The Offspring at Verizon Amphitheatre -- Concert Review

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Think about this: Fifteen-year-olds don't know a world without "Come Out and Play," and those who were 15 when it came out are 30.

Welcome to the Offspring as classic rock.

OK, maybe it's a little premature to make that connection, but the O.C. OGs have a radio track record as strong as any new band of the past two decades and continue to rile up audiences with snarling live shows.

Friday's homecoming party of the Offspring's first U.S. tour since 2005 gave the people what they want: loud, fast, short, familiar songs with no frills and little banter from the stage other than some gratuitous hometown shout-outs. Dexter Holland's same-range shouts, Noodles' simple but sturdy guitar riffs and plenty of "whoa-oh-ohhhhhhs" -- the provincial chant of their Orange County punk forebears and those the Offspring has influenced -- kept the energy up and the crowd standing throughout.

But something stood out amid the din, as it always has with this band: the songs.

Never content with three-chord speed demons -- though never shying away from them, either -- the Offspring continues to come up with songs that mix a prodding but not preachy message with catchy melodies and simple-strong arrangements. The recurring theme of the individual's control of and responsibility for his or her own life can be presented as cautionary tale ("Walla Walla"), empowerment anthem ("All I Want") or dopey sing-along ("Why Don't You Get a Job?"). All were wildly received Friday night.

And this band knows how to work its crowd.

Meticulously getting both the new and old fans into it early, the first four songs alternated between the 1994 breakout "Smash," still the biggest-selling indie album of all time, and last year's "Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace," the band's best in more than a decade.

Holland backed off the mike to let the throng crowd scream out the sing-song expletives in "Bad Habit" and followed it up with "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid," which spent 11 weeks late last year at No. 1 on Billboard's modern rock chart. Then it was the seminal "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)," followed by three fan-favorite album cuts, then a run of 14 songs of which only two weren't radio hits -- one was the La-Z-Boy tropicalia of "Intermission."

The one real deviation from the usual came as Holland's bandmates left the stage as he sat down in front of a fish-out-of-water-looking instrument. "You may note that this is a piano," he told the murmuring crowd. "I'm gonna play piano on this next song." What followed was a gutsy and entirely winning solo rendition of the elegiac "Gone Away." Rather than putting off the crowd, it drew one of the night biggest cheers.

The faithfulness of the Offspring's fans is something of a rock anomaly: A band whose first hit single was a borderline novelty song isn't supposed to have a "career." And that career has survived a few grating, flat-out novelty hits since. But for a decade and a half the band also has continued deliver strong songs that play to both sides of the gender aisle and please eager young fans as well as jaded older ones -- all of whom can enjoy concerts like this one. That, indeed, makes it a career.

Venue: Verizon Amphitheatre, Irvine, Calif. (Friday, June 5).

Set list:

Stuff Is Messed Up
Bad Habit
You're Gonna Go Far, Kid
Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)
Walla Walla
Have You Ever
Staring at the Sun
Gone Away
Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?
Gotta Get Away
Half-Truism
Why Don't You Get a Job?
Intermission
Americana
All I Want
Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)
(Can't Get My) Head Around You
The Kids Aren't Alright

Encore:
Hammerhead
Want You Bad
Self Esteem
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