On February 19, 2009, one of the prominent venues in Dublin, The Academy, hosted a top-notch spectacle of punk rock entertainment. Rise Against, American melodic hardcore-influenced rock band from Chicago, Illinois, managed to draw a crowd of approximately 700 ecstatic, mostly teenage fans and live up to all standards expected from a first-rate performer.
In order to make the Dublin show happen, the expense cut had to be made in the cost of supporting bands. The Irish fans could have easily felt cheated because instead of the rather brilliant Strike Anywhere (US) and Rentokill (AT), who have opened all the Rise Against continent dates, or Flobot (US) and Anti-Flag (US) that are to share the stage with them on the entire upcoming UK tour, they got two local bands. However, that isn't meant to criticize the Demise or Paranoid Visions in any respect. The opening bands, and especially Paranoid Visions, had played an important role in the overall atmosphere the members of audience came to imbibe.
Prior to getting into the venue, the fans had to exhibit more than an ordinary portion of patience. The queue stretched almost 100 meters, well up to the corner of Middle Abbey and Lower Liffey streets. The slightly amused looks of passers-by had certainly been attracted by the size of the crowd that had gathered but, and that is more probable because of the impressive range of fashion excesses exhibited. Recruiting from all ages of punk/rock audience, including early teenage kids as well as hardcore grownups in their early 30s, the impatient alternative crowd must have been quite a sight on its own.
The impatient beast had been unleashed at 7 p.m. and after a routine security check and yet another tiring queue for the cloakroom, I had finally managed to squeeze into the rather full Main Room. By that time, though I'd arrived quite early and been somewhere in the middle of the outside queue, the first opening band had exhausted much of their stage time. Judging from the last three songs, the Demise play a modern take on melodic hardcore and punk rock music, which, in essentials, wasn't unlike the style of the headliner of the night. The soundman could have done a better job but the crowd seemed satisfied nevertheless.
The fact that the event was 14+ was a sufficient excuse for such an early start and perhaps also for the fact that the bar didn't offer anything but cups of free ice-cold water. But this, along with rather strict security measures, was nothing to wonder at, had one only realized that Rise Against are one of the few bands that manage to surf the crests of both the emo/pop and political punk rock waves at the same time. Logically, since they attempt to appeal to younger audiences as well, they hardly need their shows to serve as an excuse for underage drinking.
With this in mind, the choice of the second supporting band was rather more surprising. Paranoid Visions, known for the anti-U2 campaign they had waged in the late '80s, are already legendary and infamous enough and their allegiance to anarcho-punk tradition of the likes of Crass and Conflict, and it only increased the already sharp contrast with both the other bands on the bill. The eight-piece band, featuring a duo of female singers and a keyboard player in addition to a classic rock band lineup, had effectively divided the audience. There were certainly some that had come to see them but the crowds, consisting mostly of teenage Rise Against fans, didn't seem to be prepared to face the version of punk rock music offered by the second opening band. The music of Rise Against is rooted in the melodic branch of punk rock, devised by the likes of Bad Religion, the Adolescents, NOFX or Dag Nasty, predominantly in California, US of early '80s, whereas the model Paranoid Visions build on springs from significantly more raw foundations. The abovementioned Crass, whose cover "Punk Is Dead" was also featured in the band's set, Conflict, or other examples of '80s anarcho-punk acts, like Dirt or Subhumans, are undoubtedly among their sources of inspiration. On the top of that, their sound also had a slight touch of having listened little bit too much to Jaz Coleman's Killing Joke.
After 35 minutes of sophisticated sonic torture and an additional 25 minutes of waiting, the much-anticipated headliner had taken stage to plunge into their hour-and-a-half-long set list. Dense with expectations, the crowd exploded into ecstatic cheering and, from the first tones, immediately responded to every attempt to communicate the singer and guitarist Tim McIlrath had made. The set list consisted of a fair selection of old and newer songs with an emphasis on their last three albums. Although it might seem rather surprising, it wasn't the older, time-proved hits that provoked the strongest responses. Instead, the crowd, most of whom apparently knew the band mainly from their music videos, MySpace and TV, seemed to welcome most of the singles from their last two albums, The Sufferer & The Witness and Appeal to Reason. Despite the fact that Rise Against are rather skilful songwriters and that Tim's voice is really versatile, much of their material nevertheless stays within the constraints of mid-paced punk/rock music with pop overtones, which can be entertaining for only so long. The semi-acoustic intermezzo as a first part of an encore thus proved much refreshing, and had shown that Rise Against, in this case meaning Tim McIlrath, are capable of maintaining the atmosphere with as little as one acoustic guitar. Overall, the craftsmanship Rise Against exhibits live is certainly worth the ticket price.
A feat of the night, however, wasn't performed by any of the band members but by one very VERY eager stage-diver, who had managed to get on the otherwise inaccessible stage by jumping from the upstairs balcony (about two meters), run past the surprised guitarist Zach Blair and then stage dive without being noticed by the security guards (who were attentively watching the crowd). Unfortunately, one of the oversized "peacekeepers" then got hold of him and the last I've seen of him was the moment he had been slammed against the emergency door. Nevertheless, all due respect to him.
- Give It All
- State of the Union
- Ready to Fall
- Re-Education Through Labour
- Chamber the Cartridge
- Stained Glass and Marble
- Behind Closed Doors
- Life Less Frightening
- Like the Angel
- Heaven Knows
- Long Forgotten Sons
- The Good Left Undone
- Hero of War
- Swing Life Away
- Audience of One
- Prayer of the Refugee.