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RISE AGAINST with Bare Bones & Pagan
Margaret Court Arena
10 February, 2018
It’s likely everyone here tonight have been legally allowed to drink for a fair amount of time. Despite their new album Wolves reaching a respectable #5 on the ARIA charts, the average patron would’ve bought their first Rise Against record on CD rather than streaming their first taste of Chicago punk rock.
Pagan boot off the evening with a raucous set fuelled by red wine. That’s if you believe singer Nikki Brumen, who emerges from the wings clutching a big bottle of it and an equally sized grin to match. Her shimmy shimmy ya moves and limitless energy are a huge selling point for the band who look like they’d be more than happy to ply you with pints in a back alley of Brunswick. There aren’t many punk-minded bands that front up to MCA but when they do, there’s no mincing words about the “homophobic toad”. “Fuck you Margaret Court, you can lick my vagina” screams Brumen with glee. The rest of the band are willing to stand back and let her take the brunt of the crowd’s expectations. The screams don’t vary too often from either their bassist or their mad front woman so don’t expect too much on that front.
Missing out on SWMRS wouldn’t be so much of a blow if Bare Bones managed to fit in at all. As it stands, they’re a tepid glass of water on a middling day. The hard rock riffs have all the tendencies of Every time I Die but with none of the personality that’s made them icons. There’s nothing memorable enough about their set to show they’re ready for arenas. Thick As Thieves doesn’t have the same punch as its recorded counterpart and when we’re asked if we want one more, it’s an obligation rather than a genuine “yes”.
Emergency sirens blare and rat-a-tat snare hits punctuate the dark confines of MCA with strobes blinding. Finally, we’re set for an act that’ll blow us out of the water. As the opening strains of Chamber The Cartridge begin and the band emerge, there’s a feverish anticipation. The song finally kicks in and… everything’s off. There’s clipping between the drums and the guitars and the bass is sludge covering it all. Vocalist Tim Mcllrath’s lyrics can hardly be heard over it all. This isn’t the Rise Against we’ve heard before. Give It All begins to improve the issue but it’s beginning to seem like there’s something terribly wrong here. The band are legendary for their live shows, and a sense of dread reaches its peak as The Violence arrives and we’re faced with the prospect of a set full of new songs and muddy sound.
Thankfully Re-Education (Through Labor)’s extended intro puts all fears to rest as the punchy guitar riff kicks in and everything suddenly falls into place. Maybe the sound desk operators copped a bullet and new ones filled in immediately because this is the band we came to see. The dread that the set would be filled to the brim with Wolves material? The band drop Dancing for Rain and The Good Left Undone to throw that idea right out the window. Anyone catching up to the band only on their last few records would be sorely disappointed by this point. But Rise Against know their core fanbase have been with them for at least a decade at this point; we expect punk jumps from guitarist Zach Blair and harmonies from bassist Joe Principe. We’re delivered on both fronts throughout the whole set. Balancing House on Fire with Prayer of The Refugee is a strong move: please both sides of the coin and everyone goes home happy.
Suddenly the little scamp Mcllrath appears at the back of the pit for an acoustic set. There aren’t too many surprises on this front considering their lack of acoustic tracks. People Live Here precedes the two classics Hero of War and Swing Life Away but the former still manages to garner a crowd reaction like it’s been around forever. On his return to the stage with the full band, it’s a massive chronological jump. Help Is On The Way bounces off the walls as the moshpit responds in kind, while Bricks and Survive keep the dedicated more than happy. After the deep cuts, Wolves and Satellite keep the newer fans still in the game. People have started filtering out which is absolute madness; the band have been firing on all cylinders this whole time and it’s not even 11PM? Come on, the babysitter can keep the kids entertained for another 20 minutes surely.
Unfortunately, we’re only treated to Saviour to cap off the set; Ready To Fall has clearly been dropped in favour of new material. It’s a small gripe though since we could almost call it an anniversary set with how spoilt we’ve been with old material. The giant Wolves album cover backdrop has finally been dropped in favour of the band’s raised fist symbol and giant RISE letters that have followed them since their inception. Mcllrath farewells the crowd before their final track, telling us it’s our homework to rename the venue before their return. He suggests the “Rise Against Arena” with a wry smile. Cheesy platitudes aside: with a show like that, it’s not so far out of the realm of possibility.
Catch Rise Against with Bare Bones & Pagan in Sydney & Brisbane this week.
Tuesday February 13, Hordern Pavilion, Sydney NSW (Lic/AA)
Wednesday February 14, Riverstage, Brisbane QLD (Lic/AA)