When Rise Against announced their summer headlining tour, the collective glee of many twenty-somethings erupted all over Facebook. For many who went to high school in the early and mid 2000’s, Rise Against was the first real rock band they could call their own; a band that defined their adolescent experience and provided the soundtrack to memories they would never forget. Nostalgia aside, Rise Against was and still is a powerhouse in American rock music, with a far-reaching appeal that is still evident years after they were first hurled into the spotlight.
Their show at the Hollywood Palladium sold out quickly, and even before the tour began, another date was added to account for the demand. The lineup of the tour was on the heavier side, with LA-natives Letlive. bringing their trademark insanity, and metalcore veterans Killswitch Engage rounding out the bill. Rise Against certainly took home the award for production for the evening, with larger than life light-up letters spelling “RISE” behind them and a great backdrop featuring the band’s logo. Before the band took the stage, the crowd saw the stage props as a cue to chant the same, and to a deafening roar, the band finally took their places.
They began their set by launching into “The Great Die Off,” the first track on their latest release, The Black Market (2014). Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the show was how great the band sounded. With the advent of recording technologies like autotune and computer generated instruments, it’s easy to become accept the fact that some artists just don’t sound as good live as they do on their albums. Rise Against is not one of those bands. Tim McIlrath’s voice was on point, not wavering once through their hour-plus set, and their instrumentals never once fell apart. While these types of minor breakdowns might be taken for granted at most shows these days, it’s a testament to Rise Against’s polished showmanship and musical talent that they managed to avert even the most basic musical crises.
Their set featured a healthy mix of old and new, which provided just enough fan-service for those who fell in love with the band in the early 2000’s and just enough new material to prove that the band’s musical progress isn’t slowing down any time soon. Though there are subtle yet noticeable changes from album to album, overall the band has maintained their trademark raw vocals, driving instrumentals, and a fine balance of poignant love songs and punk rock anthems.
The band’s set lasted over an hour and at the end, they slowed down for two acoustic songs that were the first songs learned on guitar by many a teenager, “Hero of War” and “Swing Life Away.” After finishing the latter, the band left the stage with the crowd begging for an encore. Ready to please, the band re-took the stage to finish out the evening with a two-song encore featuring “Dancing for Rain” and “Savior.”
Though the stage lacked the pyrotechnics and distractions of many arena-rock bands, Rise Against has yet again proven their salt in a music scene that is constantly changing. Their live show was entertaining, but not because it relied on elaborates stage sets or crazy antics of band members. The music was solid and alternated between moments of pure punk aggression and that little bit of poignancy that defined the generation of bands that helped propel Rise Against up and out of the 2000’s. It’s a testament to the talent of the band that 16 years have passed and they’re still going strong and selling out shows. Not many bands can say the same.