Rise Against at the Guildhall (13/11/11)

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Let me just start by suggesting that if you ever have the chance to see The Nightwatchman, the alter ego of Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morrello, I implore you to seize the opportunity. I’ve never been entirely sure whether his album The Fabled City would really work live, or if it would just come across as the kooky flotsam of a guitar god gone mad. The album boasts restrained acoustic chord progressions, with a strong focus on powerful lyrics. Live, however, Morello cracks out his electric, tremolo and wah-wah, unleashing the extensive face-melting solos for which he is famed. It works brilliantly. At one point while he was casually scratching on his guitar strings like a mixing deck, he could have quite naturally broken into the solo of ‘Raging Bull’. I have never seen a crowd at the Guildhall so excited by a warm-up act. Neither have I seen a support band with an encore before, in which he pulled Polar Bear Club (a relatively unknown but brilliant first act) and Rise Against onstage for a big crowd singalong. At this point I didn’t actually think the headline act could top him.

They did though. In what was the best set I have ever seen at the Guildhall, Rise Against pulled on their massive repertoire of songs to produce a huge setlist consisting of every essential track a hardcore fan would kill to see. Coming onstage to ‘Re-Education Through Labour’, the band climatically built up the relentless energy at the gig through songs like the controversial ‘Make It Stop’ and ‘Saviour’, before nearly killing half the audience with ‘Prayer of the Refugee’. At this point, the main body of the band went off for a well-deserved break and frontman Tim McIlrath got his acoustic and fantastic singing voice out for ‘Swing Life Away’ and ‘Hero of War’ — two songs I would recommend to any listener, regardless of musical preference.

Finishing off with an encore of ‘Torches’ and the inevitable­ ‘Savior’, the entire crowd appeared to suffer from auditory dyslexia when they somehow managed to confuse the words ‘scream’ and ‘mosh’ upon McIlrath’s insistence that they “use the next few words to scream the weight of the world off your shoulders”. Imagine those first couple of rows of reckless bastards you usually get at a big gig. Now imagine a sold-out venue packed to the rafters with them. When the lights came up, a mass of sweat-drenched, exhausted nutcases was revealed, some of them limping, a few bleeding, but all of them grinning like an oddly tattooed Cheshire Cat with a rebel complex.

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