Off With Their Heads
House of Blues Boston
May 18th, 2013
It feels like it’s been years since I’ve written a review on this blog. If you are wondering what caused the long absence, the answer is simple: I stopped going to shows. Just got tired of it. Too loud, too expensive, too time consuming – not worth the effort.
I’m kidding, of course. Since my last entry I’ve been to plenty of shows. Most of them have been awesome. There was Andrew McMahon playing his first solo show in Boston, Titus Andronicus tearing through a late-night set in Cambridge, and the The Bronx’s lead singer, Matt Caughthran, singing an entire song while crowd surfing when opening for Bad Religion at the House of Blues.
While these shows were great, none of them inspired me to finally sit down at the keyboard and hammer out a review. That changed when one of my all time favorites took the stage for what was likely one of the largest headlining shows they’ve played in years at the House of Blues in Boston.
That band is of course Alkaline Trio – an artist forever cursed by the fact that they released a number of excellent albums very early in their career. Since that time, every new record has been held to an unrealistically high standard and any attempt at refining their sounds or experimenting with a new approach is scorned by the fans who helped them become unlikely cult heroes.
For that reason, and despite a number of solid releases over the past few years, most Alkaline Trio fans would not argue the group is at the top of their game. Luckily for the band, you would have had no idea this was the case if you witnessed their latest Boston performance.
The night started with a 30 minute set from Off With Their Heads. Fresh off the release of their third album, the band seemed to be in a great spot to grow their fan base by bringing their brand of gruff punk rock to the Trio-worshiping masses. Strangely enough, lead singer Ryan Young had gone on the record as saying he wasn’t all that excited about the tour due to the unenthusiastic crowd reaction the band was likely to receive (read the interview here).
Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but few in the crowd seemed excited by the band’s work. The Minneapolis quartet did seem to win over at least a few new fans with a very solid performance. The title track from their recent album Home was a mid-tempo show stopper while most other tracks featured the same frantic energy that made their last two records critical favorites.
Bayside was the primary support for the tour, which must have been an honor for a band that started their career sounding like a pretty decent Alkaline Trio tribute band.
They opened their set with “Devotion and Desire” – a song they have (obnoxiously) closed almost every show with over the past seven years. It did get the crowd moving and kicked off what would become the kind of set you’ve always wanted to see the band to play.
Instead of the the three static figures seemingly rooted to their microphones on stage that we’ve seen in the past, lead singer/guitarist Anthony Raneri, guitarist Jack O’Shea, and bassist Nick Ghanbarian made a concerted effort to move around the stage and look like they were interested in the songs they were playing. During the final song, Raneri even put down the guitar to climb down to the barrier with the mic and let the crowd sing along.
As is always the case, the band sounded great, and O’Shea’s fret board theatrics took center stage whenever the song called for a solo. The band surprisingly made no reference to their allegiances to New York sports teams – which was surprising considering the show was across the street from Fenway, and the Bruins and Rangers were set to square off in in game 2 of their second round playoff series the next day.
It was probably for the better as the band was able to pack 11 songs into their set, which primarily focused on 2011’s Killing Time and also included standout tracks from 2007’s The Walking Wounded and their self-titled record. They closed with a rousing version of “Dear Tragedy” to a rather massive applause.
Next up were the headliners. The last time the band was in Boston two year’s earlier, they played at the Paradise Rock Club, a venue less than half the size of the House of Blues. That’s why the venue choice seemed surprising when the tour was announced. Despite this, the venue was packed as fans jostled for space on the first floor and the balconies.
The band took the stage and kicked off the set as they often do – with the opening track from their most recent album. This time it was the bouncy “She Lied To The FBI” – which received a surprisingly good reaction from the crowd. They followed with b-side “Hell Yes” and then “Clavicle” – a huge fan favorite from their debut album which ratcheted up the energy level considerably. They then followed with two deep cuts from 2003’s Good Mourning in “If We Never Go Inside” and “Donner Party (All Night Long)”. For a big Good Mourning fan like myself, hearing these songs played live was a huge treat.
Right out of the gate, it was obvious the band was willing to switch up the set list quite a bit and wasn’t going to playing just the hits. By the end of the night, the band had completely ignored 2008’s Agony And Irony and 2010’s This Addiction, while playing nearly as many songs from Good Morning (4) as they did from the recently released My Shame Is True (5). It didn’t seem like anyone in attendance had a problem with this, as the band constantly commended the crowd on their effort and even threw in the “best show of the tour” designation at one point.
With the crowd in top form, the band didn’t disappoint with their performance. Guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano traded vocal duties, with Dan sounding surprisingly good on his songs, notably “Crawl” and the new track “Young Lovers”.
The high point of the set (at least from where I was standing) was the 1-2 punch of “The Torture Doctor” and “My Friend Peter”. The two songs couldn’t be more different: the former is from the band’s latest album and features a huge, glossy chorus, while the latter is a 2 minute blast of punk energy from the band’s early catalog that has long been a fan favorite. The two choices, and the huge sing-alongs they inspired perfectly represented the band’s entire set – whether the song was new or old, the crowd ate up every minute.
Skiba and Co. have made it a point of closing most shows with one of two old favorites: “Radio” or “97”. On this night, the band treated the crowd to both. Skiba ended the night playing the last few cords on his back after leaping off the drum riser while drummer Derek Grant flung drum sticks to the outstretched hands on the floor.
At one point earlier in the set, Skiba had stopped to stare out at the huge crowd and remark “we’re not going to say we don’t like seeing so many of you here.” The sheer size of this show was a reminder of just how dedicated the band’s fan base is. Like many of those in attendance, I had seen Alkaline Trio plenty of times, and like everyone else, I’ll keep going back as long as they keep putting in solid performances like this.
Much like my last review, this one will cover some familiar territory. Alkaline Trio is one of my all time favorites, and I’ve seen them plenty of times. They usually do a great job of switching up their set lists to appease long time fans, so I’ve been lucky to hear them play a number of deep cuts and rarities from their back catalog. I was hoping for this type of performance from their show in Providence on April 28th, and for the most part, I got my wish.
Ok, so that first paragraph probably didn’t seem very enthusiastic, but don’t worry, the enthusiasm is on the way. Right after I describe the opening set from An Horse. The Australian duo, who have generated quite a bit of buzz recently, performed a bland set in front of about 100 people. It might have been the early start, or it might have been the empty building, but the band did little to involve the crowd and seemed to mail it in right from the start. That’s not to say they don’t have a number of good songs across their two records or that I don’t think they could be a very entertaining live band, but tonight wasn’t their night.
Next up, of course was Alkaline Trio. They took the stage…. like they had been there before? Not sure what the proper analogy would be here, but they normally aren’t ones to make a grand entrance. Instead, they sauntered down the stairs from the dressing room and took their time getting set before opening with “Private Eye.” Through all the shows I’ve been to, I’ve realized that it’s never a bad idea to open with a track that also serves as the opener to one of your most popular records.
From here on out, they bounced between well known crowd favorites and rarely played songs from the past. In what was a surprising and very well received move, the band focused on 2000’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire. The album features “Radio,” which the band uses to close nearly every one of their headlining shows. Beyond this track, I don’t believe I had ever heard them play a single song from the record. On this night, they played four of them.
“She Took Him to the Lake,” “You’ve Got So Far to Go” and “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire” might not pack the same punch as “Radio” (what song does?), but the crowd still ate them up. Aside from the set list, the attribute that made this show different, and dear I say, special, was the crowd. Alkaline Trio crowds are always very enthusiastic. That enthusiasm can even border on violent at times. This crowd however, would best be described as euphoric. It was like everyone involved just experienced the worst day of their lives and were doing everything in their power to sing, dance, and sweat it all away. If that was actually the case, then mission accomplished.
Two other highlights of the set from my point of view were “This Addiction” and “We’ve Had Enough.” The former was the lead single from the band’s latest release and pretty much embodies everything I like about Akaline Trio. “We’ve Had Enough” meanwhile, was the undeniably catchy lead single from 2003’s Good Mourning, which for reason doesn’t make it onto many Trio setlists.
As always, the band triumphantly closed the set with a giant “This Could Be Love” sing along, followed by the “Radio” encore. It capped another great Trio set that once again satisfied both long time fans and newcomers. The only thing that could make their legions of fans happier would be to do the type of career spanning shows that a number of other punk bands have recently announced. Imagine Alkaline Trio playing each of their records in their entirety across three or four nights? Sounds like a can’t-miss proposition to me.
While Alkaline Trio’s most recent releases haven’t contained many surprises, the same can’t be said of their lives shows. Each of the five times I’ve seen the band, they’ve busted out a track or two that no one in the crowd saw coming, whether it be a b-side like “Queen of Pain” or an older gem like “Cooking Wine.” Needless to say, I was excited to see what type of curve balls they would throw into the set on their “This Addiction” tour. While the band chose a set list that was more predictable than in the past, the night wasn’t without its surprises.
The show began with a set from the Dear and Departed, a set which we missed the majority of. The wait between the openers was very short, as Omaha cult-favorites Cursive took the stage after only fifteen minutes. The band put in an effort that was at times sloppy, but also energetic and entertaining. There was virtually no banter between tracks, as Kim Kasher and Co. ripped through song after song. The set list focused mainly of the band’s last three albums, with Ugly Organ fare receiving the strongest reaction from the rather small contingent of Cursive fans in the crowd.
While the band had been joined on past headlining tours by a full brass section, that wasn’t the case on this tour. The difference was at least somewhat noticeable, especially on older tracks. Songs from the band’s most recent album Momma, I’m Swollen such as “I Couldn’t Love You” and “From the Hips” were the highlights of the set, at least from where I was standing.
After agonizingly long wait in between bands (40 minutes to be exact), Alkaline Trio took the stage. They kicked off the show with This Addiction, the title track from their latest album. While the record has only been out a few weeks, it still received quite a reaction from the Providence crowd.
More familiar tracks such as “Armageddon” and “We’ve Had Enough” drove the crowd insane… literally. Rarely, if ever, have I been part of such a spastic group of fans. If they weren’t violently flailing in the pit attempting to hit as many people as possible, they were shoving everyone in sight in a lame attempt to get back at whoever had bumped into them. It was obnoxious, to say the least.
Dealing with the crowd certainly did take away from the show, but the band sounded better than ever. The usually suspect vocals of Dan Adriano were surprisingly clear on tracks such as “Crawl,” and This Addiction standout “Dine, Dine My Darling.” Guitarist Matt Skiba was solid as always, especially on the new track “Dead on the Floor”
While Alkaline Trio has specialized in set list surprises of late, the band played it conservative on this night, highlighting This Addiction material and focusing on past hits. The encore featured a little bit of both, with Adriano shining on “Fine” and the crowd exploding for closing number “Radio.” Squeezed in between was Misfits cover “Attitude.”
All in all, the band put in a great effort, but a so-so set list and equally mediocre crowd stopped this from being as a truly great show. Hopefully, the band decides to switch it up a little more on their next tour, and the crowd remembers they’re at a show and not a street fight. If both of these things happen, it will make for a very memorable night. If not, it will still be worth the price of admission.
Alkaline Trio set list
Dine, Dine My Darling
We’ve Had Enough
Dead on the Floor
Nose Over Tail
Attitude (Misfits cover)
Saves the Day
Nightmare of You
The Palladium, Worcester
May 2nd 2009
When you’ve seen a band enough times, you come to know what to expect from their live shows. You know the songs they’re definitely going to play, you know what the encore will be, and you know which songs everyone will sing along to the loudest. There’s nothing wrong with this, for if a band puts on a great show that the fans are happy with, why make any changes? This is what I expected from Alkaline Trio’s headlining show at the Palladium in Worcester on May 2nd. The show was my fifth time seeing the band in the past year, the first two being headlining shows, and the latter two supporting Rise Against. To my (very pleasant) surprises, the band did not follow the normal formula, instead playing a set that contained almost none of the songs I had heard them play in the past, perfectly mixing tracks both old and new.
The show began with a thirty minute set from Nightmare of You, a band that was once considered “the next big thing” after the release of their self-titled debut in 2005, but has done very little since that point. The group’s set list consisted mainly of tracks from that debut, along with a new cut from their second album, which is set to be released this July. The band’s performance was marred by the borderline awful sound at the Palladium, as Brandon Reilly’s smooth vocals were often drowned out by the drone of Brandon Meyer’s bass lines. The crowd, which was rather sparse at this point, was quite unenthusiastic with only a few in attendance bobbing their heads or showing any familiarity with the band.
Next was Saves the Day, a band that has maintained a rabid fan base despite the fact their last three records haven’t been all the successful. This was evident by the amount of fans who tried to squeeze their way to the stage after Nightmare of You’s set. I’ve seen Saves the Day a number of times over the past four years, and I hate to admit it, but this was certainly the worst performance I’ve witnessed from the band. While they sounded fine, the set list, and the length of the set itself, left most of the Saves the Day fans in the crowd very disappointed. For one, the band only played for about 40 minutes, and for fans that are accustomed to seeing Saves the Day play much longer headlining sets, this came as somewhat of a shock. Next, the band did include a few old favorites in the set list, but they were mixed in with too many new songs, which for the most part acted as crowd killers. While cuts like “Radio” and “Driving in the Dark” are fine songs, they certainly aren’t the band’s best work, and instead of sing-alongs, they elicited mainly blank stares. This is not to say there weren’t some high points, such as “Shoulder to the Wheel” and “Freakish,” but for the most part, they were too few and far between. Saves the Day made matters worse by closing the set with “Kaleidoscope,” a long and dull number off their latest album that completely drained the energy from the room.
Luckily, Alkaline Trio would take a completely different route during their set, playing older fan favorites that they had been neglecting on previous tours. After casually walking out on stage after an agonizing 35 minute wait, the band would greet the crowd and begin the set with “My Friend Peter,” a fan-favorite that instantly worked the audience into a frenzy. Next was “If We Never Go Inside.,” a track from 2003’s Good Mourning. This hinted at what was to come, for the band played more songs from this record than off any other albums, including last year’s Agony and Irony, which was only represented by 2 songs.
While Alkaline Trio fans seemed to have mixed feelings towards Good Mourning, it was the album that introduced me to the band, so I was loving every minute of it. The band would also play “One Hundred Stories,” “Donor Party,” “Fatally Yours,” and “All on Black,” from this record, as well as “This Could Be Love” to close the set, and “Every Thug Needs a Lady” as the first song of the encore. Other old favorites included in the set were “Cringe,” the lone Goddamnit” song represented, “Cooking Wine,” and “I’m Dying Tomorrow,” all three of which received huge reactions from the crowd. While everyone seemed to enjoying themselves at the show, the crowd was certainly the tamest I had seen at an Alkaline Trio show, possibly the result of the more obscure set list that had some of the younger fans scratching their heads and waiting for more Agony and Irony tracks. The band however would only offer Calling “Calling All Skeletons” and “I Found Away,” from that record, ignoring lead single “Help Me,” and announcing about half way through the set they had parted ways with Epic Records.
The crowd seemed less than surprised by this news (the idea of Alkaline Trio on a major label was always somewhat odd), and the band debuted a new song for the first time. While the song sounded good, the band would apologize for the “B” effort. Lead singer Matt Skiba told the crowd they hoped to get in the studio this summer and then self-release a new album next fall. Throughout the set, Skiba and guitarist Dan Adriano were more talkative than I had seen them, and they both sounded great when actually performing their material. At one point, Skiba went off on a tangent about the greatness of 70’s rock band Grand Funk Railroad. While the band had looked slightly uncomfortable int heir opening role for Rise Against the last time I saw them live, they were certainly in their element tonight.
The band would close the show as they normally do, playing “This Could Be Love,” leaving the stage, and then returning for an encore that concluded with “Radio,” which of course inspired an enormous sing along. Overall, a show that got off to a disappointingly slow start turned out to be as memorable as any I’ve seen, thanks solely to the performance of Alkaline Trio, and band that knows exactly what their fans want and seems to deliver every single time.
Alkaline Trio Set List (Not in exact order)
My Friend Peter
If We Never Go Inside
I’m Dying Tomorrow
All On Black
I Found Away
Calling All Skeletons
One Hundred Stories
This Could Be Love
Every Thug Needs a Lady
Saves the Day Set List (might not be exact)
Anywhere With You
Always Ten Feet Tall
Where Are You
Shoulder to the Wheel
Can’t Stay the Same
Driving in the Dark
Head For the Hills
Rocks Tonic Juice Magic
Nightmare of You Set List ( I think)
I Don’t Want to Dance Anymore
My Name Is Trouble
The Days Go By Oh So Slow
I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard
Why Am I Always Right
Heaven Runs on Oil
I’ve always liked “Best Of” lists, but I’ve always had a lot of trouble compiling my own. In 2005, I made a list of the year’s 25 best records and gave a reason why for each. I’m not nearly that ambitious anymore, and I certainly didn’t hear 25 albums worthy of making such a list this year. That is why I’m going to present you with my Top Ten of 2008. I know, they are completely subjective and you might think all of these records such, but that’s ok, because everything on this list captured my imagination and reminded me why I still buy cds, at least for a little while. So here they are:
1) The Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound. Simply an amazing record that captures the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, modern day punk, and everything in between.
2) Fall Out Boy, Folie a’ Deux. It’s hard to justify putting a band like Fall Out Boy on this list, but they’ve simply never let me down. Folie a’ Deux is pure genious.
3) The Matches, A Band in Hope. The most creative and original band I listen to somehow manages to “out-weird” their previous efforts.
4) Alkaline Trio, Agony and Irony. Openning track “Calling All Skeletons” is easily my favorite of the year. I listened to this record non-stop all summer.
5) The Academy Is… Fast Times At Barrington High. Never would I have though this band would make it’s way on to a list like this after their laughable last record, but Fast Times was the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year.
6) Bayside, Shudder. Classic Bayside.
7) Jack’s Mannequin, The Glass Passenger. I still haven’t decide if I like this or their debut record better, but both are excellent.
8. Funeral For A Friend, Memory and Humanity. The band’s top-notch guitar and drum work is aided by pristine production and Matt Davies’ simple yet supurb song writing skills. This record is a huge step back in the right direction after 2007’s disapointing Tales Don’t Tell Themselves.
9) Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death And All Of His Friends. I never liked Coldplay in the past, but this record changed that instantly. It’s refreshing to see a band achieve the success that they deserve.
10) Valencia, We All Need A Reason To Believe. This is one of those records that, on the surface seems like another happy and upbeat pop-punk record, but on the surface turns out to be much darker.
If you’re like me (and millions of other people), you saw The Dark Knight this summer. If you’re even more like me, you saw it twice. Maybe you liked it better the second time, or maybe you preferred the surprise of the first viewing. Either way, the movie you saw was exactly the same both times. Now imagine that when you saw The Dark Knight for a second time, you realized that a scene or two had been changed. While the differences were subtle, they just happened to make the movie quite a bit better and more memorable. In a way, that is what happened when I went to see Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, Thrice, and the Gaslight Anthem for the second time in less than a week. While each band stuck to the forumla that was so successfull in Worcester five days earlier, a few welcome surprises made this show every bit as exciting as the first go around.
Hampton Beach isn’t the easiest place to get to. Actually, it probably is, but we somehow missed the exit and ended up taking a scenic tour of southern New Hampshire. This meant then when we finally made it to the venue, we were only able to catch the last four songs of the Gaslight Anthem’s set. Surprisingly, I didn’t even recognize the first three of those, meaning they weren’t from their latest release, The ’59 Sound. This was surprising because their set in Worcester consisted almost exclusively of songs from this record. They closed their set with “The Backseat,” which of course sounded great. The band plans to do their own headlining tour beginning in March, and that certainly can’t come soon enough.
In between sets, I look a second to take in the rather strange surroundings. Hampton Beach Casion Ballroom is a large rectangular room that looks like it was build sometime in the 50’s. As one of my friends said, if anyone ever lit a match in there, there would be some serious issues, for the interior is covered in wood paneling. Also, the stage seems to be located in the wrong place, on one of the long ends of the rectangle, putting more people closer to the front of the stage, but also leaving huge empty expanses of to the sides. The venue is located on Hampton’s main strip, right across from the beach and next to numerous tacky fried dough and souvenir shops. I’m not sure where the “casino” part comes in, because I certainly didn’t see any slots, but the building did have a gaudy Las Vegas style sign out front. It seems to fit the vibe of the entire town pretty well.
Next up was Thrice. Now I hadn’t been thrilled by thier set in Worcester, but tonight I would say they were more enjoyable. I especially liked the inclusion of “Music Box” in the set list, and “The Earth Will Shake” was once again executed perfectly as their last song. However, I was somewhat surprised that the crowd as a whole didn’t seem to know them very well. Sure, there were the diehards up front singing every word, but it certainly paled in comparison to the crowd at the Palladium.
After a rather long wait, Alkaline Trio took the stage to an ethusiastic roar and openned thier set once again with “Private Eye.” While the crowd seemed a great deal more interested in the Trio than they did in Thrice, the intensity level was still nowhere near what it was in Worcester. This wasn’t nessecarily a bad thing, for I was able to enjoy the set near the front of the stage and only came out with a few minor bruises. Also, I must mention just how happy Matt Skiba once again looked to on stage that night. He came out with an ear to ear grin on his face, and it pretty much didn’t leave until the band finished their set. Seeing how he feeds off the energy of the crowd and mouths the words to even Dan’s songs still impresses me, even with this being the forth live show I had seen the band perform this year.
While the setlist included only two different songs than the ones played a week earlier in the Worcester, those two substitutions made a world of difference, being that they were two songs I was dying to hear. The slightly tame “I Was a Prayer,” as well as the new track “Over and Out” were left out, as fan-favorite b-side “Warbrain” and Agony and Irony track “Love Love Kiss Kiss” were played consecutively. The fact that “Love Love Kiss Kiss” is one of the best tracks off their new cd, yet I had never seen them play it live made it that much better. Once again, a huge sing-along version of “This Could Be Love” served as a perfect closer to a great set.
Much like Alkaline Trio, Rise Against would not disapoint, displaying their trademark intesity throughout the show and also including a pleasent surprise in the set list. With their new record Appeal to Reason having now been on shelves for nearly a week, the tracks they played from that record were better received than they were in Worcester. This was especially true for “Hero of War,” the accoustic track which is sure to be a staple of their encores for years to come. The setlist was, however, still heavy with songs from 2006’s The Suffererer and the Witness. Due to the fact that the crowd wasn’t quite as rough as it had been in Worcester, I was able to actually watch Tim McIlrath and company on stage. I’m somewhat surpised the lead singer didn’t burst a blood vein during the set, considering the amount of intensity on his face, especially at the start of the set.
The highlight of the show for me was undoubtedly the moment they announced they would play “Broken English.” The track from 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute is one I’ve always consider perfect for a live setting, yet had never seen them play. It completely lived up to my expectations, inspiring a huge cirlce pit in the middle of the floor that saw some great crowd participation. The band once again closed their show with the combination of “Survive,” “Under the Knife,” and “Prayer of the Refuge.” Considering I’ve already praised their live show to such a great extent in my previous review, it’s difficult not to repeat myself, but I have to once again say that Rise Against is easily one of my favorite live bands, for they give everything they have every single night. While they haven’t reinvented punk music by any means, they have, in many ways, perfected it, writing songs that are not only socially aware and inspire action on behalf of the listener, but also sounds great both on record and in a live setting.
This is the tour of the year. If you think differently, I think you’re wrong. Any time you pair two of today’s biggest and most prolific punk bands on the same bill, you’re certain to get great shows that will attract thousands of fans at venues all across the country. Throw in one of the scene’s most innovative post-hardcore bands, along with an act generally acknowledged to be “the next big thing,” and you have a touring match made in Heaven. Monday’s date in Worcester at the Palladium somehow lived up to the hype, providing one of the most intense live show experiences I’ve ever been apart of, while confirming the headliner’s standing as one of today’s most popular, influential, and vital rock bands.
The night began with a short set from New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem. The much talked about and self
described “soul band” put on a very enjoyable show that mainly featured material from their latest release The ’59 Sound. Lead singer Brian Fallon’s signature “soulful” vocal work took center stage while guitarist Alex Rosamila admirably led harder driving songs such “Old White Lincoln” and “The Backseat.” While only a few in the crowd (which was already quite large at this point) seemed to be familiar with the act, the band seemed to do well in winning them over during the set.
Next was Orange County’s Thrice. While the band has strayed quite far from their post-hardcore roots with their most recent releases, they showed that they can still bring the heat in a live setting. Dustin Kensrue spent most of the set screaming his lungs out, while drummer Riley Breckenridge pounded his kit into oblivion. For the first few songs, I couldn’t help but think “wow, these guys are heavy.” However, that thought soon turned to “wow, these songs all sound the same,” and then transformed into “wow, I’m kind of bored here.” Despite their technical prowess, I simply wasn’t that interested in their set. They did end on a high note however with “The Earth Will Shake,” a standout track from their 2005 record Vheissu. I have plenty of respect for the band and their ability to write great songs, but I was a little to excited to see the two bands that would soon take the stage.
Next, a black banner embossed with a familiar logo was unfurled, candles were lit, and all hell broke loose.
Alkaline Trio took the stage to a roar from the crowd and broke into “Private Eye.” The band just happens to have two perfect songs with which to open a set (and a record), and they segwayed into “Calling All Skeletons,” the biting first track from their latest effort Agony and Irony. The band then continued the onslaught with old favorite “I Lied My Face Off.” While they might not have been the headliner, it was obvious that the majority of the crowd knew Alkaline Trio and knew them well, judging by the reaction to this song.
The band would go on to play the staples from the new record, including “Help Me,” “In Vein,” and “I Found Away.” They also played “Over and Out” for the first time ever. “Cringe,” the opening track from Goddamnit was a very pleasant surprised and received a huge reaction from the crowd. The only iffy point was the Crimson track “I Was A Prayer,” which is a nice song, but didn’t quite pack the energy of any of the set’s other songs. The band would close with another huge sing along moment in “This Could Be Love,” during which guitarist/front man Matt Skiba pointed out an enthusiastic fan and had the rest of the crowd sing the chorus to him. What has surprised me each time I have seen Alkaline Trio this year, and especially on this night, is how much fun they seem to be having on stage. Many veteran bands who have seen the same type of success would scoff at an opening role, especially after having released a major label debut earlier this year. However, both Skiba and bassist Dan Adriano had huge smiles on their faces for the majority of the time and were undoubtedly excited to playing the show. While a headlining tour may suit them better simply due to their enormous catalog, they were the perfect warm up for another venerable Chicago favorite.
Rise Against entered the room to some type of distorted spoken-word introduction which was mainly drowned out by static and the cheering crowd. From here, they would burst into a furious rendition of “Drones.” In the few glances I caught of front man Tim McIllrath during the song, it looked like he was perilously close to suffering a burst vain and/or crushing the microphone. Such intensity would continue into the next song, “Give It All,” the band’s first breakthrough hit. From here on out, it’s a little difficult to remember exactly what was played because I was more concerned with surviving than taking mental set-list notes. I’ve been to a lot of shows, and a lot of rough ones, but this one might take the cake in that area, and I have the scratches and bruises to prove it.Throughout the set, bodies were being thrown around like rag dolls in the pit, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been in car crashes that were more pleasant than what I experienced when I ventured into the center of it. Luckily, everyone was watching out everyone else, and the second someone hit the ground there were often four hands there to immediatly pick them up.
The fact that I didn’t exactly see most of what happened on stage shouldn’t take away from another excellent Rise Against performance. They sounded great, and while the set list was heavy with tracks from 2006’s The Sufferer and the Witness, there was enough of a mix of old and new to keep most fans happy. The band played three new tracks from Appeal to Reason, set to be released the next day but already for sale at the band’s merch table. They were lead song “Reeducation (Through Labor),” album openner “Collapse” and the haunting acoustic number “Hero of War,” which was played near the end of the show along with “Swing Life Away.” Two songs from 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute were also played, those being “Like The Angel” and “Halfway There.”
The band finished their set with a bone-crushing combination of “Survive,” “Under the Knife,” and finally “Prayer of the Refuge,” which insipred a wild pit that consumed most of the floor. By the time the lights came back on and the band had left the stage, many in the crowd were covered in sweat and bruises, but most would agree that they would trade the opportunity to see a tour this good for a few aches and pains any day.
Rise Against Set List (Probably not in order or quite right)
Give It All
State of the Union
Ready to Fall
Chamber the Cartridge
Stained Glass and Marble
Behind Closed Doors
Like the Angel
The Good Left Undone
Hero of War
Swing Life Away
Under the Knife
Prayer of the Refugee