On April 23, I had the privilege of getting to attend the Rise Against/Bad Religion/Four Year Strong show at Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton, Fla. My friends and I unfortunately got there after Four Year Strong's set had ended, something I was really upset about because I love seeing that band play live and I thought, given the fact that only three bands were performing, that 7 p.m. was an early start time. But that's aside from the point.
Bad Religion put on a set that easily showed their marked veteran nature. More than once, the band recalled stories of when Rise Against opened for them about eight years ago, saying that this tour was to celebrate "the rise of Rise Against," which is really something true - Rise Against has blossomed into one of the largest rock bands in the world. I'm not too familiar with Bad Religion's catalog, so I really can't comment on whether they played a good setlist or not. But I've been on a huge 90s pop-punk kick lately, and after hearing the band's passionate, been-there-done-that sound, I'll surely be checking out their past releases. I do know they played a few songs off their latest release, The Dissent of Man, and something that really stuck out to me was how consistent it sounded with the older songs they played.
The opposite can't be stressed enough for Rise Against. When the Chicago punkers took the stage just before darkness fell completely at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, they opened with "Chamber the Cartridge," the first track from Sufferer and the Witness. But that wasn't an accurate portrayal of what would come during the remainder of the set, as the band focused on a lot of material from their last two records, Appeal to Reason and this year's Endgame. That pattern pleased the masses but was of great disappointment to pockets of older fans. It was amazing to see how many knew the words to "Satellite" and "September's Children" from the band's latest release, but were left standing around during "Blood-Red, White & Blue," the only song we got off Revolutions Per Minute.
Probably one-third of the set came by way of Appeal to Reason, which was something of a mixed bag for me. I liked that record much more than Endgame, but the band chose to play cuts like "Re-Education (Through Labor)," "Long-Forgotten Sons" and "Entertainment." I was pleased at the inclusion of the forever-catchy "The Dirt Whispered" and "Savior," but would have traded some of those other cuts for older material. Frontman Tim McIlrath of course slowed things down during the middle of the set to perform acoustic renditions of "Swing Life Away" and "Hero Of War," and that duo will probably remain part of this band's set for its entire career.
"Ready to Fall," "Under the Knife" and "The Good Left Undone" from Sufferer were what saved the set for me, along with the title track from that record. But aside from "Swing Life Away," the only other song off of Siren Song of the Counter Culture was the last song of the night, "Give It All." In total, only three pre-Sufferer songs were performed all night, and of the four times I've seen this band, I've never been more disappointed by their setlist.
"Blood-Red, White & Blue" was easily the highlight of the night for the older fans in the crowd, and it left me to wonder why McIlrath chose not to bring out tracks like "Heaven Knows" or "Like the Angel." What about fan favorites from Siren Song like "Life Less Frightening" or "Paper Wings," "Blood to Bleed" or "Dancing for Rain?" What happened during this band's rise to super-stardom that made them abandon the early material that made them an adored staple in the punk scene? Now what we get is radio-ready heavy rock anthems that wouldn't sound out of place if Hinder and Crossfade were on the bill instead of Four Year Strong and Bad Religion. As a friend of mine put it, "The punk in me still loves Rise Against but the hipster in me wants to hate them."
I'm not saying that McIlrath & Co. should release new records then ignore them when it comes time to play a show. McIlrath has a wife and he's a father. "Re-Education (Through Labor)" and "September's Children" are probably what pay for his house and food. But, as much as artists like to please the people that buy their new, more mainstream music, it would be good to throw a few more bones to the fans that have been around for more than a few years.