with The Heartbreak Club and The Wellingtons

It’s roughly ten years since Smash Mouth were at the peak of their fame and popularity. Given how long it’s been since I heard anything much about the band, I was intrigued to discover that they were embarking on a tour of Australia – their first time Down Under. So off I went to The Hi Fi on Swanston Street, wondering what a Smash Mouth gig on a Wednesday night would entail.

I arrived during the first support band, The Wellingtons’, set. Quiet achievers on the Melbourne music scene, their music is a blend of Weezer-meets Elvis Costello-meets Ben Folds. They were delightfully enthusiastic and upbeat and I enjoyed their guitar-and-synth- driven tunes.

Next up was Heartbreak Club, with their witty, ironic, self-deprecating, ‘Geek Rock’. They were the perfect band to support Smash Mouth, as they fit right in to the Smash Mouth/Weezer/They Might Be Giants/The Offspring kind of music scene, perhaps with a touch of Blink 182 thrown in. Unfortunately, at times their self-deprecating lyrics, and the comments made by lead singer Teddy Hernandez were actually kind of depressing; “The theme through our whole oeuvre is failure – that’s us!” Their music is pretty good (though at times it felt a little dated), they clearly love what they do – they just need to believe in themselves a little more.

As I waited for Smash Mouth’s set to begin, I felt a little disheartened by how few people had turned up for the gig. I hadn’t expected it to sell out, but I’d hoped – for the sake of the band, more than anything – that the venue would be more than half full. But, with The Hi Fi at about 50% capacity, and a pack of enthusiastic Smash Mouth fans (of a wider variety of ages than I’d expected) gathered in front of the stage, Steve Harrell and his band finally hit the stage. They opened their set with ‘The In Set’ from their self-titled 2001 album.

Having released their latest album, Magic last year, I was expecting to hear a lot of new songs. Thankfully, the set was a pleasing mix of old and new, and the consistency of this band was evident; new songs blended well with old, and, though their music is unfortunately starting to sound kind of dated, it was obvious that serious Smash Mouth fans were loving these new tunes. Lead singer Harrell quickly built a great rapport with the audience, expressing his love for Australian swearwords and the way in which we use them. He also handed out shots of whiskey to several lucky audience members, giving the gig a kind of house party vibe.

As I’d expected, the old songs were the highlights, and, as I’d hoped, they played all the classics; ‘Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby’, ‘When The Morning Comes’, ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘All Star’, ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’, and ‘Walking On The Sun’. The self-indulgent, drawn out guitar intro to ‘Walking On The Sun’ took the edge off a little, but it, alongside ‘All Star’, really stood out. It was obvious that the band were really enjoying their set, and I was very impressed by how good Harrell’s voice sounds live – whiskey and time have done his voice no damage at all.

The small turnout, coupled with how dated their music is starting to sound, suggest that Smash Mouth would’ve been best to capitalize on their success fourteen years ago. However, given the enthusiasm I witnessed from the more serious, long-term fans of the band, it’s obvious that there are people out there who still really love Smash Mouth. I’m glad that one of the goals of my ten-year-old self has been achieved, and I’ve seen ‘All Star’ performed live (though my goals have changed somewhat since then), but mostly, I just hope that the turnout to their gigs in Australia is enough for the band to break even on this tour. Hardcore Smash Mouth fans will really enjoy what the band has to offer….I’m just not sure how many of them are left.
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