My last show review was dated November 29, 2019, which gives an indication of approximately how long it’s been since I was able to properly enjoy a live show! Rise Against (at least 50% of Rise Against that is) was the perfect return to a live venue that saw the band supporting their latest record, Nowhere Generation, with other supporting artists from Banquet Records.
Upon entering the intimate venue, I couldn’t help get the feeling I had been here before as the rotating prism chandelier above the main floor looked strangely familiar, although, I would not say who I saw here nor how long ago. The next thing that fought my eye was the lack of drum kit n the stage indicating that this would not be your usual fast-paced, punk rock style show for which Rise Against is known. In fact, as already mentioned, it was only half of the band, vocalist Tim Mcllrath and guitarist Zach Blair. It became clear very quickly that this gig was to be a more subdued affair as a strictly guitar-only show with Blair on electric guitar and Mcllrath on acoustic.
Opening with “Prayer of the Refugee” (usually a little more fast-paced) the audience seemed both a little perplexed at the more sombre pace of the tune. Still, it was greatly welcomed as many in attendance were enjoying their first live experience in well over a year. The more relaxed nature of the show was even acknowledged by both Mcllrath and Blair as they conversed with the audience about how their shows are usually a little more intense! The more easy nature of every track throughout the set was evident, even the band’s slower songs felt toned down for what was a more up close and personal experience.
With intimations of banter between both Mcllrath, Blair and the crowd we were finally treated to some new material in the form of “Talking to Ourselves.” Honestly, by this point, despite the unconventional nature of this Rise Against show, it was like being home again, in a place unified by music. It didn’t even feel like this was the first time I had heard this track live!
A big treat was to hear a cover of Danzig’s “Mother.” Although the original of this track is slower in nature, it still has a grandiose feel to it. Mcllrath and Blair warped it to fit the feel of this unconventional show. A further treat came in the first song of their encore when they covered the Creedence Clearwater Revival track “Fortunate Son.” I’ll confess this caused a (likely noticeable) meerkat-style reaction from myself. Not only do I adore this song, but during a recent interview with Mcllrath, I actually asked if they would play this song from their recent Nowhere Sessions EP.
During the encore, Blair even departed the stage after Mcllrath reminisced about meeting someone once in London’s Hyde Park only to divulge that this person was, in fact, in the front row! By this point, I had unfortunately found myself in a position looking through gaps in people’s shoulders (as you do at concerts) to try to identify who this was. It appears it was just a fan that the band had come to know, but nevertheless, he joined Mcllrath on stage in place of Blair to do a rendition of “everchanging” whoever he was, he nailed it! Closing out the show, Blair returned to join Mcllrath for the final tune of the night, “Swing Life Away.” What a tune to go out on, the whole crowd was singing and clapping along in unison.
I left the venue on a high, although I will confess I can’t be clear if this was as a result of being in a venue again, or the fact that Rise Against delivered something completely different from what was expected. Either way, this was an incredible, memorable show that stood apart from the band’s usual stage presence in a venue that doesn’t get enough mainstream shows. As both Blair and Mcllrath stated as they left the stage, “we will see you again at Download.” Yes, yes you will!
Rise Against’s Setlist:
1. Prayer of the Refugee
2. The Violence
3. Talking to Ourselves
4. Like the Angel
5. Hero of War
6. Mother (Danzig cover)
7. People Live Here
10. Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
12. Swing Life Away