JAMES PATRICK CASEY sees Rise Against at the Brixton Academy and thinks they deliver the same awesome punch in the face they’ve been delivering for years.
Doubters, critics, and meatheads who’ve been in too many mosh pits, rejoice! After coming under fire for the more alternative sounds of their two recent albums, Endgame (2011) and The Black Market (2014), it’s clear seeing Chicago-based quartet Rise Against in the flesh that they’re still just as aggressive and genuine in their songs as they were at the beginning of their fifteen-year career.
From opening their show with ‘Ready To Fall’, a beautifully heavy track with appropriately screamed pre-choruses, to including the ever-elusive ‘Alive and Well’ from their first album The Unraveling (2001) the entire performance was that of a band yelling at you to stand up and start fixing our society, rather than a group cashing in by playing at the sure-fire sell-out of the Brixton Academy and it’s wonderfully sloped floor.
The supporting acts helped reinforce the punkness of the entire evening, with Californian punks Swimmers, who had inexplicably changed their name from Emily’s Army about five minutes before performing, starting the evening on an intense note, and Rise Against-influencing Pennywise warming up the mosh pits with their own hardcore sound. I found myself comparing the gig to my last trip to Rise Against, an eery three years ago to the day I saw them this time, also at the Brixton Academy, where Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello opened the show with an acoustic set; and while Tom is an excellent musician, acoustic protest songs don’t really warm you up for a hardcore gig.
This year, however, Rise Against brought their own acoustic session, with frontman Tim McIlrath strumming away to fan favourite ‘Swing Life Away’ and the latest acoustic entry, ‘People Live Here’; both songs are beautifully melodic on the albums and stunning to hear live, especially the former, where fans have had a decade to learn the lyrics and belt them out, giving genuine meaning to these songs’ focus on the idea of community. And the variety of the performance – thrashing through hardcore songs before a slower drift through acoustic tracks interrupted by Tim’s speeches on the band’s past and influences – epitomises Rise Against; they’re a melodic hardcore band, and they nailed both ends of the spectrum.
The crowd and band helped each other in this respect; we moshed because they played like they meant it, and Tim’s voice was backed by hundreds more because we believed in what they were saying. And while the whole gig felt about four songs short, the waiting between bands killed each one’s momentum, and I lost a shoe in a mosh pit, it was still the best night of my life; some fans have criticised their recent albums, but seeing them live confirms the chorus from the 2011 Architects – “We still believe in all the things that we stood by before, and after everything we’ve seen here maybe even more.”