Rise Against – Brixton Academy, London

By Tom Aylott

Rise Against (by Jack Ford)

An Occupy London Stock Exchange stall is set out in Brixton Academy’s foyer area. Whilst a hardened bunch is still huddled outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, a pair of protesters spread their message to those arriving at the South London venue. Of course, this is a cause that’s backed hard by tonight’s headliners, Rise Against.

Opening the show is Rochester, NY’s POLAR BEAR CLUB. We know they’re from Rochester, NY because vocalist Jimmy Stadt lets us know…a lot. Noticeably, the quintet doesn’t seem completely out of place on the large stage as might have been expected. In fact, the band generates quite a presence as they bash out the likes of ‘Light of Local Eyes’. An industrious set is ultimately rewarded with a decent crowd response.

Like Rise Against, THE NIGHTWATCHMAN (a.k.a. Tom Morello) is firmly backing the Occupy LSX protest (as well as the other 1,300 cities participating in similar movements). Tonight’s 35 minute set sees the Rage Against The Machine man intersperse thought-provoking commentary with rabble-rousing tunes.

Backed by The Freedom Fighters, Morello’s performance is a fusion of Dylan-esque acoustic folk and American Recordings-era Johnny Cash, with tinges of bluegrass-country and a spiny backbone of hard rock. One part melancholic lament, one part full-force jubilance, the sound is very different to his previous acts.

Playfully, the intro to ‘Sleep Now in the Fire’ pricks the ears of RATM fans, before being snatched back. The final icing on the cake comes as Billy Bragg joins The Nightwatchman (along with members of Rise Against) for a guitar-soaked rendition of ‘World Wide Rebel Songs’. Intriguing stuff.

The sound of military helicopters bears down as RISE AGAINST take to the stage. Erupting into ‘Re-Education (Through Labour)’ the Chicago quartet adopts a take-no-prisoners approach from the off. For the next 80 minutes or so the band assaults Brixton Academy with a barrage of big-hitting tunes.

Ripping through the likes of ‘Survive’ and ‘Heaven Knows’, it becomes apparent quickly that Rise Against have stepped it up another level. The band is slick and tight, whilst Tim McIlrath has developed into the quintessential frontman (even as he takes a spill during ‘Audience of One’). But then, this is what comes of playing bigger and bigger venues in the U.S.

Whilst it may not be quite a sell-out at the Academy tonight, the crowd’s response is unified in its appreciation, particularly during the acoustic pairing of ‘Swing Life Away’ and ‘Hero of War’ (anybody wanting to see the back of this particular party trick shouldn’t hold their breath). Raucous isn’t even the word.

By the time the band closes things out with the pairing of ‘Give It All’ and ‘Saviour’, you realise this is the Rise Against performance you expected, yet it still seems big. It still seems impressive. There’s a reason the Chicago band is currently considered a world-beater.


All photography by Jack Ford. To see more photographs from the gig, head to our galleries section.