Sick of It All / Stretch Arm Strong - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)

Sick of It All / Stretch Arm Strong

live in Chicago (2006)

live show

It's an odd feeling when you're a bit angry that a good band gets added to a show. My original plan for tonight was to walk in the door right before Sick of It All started, but Ryan's Hope was added to the lineup.

Punknews Records' favorite sons opened the show with a bang. I picked up Apocalypse in Increments about a week ago, so I was a little familiar with the material, but not enough to pick out more than a few words at a time. I have to say, their metal influences come out much stronger in a live setting than on record, with lead vocalist/guitarist Terry Morrow putting out some blazing solos and quick, almost undetectable breaks within the songs. Their short, twenty-five minute set was over before I even realized it. Some highlights were "My Motivation: Your Demise" and "The Carpathian." They're going to go places in the next couple of years.

The second Ryan's Hope's set ended, a third-rate Hatebreed rip-off came over the PA system and guys in basketball jerseys and camouflage shorts started setting up equipment. This could mean only one thing: First Blood were next. I already knew that I didn't like this band before the show tonight (come on, the name of their album is Killafornia), but I was not prepared for the total onslaught of absolute shit that I was about to see. Imagine this scene taking place inside your eardrum; there is a whining baby being ripped apart by a rabid dog that's being eaten alive by Ted Nugent. Or if you lack imagination (calling all members of First Blood!), just think of the same open E chord palm muted and played with the required "chugga chugga" beat for thirty minutes with alternating hyena screeches and Cookie Monster growls. First Blood excel in three speeds; mid-tempo, slow, and breakdown. How they manage to throw breakdowns into songs that are already slower than your average Phil Collins ballad, I'll never know. The sound was so muddy and bass-heavy that everything blurred together to sound like putting your head directly onto a really loud car engine. The most charming moments of the set came from the "singer" announcing song titles like "Next Time You're Fucking Dead," "Execution," and "Firing Line." I'd like to send out a big congratulations to the members of First Blood for making it to the top five of "Worst Bands I've Ever Seen" along with Simple Plan, the Rotten Fruits, the F-Ups, and the Street Brats. You earned it fellas; it took quite an effort to knock Go Betty Go off the list.

I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be happy for Stretch Armstrong to start, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Stretch Armstrong have become the band that I can't avoid seeing; tonight was the third time in a little over two years, all by accident. They were still boring and mediocre, but at least they weren't terrible. It's all about the situation sometimes, and I actually caught myself tapping my toes a few times throughout their set. Oh well. At least their singer managed to not say "mosh it up" at all this time. Their set was mercifully brief as well.

Finally 9 o'clock came and the legendary Sick of It All took the stage for the last night of their twentieth anniversary tour. Any lingering annoyances from earlier went away once Pete strummed the first chords of "Good Lookin' Out." They quickly followed up with "Take the Night Off" and "Let Go." To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Sick of It All has recently put forth what might just be their best album with Death to Tyrants; the new material like "Machete" and "Uprising Nation" proudly stood side by side with classics such as "Goatless" and "My Life." What separated Sick of it All's live performance from the other bands of the night (outside of the fact that they're legends) is that they have a sense of humor. Lou had some genuinely funny rants about a magazine article about how not to smear your make-up at a show as well as setting the "Braveheart" move up as a Cubs vs. Sox deathmatch, which the White Sox side easily won (just like in real life). The energy of SOIA, whether it was Pete stomping around like a monkey or Craig bouncing around the stage like a boxer, fueled the crowd into a frenzy. They didn't let up and neither did we. The mark of a great band is when the end of the set comes, you honestly feel like they just started. Sick of It All's had been going for an hour by the time they finished with "Us vs. Them," but it seemed no longer than fifteen minutes. Here's to twenty more years.

Set list (by album):

Blood, Sweat, and No Tears

  • It's Clobberin' Time
  • Friends Like You
  • My Life
  • Injustice System
Just Look Around
  • Just Look Around
Scratch the Surface
  • Goatless
  • Step Down
  • Scratch the Surface
Built to Last
  • Good Lookin' Out
  • Built to Last
  • Busted
  • Us vs. Them
Call to Arms
  • Let Go
  • Call to Arms
  • Sanctuary
Yours Truly
  • Blown Away
Death to Tyrants
  • Take the Night Off
  • Machete
  • Uprising Nation
  • Die Alone
7/10 for Ryan's Hope, 1/10 for First Blood, 3/10 for Stretch Armstrong, 9/10 for Sick of It All, rounding out to a nice three and a half stars overall.