LIVE: Sum 41 / Simple Plan @ Alexandra Palace, London

By Yasmin Brown

If you were remotely interested in pop culture in the early 2000s, the chances are you heard Simple Plan and Sum 41. From the former’s appearance on Mary Kate and Ashley’s New York Minute, to the latter’s place on side two of the Now CD upon the release of ‘In Too Deep’, you didn’t have to be a pop punk or metal enthusiast to know these two bands. 

Today, they’re back together as Simple Plan support the mighty Sum 41 at London’s packed Ally Pally, and whilst Sum 41 are tonight’s main event, equal numbers of both band’s T-shirts appear on the backs of attendees tonight. 

Simple Plan kick us off, their pop punk sound of ‘I’d Do Anything’ seeping past the doors of the great hall into the queues waiting for burgers outside. The already packed hall became even tighter at the recognition as more fans filed in, enthusiastically screaming the words to a song over 20 years old. 

It’s telling that this band peaked with their earlier material, filling their set list with songs from ‘No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls’, and only a couple of new ones gracing the bill to a more lacklustre response. Throw in a medley of Smash Mouth, Avril Lavigne and The Killers, and Pierre Bouvier and his friends have won us back over before ending on the ever angsty, ever wonderful, ‘Perfect’. Simple Plan are timeless pop punk kings and tonight proves there’s no shame in leaning into the material you know the fans want. Combine great music with some giant beach balls and a little covid-friendly crowd interaction and you’ve found the perfect recipe for a delightful start to an incredible evening. 

What feels like an eternity passes before ‘Introduction to Destruction’ kicks in, old fans reciting the eerie intro word for word as the lights dim and excited chatter stops, allowing the screams take over. The temporary Sum 41 backdrop falls dramatically, allowing a 3D devil’s head to take its place as Deryck Whibley and co take to the stage to kick off tonight with guaranteed crowd-please, 2001’s ‘Motivation’, much to the delight of the now-packed out great hall.

If you’ve never seen Sum 41 live before, or if you’d class yourself as a “casual fan”, it might surprise you to learn that Sum 41 fit more in the metal camp than in any other genre under the alternative umbrella. The talent that sits within this band can not be understated, as the night kicks off with expertly executed rapid fire drumming from Frank Zummo and dizzying riffs from original lead guitarist, Dave Baksh.

Just a couple of songs in and already tonight’s Ally Pally crowd finds itself under a rainfall of confetti the band sparing no theatrics and pyrotechnics shortly follow during ‘We’re All to Blame’. Among all the madness, we’re reminded to look out for each other as circle pits open up to see out this tour in style, aptly celebrating the 21st birthday of the band’s first album, ‘All Killer, No Filler’ with the fun addition of balloons bouncing over the crowd. 

Where Simple Plan’s covers section felt a little trite, Sum 41’s take on Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ leads into a guitar solo that brings this band’s talent to life, once again reminding us that their metal ‘undertones’ were never undertones at all, but the foundation of their technically brilliant sound and this “family” that Whibley refers to frequently throughout the night. 

And it does feel that way, too. This tour is celebrating albums that span two thirds of the majority of tonight’s 30-something crowd, so it’s safe to say Sum 41 have played an integral part in our lives, making up the soundtrack of certain years and reminding us of people and places we perhaps haven’t seen or visited since our youth. Tonight is bringing this crowd together in a tangible yet invisible way and “family” may be the best way to explain the closeness created by our shared sweat and beer, and our collective love for this band. 

The palpable joy that seeps through the crowd is also evident on stage as Whibley labels this the “funnest fucking show of the tour”. It’s also something of a homecoming as he explains it’s his first show in the UK as a British citizen, his entire family hailing from just down the road in Wood Green. With this along with the album celebrations and it being the final show of the tour, tonight has really felt like a celebration – one we’re delighted to have been a part of. 

Closing off with a three-song encore made up of ‘No Reason’, ‘Mr. Amsterdam’ and the iconic ‘Fat Lip’ (cue more confetti), we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect night. Those who entered Ally Pally as casual fans are sure to leave feeling wholly impressed by the calibre of this band, while those who have always understood just how incredible Sum 41 are, will only have fallen more in love tonight. 

With over two decades under their belt, Sum 41 have had a hot minute to refine their craft and tonight’s show has more than proven that they’ve made the most of the opportunity. Here’s to seeing what the next decade has to offer.