Live In Vancouver, BC (10/25/16)
The Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
When Against Me! came out with Transgender Dysphoria Blues in 2014, it was all anyone could talk about. The album pushed boundaries and shot Against Me! into the limelight again. The follow-up, Shape Shift With Me, has not had that impact. It was mentioned just enough so people were aware of it, but it hasn’t made a splash. In fact, I always thought it was still scheduled to come out in a month or two – it wasn’t until Against Me! were set to play The Commodore Ballroom on Tuesday night in support of the album that I realized it was already out in the world.
So, for the first time ever – I went into an Against Me! show unsure of the songs I was about to hear and unsure of what to expect.
The evening kicked off with Little Destroyer, a Vancouver based trio merging synth and dance oriented beats with blasting drums and spastic singing. Reminded me at times of a more dance oriented Street Sweeper Social Club and was an odd choice to lead the bill. Allie Sheldan’s vocals were strong although sometimes muffled but she definitely had a distinct persona to her stage presence, channeling the energy of Yolandi Visser with each movement. It wasn’t until the closing song that they picked up the pace though, with a more thunderous, chaotic tune – the rest seemed almost too dancy for my tastes.
Dave Hause, with help from his brother Tim, were much more up the Against Me! alley. The former Loved Ones frontman is no stranger to Vancouver, having played all over the city but this was the first time with his brother backing him up. Northcote‘s Matt Goud also made his regular guest appearance at the show helping Hause to work the audience in an impressive manor for an opening act. Starting his set with Autism Vaccine Blues, he also played through C’Mon Kid, Resolutions before ending with We Could Be Kings. Throughout the set he got the crowd clapping, laughing, and even singing along to Time Will Tell when most in attendance wouldn’t have known it. He took his knowledge as a regular headlining act and truly warmed up the crowd for the main attraction: Against Me!
While their last set at the Commodore Ballroom saw them start fast, slow it down in the middle and end it fast again – this evening’s set seemed split down the middle of new and old cuts while maintaining the speed and intensity throughout.
They started focusing heavily on the new, switching between Shape Shift With Me and Transgender Dysphoria Blues songs – True Trans Soul Rebel into 333, Haunting Haunted Haunts into Unconditional Love. Grace introduced Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be with a deeply personal message of acceptance and the set was solid, yet missing a certain punch.
Around the midway point they threw on Bamboo Bones and the deeper cuts started rolling out. White Crosses opened up the pit and they continued to dive deeper: Tonight We’re Going to Give It 35, This Shit Rules, New Wave, Cliche Guevara and the Against Me! staples, Walking is Still Honest and Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong. These are the songs that came packed with a punch.
Dead Friends and Crash were nice selections, but it will be bopping around to Dont’ Lose Touch that were the memorable moment of the night.
They ended both the main set and encore beautifully, with Black Me Out and Thrash Unreal respectively. Haven thrown in I Was A Teenage Anarchist in betwee, the ending soared about the start of the show.
But the one consistent was that throughout it all, the band was in top form. Laura Jane Grace is happier than ever, leaving everything she has on the stage. Atom Willard is wild and enthusiastic as he pummels the drum skin with flare while bassist Inge Johansson always seems to have the biggest grin on his face as he pounces around the stage. Even guitarist James Bowman, the longest running bandmate of Grace, seems to be more relaxed than he was in earlier years
Against Me! are a band nearing their twenty year mark and they still show no signs of slowing down