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The All-American Rejects: The SUB concert’s dirty little secret

| Monday, April 25, 2016

SUBConcert_WEBLAUREN WELDON | The Observer

For the first time since the Goo Goo Dolls performed in 2014, SUB has managed to put together a concert that wasn’t a total mess.

The All-American Rejects took the stage at the Stepan Center on Saturday night to a crowd of 2,100 nostalgic teenagers and twenty-somethings looking for a little bit of that middle school magic.

They didn’t waste any time, ripping right into “Dirty Little Secret,” one of their biggest hits, the second they hit the stage. The crowd’s response was equally impressive: From the moment they recognized that infamous introductory guitar riff, the crowd was electric, escalating in volume as more and more voices joined until culminating with that great hook that everyone had memorized in the carpool on the way back from Pop Warner football practice.

If one thing’s for sure, The All-American Rejects know how to craft a hell of a hook. It didn’t matter if it was one of the band’s biggest hits like “Swing, Swing” or one of their newer songs like “Kids in the Street,” everybody in the crowd was singing along.

After following up “Dirty Little Secret” with “Falling Apart,” lead singer Tyson Ritter quickly took control of the post-pubescent horde, jokingly dividing members between the “party side” that had gone to the Fisher Regatta and the “business side” that could actually keep up with the show. Ritter had a commanding, charismatic stage performance in the breaks between songs, joking about the conditions of the Stepan Center (“I feel like we’re a big Domino’s pizza on a way to some fat guy’s house”) and the sexual climate on campus (“Notre Dame is full of perverts”).

Sometimes though, Ritter got a bit too caught up in these moments, at one point taking the time to rant about Donald Trump with the passion I previously thought could only be mustered up by a Viewpoint writer.

Toward the latter half of the show, he tried more desperately to connect with “the youth,” jabbering about how “we get to be young while the world is going to s*** and that is so sweet,” raving about how important it is to get lost in the music and even forcing the crowd to sing him a rather unenthusiastic 32nd “Happy Birthday.” Ritter may have been totally lost on the fact that he’s a solid decade older than his fan base, most of whom haven’t paid attention to the band since 2008, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a good performance.

Donning faded, stonewashed, tight jeans and a dirty white T-shirt, Ritter looked like he popped right out of a MySpace era poster as he danced around the stage and fell to the ground during “My Paper Heart.” At one point, all the lights in the Stepan Center shut off, leaving the crowd to stare in amusement as he swung a flashlight-equipped microphone above his head.

While fun, Ritter’s theatrics paled in comparison to rhythm guitarist Mike Kennerty, who stole the spotlight a few times by jumping so high that it seemed he would fly right out of his pink skinny jeans.

Meanwhile, lead guitarist Nick Wheeler may not have the stage presence that his bandmates might have — looking a little bit awkward occasionally — but he can definitely shred, ripping through solos in tracks like “Stab My Back” with some serious authority.

Drummer and percussionist Chris Gaylor had more of a background role, sarcastically throwing empty water bottles into the crowd during breaks in a mockery of the swag giveaways common at many a show.

The All-American Rejects’ collective stage presence was more than the sum of its parts, as they (thankfully) didn’t let the confines of the Stepan Center limit their show, extending their vibes beyond the circular walls of everyone’s least favorite geodesic dome and into our collective nostalgia, taking us back to days of pimply faces, teenage angst and Motorola RAZRs.

Unfortunately, Notre Dame’s collective nostalgia doesn’t run as deep as The Rejects thought it did. During the arguably saddest moment of the show, they tried to start a singalong cover of “Purple Rain” to honor the late Prince, yet the audience was unable to keep up, either due to drunken confusion or sheer cultural incompetence.

Despite a few missteps such as this, the Rejects finished up strong, seemingly ending their show with a perfect performance of “Move Along.”

As the All-American Rejects left the stage, a roar went up from the crowd. This ultimately split into two distinct camps demanding the band’s biggest hit, “Gives You Hell,” creating a muddied cacophony of chanting that reverberated around the dome.

Of course, the band came back on stage for the much-anticipated encore, with Ritter exchanging his grungy t-shirt for a Notre Dame hoodie straight from the bookstore, and ended the show on a great note.

The All-American Rejects gave us more than hell: They gave us the first decent campus concert in a long time.

About Jimmy Kemper

Scene writer, Economics major, and Seinfeld enthusiast

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