LIVE: Rise Against / Pennywise @ Brixton Academy, London

By Mike Scott

Having managed to persuade the Millwall-loving Security guard at the Academy to allow me to come in with a Crystal Palace scarf in my bag (“I…er…I can’t let you in with that in there”), I made my way into the cavernous hall in time for openers Swimmers. Noone seemed to quite know who was opening the show [Emily’s Army have recently switched their moniker to Swimmers – ED], but in any case Swimmers were an inoffensive, if bland, US garage-indie band. Utterly unfitting to play before Pennywise, but a good illustration of how Rise Against go for a sound that perhaps strides between both bands. Swimmers are a rough-round-the-edges, deliberately shambolic kind of affair – and they past me by.

People who know me know that I have a few passions in life and one of them is the band Pennywise. Other than festivals, I have never seen them as a support band and it didn’t quite suit them. In their usual, drunken, laid back style they came on a little later than scheduled, cutting their 40 minute set down even a few minutes more. It’s not been that long since Jim returned on vocals and they released the excellent ‘Yesterdays’ pseudo-compilation of old tracks they never recorded – and they blitzed through their set in the blink of an eye. Liberally playing especially old material, with only a track or two from the albums from ‘Full Circle’ onwards, they were as immense as ever, although they seemed to be met with bemusement by the majority of the Rise Against massive. When they asked the crowd what cover they’d like to hear, talk of Circle Jerks and 7Seconds was met with a hushed pause. They went popularist and stuck in a Ramones cover, before the usual ‘Bro Hymn’ extended chorus.

Rise Against have a big banner. A big, colour changing backdrop. A Maiden-esque swagger about them. The excitement was palpable – Rise Against seem to tap into something within people that other bands don’t reach. This bemuses the rest of us somewhat, but I do remember having that feeling when I first saw them in Brighton over a decade ago. And tonight, they showed they still had it. They hit the crowd hard early with ‘Give It All’ lit the place up. OK they aren’t the most charasmatic bunch on stage, but Tim’s overbearing presence translates even to these enormous, barn like structures they sell out with ease these days. A set liberally sprinkled with ‘Sufferer and the Witness’ tracks was a good medium ground between their more Pennywise-esque beginnings and tracks like their closer, ‘Savior’. Tonight, they don’t always electrify, but when they do (‘Prayer for the Refugee’ for example) they are still something a bit special.