By Poppy Tohill
Artist: The Madden Brothers
Date / Venue: Tuesday November 4th, Aotea Centre, Auckland
Feeling as if I've just flown to California and back to see The Madden Brothers perform, Benji and Joel Madden bring their ‘Greetings from California' tour to life, transporting those in the audience to their adored hometown of the Sunshine Coast.
Auckland's ASB Theatre, although not entirely full last night, was bursting with the growing excitement, energy and enthusiasm that radiated off each member of the audience, as our very own Benny Tipene, the man about town at the moment, it seems, performed a remarkable set featuring songs from his recently released album ‘Bricks,' and an exceptional cover of Elvis Presley's, ‘Can't Help Falling In Love With You.'
Sure enough, the time soon came for the favourite twin brothers to take the stage. As their band of eight, including a drummer, keyboardist, bassist and two guitarists, on a high riser to the right of the stage three backing vocalists all dressed in black, which Joel later introduced as their "Angels," stood.
Before any music begun, it wasn't hard to tell that it was going to be an impressive show not just musically but also visually, as the lights hanging from the ceiling and big screen situated behind and above both Benji and Joel, somewhat verified there was going to be a lot to look at, and that there was indeed.
As the lights dimmed and the stage blackened, you could vaguely make out the silhouettes of the brothers, as they took their positions behind two microphones which stood waiting for them, front of stage. The intro to their recent popular hit single ‘Dear Jane' began in full force, then there was no going back, as the room lit up with enthusiastic cheers from the excited audience members of all ages and the impressive light show and night of pure entertainment had begun, in no better, or more energetic way possible.
"How are you Auckland?" Joel Madden, the lead vocalist chimed, much to the crowd's excitement, who replied in screams and applause. "We're going to play you a bunch of songs from our album ‘Greetings From California'" he announced once more. The screen behind the two was lit with crazy moving footage of a historical California, changing to different images and colourful shapes behind them as the light bulbs hanging on strings from the roof lit up, as the band launched into ‘Brixton,' another upbeat and energetic track from their album that had the audience moving in their seats from start to finish.
‘Out Of My Mind' soon followed, as Joel encouraged the audience, who didn't need much convincing, to clap along to the upbeat number as he changed the lyrics throughout the song, admitting and announcing, "I fell in love with New Zealand once," which of course received an immensely positive response from the audience, who replied with screams and shouts to just about everything both Benji and Joel said throughout the night.
It quickly became obvious that the Madden brothers are born entertainers, telling stories and jokes, interacting with and entertaining the audience, even when they weren't performing music. "Thanks everyone," Benji spoke for the first time. Telling the story and meaning behind the next song, "We're away from our family a lot touring and travelling, so we wrote this song for them," he informed the audience before they launched into the heartfelt, melodic, 'U R.'
Benji seemed to take the role of introducing most of the songs throughout the night, and filling everyone in on the stories behind how each song came about. "Have you ever had your heart broken Auckland?" he asked. As Joel joined in playing off Benji's comments, adding his own touch of humour into the introduction, Benji went on informing the crowd, "It get's better. so lets take a chance on love and sing this one together," he announced. With a brief practice of repeat "oh ah woahs," this was one of the few moments and the first times throughout their set that the audience saw the guitar playing brother Benji take the reign on vocals, as he went on to sing the intro of the crowd favourite, ‘Love Pretenders,' on his own, before Joel joined in.
As the song concluded, the lights dimmed and the stage blackened, as the screen behind the band became the main focus for a short minute as it played some historical black and white footage from the 80s and 90s of people on a sunny Californian beach. The footage soon faded, and as the lights returned, Joel walked back towards the front of the stage, repeatedly saying, "California." After a few short minutes of talking to the crowd about California and telling the audience what a great place it is, it was Joel's turn this time to introduce the song, as he announced, "Our dad used to sing us this song and it reminds me of home."
As another male walked out on stage towards Joel, he introduced the new addition to the audience as his good friend Danny Ross, who "is part kiwi," he happily told everyone. "Today is actually Danny's birthday and this is his favourite song, so we're going to sing it together," he continued before the two of them launched into an exceptional version of Tom Petty's, ‘Free Faillin,' which also included a very impressive guitar solo that drew the song to an end.
Following this, the Good Charlotte covers came thick and fast, adored by the enthusiastic and loving audience just as much as their own ‘Madden Brothers' material. ‘Girls & Boys' was the first of these, and the first song throughout their set that actually had everyone standing up, out of their seats, dancing, waving their hands in the air and singing along as the drummer drew the song to an end with a striking drum solo that finished the song with a bang that left everyone in awe.
Outstanding stripped back, acoustic versions of 'Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous,' and the popular Good Charlotte hit, ‘Dance Floor Anthem' followed, both of which were accompanied with funny tales of the Madden Brothers childhood told by Benji, as everyone rose to their feet with excitement to dance, sing and clap along to these all time favourites.
"Ma'am, settle down" both brothers would say throughout the night, as numerous woman from the audience humorously yelled, "take your shirts off" at various points during the night. "We're having a New Zealand night," Joel went on eventually ignoring the requests to undress. "In the band we call them Auckland nights, but we got you Auckland, we will always have your back," he went on, much to the crowd's growing excitement whenever either of them mentioned New Zealand and Auckland. "Anyway, this song was written in Auckland and it's a true story," Joel finally announced, before going on to perform ‘Last Night,' what was to be the last of the Good Charlotte covers for the evening.
What happened next remains one of the highlights from the whole concert, for me and I'm sure many others. But coming from me whose not a big 5 Seconds Of Summer fan, I now understand why this song is so good. It was written by Joel & Benji for the young band who "remind us of ourselves when we were that age," Joel told the audience. "Sometimes there comes a time when you need to pass the torch on to someone else, so we wrote this song for these guys," he continued, before they sat down to perform the most stunning and striking cover of ‘Amnesia' I have ever and will probably ever hear.
Returning back to playing some more songs from their recently released debut album, ‘Bad' and ‘Brother'which saw Joel showcase his skills on the harmonica, while the guitarist jumped onto the drummer's riser and completely let rip. As the songs drew to an end, the stage disappeared into darkness as the screen behind them took the lime light once more, this time playing a brief few minutes of footage, with a voice over about how California is such a fantastic holiday destination for all.
This sparked the Californian theme, which if wasn't apparent to the audience beforehand, couldn't have been made more obvious as the band went on to perform tribute to their loved home and city, drawing their energetic set to an end with their popular hit ‘California Rain' which adorned impressive solos from both the guitarist and the drummer. With one final cover of The Eagles hit ‘Hotel California,' which saw not only the band but also the crowd go wild, jumping around, dancing and singing as Benji & the two other guitarists launched into the most epic joint guitar solo you could possibly imagine.
Then of course it couldn't be the end of the show without a performance of their #1 hit single ‘We Are Done.'Sadly the boys didn't come back for an encore, but the set they provided, finishing with of course their most popular hit, brought the outstanding show to an end perfectly, as everyone left the venue with nothing but contented and happy looks on their faces, from the brilliant show they had just witnessed.
I do hope they come back soon.