The House of Blues in Anaheim will have to make room on their wall of skateboards to commemorate Goldfinger’s latest sold-out show at the venue. It had been far too long since Goldfinger played in Southern California; in fact, the last time I saw them was in 2019 in Huntington Beach.
It was a stormy, wet Saturday night in Anaheim, but that didn’t damper the spirits of the fans lined up in a long queue outside the venue; a line which wound into the parking structure. Goldfinger’s latest album, “Never Look Back,” was released in 2020 and this was the first chance for most fans to hear those songs live, so if they had to wait, they would.
January 14th, 2023
Once inside, Canadian ska punk band The Planet Smashers were just getting the show started. They’ve been keeping crowds skanking with their infectious sound since 1993, and released their latest album, “Too Much Information,” in 2019.
The band’s newest album was represented right off with the standout track, “Can’t Stop.” Lead singer Matt Collyer welcomed Mike Herrera onstage to sing their 2005 song “Unstoppable,” a song that Herrera’s other band – MXPX – had recently covered. They are a fun band with a great horn section, and they got everybody in the mood for the night to come.
Orange County locals Zebrahead definitely brought the party to the show; they even had an onstage bar manned by skeleton-clad bartenders. They kicked their set off with the high-energy song “Rescue Me;” written in 2003, but the lyrics seem as current as ever with lines “Another tragedy in the news, someone shooting down the right to choose”; “Another law I heard got passed today, someone’s trying to take my rights away.” Lead singer/rapper Ali was sporting a new look – clean-shaven and bleached blonde. Their newest member, co-lead singer/guitarist Adrian Estrella, has only been with them since 2021, but he’s a great addition to the group and brings a lot of excitement to their stage show.
Next up was another song from 2003, “Hello Tomorrow,” followed in the same vein with their new single, “No Tomorrow.” It’s a straight-ahead rocking song with very relatable lyrics: “Everybody’s got their own opinion, but nobody ever wants to listen.” “Drink Drink” was their not-too-subtle encouragement for everyone to join the party. Their skeleton-clad helpers were offering drinks up and down the front row, much to the chagrin of the security team, who was making sure everyone was of legal age. A large inflatable was brought for crowd surfing and beach balls were tossed into the crowd, all of which added to the overall party vibe.
They closed their set by encouraging everyone to form a large circle pit for their final song, “Anthem,” with its catchy, “Get up, get up, let the good times roll.” Zebrahead took it up a notch by putting on a super fun show. Look for a new EP to be released in the fall of 2023.
Following Zebrahead’s set, the stage’s large curtain was lowered and the house lighting turned down low. Stage techs had to wear head lamps to continue to prep the front of the stage for the show to come. This only seemed to add to the sense of excitement and anticipation, at least for me. On cue, the Shirley Bassey-sung theme song to the 1964 James Bond film, “Goldfinger,” begins to play.
The band calmly walked out to thunderous applause and the first song came at us like a freight train. “Spokesman” opened the show, and it works so well. Front-man John Feldmann seemed to soak it all in for a moment before announcing the next song “is a punk rock song” as they busted into “Infinite.” The opening track from their latest album, “Never Look Back,” it’s a rocking, fast number with a catchy chorus.
Throughout their set, newer songs were interspersed with fan favorites including “Counting the Days,” “Get What I Need,” and “A Million Miles.”
Feldmann mentioned a concept, that perhaps more than a few fans shared, which was, “Don’t you hate it when you go to a show and they say ‘We’re going to play a new song!’ Don’t you hate that? Well, here’s a new song called ‘Wallflower’ which was the first single off of ‘Never Look Back.’”
After telling the tale of how Feldmann’s perseverance got them signed in 1993, they played the classic, “Here in the Bedroom.” From their first album, this is the song that put them on the map and was played frequently on MTV. “Wake Up, Wake Up” started the banger “Open Your Eyes.”
Feldmann walked out on the upraised hands of the willing fans, before taking a dive into the crowd. At this point, guitarist Philip Sneed took the mic, and the song morphed into Blur’s “Song 2,” sung by Sneed.
The band has had a few lineup changes over the years, but they sound phenomenal with this version. It’s so great seeing Charlie Paulson playing with them again as he brings excitement with his constant jumping and trademark spins. Sneed fills out their sound by adding a third guitar and backup vocals. There is nothing bad anyone can say about bassist Mike Herrera; he’s a solid player and an all-around nice guy. Nick Gross ties it all together and has been Goldfinger’s touring drummer since 2018, and their official drummer since 2020.
The song “Mable” is always a high point of the show, and this time they invited everyone 21 years old and younger to join them onstage and sing with them. A large number of kids were in attendance, so the stage was filled with moshing youngsters for the duration of the song.
Feldmann enthralled the crowd with a story about them playing in England and how the entire crowd was totally indifferent to them – until they played this song, and everyone went totally ballistic for it. After the show, they asked their label what the reaction was about. It turns out, the song is featured in the video game, “Tony Hawk Pro Skater.” They welcome Hawk onstage and after a big hug, invite Hawk to sing “Superman.” It looked like everyone’s cell phone went up in the air to record this; you could tell most people recognized what a special moment it was. Hawk told the crowd, “That song has defined our video game series for decades. It’s been an honor to finally join these guys.” As he walked off the stage, he challenged the crowd: “Now do a kick flip!”
After announcing “Questions” as the last song of the night, they said goodnight. The band soon came back to the stage for the expected encore, which started with The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”
Feldmann said the first show he ever saw was a ska show, and afterward he was inspired to start a ska band. He went on to say, “The greatest ska band of all time is The Specials, so we’re going to do a Specials song in remembrance of Terry Hall.” They played “Nite Klub,” a song that has actually been part of their set for a number of years.
Closing the night with their cover of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons,” I thought it was kind of funny their three-song encore consisted of all cover songs, but it is something they do very well.
You can see both Goldfinger and Zebrahead play the sold-out When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas on October 21st.