, "What are they doing out with these bands?"
What they'll find upon pushing forward despite that doubt, though, is giving a lineup like this one a chance makes all the difference in proving that mindset flawed. And when it comes to expanding taste in music, proving yourself wrong has always been a part of it all.
From another gig-goer's perspective, Montréal favorites Simple Plan have been packing venues and remaining festival favorites ever since their '99 conception. Countless hometown diehards made the trek out for the Niagara Falls show, joining local old-timers and newer fans alike.
A familiar feeling of excitement washed over the venue before State Champs' opening track "Mine Is Gold" off 2018's Living Proof had truly begun, an impressive amount of the crowd designating a spot for the night's go-to pit within seconds of the band's appearance. It was beyond easy to get carried away, fan or not, in the all-around singalong and collective good time a State Champs show offers.
The band's setlist didn't fail to please both longtime fans (who were shouted out mid-set, alongside a welcome extended to live show first-timers) and listeners newer to the band, with deep cuts like 2013's The Finer Things' "Prepare to Be Noticed" seamlessly belonging between more recent crowd-pleasers like "Criminal."
The crowd's sheer interest in being a part of the show is a trademark of the group's connection to and dedication from the people they play to. It's clear from a moment of being a part of the phenomenon that these songs mean something to those crowds, and in a way that they remain ever-enthusiastic about any and every rendition of each one.
And that energy isn't one-sided. State Champs' fans are passionate, and it's nothing short of undeniable the feeling is a sort of reverb from the band itself. When a track like "Frozen" is brought out, everyone gets dancing and keeps their feet off the ground. A lookout at the sight from a place like the Rapids' balcony would only truly end with one realization: at a State Champs show, there's really no difference between who's on each side of the barricade.
Maybe most peculiarly lies one fact consistently looking any sceptics in the eye: State Champs crowds don't need to be told to jump or sing along. It all comes as a sort of welcome side effect of the band's presence, that entity in itself a sort of heartbeat creating the atmosphere State Champs shows bring. It's unique, and it's hard to ignore.
On the occasion the crowd is told to make something happen, it never fizzles away an attempt. Seconds into "Losing Myself," off 2015's Around the World and Back, the circle pit the audience was encouraged to get going was in full swing. It stayed so as everyone in sight yelled along to the once-potential deep cut that, maybe due to its initial rotation back on a myriad of 2016 runs, became a universal scene mood-booster.
Far within state lines as the show may have been from the group's hometown, it never seemed to feel like it to the members. As the crowd drew from theirs, the band seemed to thrive off everyone's energy themselves. Warped-Tour-culture classic "Elevated" just went to show this idea, the crowd refusing to stand still for a moment, a feeling that couldn't be any more fitting for a band with a mentality resembling the sight.
Even rare, quieter moments like "The Fix Up," drastically contrasting the band's usual pace, never arrived as a party crasher. The enthusiasm kept coming, regardless of and along with the track's acoustic tendencies.
The set couldn't be complete without staples "Secrets" and "Dead and Gone," both tracks completing the feeling embodied by the band's live show with a never-ceasing energy, seen in a final surge of crowd surfers and heard in the voices joining in the entire time.
At the end of the day, it's the band's enthusiastic, unapologetically-here mindset that attracts listeners, and that isn't something anyone forgets post-exposure. It's what made State Champs stand out to the point of making their place in the scene, and it's what keeps everyone that connects to the band coming back. After getting a chance to be a part of the band's live show, their crucial involvement in the idea of "Where I Belong" as both a tour and a track makes sense in a new way.
Simple Plan, about to close a night of high energy from both State Champs and tour openers We The Kings and Northbound, had a high bar to match. And the thing is, the outfit is a talent that can pull such a feat off.
Maybe more than anything else, they manage it through connection, much like the powerhouse of a State Champs set. When any band gets a sturdy grip on its audience's attention, it has what it needs to create whatever reality it desires for a full set. And a dimension of that level of immersion is exactly what the group pulled the theater's capacity into, the crowd compelled into a state of glee and, surpassing most else, captivation.
From the start, the entire crowd was drawn into the live medley of catchy hooks, fun riffs, and a living-my life-my-way mentality epitomizing the group that, in retrospect, parallels their tourmates'. Friends clung to each other to sing along at the top of their lungs, the pit opened with ease for louder, upbeat tracks like "Thank You," and above all, everyone's attention remained drawn into the show, the night an opportunity to live in the present and enjoy live music for what it is.
The energy from both the band and the crowd didn't end as the night went on. For "Crazy," lead vocalist Pierre Bouvier took a trip into the crowd to its collective surprise, standing atop the bar in the middle of the venue and high-fiving everyone in reach for the track's duration.
During the collaborative track for which the tour got its name, Bouvier was joined onstage by State Champs' Derek DiScanio and We The Kings' Travis Clark for a singalong that kept the crowd moving with its joyful take on the thrill of live shows. The moment, like the rest of the night, was a celebration, and everyone was included.
Following an encore, the band returned to the stage for a few final classics. For longtime pop-punk-kid anthem "I'm Just a Kid," Bouvier and drummer Chuck Comeau switched places, Comeau proudly announcing that he was finally a lead singer. A few moments into the lineup change, he dove into the eager crowd, intent on high fiving everyone in sight.
For the opening of set closer "Perfect," things went acoustic, the crowd's lights filling the air until the full band joined in, accompanying the roar of one final singalong from the crowd and Bouvier making a point of welcoming the night's final crowd surfers.
Most importantly, gigs like the "Where I Belong" bill make one thing clear: the 2019 scene is better together. Different crowds within genres can blend, and they can do it well. A push can be all a group of music enthusiasts needs to acquire the will to discover another side of the music they call home, and a tour like this one, bringing a sense of both duality and unity in pop punk, pulls it off with ease.
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