Somebody really should have punched me in the face. I'm turning into the old guy at the back of the venue that I hated when I was four or five years younger. The music elitist in me would say that this was a perfect example of like the music, hate the fans, and I really can't disagree. But, I can't help thinking about what Social Distortion said, wasn't it something about the next generation doing things differently? Every group playing would make a statement about how great it was to be touring with talented and honest groups, and about how music changes lives. Can't argue with that.
The first strike came with Billy Talent. Apparently, their hometown is rather close, and their fans were out in full force. Maybe a quarter of the venue came down from The Great White North for the show, and in and of itself was amazing. Every song Billy Talent played was met with an enthusiastic response, with girls at least three years my junior singing shrilly along to every word. This pissed me off. Goddamnit, I wanted the response to be tepid. I wanted Rise Against to rule all, but damn it if I wasn't singing along to the chorus by the end of the song. Great set. The singer rocked the microphone stand like it was the `60s. Rad.
It's real hard for me to fault the band for their fans, but the chorus of squeals at all time was nearly more than I could take.
Circa Survive, sure, I could watch, but the music they played was such that I spent most of the set with my eyes closed, just existing and being pushed around like an empty vessel. This part I enjoyed. Anthony Green moved around onstage like he had just taken a good dose of ecstasy prior to the show, flailing his limbs like a Dr. Seuss character. 'Twas fun, and if it wasn't for the delusional psudeo-frat boy stereotypes there, I would have dug it even more.
It was either during Thursday or between Circa and Thursday that I bumped into a couple org'ers whose names escape me, sad to say. But! They did mention that Billy Talent was kind enough to go before Circa, so props to them, I guess. Point is, we talked about how awesome Rise Against shows used to be and about how the band is doing fans a disservice by not playing "Alive and Well" more often. I really should have bought them drinks. I will probably never see them again, but if I do see you two again, I'll buy you both a beer!
Thursday, on the other hand, was like watching a group play to its audience perfectly. They played all kinds of their songs, including "Autumn Leaves Revisited" and a personal favorite, "Jet Black New Year," and Geoff was the visage of a frontman, running around onstage and punctuating all the right screams while managing to maintain a head on his shoulders, dedicating "For the Workforce, Drowning" to the people with "real jobs." Their light set was bright and fucking annoying, though. If there was a reason to fire lights into the audience, it's clear to me Dillinger Escape Plan hasn't shared it with Thursday.
With Rise Against's great set, I'm sure of one thing: I'm trying to fit a specific time and a specific place to the rest of their career, and that was brought with frightening clarity to me by a bunch of guys and girls who you all probably would have punched in the face. I had to face facts. This isn't Chicago, this isn't 2003, and this is a large scale, national tour.
So, of course I'd be pissed when they open with "Survive," and I can't get within four rows of people to scream the chorus right back in Tim's face. Of course, I'd be lying if I wasn't also pissed by the 500 or so dudes in polo shirts and elegantly distressed jeans talking about how much they loved Rise Against. I felt like such a scenester for thinking that "goddamnit, I'm far more entitled to enjoy Rise Against than you are," but as long as I was in the pit, that was all I could think of. But, as soon as I got out of the pit, I found a nice place to watch "State of the Union" and all was right again. Kids were circle pitting just like the old days and there was a mile-wide grin on the band's face watching the chaos, PETA was still in the back of the venue with a TV pissing people off, and aside from the size of the venue, and the assholes, everything felt like a Rise Against show, even if it was a good day's drive removed from Chicago.
For the encores, Tim brought out an acoustic guitar to perform an CSN&Y cover I didn't recognize, and then did "Swing Life Away." As a parting gift to Niagara Falls, Rise Against brought out one of the guys from Snapcase to play "Ready to Fall" with them, and he attacked the guitar as if he wanted to break the strings, and there I was, finger-pointing away, from the balcony. And, as I made my way out into the cold, Niagara night, I noticed that like the shows at home, I'd left the venue grinning from ear to ear.
Set list (from what I can remember):
- Black Masks and Gasoline
- Blood Red, White and Blue
- Like the Angel
- Broken English
- State of the Union
- Paper Wings
- Life Less Frightening
- Swing Life Away (encore, second song)
- Anywhere But Here
- Dancing for Rain
- Prayer of the Refugee
- Give It All
- Ready to Fall (encore, last song)
- The Good Left Undone
- Behind Closed Doors
- Survive (opener)
- Injection (encore, third song)
- CSN&Y song about the National Guard in Ohio (encore, first song)