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Pop Music Review

Offspring's Show Avoids Album's Risks

November 19, 1998|NATALIE NICHOLS

"We're gonna stay all night and play every song we know!" With typical Offspring sarcasm, singer-guitarist Dexter Holland lobbed that and other mocking arena-rock cliches at an adoring audience on Tuesday, the first of the band's three sold-out nights at the Palace.

The veteran Orange County quartet's set of old favorites and tunes from its new album, "Americana," didn't reflect the broader range of that album, and ultimately the group's slick, commercial blend of punk, surf and metal seemed to mock Holland's attempts at humor.

The band's decision to ignore the more diverse sonics of "Americana" underscored an unwillingness to take risks with its live show. The album's theme of revising the meaning of "Americana" for '90s suburbia--Prozac, pierced teens, Internet infidelity and all--came through on "The Kids Aren't Alright," a surfy rumination on how the girls and boys next door really turned out. But other new tracks, such as the blistering "Walla Walla," just blended in with the older numbers.

Such unfocused shtick as a pointless stage-diving contest reflected the group's own apparent lack of enthusiasm for its fate, and hinted at the underlying ambiguity that makes the Offspring's music so mainstream-friendly to begin with. It's hard to miss the sarcasm in the alterna-rap single "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)," whose pumping, hip-hop beat and Beasties-style wit mock the deluge of Sugar Ray-type punk-rap hits on the pop landscape. But the humor may have eluded much of the crowd, which waved its arms and shouted along as if the tune were just another life-affirming anthem.

*

* The Offspring plays tonight at the Palace, 1735 N. Vine St., 7 p.m. Sold out. (213) 462-3000. Also Saturday at the Glass House, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, 7 p.m. Sold out. (909) 469-5800.

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