SAN FRANCISCO — It was a tour that was never supposed to happen. Sum 41 planned to take 2018 off to begin writing and recording its next album, but suddenly that all changed. Fans bombarded the band with messages through social media, Sum 41 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Does This Look Infected? on the road. Released in 2002, Does This Look Infected spawned many fan-favorite anthems like “Still Waiting” and “Over My Head (Better Off Dead).” The Ontario, Canada band agreed and the tour was on.
“It’s kind of like your birthday, and on your birthday you can do anything you want,” singer Deryck Whibley said during the band’s opener, “The Hell Song.” “So we’re going to play these songs out of order, however we want to.”
The Warfield crowd was fired up even before the band took the stage by moshing, crowd surfing and singing along to the hard rock tracks that played between sets, and that energy carried through the entirety of Sum 41’s set. Early on, the band tore through a medley of “A.N.I.C.,” “Never Wake Up” and “T.H.T.” at breakneck speed.
In more than two decades as a band, Sum 41 are as strong a live act as the band has ever been, mixing classic metal flourishes in with the big pop-punk singalong choruses. Guitarists Dave Baksh and Tom Thacker adeptly ripped through the the band’s catalog, trading off solos and heavy metal riffs at lightning speed. Frontman Deryck Whibley appeared reborn following his 2014 hospitalization for alcoholism. He was energetic, confident and engaged in his performance, delivering razor-sharp vocals with his crisp rasp. Whibley told a story of returning to writing and recording following leaving the hospital and reaching a near panic as he had no starting point to work from. Whibley went back and listened to cassettes of unused ideas from the Infected sessions and came across a riff that would become “Fake My Own Death,” a new track from the band’s latest album, 13 Voices.
In addition to performing Infected tracks, Sum 41 also mixed in a few additional treats into its setlist: covers of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and a full engines ahead punk version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Drummer Frank Zummo also honored late Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington with a thrilling drum solo medley of some of the that band’s heaviest songs. Both Zummo and Whibley performed at the Hollywood Bowl tribute show for Bennington last October.
The flashy production included strobes, lasers, confetti, smoke cannons and a giant skull with glowing eyes adorning the stage, which offered a thrilling backdrop for the band to rip through some of its biggest hits. Sum 41 closed out its set of Infected material with “Hooch” before returning for a trio of singles: “No Reason,” “Motivation,” and original smash “Fat Lip.”
Toronto pop-punk outfit Seaway preceded the headliner, offering a complimentary mix of heavy and upbeat, pop-punk for the San Francisco crowd. It was also a fitting pairing as the band members grew up listening to their fellow Canadian heroes, and some of that influence showed in the band’s music. Vocalist Patrick Carleton stormed the stage and delivered a fun performance, encouraging the crowd to jump, mosh and sing along.
Carleton and Elchinger traded off frenetic vocals throughout the Seaway’s 50-minute set. The band even included a cover of The Vines’ “Get Free,” adding a little extra punk rock growl to the garage rock classic. The band rolled through songs like “Airhead,” “Best Mistake” and “London” before closing with “Lula on the Beach.” It was the band’s second time playing in San Francisco in recent months, and Carleton spoke highly of the Bay Area.
The band’s sound was a no-nonsense, meat-and-potatoes brand of pop-punk with the occasional electronic flourish, with Carleton’s vocals jumping back and forth between an aggressive growl to earnest and melodic delivery.
Hopeless Records signees Super Whatevr opened up the show performing a strong set of punk and emo-influenced tracks.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.