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Rise Against and Bad Religion Bring “Tour of the Year” to Boston

June 4, 2011 6 comments

Rise Against
Bad Religion
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.

Rise Against and Alkaline Trio in Hampton Beach

October 26, 2008 1 comment

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.

Rise Against and Alkaline Trio in Worcester

October 14, 2008 1 comment

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

The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon

The Gaslight Anthem

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

Alkaline Trio

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

Rise Against

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)
Drones
Give It All
Injection
State of the Union
Ready to Fall
Re-Education
Chamber the Cartridge
Stained Glass and Marble
Behind Closed Doors
Like the Angel
Collapse
Bricks
Halfway There
The Good Left Undone
Hero of War
Swing Life Away

(Encore)
Survive
Under the Knife
Prayer of the Refugee