LIVE: Rise Against @ PRYZM, Kingston

By Yasmin Brown

When you think ‘Rise Against’, it’s impossible not to think of their aggressive, politically charged lyrics and the carnage their music ordinarily provokes in a live environment.

Tonight’s set is an entirely different atmosphere, however, as just half of the band – vocalist Tim McIlrath and guitarist Zach Blair – are here from across the pond for a stripped back, fully acoustic set in support of their (sort of) new album, ‘Nowhere Generation’. Originally due to be an in-store performance, the plans “snowballed” to lead us here tonight and we couldn’t be more delighted. 

The record was released back in June but this is the first opportunity we Brits are getting to experience the new songs in a live environment. McIlrath states simply that “this isn’t what it’s normally like” (no shit) and it really does feel strange to not feel a bead of sweat drip down your neck the whole evening. Strange but still extraordinarily special. 

As well as the intimate nature of this setting, there’s a low level of lighting that leaves the packed crowd exposed throughout, only adding the sense of community that this evening has created. This soft yet bright environment allows for everyone in attendance to see the smiles on the faces that surround them, and for McIlrath and Blair to recognise the faces of the most die hard fans. 

It’s already one of the most beautiful experiences of our lives and the music has yet to kick in. 

McIlrath’s voice feels even more powerful when only accompanied by guitars, and even the aggressive claps during ‘The Violence’ (“the only group in history that has clapped in time”) can’t drown him out. It’s during this performance as well that we’re reminded of the difference a crowd can make to a performance. After two years of watching live streams in our living rooms, we’re far too enthusiastic, clapping along a little too quickly to the bridge to the point where Rise Against change their speed to match the fans. 

This really is a collaboration between the two band members and their enthusiastic fans – in this moment not one could exist without the other, made even clearer when McIlrath admits he keeps feelings as though he’s “fucking up because the band isn’t kicking in”. We’re here to support each other and this crowd refuses to allow the acoustic nature of the show fall flat, made abundantly clear as the crowd successfully starts a mosh pit – much to the delight of the band and those watching from afar on the balconies. 

Despite being in support of ‘Nowhere Generation’, the setlist pulls from Rise Against entire discography, taking us back in time with the likes of ‘Savior’ (complete with a false start), ‘Hero of War’ and ‘Like the Angel’, before catapulting us back to the present with the likes of ‘Nowhere Generation’ and ‘Talking to Ourselves’ from their latest release. Add a cover of Danzig’s ‘Mother’ (“The version I can remember”) and an epic guitar solo for good measure, and we really do have everything we could possibly want. 

Tonight is memorable for us all, but none more so than one of the band’s longtime fans, planted firmly in the front row until he’s brought up on stage to perform ‘Everchanging’ during the encore, after McIlrath recalls with warmth the pair’s first meeting in Hyde Park years before. Blair leaves the stage at this point, allowing the fan and McIlrath to play together, keeping eye contact throughout the performance and further cementing their already strong bond.

Somehow the night’s most special moment is still to come, however, in the form of universal fan favourite, ‘Swing Life Away’. It’s here the crowd sings the loudest and the band smiles stretch widest across their faces and it’s the only way tonight could have ended. It may have been unusual and we may still be desperate for a full band performance that allows us to lose our minds but after years without Rise Against, this wholesome evening is just what the doctor ordered.