Rise Against Didn't Quite Lift Us Up the Way We Hoped

Cory Garcia
Rise Against brought the fury early.
Rise Against, AFI, Anti-Flag
Revention Music Center
September 12, 2K18

I believe if you put their 10 best songs up against any modern rock band of the past 15 years, Rise Against would come out on top most of the time. They’re a great band, and at times a vital one; quite frankly, loud music needs more bands that’ll get dudes in black shirts thinking about why homophobia is bad, why imperialism is destructive, and the plight of our refugee brothers and sisters. True, their two best songs are about romance, but even Rage Against The Machine dipped away from pure politics now and then.

On any given night, Rise Against can be one of the best live acts in music, and while I don’t think they quite hit that level on this trip to Houston, they put on a fine show to an appreciative, but far from packed house; seriously, I rarely have so much elbow room at Revention. In a way, I think it was the location that really hurt the show the most: Rise Against plays big rooms regularly — their last Houston stop was up in The Woodlands — but they’re the type of band that’s always going to be better in more intimate spaces.

Case in point: when the show slowed down for a four-song acoustic set, including the always amazing “Swing Life Away,” the show was suddenly something really engaging and powerful. Slowing things down put the music in a better context for Tim McIlrath’s voice and made it easier to understand the lyrical messages, showing off just how good a songwriter he can be. Sure, the highlights of the night might have been loud crowd-pleasers like “Savior” and “Prayer of the Refugee,” but honestly I think Rise Against should really consider doing an acoustic tour in smaller, easier to sell venues. Those singalongs would be wonderful.

I root for bands like Rise Against because I do think they’re important, which is why less than great shows hurt just a little bit more than they should. This is a band who I’ve seen outshine Bad Religion and NoFX on tours, so I know what they’re capable of. Perhaps expecting greatness every night out is unfair, but it comes not from a place of malice; the world is in short supply of bands that place spaces this big willing to take stands on the major issues of the day, and nothing uplifts the way that music does.

So, How Were The Openers?: At some point over the past few years, Anti-Flag added some background vocalists and it’s taken their already strong live show to a new level. I just loved everything their set represented, from their calls for unity to their calls to fight sexism, racism, and so on, all set to some absolutely great blasts of punk fury. They stuck to their guns and played their type of show, even when it meant building a drum kit in the crowd so the band could play right in front of the fans. Just outstanding.

I had a joke here about how it was weird to me that AFI doesn’t always play “The Days of the Phoenix” live and how if I wrote a song that good I’d play it ever night, but then they went ahead and played it because they’re stand up fellows. The songs were all on point, but I was super impressed by how good their stage lighting was; simple and clean, their use of lighting really added to their presentation in a really pleasing way.

Personal Bias: You know how Kanye never sounds great when he plays “The Good Life” live? I feel the same way when Rise Against play “Give It All.” I’m slightly bummed to see AFI played “A Single Second” in Austin but not in Houston. Anti-Flag was the opener for one of the five best shows I’ve ever been to, so they’ll always have a place in my heart.

The Crowd: I don’t know how embarrassing being arrested is, because I’m very boring and have never been put in handcuffs. I couldn’t help but wonder how the person in cuffs outside the venue with the cops felt about the couple thousand or so people who walked past him on their way home.

Overheard in the Crowd: “I think they’re taking a break,” said one young concert goer in between Anti-Flag songs. Little dude had more energy than anyone on stage.

Random Notebook Dump: I get why bands partner up with PETA, but here’s a thought: instead of donating your money to a group mostly interested in being grandstanding jackasses while killing dogs and targeting communities of color, maybe donate that cash to your local animal shelter doing the hard work in your own community.