Jaret Reddick & The Lounge Kittens – Heartache and Hilarity @ Gorilla, Manchester, September 20th 2017

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Jaret Reddick - Heartache and Hilarity Solo Stage

As frontman for Texan pop-punk titans Bowling For Soup for almost twenty-five years now, it’s probably not too far of a stretch to say that Jaret Reddick might well be one of his genre’s most consistently excellent songwriters. Now touring solo for the first time ever, he’s assembled a career-spanning one man show entitled Heartache & Hilarity to look back on a career packed with moments of both of those things. We caught up with the tour on its penultimate date in Manchester, Reddick’s self-confessed “favourite place to play in the whole world” to see exactly what it was all about.

In terms of opening acts, it’s difficult to picture an act more suited to warming up a crowd for Jaret Reddick than The Lounge Kittens (9). Taking the very best tracks from all corners of rock and metal, stripping out the heaviness, and spinning them into sumptuous three-part harmonies instead might sound strange to the uninitiated, but those in the know are aware by now just how brilliant an act these three women are. Having wowed a packed-to-the-brim tent at this summer’s Download Festival, it’s heart-warming to see just how quickly the people of Manchester embrace Jenny, Zan and Timia and their harmony-driven hilarity tonight too. Packing a setlist not too dissimilar to that of their summer festival antics, the Kittens lead the Gorilla audience through a riotous singalong that flies through the likes of Slipknot’s mosh-pit starting megahit Duality, Steel Panther’s brilliantly puerile Gloryhole and even Yeah! by chart topping R&B superstar Usher, all in the girls’ own wonderful lounge style.

As usual with The Lounge Kittens though, it’s in their infamous medleys that the band’s talent and creativity really shine through. Tonight they’re packing four of them – a pop-punk medley filled with hits from the likes of Sum 41, Good Charlotte and Wheatus; their Download Festival 2017 medley (“It seemed such a waste to only use it once”, the girls quip); a medley of ‘anthems’ spanning everything from Queen and Boston, to Cher and Europe, and perhaps the best of the lot, their 80’s and 90’s cartoon theme medley featuring the likes of Thundercats, DuckTales and Pokémon. Of course, each song is interspersed with the Kittens’ usual brand of great banter, from their comical introductions of each other, to Zan’s leading of the audience through her epically-funny ‘T-Rexican wave’ (“It’s like a Mexican wave, but with teeny-tiny dinosaur arms”, comes the explanation). By the time their all-too-brief set draws to an end, there’s barely a face in the building that doesn’t seem to have a mile-wide grin, and it’s quickly made apparent that The Lounge Kittens have gained themselves a whole lot of new fans on this occasion.

When the whole idea of Heartache & Hilarity was first announced, many wondered just what they’d be getting from the man behind so many beloved pop-punk tracks over the last two decades. In short, tonight sees Jaret Reddick (10) completely alone on-stage armed with just a guitar, a seemingly infinite supply of drinks, some of the most entertaining stage banter this side of stand-up comedy and a songwriting arsenal packed with some of the absolute greatest songs ever produced within his genre. Opening with If You Come Back To Me, it’s remarkable to see Jaret instantly has the whole building singing along to every word as well – something that barely stops for a second all night.

Tearing through almost his entire career over the course of nearly two hours, the frontman cracks jokes and talks about so many different aspects of his life in music that it’d probably take a novel to list everything. From the origins of BFS classics like The Bitch Song and Ohio (Come Back To Texas), to lesser-known gems like Surf Colorado and Star Song, there’s barely a stone left unturned throughout the night as Jaret spills the beans on exactly how so many of his songs came to be. As the tour name suggests, there’s both heartache (Goodbye Friend reducing the entire building to the verge of tears) and hilarity (a completely improvised ode to pub chain Wetherspoons and several jokes at the expense of Game of Thrones recurring throughout the night to much amusement) in equal measure, but the crowning glory of this show is how well Jaret manages to balance the two.

The many stories behind the songs take precedent for much of the performance tonight, but it’s telling of Reddick’s natural charisma as a performer that he’s able to enthral the crowd for the entirety of his performance. Stripping his catalogue down to the very core allows him to prove something that it feels like everyone should already know by now – Jaret Reddick is one of the very best at what he does. Hearing ballads like Turbulence and When We Die brought back down to their absolute basics allows the frontman’s vocals to really shine through tonight, and the look on his face as a whole venue of people seem to know every word to every single song is nothing short of heartwarming.  As the night begins to reach its end, there’s one final surprise for the vast majority of the audience though, as those present for the earlier VIP show and meet & greet all produce kazoos and play along to the guitar lines of 1985, in one of the night’s most surreal and brilliant moments.

After the briefest of pauses, Jaret then returns to the stage for a quick encore – polling the crowd for song choices, eventually leading to airings of Almost and Belgium to finish things off, much to everyone’s continued delight. As he goes to leave the stage, the reveal of an imminent Bowling For Soup UK tour announcement only draws Jaret even greater levels of appreciation from a crowd that already feels as though it had given its all for an entire evening.

If one overriding thing can be learned from tonight’s show really, it’s that the people of Manchester and Jaret Reddick seem to have an incredible amount of mutual love for each other – perhaps best evidenced when the frontman rolls up a sleeve to reveal a Manchester bee tattoo in pride of place on his arm. There can be no doubt that everyone here tonight has been a part of something incredibly special, and the sheer level of emotional response throughout the evening’s show is living proof of just how important Jaret is to the people of this city. Truly a staggering performance to behold, from beginning to end.

The people of Manchester also won’t have to wait too long for Jaret’s return, as Bowling For Soup have just announced their biggest UK headline tour of their whole career, including a show at Manchester’s Apollo!

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