Converge Fitzgerald's November 3, 2012
A friend asked me recently, after hearing the new Converge album All We Love We Leave Behind, if I thought that singer Jacob Bannon was ready to hang it up. I replied no and that I felt like All We Love actually proved just how vital Converge is today.
But the real test, of course, is the live show. Anyone can fake it in the studio, but for Bannon and crew to bring the same intensity live is the true challenge. So I'm happy to report that, at least at Fitzgerald's on Saturday night, Converge was alive and well and kicking hard.
In particular, I've never seen Bannon himself looking healthier, happier, or more at home onstage. While the rest of the band have always been soldiers for hardcore, Bannon has often appeared as the tortured-martyr artist.
He's cried onstage and broken down while performing songs about the pain lost love has put him through. He's screamed until he lost his voice by the end of the night. He's looked as though touring and depression have worn him down to being too thin, too stressed. On Saturday, he looked and sounded like a new man.
"This is a peaceful show," Bannon replied to a fan complaining about being pushed, forcing the band to stop in the middle of "Heartless." The obvious answer would have been to tell the fan to stay out of the pit. But a refreshed Bannon simply expressed to him that everyone was here to have a good time, not to hurt anyone.
During the songs, Bannon was all smiles, even despite some technical problems. He thanked fans in between songs and continually expressed a message of hope, a far cry from the tortured Bannon seen in years past. Most importantly, his screams remained unabated throughout the Converge's entire set.
This is of particular note because Converge is playing one of their most intense sets yet. At 21 songs, it's a much longer selection of music than most hardcore bands would dare to attempt. And most of all, they're managing to keep up with it.
Never once did anyone in the band appear to be exhausted from it, not even Bannon. His screams never wavered throughout the night.
One might want to ask him how he does it, considering his age and that just a few years ago he was consistently losing his voice by the end of a shorter set.
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That 21-song set list is a career-spanner. Given that Converge has been going for 20 years now, they have a lot of material to cover and a lot of fans to please. Beefing up the set was almost a necessity at this point.
So they've taken to playing a healthy cross-section of newer material from All We Love and previous effort Axe to Fall, mixed in with now-ancient deep cuts such as "Unsaid Everything" from 1998's When Forever Comes Crashing and Jane Doe favorites "The Broken Vow," "Concubine" and "Bitter and Then Some."
My friend's question that I mentioned earlier made me consider how old Converge is now. They're by far one of the longest-running hardcore bands around that hasn't stopped for any period of time. They're not a reunion band. They never went away and they've won their fanbase for it.
But how long can they keep it up? My answer two years ago might have been different, when Converge looked very fatigued by their journey. After hearing All We Love and seeing them live, happy, healthy, and renewed? I'm inclined to think these guys can keep it up for as long as they feel like doing it.
Personal Bias: Longtime Converge devotee. Some people have called them my generation's Black Flag, and I'm hard-pressed to argue with that.
The Crowd: Recovering hardcore addicts, twentysomething and decked out in Converge T-shirts new and old. All seemed to have more trouble keeping up with the pace of the music and the pit than the band did (myself included).
Overheard In the Crowd: "It was an accident!" Said by someone after apparently raising a middle finger at the exact wrong moment and getting jokingly called out by Bannon for it.
Random Notebook Dump<:> This is the first time I've ever seen someone complain to the band about being pushed in a pit. It's also the first time I've seen people breaking bottles in the pit, leaving broken glass all over the floor. What's the deal, Houston?
Concubine/Dark Horse/Heartless/Aimless Arrow/Trespasses/Bitter and Then Some/All We Love We Leave Behind/Sadness Comes Home/My Unsaid Everything/Glacial Pace/Cutter/Worms Will Feed/Rats Will Feast/Tender Abuse/On My Shield/Axe to Fall/Empty On the Inside/Eagles Become Vultures/The Broken Vow/You Fail Me
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