Review: Rise Against at O2 Guildhall (09/11/2014)

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Rise Against are well established as one of the leading groups in modern punk rock. Their most recent album, The Black Market, received almost unanimous critical praise and has proved a hit with fans at their UK shows. The band – made up of Tim McIlrath (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Zach Blair (lead guitar, backing vocals), Joe Principe (bass, backing vocals) and Brandon Barnes (drums) – stopped off in Sheffield, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester before arriving at a sold out Southampton O2 Guildhall with an army of fans in tow.

First support act Swimmers/Emily’s Army came on stage first to a very crowded hall, launching straight into an energetic brand of surf punk inspired by their home state of California. Their movement on-stage was good and their crowd interaction modest, but they didn’t rile up the audience to any degree of lunacy. Their set was short but racy, providing a great foundation for the following acts.

Second support group Pennywise stormed onto the stage and kicked things up a notch, inducing circle pits within minutes of starting their set. Classic tracks ‘My Own Country’ and ‘The World’ sent the standing crowd into a frenzy, Pennywise being considerably heavier live than they are in the recording studio in no small part because of Jim Lindberg’s incredible passion for his vocals and for the music his band creates – anti-institution, anti-society punk rock at it’s very best. But we couldn’t expect any less from a band who has been doing this for 26 years, who set the foundations of modern punk in the wake of Nirvana-inspired angsty alt rock. Lindberg’s interaction with the crowd only riled them up again for the second half of the set, the age-old punk ‘pogo jump’ making several appearances at the front of the pit. Maintaining their energy, the 4-piece finished up with ‘Fuck Authority’ and calls for an encore.

Rise Against entered the hall to sonorous applause, opening their set with ‘Ready To Fall’ and sending the audience into overload. Tim McIlrath bounced around stage, diving into the crowd screaming the chorus of their second song along with the lucky few on the barrier at the front. New track ‘Tragedy + Time’ proved a hit as well, sending bodies into the air and fists into the sky. Their older material placed alongside the newer, more emotive songs made for a good mix of angry punk and more heartfelt alt rock, written and performed in a way unique to Rise Against. But perhaps the most touching moment of the evening came directly after ‘Prayer of the Refugee’ – upon noticing a fan clutching his face, McIlrath stopped the show and made sure that the injured man was removed from the crowd and given medical attention before launching into ‘Alive and Well’.

And that’s the beautiful thing, Rise Against care for their fans in a way that not many other bands do. United by shared songs and shared experience, an emotion filled that room which I am struggling to describe as I write. In this sentiment the encore commenced with acoustic numbers ‘People Live Here’ and ‘Swing Life Away’, and I will be the first to admit that there were tears in my eyes at the sight of hundreds of hands raised against the ills of this world. And as the final song ‘Saviour’ came to a close, so a night of raging punk rock and sobbing journalists ended.

The Black Market is out now on DGC/Interscope Records.

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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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