AgriCom, Edmonton - Dec. 4, 1999

MIKE ROSS -- Express Writer

, Last Updated: 8:47 PM ET

EDMONTON -- Punk bands are getting older while punk fans are getting younger.

What a peculiar development.

In the '70s, when punk began, you had rebellious young musicians dissing the establishment for thousands - well, hundreds, anyway - of like-minded individuals their own age packed into smelly little clubs.

In the '90s, the punk generation gap seems to have widened to the point where punk bands are part of the establishment, cheered on by growing legions of fans who weren't even born when the Sex Pistols came up with God Save the Queen. At this rate, we'll see green-haired rock superstars older than Mick Jagger playing kiddie shows in 2010. Imagine: Sharon, Lois and the Offspring.

Stranger things have happened. There were pre-teens chaperoned by their parents amongst a fresh-faced crowd of 4,600 in the AgriCom last night. On stage, the Offspring - 30-something Dexter, Noodles and those two other guys; these "punks" who now have wives, houses, retirement funds and little kids of their own - delivered a big rock concert masquerading as a punk show. Or maybe it was a punk show wearing the trappings of a rock concert. Whatever.

The young fans couldn't care less what label the media gives it, of course. They moshed with a fury not seen since Edgefest, pumped their fists in the air and screamed out the words to their favourite tunes - especially the parts with the curse words.

What fun.

The Vandals, the opening act punk purists would've been there to see, aren't famous, and so their act was far more silly, irreverent and obnoxious than the headliner's. But more about the Vandals in a moment.

As for the Offspring, the tempos were punk, but the feel was arena rock all the way. Everything seemed like a big production. And it was. Performance artists and prop-masters were kept busy in the wings as the band plowed through its set. During Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), three bodacious babes in bikinis danced out front, while the white rap poseur depicted in the song acted out his "fly" moves. On cue, the dancers threw him into the crowd.

Earlier, as an intro to Cool to Hate, Backstreet Boys dolls were murdered with a hockey stick. There was much rejoicing. Then there was the "intermission," during which blow-up armchairs were brought out, the girls (now dressed as Santas) dispensed drinks, a fat man in a G-string danced around and bubbles and confetti rained onto the crowd. Now that's entertainment - something you might see, say, at a Guns N' Roses concert. Of course, it was over the top enough that it might've been parody.

Between entertaining stunts, the band performed in a brisk, business-like manner, pulling out one punk-paced song after another. There were refreshing diversions from the genre - like a funky punk (or punky funk) version of I Choose - but it was largely the same driving, loud, 240-beats-per-minute catharsis. The band focused mainly on three albums: 1994's Smash - whose 11 million in sales made wealthy men of these California punks - Ixnay on the Hombre and the latest, Americana, again generating Smash-like sales. How ironic that the corporate-rock attitude once scorned has become the curse of the Offspring. Then again, irony is bread and butter to a band like this. When singer Dexter Holland shouted, "You guys are way better than Vancouver!" he may have been parodying some hackneyed arena rock slogan from a bygone era, but it worked as if it were for real. The crowd went wild.

As promised, back to the Vandals - they're old, too, like, 30 or something - who came across like the punk Marx Brothers. They didn't need props. A nerdy, deadpan manner disguised an outrageous selection of music and antics. The band punked up show tunes - opening with Tell Me More from the Grease soundtrack - sang about bodily functions and even managed to spread a little punk Christmas cheer with Oi to the World. As a show-stopper, guitarist Warren Fitzgerald sang a song while he tried to take his shorts off over his head, exposing his buttocks in the process.

I'm not sure if this is "punk," either, but it certainly got a reaction.

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