Rise Against

support Pennywise + Swimmers
author PP date 22/11/14 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

Saturday night. Smallest venue Rise Against have ever played at in Copenhagen. Sold out for months in advance with fantastic supporting caste. What could possibly go wrong? The scene appeared to be set for a memorable evening of politically charged sing alongs, circle pits, beer, and fun all along with passionate fans lining up hours before doors opening to catch a spot at the front barrier. After all, Rise Against has previously played some of the highest rated shows that we've been in attendance of, despite the band's appeal taking a slightly more mainstream turn on recent albums. Sadly, a lack of passion and absolutely terrible sound deflate the Rise Against balloon in this scribe's eyes, but more on that later. Let's first see how Swimmers (previously known as Emily's Army) and skate punk legends Pennywise fared.

Swimmers

Swimmers

First up are Swimmers, who altered their name from Emily's Army a little while ago, and are known for featuring Billy Joe Armstrong's (Green Day) son Joey Armstrong on drums. Not that you couldn't make the connection anyway because the band basically sound (and look) like a miniature version of Green Day. They look like they're barely 16 years old on stage, which gives them a youthful energy that's difficult to discount, while they cycle 90s style alternative rock fueled pop punk tunes that vary between mid 90s Green Day material and more modern, rehashed versions of the same. Indie/Garage punk flavor is a plenty with rollicking bass melodies leading the charge, but most songs sound almost identical to each other in terms of tempo and structure. Not a problem at a punk show, but at a stage where they aren't known by the crowd yet, their upbeat and fun approach feels a little flat due to lack of movement on stage. On occasion, the guys do move around and rapid-fire headbang to their fast-pace songs in their respective personal spaces, but not enough to match the energy of their songs. A decent showing but the stage is a little too big for them for now.

6

Pennywise

Pennywise have been starting their sets on this tour with "Pennywise", followed by "Rules", both from their 1991 self-titled album. I see what they did there. Tonight, they are playing an exclusively old school set with all material from their definitive 1991-2003 era, so the short setlist couldn't get much better with classics like "The World", "Same Old Story", "Society", "My Own Country", "Bro Hymn" and "Fuck Authority" all being played with returning vocalist Jim Lindberg's traditional cool posture on stage. Guitarist Fletcher jokes around plenty in between songs about his weight, at one point insinuating that the fat guy in the crowd must jump because he's able to jump (as he demonstrates during "My Own Country"), and calling out for an enormous LA Suicidal Tendencies style circle pit for "The World" shortly after. "Society" draws a few sing alongs that echo towards the end of the crowd where I'm standing, all orchestrated by a brief crowd control session by Mr. Lindberg where different sections of the crowd learn how to sing along to the woo-hoo bits of the song. Straight after, "Fuck Authority" sees sizable portions of the crowd throw their middle fingers in the air during the classic chorus "fuck authority, silent majority, raised by the system, now it's time to rise against them" that has come to define punk rock rebellion since its 2001 release. Finally, as is tradition to every show Pennywise has played since the advent of "Bro Hymn" in 1991, the song's woo-hoo gang sing along starts even before the song is aired as the crowd begins an echoing response in anticipation of the song.

Pennywise

Sounds like a pretty cool show, right? Pennywise playing their classics while showcasing great energy on stage, complete with scissor jumps, good in-between songs humour, and a restless circle pit at the center of the crowd far beating anything Rise Against is able to muster later on in terms of sheer size. After all, this is a classic skate punk band, right? That's basically what could've been, but the set overall is absolutely MURDERED by the sound guy. The bass guitar is about 100 times louder in the mix than it needs to be, meaning all songs end up sounding like a muddled mess of distortion with little chance to hear the awesomely tight skate punk guitars or Jim's attitude-driven vocals properly. The distortion is so loud it's practically breaking the speakers with the bass-vibrations, a completely unnecessary move and a total failure of the sound guy to do his job correctly. It's difficult to enjoy a setlist even this rock solid when the sound is this awful.

Setlist:

  • 1. Pennywise
  • 2. Rules
  • 3. Something To Change
  • 4. My Own Country
  • 5. The World
  • 6. Do What You Want (Bad Religion cover)
  • 7. Same Old Story
  • 8. You'll Never Make It
  • 9. Society
  • 10. Fuck Authority
  • 11. Bro Hymn

Rise Against

Rise Against

Tonight is my tenth time seeing Rise Against. It's the first time in years I'm seeing them at a venue this intimate, after having watched them kill arena shows, festival shows, and mid-sized indoor clubs for the better part of the decade across Europe. The venue is packed to its limits with Rise Against fans, and the band have released their best record since "The Sufferer & The Witness" with "The Black Market" so to expect anything but an explosive performance justifying their status as the Bad Religion of this generation seems unrealistic. And a sneak peek at their set list from previous dates on tour suggested they'd be playing a set where primary focus is on "The Sufferer & The Witness" with only a few new tracks making the cut this time around. And as the band kick off with "Ready To Fall" straight away with bouncing energy, enticing the crowd to bombastically hop around in a mirror-image of the band on stage, for a moment I was convinced Rise Against was back to their 2006 form. On stage, they have giant colour-changing, capitalized letters reading RISE surrounding the drum set as innovative light setup, so it really looked like there could be something there.

Rise Against

That is, if it wasn't for the sound guy continuing to make a case for his immediate dismissal from the knobs on this tour through god-awful sound that's both too quiet and completely unbalanced compared to the crisp and clear melodic hardcore / punk that the band stands for on record. Nowhere else is this more evident than on the punk rock classic "Give It All", which is notorious for its 16.000 people anthemic shout along at Groezrock; tonight it sounds mild and powerless compared to what it has sounded like in the past. Not that Tim McIlrath is particularly trying to make the best out of the bad situation. Where he's usually passionately explaining us any political cause the band believes in strongly, tonight we get a bland Sea Shepherd plug and pretty much nothing else, not to even mention that the whole set feels like Rise Against are playing on autopilot with little passion to suggest they actually believe what they are singing about. Having interviewed these guys twice in the past I know that simply isn't the case, but tonight the coarse style of McIlrath simply does not carry the conviction it usually does.

When these two factors are put together, it becomes more and more difficult to get into the set properly. Rise Against shows are supposed to be where the punk rock scene unites into massive sing alongs and sweaty circle pits with everyone participating in the crowd, but tonight the crowd is oddly quiet even during some of the bigger songs that normally demand a passionate response from the crowd. Yes, there is constant mosh pit madness at the center of the audience, but it doesn't extend to the sides or towards the back of the venue at all. Simply put, the band is missing the infectious energy of for example their 2009 Halloween show at Store Vega. You can attribute parts of this to the set list selections, which granted contain some of the best "The Sufferer & The Witness" songs, but where the uncompromising fury of "Siren Song Of The Counter Culture" material, the high tempo honesty found on the best songs off "Revolutions Per Minute" and "The Unraveling" could've been the difference makers in between the radio friendly songs like "Help Is On The Way" and "Satellite".

Rise Against

As a long time fan you are sometimes also the harshest critic, and tonight I'm going to assume that role because in all honesty, there isn't much happening on stage to report back on. The pit is nowhere near as big as it was for Pennywise earlier, and the band's stage performance leaves much to be desired in terms of explosive crazy as they have been in the past... I hesitate to re-use the term autopilot but that's exactly how watching the band felt like tonight. It's a far cry from the intense crowd-connection and raw passion that the band used to be known for.

Setlist:

  • 1. Ready to Fall
  • 2. Give It All
  • 3. Re-Education (Through Labor)
  • 4. Behind Closed Doors
  • 5. Tragedy + Time
  • 6. The Good Left Undone
  • 7. Like the Angel
  • 8. I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore
  • 9. Help Is on the Way
  • 10. Chamber the Cartridge
  • 11. Voices Off Camera:
  • 12. Prayer of the Refugee
  • 13. Alive and Well
  • 14. Audience of One
  • 15. Satellite
  • --Encore--
  • 16. People Live Here
  • 17. Swing Life Away
  • --Encore 2--
  • 18. Make It Stop (September's Children)
  • 19. Savior

Photos by: Peter Troest

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