Rise Against / Bad Religion - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Rise Against / Bad Religion

live in New York (2011)

live show

Four Year Strong were playing the final notes of their last song upon my group's arrival to New York City's Terminal 5 on this bipolar, cool/warm night. I assure you this was not that deliberate–the popcore giants, small potatoes on such a bill–played 10 minutes earlier than advertised.

I hadn't seen Bad Religion since Warped Tour 2003 or so, and never once in a club setting, even (a hectic schedule restricted me from witnessing the band's tempting album shows from last fall). So even just a support slot in a gigantic, multi-level venue was something to look forward to. The band, naturally, delivered. There were plenty of folk both older and younger singing along with the band's cherry-picked tracks from various points in their discography, and others celebrating in the predictable punk-push-mosh pit as Greg Graffin stood staid, furrowing his eyebrows and gesticulating pointedly with his literate, sociopolitical commentary. They were good-natured, poking fun at themselves and sending a shot at Green Day for never returning the favor of taking them out on tour when they blew up (as Rise Against had). There was a Social Distortion reference in there, too, which I'd estimate 7% of the crowd picked up on. They played several of the catchier, more rigid cuts off their last two albums, though an older gem like "Do What You Want" was a pleasant surprise. "Sorrow", the lone wolf off The Process of Belief (the very album that got me into Bad Religion *way back* in 2002) was driven out with a double-time beat, and then a thrashy one. It was a nice rare slice of pure aggression for the show.

Set list (8:39-9:25):

  1. The Day That the Earth Stalled
  2. Wrong Way Kids
  3. American Jesus
  4. Before You Die
  5. Let Them Eat War
  6. The Resist Stance
  7. Cyanide
  8. Meeting of the Minds
  9. Do What You Want
  10. Social Suicide
  11. Dearly Beloved
  12. Infected
  13. We're Only Gonna Die
  14. Los Angeles Is Burning
  15. Sorrow

Rage Against the Machine soundtracked the changeover, with the crowd singing in unison to hits like "Guerilla Radio" and "Killing in the Name". It felt appropro.

Rise Against have put out solid albums as they've blown up to near-rock star proportions their once-nascent fanbase probably never anticipated. I feel comfortable saying that much. But much of the material lacks a certain bite and thrill that interested me in the first place, and I thus felt expectedly out of place as the audience hollered along to hits like "Prayer of the Refugee" and "Re-Education (Through Labor)". It really seemed to speak to the band's current fanbase that when they played "The Dirt Whispered" (a relatively poppy endeavor for RA, even as they've geared towards marginally punk/hardcore-infused radio rock over the last few albums), a spectator could be overheard exclaiming, "This is like a punk song!"

"Heaven Knows" was the sole ambassador for the Fat Wreck Chords era, and it was received warmly (at least...by me). No matter what LP (or era) they touched upon, Tim McIlrath and co. had the crowd at practically every turn ("Ready to Fall" had a sloppy pre-chorus, but everything else was consistently huge and clearly well-rehearsed). It's clear he's taken notes from monumental punk frontmen in order to capture an audience interested most by mammoth, stadium rock aesthetics, non-stop flashing lights, and incessant invitations (to sing along; to cheer; to...participate in activism? Okay, maybe that's a new one). Even if dedicating "From Heads Unworthy" to PETA means receiving their approval in comparatively tepid measures.

Lighters and cell phones lit up for "Swing Life Away" when McIlrath had the stage to himself, but then came something I was looking forward to unfolding. With how outspoken McIlrath (and the rest of his band by association, really) is, I was curious to see how he'd approach the certain news item dominating the headlines that week: Osama bin Laden's death. Would he caution the mass "jockocracy" against blind patriotism? Or perhaps wonder aloud about the curious morbidity inherent in celebrating death?

Of course not. This is New York. McIlrath probably knew better than to incite full-scale hell by even remotely suggesting that something seemed off about the nation's interstate keg party, instead resigning, before the solo "Hero of War": "I think we've all earned the right this week as a nation to breathe a collective sigh of relief," with an addendum about bringing the troops home. The response was predictably raucous, "U-S-A!" cheers quickly following. I can't say I blame him for sticking to a safer script, really. Any more complex, thoughtful opining and he probably would have been next. Maybe the band would return to the tour bus to find their tires slashed in a mind-bogglingly ironic twist.

Set list (9:56-11:05):
  1. Chamber the Cartridge
  2. Satellite
  3. The Good Left Undone
  4. Heaven Knows
  5. Make It Stop (September's Children)
  6. Re-Education (Through Labor)
  7. Survive
  8. The Dirt Whispered
  9. Help Is on the Way
  10. From Heads Unworthy
  11. Prayer of the Refugee
  12. Swing Life Away
  13. Hero of War
  14. Audience of One
  15. Architects
  16. Ready to Fall
    Encore (11:07-11:22):
  17. Entertainment
  18. Savior
  19. Give It All