Anti-Flag Brings Angry Back to Boston
“The Economy Sucks, Let’s Party” Tour
The Paradise Rock Club, Boston MA
February 2nd, 2010
Despite their overtly political lyrics and outspoken criticism government, big business, weapons manufacturers, and just about every other type of establishment, Anti-Flag has never been a favorite of the punk community. They have long been branded as “too poppy,” and their brief stint on a major record label didn’t earn them much credibility either.
I’ve never shared this view. I respect the band because they’ve done their best to have their voices heard, unlike so many bands who toil in obscurity for years in a vain attempt to “keep it real,” or whatever they like to call it. It’s because of Anti-Flag that thousands of suburban kids who would otherwise not give a second thought to politics are familiar with the things like depleted uranium, war crimes, government hypocrisy, and anything else the band has ranted about over the past 15 years.
Anti-Flag has always put on an intense and fiery live show, and tonight was no different. The band brought a diverse mix of support bands along with them, beginning with New York’s Star Fucking Hipsters. As front woman Nico de Gaillo and guitarist Sturg traded off gravely vocals, the group received the type of reaction from the crowd that most openers can only dream of. The circle pit raged on throughout their thirty minute set despite the fact that few in the audience seemed familiar with the band.
Next up were Canadian act Cancer Bats. While their array of guitar theatrics and metal breakdowns were amusing for a while, they all started to sound the same to me after a few songs. This didn’t seem to bother the rest of the crowd, as not one, but two circle pits took up most of the floor.
Aiden, the night’s third act divided the venue like neither of the first two bands had, as some fans rushed to the front while other happily drifted to the back. I was among the latter, and I thought the Seattle “goth punks” tried a little too hard to mimic AFI. Their lyrics dealt mainly with razor blades, death, and drugs. They were laughable at best. However, the band’s performance was as intense and energetic as anyone’s, and lead singer Wil Francis was happy to acknowledge the take it or leave it nature of his band’s material.
After a short wait, the headliners took the stage and immediately got the crowd involved by ripping through first-pumpers “The Press Corpse” and “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington DC.” An early highlight of the set was “The Modern Rome Burning,” with its dramatic breakdown that inspired near bedlam in the pit.
While the band quickly moved through the first half of the set, it wasn’t long before front man Justin Sane took to his soap box, criticizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while also praising “the fair city of Boston.” Musically, the band focused on tracks from their most recent release, last summer’s The People or the Gun, as well as 2006’s For Blood and Empire but also mixed in a number of older tracks such as “Drink Drank Punk” and “Fuck Police Brutality” that satisfied everyone in attendance.
While the disaster that was the presidency of George W. Bush has inspired a great deal of the group’s back catalog, it would have been foolish to think the band would soften their approach once Barack Obama took office. At one point, Sane criticized the current president for doing nothing to help the situation in the Middle East, fix the health care system, or crack down on the financial institutions who had “robbed millions of Americans.” While some acts may have jumped on the anti-Bush bandwagon in an attempt to sell more records, it is obvious that this was never the case for these Pittsburgh punks.
After closing the set with “You’ve Got to Die for the Government,” the band would leave the stage before returning for an encore that began with a medley of Clash covers, including “I Fought the Law” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Drummer Pat Thetic and bassist Chris #2 would then climb down into the crowd and help finish the set with the very appropriate “Power to the Peaceful.”
Despite the fact that the set lasted just over an hour, it still provided everything a fan could want, including fist-pumping sing-alongs, raging circle pits, and an impassioned performance by the men on stage. While Anti-Flag might never be remembered as one of punk’s greatest bands, the influence they continue to have, along with their ability to stay relevant while other political bands have fallen by the wayside, is something every band should aspire to.
Setlist was identical to New York show listed below.