Simple Plan Blast Into New Jersey 3-29-17 w/ Seaway & Set It Off

There is nothing particularly simple about a musical career that spans some fifteen plus years. That in mind, back in March of 2002, a then little-known French-Canadian band named Simple Plan would release their debut album, No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls. Fifteen years later and now Pop Punk Royalty, Simple Plan decided it was about time to celebrate their beloved debut release with a special tour.

Beginning the tour exactly fifteen years to the date of the album’s original release, on March 19, 2017, Simple Plan’s latest run takes the band through 19 dates, running through mid-April. An exciting time for the band and their dedicated followers, on the evening of Wednesday, March 29th, Simple Plan’s celebratory run stopped at the iconic Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey for what was going to be a night to remember with support from Seaway and Set It Off.

The idea behind album anniversary tours is a fairly simple plan, pun intended: take the band out on the road and perform the album for the fans. Some bands toss in extras and change around the order of the performance, while others simply go front to back. Fans did not know exactly what to expect when Simple Plan came to Sayreville for the first-time ever, but they knew in their hearts that it would be an amazing night. With fellow Canadians Seaway and Florida’s Set It Off in tow, Simple Plan arrived in New Jersey with, well, No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls.

The night in question would begin with a different Canadian band, Seaway. The first band to take the stage to the sold out crowd at Starland Ballroom, Pop Punksters Seaway hail from Ontario, Canada. Signed to Pure Noise Records, the band formed back in 2011 and have been touring non-stop ever since. Seaway – Ryan Locke on Vocals, Patrick Carleton on Guitar and Vocals, Andrew Eichinger on Guitar, Adam Shoji on Bass, and Ken Taylor on Drums – took the stage and prepared to show Jersey how Canadians get it done.

Their entire setlist consisted of songs from their most recent release, 2015’s Colour Blind. They launched immediately into “Best Mistake” and it was obvious from moment one that Locke was feeling the music. He displayed perfectly his inability to stand still as the band segued into “Trick (So Sweet)” and “Freak.” The crowd ate it up and there were even quite a few die-hard Seaway fans at the barricade, singing along without missing a single word.

Locke took a moment to thank the guys in Simple Plan for taking the band out on tour with them before jumping into “Goon” and “Slam.” A cover of Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” was next in their set, and the crowd went absolutely insane. Before Seaway began to perform their final song, “Airhead,” Locke thanked the sold-out crowd for coming early to check out his band. Of course, there was also a plug for the band’s latest album, Colour Blind.

Next to the stage would be the Pop Punk/Pop Rock Set It Off, who are, undoubtedly, no strangers to a stage. Hailing from Tampa, Florida, the band was formed in 2008. By 2011, the band was signed to Equal Vision Records and a year later they released their debut full-length album, Cinematics. In a boldly good-hearted move, Set It Off and Equal Vision Records would partner with the VH1 Save the Music Foundation to donate $1 from every album sold to the foundation. Ironically, their philanthropy paid off in albums sales and Cinematics debuted at the No. 174 on the Billboard 200, No. 4 on the Top Heatseekers, and No. 38 on the Independent Albums chart. Their successes segued beautifully into 2014’s Duality and 2016’s Upside Down.

Set It Off – Vocalist Cody Carson, Guitarist Dan Clermont, Bassist Zach Dewall, and Drummer Maxx Danziger – are a band that tour prolifically, and as such, have shared stages with everyone from Black Veil Brides to Yellowcard, Tonight Alive to Heartist. They have also spent several summers on the Vans Warped Tour. On this evening, they were ready to remind Jersey exactly how passionate they are about their performance art. Taking the stage and immediately flashing their iconic hand diamond signs, Set It Off were ready to party.

Beginning with fan-favorite “Why Worry,” Carson set the bar for the evening very, very high. Displaying an impressive vocal range, his voice soared, amping the massive crowd for what was guaranteed to be an amazing set. “Forever Stuck In Our Youth” had the crowd singing at the top of their lungs. Clearly inspired by the energy in the room, Carson could not seem to stay away from the barricade and getting up close and personal with his fans. Not to be left quietly in the backdrop, Danziger was putting on a show of his own on the drums. One of the most charismatic drummers on the scene right now, between his immense talent and crazy facial expressions, Danziger is definitely one to keep your eyes on throughout the set.

Before the band jumped into fan favorite “Ancient History,” Carson quickly gave the audience a word of advice: “Don’t have sex with your ex!” They followed this up with several of their older tracks, before launching into some of the newer material off Upside Down. Between songs, Carson bantered with the audience and offered up a humble thank you to Simple Plan for bringing them out on tour, and even thanked Seaway for getting the crowd hyped up for their performance.

One of their newest tracks, “Upside Down,” saw Clermont switching his guitar for a trumpet halfway through the song. Not your typical sight at a Pop Punk gig, fans went wild for the unexpected display. Before the band could begin “Want,” Carson kindly requested the crowd to hold up the lights on their cellphones to create a hauntingly beautiful illumination of Starland Ballroom. Picking the tempo right back up, Set It Off again requested crowd participation on their next song, “Something New.” Carson ran the audience through some vocal warm-ups, a few “ba dah bop ba dah dahs” to help prepare them for their role with background vocals. It is no wonder that, when the time came, the entire venue was singing along!

Closing out their exceptional set with “Hypnotized” and “Life Afraid,” in true Rock-n-roll fashion Carson jumped excitedly into the crowd, practically walking on top of the audience to the nearby bar. It was a thoroughly enjoyable set from a truly talented band making Set It Off a band not to be missed live.  

With Seaway and Set It Off’s sets completed, the celebratory moment had finally arrived. Montreal, Canada natives Simple Plan were about to hit the stage to play their beloved No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls. A moment everyone had been waiting for, anticipation throughout the audience was palpable, with the sold out crowd ready to rock their proverbial balls to the wall.

Looking back on the band’s unpredictable ride, Simple Plan formed back in 1999 and it has been a steady climb of success since. Known for their collaborations with other artists including Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte, Simple Plan have also done their fair share of touring through the years, sharing the stage with every band from Pop Punk Greats Green Day and Good Charlotte to Punky Pop Princess Avril Lavigne. 

Now rejuvenated and excited to be back on the road, Vocalist Pierre Bouvier, Guitarists Jeff Stinco and Sébastien Lefebvre, Bassist David Desrosiers, and Drummer Chuck Comeau took the stage to raucous applause and cheers, starting off strong with “I’d Do Anything,” “The Worst Day Ever,” and “You Don’t Mean Anything.” Crowd-surfers were abound as the audience sang along and the energy throughout Starland Ballroom was on high. Bouvier worked the stage from all angles, making sure to present himself at the barricade to allow fans that up close and very personal view of their hero and his vocals.

Before the band began “I’m Just A Kid,” Bouvier took a moment to introduce each of his bandmates. He further explained that they would be performing the album front to back, with no surprises, and shockingly, he confessed that this was the band’s first-time ever playing at Starland Ballroom. It seems impossible to believe that a band with such history behind them could have managed to detour around one of the East Coast’s most beloved venues, but now that Simple Plan were in Sayreville, they were more than prepared to make-up for all the lost time. Fans were ready for a night to truly remember! Launching into “I’m Just A Kid,” the band seemed to pull a switch and turn back the clocks. The assembled crowd reverted back to their teenage years, when they had first heard the track, and then the fun continued with “When I’m With You” and “Meet You There.”

Keeping the mood loose, Bouvier playfully said, “Okay guys, the song with the word ‘dick’ is up next,” laughing out loud as the group launched into “Addicted.” Another fan-favorite, the crowd sang along to every single word! “My Alien” was next on the roster and it possessed one truly intergalactic light display. In fact, it is moments like these that make anniversary tours so truly wonderful: bands performed songs from their catalogues that have rarely, if ever, made it into a live set.

Bouvier took a moment to banter with the audience and say thank you for their support for all these years. He went on to re-introduce the “best guitarist in the universe,” bandmate Stinco, and have him display his guitar skills for the crowd. Starting back up, they went into “One Day” when Bouvier appeared with several giant beach balls that he tossed to the crowd. In truly humorous fashion, Bouvier even noted that, as a kid, he dreamt of a day when he would play gigs and large groups of people would fondle his balls.

Then, Simple Plan actually broke with their simple plan at this point, and performed “Grow Up,” which was initially only included on the Australian and Japanese versions of No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls. Before the band could perform the very last chorus, Comeau and Bouvier switched places, because, as Comeau informed the crowd, he “wanted to be the lead singer of the band.” As his bandmates provided a beat, a chant of “stage dive” roared throughout the venue. Comeau warned the audience that, if he did, he wanted to be carried all the way to the sound booth before coming back to the stage. Indeed he did make the leap and surfed throughout the entire venue before returning, intact, to the stage.

The No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls celebration ended with the emotionally poignant “Perfect,” arguably one of their best songs. For this rendition, Bouvier came to the stage with an acoustic guitar to perform the song solo, though, when the chorus hit, the band joined him. After they finished performing the entire album, the guys took a break and left the stage for a few moments to compose themselves for a seven-song encore.

A bonus for all who paid the price of admission, the room was pumped up as Simple Plan returned to the stage to perform “Shut Up,” “Jump,” “Boom!,” “Your Love is a Lie,” and “This Song Saved My Life.” In regards to the last track, Bouvier explained that everyone goes through hard times, we all have our problems, and everyone deals with things in very different ways. For Bouvier, personally, he confessed that music is his saviour and that is why this song was written.

Riding high on emotions, the lights dimmed as Bouvier snuck off stage and, to the crowd’s immense surprise, somehow ended up at the sound booth. This was before performing “Crazy” and taking a moment to truly thank all of the Simple Plan fans. He admitted that when they first started the band, back home in Canada, they had no idea that they would ever go on a tour, let alone, end up on a headlining tour, celebrating their debut album’s fifteen year anniversary with a sold-out crowd. With that, he informed Sayreville that he, as well as the entire band, are truly grateful for the support they have been shown over the years. Coming across a truly genuine man, one who could not say enough to express his appreciation for the fans, he bid them adieu before the band closed it all out with the hit “Welcome to My Life.”

Fifteen years is a long time. In the span of fifteen years, so much of our lives can change drastically and yet, so many things remain the same. If you love a band and their music passionately, it can make the passage of time slow; a song can transport you back in time. Music can heal! That said, the capacity crowd at Starland Ballroom learned all of this through the music of Simple Plan. Whether one was a brand new fan or a die-hard from day number one, Simple Plan gave a performance and created a night that was beyond memorable.

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Courtney CocciaAuthor posts

When she is not at a concert behind the lens or enjoying the show, you can catch Courtney traveling the world, learning from her experiences. Going into her second year as a photographer, she specializes in lifestyle and concert photography. She also provides concert reviews for CrypticRock.

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