Rancid are one of the most popular punk bands today, but you know that. ...And Out Come the Wolves has gone platinum, Let's Go gold, etc. I figured I'd review this show since there are no reviews of this tour on this site, which has extensively noted the updates regarding this lengthy U.S. trek. They're not as popular with the average punknews.org user as, for example Dillinger Four, but a lot of you do like them, right? Good.
In the heart of Times Square, Rancid's fourth and last show of its stay at B.B. King's Blues Club starts an hour after doors open. The Slanderin starts things off with energetic psychobilly. This is where I commit the biggest and most common concert review sin, one that is a pet peeve of -- inconveniently enough -- myself: The author not knowing the opening bands. The Slanderin played competently, and their schtick was above average, but what else can I say about a band that I've never seen before? Sorry hoards of Slanderin fans reading this review.
The Slackers were supposed to play next. Probably the best band on Hellcat Records, they're great musicians and well respected. They cancelled a few days in advance. Well ,the opening bands for the other shows in NYC were H2O and Big D & the Kids Table...they'll be able to find a good band in area willing to play the last minute, right? Wrong. We got Danny Diablo. What? Who? A rap/metal/hardcore/bad band. The epitome of "Fuck you, I'm tough" hardcore with some rapping and generic riffs that would even appeal to Hatebreed fans. Oddly enough, towards the end of the set they played a solid, faithful version of the Bad Brains classic "Attitude." They were animated, so I can't say they were boring, but I will say that I heard a lot more people yelling "The Slackers!" than there were people digging Danny Diablo.
After a forty-minute set change, the lights dimmed, the movie clip / slideshow started to played on the screens and lo and behold, the four members of Rancid came out in all their glory. They didn't waste any time talking, which would be a theme for the rest of the night. They charged into "Roots Radicals," and drove into "Time Bomb" right after. Songs would stop and start in a constant fluid motion, rarely done in such a fashion since bands seem to shit out after playing 2 or 3 songs in a row. The band would keep the AOCTW pace too, playing more than half the album.
Contrary to popular belief, Tim Armstrong actually does have his guitar plugged in and was able to play his leads successfully. A surprise was in store for the crowd relatively early, as they stopped playing just so Lars could introduce guitar slinger Vinnie Stigma, and they jumped right into Agnostic Front's "Crucified." For "Maxwell Murder," Matt Freeman played an impressive extended solo, rendering the kids unable to decide whether they should mosh or stand in awe. The air was almost steamy since every person on the floor was soaking wet with sweat. That seemed to fuel Rancid more, whose energy and vigor was more akin to the first show of a tour. Well, Matt Freeman came late to some vocal cues, but that was never really his thing. Tim made up for his concentrating bassist by taking the mic on top of speakers, running the length of the stage, and greeting crowd surfers with high fives as they fell into security guards' burly arms. This is where I say "Brett Reed was in the pocket the whole show." He's not one for flair, but no one cares about the drummer anyway.
And how about that Lars Frederiksen? As the news they posted repeatedly promised, they did play a Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards song, and tonight was "Skunx." It's a good thing they played this song, because I wouldn't be able to tell he was in the Skunx just by looking at his face or listening to every other song on his solo records. Apparently he's from Campbell, California also. Bet you didn't know that. They also played two Operation Ivy songs: "Knowledge" and "Sound System." Many people are calling this sacrilegious, but compared to Green Day whoring it every show, or the current existence of the Misfits, it doesn't seem too bad, does it? The twang of the guitars seemed right at home in a Rancid set, and I guarantee even the snobbiest Operation Ivy fan was dancing. They had fun playing it too; Matt had a gleaming smile during both tracks.
They saved two songs for an encore prelude acoustic set after 23 songs that went by without letting the crowd breathe. The songs were "Fall Back Down" and Billy Bragg's "To Have and to Have Not." I was flabbergasted. I scoffed at Rancid being competent acoustically, but both songs brought a special poignancy missing from their corresponding album cuts. "Fall Back Down" was more uplifting, and the "To Have and to Have Not" protagonist seemed like he was never going to give up, a trait missing from both Bragg and LFATB versions.
After that was over with, Lars gave a little speech about how much he loves New York City and how it's his "home away from home," which I'm sure he doesn't say often (::cough:: New Jersey Warped, 2003 ::cough:: probably every show of the tour). They proceeded to launch back into band mode with three songs that were written while he was barely old enough to buy liquor legally: "St. Mary," "Adina," and "Radio." And that was it. Playing a little longer than most punk bands do (80 minutes) they were out of town, the stage still hot. While I am a Rancid fan, I'm critical too, so if it was a disastrous performance like some that have been well documented on tape, I'd tell you unlike most people who just review their favorite band and give it five stars. There was something special tonight, and like the Bouncing Souls, their songs have personal connections with fans that songs by say, NOFX don't, which translate to moving concerts.