For New York at least, this summer has been a mild one. Half of the past three months have seen rain, and on the days that it hasn’t rained, it has almost always been cloudy. It seems fitting; I haven’t been having a great year, I’ve ignored but two new releases and summer tours haven’t been as enticing as last year’s. For those reasons, I was unusually excited to see two old favorites in Rise Against and Rancid.
Billy Talent, on the heels of their new album, III, opened the show and played their generic brand of upbeat mediocrity that got a few people moving and doing the finger-point. I had seen them play before with Rise Against at the same venue three years prior and was equally unimpressed despite my lack of familiarity with their catalog. But both nights, however, the highlight of their set was “Try Honesty.” They turned in 40 minutes and left the stage for Rancid.
As Tim Armstrong came on stage, it was clear he was excited to play. Contrary to popular belief, he sings and speaks coherently and plays guitar competently. His band played backed by a set-long video of punk noir images that mixed old black and white footage reminiscent of early slasher movies and the band’s various logos, album covers, etc. I had never seen them before and though I’ve never been an enormous fan, I have a good amount of respect for them. Their set was heavy on ...And Out Come the Wolves and Let’s Go!, playing all the usual suspects from the former except for “Maxwell Murder.”
One of the more touching moments of their set came when Tim and Lars dedicated a song to all the punk and hardcore bands that originated in New York by naming all of them. It was also Tim’s brother Jeff’s birthday and, as he was at the show and introduced Tim to punk, “and the Ramones, in particular,” they played a Ramones song I could not decipher, but it looked like they had fun playing it. It was also funny to hear “Olympia, Wa.” because 52nd and Broadway is where the Roseland Ballroom is located. To my knowledge, the Rancid 1993, 2000 and Life Won’t Wait albums were ignored entirely. In short, they turned in 50 minutes of the brand of punk rock they’re known for and it was enjoyed by the majority of the audience.
The last time I saw Rise Against, Appeal to Reason had just come out; this time around, they only played three songs off of it. Despite it being a bit of a disappointment, I was bummed not to hear many new songs because even on its worst songs, Tim’s voice carried them to make it a decent record. On that note, I don’t think it’s hard to tell that they’re a band trying to carry the torch of punk and hardcore. Whether it’s bringing Lou from Sick of It All to sing with them any time they’re in New York or playing covers that barely anyone in the audience knows (Jawbreaker’s “Tour Song,” Minor Threat’s “Minor Threat) or wearing Freeze t-shirts on stage, they’re doing an admirable job in my view.
Like always, their set was played with a lot of heart. The songs from Appeal to Reason were refreshing to finally hear, even if they didn’t change my mind about the album. Before the encore started, Tim said he wanted to rectify the lack of any old songs being played because they hadn’t played anything pre-Siren Song. Holding his acoustic guitar, he mused on the band’s first trip to New York when they played the now-defunct Wetlands and said, “I’m pretty sure we played this song.” Whispers of “Swing Life Away” found their way into my ears but it was a beautiful rendition of “Everchanging.” “Hero of War” was played next, prefaced with the fact that in May, more active duty soldiers committed suicide than died during combat. The song was accompanied with the song’s video on the backdrop. “Dancing for Rain,” “Give It All” and “Ready to Fall” rounded out the encore and then it was over.
Just as I walked out of the venue, it thundered and I walked back to Penn Station in the pouring rain.