Live (May 13/14th, 2011)Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL
By Amy Meyer
Growing up in the Chicagoland area, Rise Against was always an important part of the scene. They played often, never put on a disappointing performance, members were in other influential bands such asThe Killing Tree and 88 Fingers Louie, and – perhaps most captivating – is the amazingly talented vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Tim Mcllarth. With his high energy, amazing chords, and unique ability to demand a crowd’s attention, there is never a dull moment at a Rise Against show; a legacy that has lasted true since the beginning. The band returned to Chicago with Four Year Strong and Bad Religionon May 13th and 14th at the Aragon Ballroom for two sold out shows in support of their latest record, Endgame.
On the Friday evening of the show, Bad Religion played many songs off the Dissent of Man including Wrong Way Kids, Cyanide, and Won’t Somebody. For the Saturday show they took the stage withThe Day that the Earth Stalled, but only played one more off the new record the rest of the ight, with a set mostly consisted of old favorites. Three songs in, they played Recipe for Hate and from there it was a stream of great songs including You, Generator, A Walk, Fuck Armageddon, this is Hell, and Infected. For the 45 minute set, there were several pits, a few pogoing bodies scattered throughout the crowd, and a great opening act set list. Although most of the guys are in their mid-40s, they were energetic and kept members of the crowd, young and old, bobbing their heads and pushing their neighbors. It was apparent that many people were unfamiliar with Bad Religion, with only twenty-percent of the crowd singing along, but unfamiliarity was not enough to keep the crowd from digging Bad Religion’s infectious riffs as multiple pits broke out throughout the 4000 person capacity venue.
By the end of Bad Religion’s set, the Aragon Ballroom was radiating with body heat. There wasn’t a free spot on the floor, and the crowd was buzzing with excitement for their hometown boys. The lights dimmed with an ear piercing roar of cheering and Rise Against ran on stage. The backdrop had the bands’ old RISE logo along with the new heart and fist logo. Chamber the Cartridge began, everyone in the crowd was singing, and the floor erupted into a mess of flying, jumping, and pushing bodies.
Lead guitarist and backing vocalist, Zach Blair, ran back and forth across the stage, switching from stage left to right with bassist Joe Principe. Blair showed off karate-style kicks that could rival any can-can dancer’s. Mcllarth would play guitar during some songs, then ditch his axe to get some high jumps and mobile singing in.
Rise Against has always been good at captivating a crowd, and not much has changed except the size of their audience. Their over an hour long set list on Saturday consisted mostly of songs off Endgame, Appeal to Reason, and The Sufferer & the Witness, with no songs from their Fat years (they only played Heaven Knows off Revolutions Per Minute on Friday). This may be due to the fact that the last time Rise Against played in Chicago in 2009, they played an entire set dedicated to their first two albums on Fat.
Although it was disappointing that they didn’t play anything from those releases, it was expected. In my opinion, those two records are heavier hitting on a personal level, but Rise is a politically fueled band with a lot of strong messages in their lyrics, and they are clearly taking advantage of their popularity to fuel a punk rock machine to spread a message to the masses. Not surprisingly, PETA and Iraq Veterans Against the War were present at the event, and Mcllarth took a few moments to discuss political issues between songs.
Despite their rise in popularity, Rise Against will always hold a place in the heart of Chicagoans. It may be disappointing to the fan that saw the band at the Fireside many years ago and didn’t hear one song off their early records, but there was never a dull moment on stage. You can tell the band still has a great time playing, that they feel very strongly about the music they play, and as a fan, you can’t help but feel genuinely happy that they’re on top of the world right now.
As they said their goodnights, and started their last song, Give It All, all the memories came rushing back and it was hard not get caught up in the moment. Mcllarth jumped into the crowd to sing that last song as the crowd went nuts. It was a perfect ending to their second sold out show in Chicago. For anyone who has been there since the beginning, to the kids that might have experienced their first Rise Against show, maybe even first concert that evening, Rise Against didn’t fail to deliver the amazing live performance that their legacy is all about. This Chicago band has come pretty far, and it was clear that their hometown is pretty proud of them.