By Helen M. Ryan
It’s a passionate explosion of sound, life, love and politics. As a strong, distinct voice from the stage sings tales of natural disasters, war and hope amid fevered guitar riffs, a mesmerized audience plugs into the energy. This is the world of Rise Against.
Punk rockers Rise Against are at the top of their game here on their 2011 tour. The environmentally conscious and politically unabashed band hit the U.S. hard and strong this month on a whirlwind tour supporting their new album, Endgame, which opened to sold out dates in Las Vegas and Southern California.
The boys from Chicago took their idols Bad Religion along for the ride, with The Descendants and Four Year Strong joining them at their Long Beach Arena stop. Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin spoke to fans of the early days of Rise Against. “It’s great to be here celebrating the rise of Rise Against”,he commented. “I remember when they were little kids in their baskets and we took them out on tour. Those days are gone“.
A proving ground of sorts for the musical activists, frontman Tim McIlrath told the audience that Long Beach was the largest concert Rise Against had ever headlined. And even though the show was peppered with technical difficulties and delays, it did not daunt the intense band or the die-hard fans.
In their best tour to date, McIlrath led a perfectly choreographed set list that flowed smoothly and energetically from beginning to end, re-capturing the crowd that had grown restless from an already-long evening with three other bands. About 20 minutes into their performance, Rise Against had much of the audience of over 13,000 on their feet, rallying and singing along. The crowd’s energy level slowly rose until the general admission floor was alive with dancing and swirling bodies, and the mixed-aged fans were riveted by both the older songs and the new releases.
Though at Epicenter 2010 in Fontana, California, McIlrath had said that would be the last time they would perform songs from 2008’s Appeal to Reason, the audience was obviously ecstatic to see that this was not true. The extended version of the radio hit Savior whipped the crowd into a frenzy and the moving and heartfelt acoustic Hero of War played perfectly towards the end.
Into the night’s mix, Rise Against’s impassioned signatures Ready to Fall, Prayer of the Refugee, and Re-Education (Through Labor) were seamlessly blended with songs from Rise Against’s sixth studio album, Endgame. Endgame, like Rise Against’s previous work, does not hesitate to point fingers or examine social injustice. It may not have the same “oomph” as other Rise Against albums, but it debuted in the number 2 spot on Billboard’s sales charts. Endgame’s first single, Help Is On The Way, shed light on the (lack of) help to the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster. Architects reminds people that it’s not too late to change world, and Make It Stop (September’s Child) reflects on hatred of gay people and the teen suicides that has caused. It’s all in a day’s (social commentary) work for this band.
Blanketing the U.S. and then heading to Canada, Australia and over the pond this summer, Rise Against aims to build its army of worldwide fans.
The voice on the stage will not be singing alone.
Rise Against and The Descendants photography by AJ Ogaard.
Bad Religion photography by Helen M. Ryan.