April 29th 2011
House of Blues Boston
Rise Against sure does know how to pick openers. Recent tour mates have included the likes of Thursday, Circa Survive, Billy Talent, Alkaline Trio, Thrice, The Gaslight Anthem, Rancid… and the list goes on . That’s why it was no surprise when they announced their most recent mega-tour, this one with support from punk legends Bad Religion and Worcester natives Four Year Strong. Their appearance at the House of Blues in Boston on April 29th was their first of two sold-out shows, and after witnessing the three live sets, it was obvious why this tour had no trouble selling tickets.
The night started off with a half hour set from Four Year Strong. As the local favorites, at least half the fans in attendance seemed to be into it, not bad for an opener. I was pleasantly surprised to see they had dropped the cheesy synth parts from their live show, which allowed the set to take on a much heavier, punk-rock feel than they displayed on their first record. All in all, probably a band I should get more familiar with.
Next was Bad Religion. After having played their own headlining show at the same venue last fall, they were easily able to get the crowd involved as they performed a set of material that spanned their 30 year career. Just like they had in October, they sounded great, and Greg Graffin was sure to include quite a bit of “We’re so old” between song banter. They finished the set in particularly strong fashion with the trio of “We’re Only Going to Die,” “Los Angeles is Burning,” and “Sorrow.” Their 15 song set was, of course, too short for satisfaction, but seeing them twice in less than a year was already more than most fans could ask for.
A half hour later, Rise Against took the stage and proved why they are one of today’s best live acts. The intensity they bring to each and every show is practically unmatched among their peers. Every song seems like it is a call to arms, urging the crowd to d fight for what they believe in, or at least put their fists in the air and sing along.
Surprisingly, the band strayed away from their new album Endgame, playing only four of the new tracks. Much of the setlist (7 songs) came from their excellent 2008 release Appeal to Reason. No matter the song, frontman Tim Mcllrath looked like a man possessed, with his eyes as wide as saucers and veins ready to explode. This is, of course, par for the course at a Rise Against show.
In addition to the seven songs from Appeal to Reason, the band also worked in five songs from their fan-favorite 2006 effort Sufferer and the Witness, and included an acoustic interlude that features “Swing Life Away” and “Hero of War.”The band would then close the set with the pounding Sufferer track “Ready to Fall.”
While the whole encore thing has grown old for pretty much everyone who goes to more than two shows a year, there is something to be said for a band that really puts effort into their encores. Rise Against is one of those bands, returning for a four song stint that did not include any of their big singles, but instead focused on choice cuts from three different albums. “Blood Red White and Blue” was the lone representative from 2004’s Revolutions Per Minute, while “Entertainment” and “Savior” were also included from Appeal to Reason. The closing number was the song that originally drew me to Rise Against, that being “Give It All” from 2004’s Siren Song of the Counter Culture. I still believe this is the song that embodies everything that makes Rise Against one of today’s most successful rock bands, from it’s sincere lyrics and epic bridge to it’s fist-pumping chorus.
Needless to say, I left the show a very happy customer. While it was slightly disappointing to not be attending the second Boston show, I knew that Rise Against is the type of band that never stops touring, and would probably have another big announcement coming shortly. It turns out I was right, as they were announced as the support band on the Foo Fighters Fall arena trek. Talk about a mega-tour.
At any given Bad Religion show, there is a good chance that the band has been around longer than the majority of those who bought tickets. Celebrating their 3oth year in operation, the punk legends continue to produce quality albums and grow their fan base. Their continued success can be attributed to the fact that the band’s recent work is some of their best. The Dissent of Man, which hit shelves in September, is no exception. Touring in support of their new album, the band stopped at the House of Blues in Boston to prove that they might be old, but they can still tear it up.
The night started off with a half hour performance from Minneapolis’s Off With Their Heads. Unfortunately, an early start time meant that I wasn’t able to catch their set. However, I can say that if you like Bad Religion and haven’t checked out this band, you should. Their recent album “In Desolation” is a great punk record.
Next up were The Bouncing Souls. Having just celebrated a milestone 20th anniversary themselves, this is another band that knows something about longevity. To most in the crowd, pairing the Bouncing Souls and Bad Religion made for a dream combination, and the Jersey veterans didn’t disappoint with their set.
Racing through 15 songs, the band’s 45 minutes on stage seemed to fly by. The diehard fans at the front loved every moment of their career spanning set, as the band reached deep into their back catalog and pulled out favorites such as 1994’s “Some Kind of Wonderful” and 1997’s “Kate is Great” and “East Coast Fuck You.”
While lead singer Greg Attonito and Co. will never be accused of having great stage presence, the frontman did jump down to the barrier on a number occasions to pass the mic and get the crowd involved. The Bouncing Souls weren’t built to play a cavernous venue like the House of Blues, but they did their best to make the show feel like the sweaty punk shows their fans are accustomed to.
While the first part of their set featured older crowd favorites, the band closed with “Never Say Die/When You’re Young,” a song off their most recent album. The Bouncing Souls are lucky to have a fan base that has grown with them as their sound has changed over the years, and the audience’s reaction to this song was a testament to that.
Quickly after the Bouncing Souls had left the stage their fans began to shuffle to the back of the venue while hundreds of others rushed to the front in anticipation of what would be another great set from Bad Religion.
The band made their appearance on stage and didn’t waste any time before jumping into the fast and aggressive “Do What You Want.” The 1-minute blast from 1988’s Suffer instantly opened a giant circle pit in the middle of the floor that would rage on all night.
Like the Bouncing Souls before them, Bad Religion did their best to please everyone, playing a diverse mix of hit singles and crowd favorites, along with earlier material and the best tracks from The Dissent of Man. Needless to say, nearly every song was well received by the crowd, many of whom shouted along to every word.
While lead singer Greg Graffin may be a published author and UCLA professor by day, he steals the show on stage each night. In between sarcastic “I’m too old for this” jabs, he belted out song after song, never missing a step. Having last played Boston four years earlier, Gaffin did quite a bit of in-between song reminiscing, and even dedicated “Avalon” to the venue of the same name that was recently replaced by the House of Blues.
Popular tracks such as “21st Century Digital Boy,” “Atomic Garden” and set closer “American Jesus” inspired the biggest circle pits of the night. The fact that some of these songs were older than the fans moshing along was almost as impressive as how the songs sounded live.
At the conclusion of “American Jesus,” the band left the stage, but the usual calls for “one more song'” didn’t follow. It seemed as if those at the front were too exhausted to play that game. Gaffin and Co. did return however, all be it in less than dramatic fashion. What followed was easily one of the best encores I’ve ever seen.
This encore included a trio of Bad Religion’s very best, beginning with the rousing “Infected,” moving to the anthemic “Los Angeles is Burning” and finishing with the band’s most notable hit, “Sorrow.” I personally couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was the perfect way to end a 27 song set that had moved at a frantic pace.
With 30 years and 15 albums under their belt, you would expect a band like Bad Religion be slowing down, maybe even resting on their laurels. This obviously is not the case. Their current tour proves that they remain one of punk’s most vital acts. Not only have they inspired many of today’s top acts, they continued to show them how it’s done.