When Bad Religion passed through Philadelphia on their 2004 tour, they brought along a band that was only just starting to gain national recognition, Rise Against. Sure, Rise Against had released two albums on independent labels, and bassist Joe Principe had performed for several years in 88 Fingers Louie, but it wasn't until Rise Against signed to Geffen Records and released their major label debut Siren Song of the Counter Culture
, that they really started their journey to stardom.
Jump forward to May of 2011. Rise Against has released four albums for Geffen, they have also offered several songs that have gone on to be popular radio singles, and they are now headlining their own sellout tours across the U.S. When they headed out on tour in support of their most recent album, Endgame
, they brought along Bad Religion, the very band that helped them start getting their recognition.
The show that I attended was the first of two nights at Philadelphia's Electric Factory, which I consider to be the best of all the music venues in the city. Four Year Strong started the show off with an energetic, metal-tinged set that set the tone for the evening. Their blend of dueling guitars, rattly bass and powerful drums was entertaining, if not the least bit ordinary. They are still a (relatively) young band, and with a starting point like this, Four Year Strong could be a band to watch for in the next few years.
The second of the three sets for the evening was the 30-year punk veterans, Bad Religion. Greg Graffin and company did not seem the least bit out of place playing after a group of 20-somethings. With each passing year, Bad Religion redefines what it means to age in style as a punk band. For a genre that is known for youthful vitriol, it is sometimes shocking that a band of men in their 40's can stay on top of the pack, but with a catalog of music like theirs, there is no questioning that they are.
Bad Religion's set consisted mostly of material from their albums released in the 2000's, only briefly touching on their lenghty backlog of classics. Fortunately, the band has enough great songs from their recent albums to justify this choice. Surely the reason for this decision lied in pleasing the crowd which was largely younger fans there to see Rise Against (of course), who might recognize the more recent BR releases, but not something from, say, Against The Grain
As 10:00 rolled around, Rise Against exploded onto the stage to roars of ravenous approval from their fans. Lead singer Tim McIlrath raged his left-leaning political diatribes into the microphone while Principe and guitarist Zach Blair bounced all over the stage acrobatically. Their set was every bit as anthemic and empowering as one might expect from a band that uses their music to stand up for the working man, animal rights, and other fantastic causes.
Part way into the set, they took a break from the aggressive rock to deliver what was the most moving portion of the evening: two acoustic numbers. The first ("Swing Life Away"), was performed by McIlrath alone, and then he was joined by Blair to start the second song ("Hero Of War"), which by the end featured all four members. These songs (especially the second one) showcased the fantastic songwriting this band benefits from, and exemplified how a simple ballad can enchant a crowd just as easily as the hardest, fastest songs can.