Rise Against – Portsmouth Guildhall

By paul

Rise Against / Anti-Flag
Portsmouth, Pyramid Centre
Sat 21st Feb

?Sorry we were late on? said Chris from Anti-Flag, ?we spent too long out on the beach watching Barack Obama walk on water?. This was met with wild cheers ? probably some from people who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Others cheered, then reflected. You know, for all the taunts of ?politics for 12 year olds? and ?major-label sellouts? that Anti-Flag get, they are much more intelligent than people give them credit for. And, even more importantly, they absolutely tore the place a new arsehole.

I had reservations about this gig. Because, no matter how hard I try, I?m a fucking snob. Two bands on majors, arguably with back catalogues that urinate from a great height over their current output (argue away). But the energy from both bands was there like they were both kicking out tunes as 18 year olds doing their first hometown show. Anti-Flag delved nicely into their last few albums ? some of the classics were missing (no ?911 for peace? or ?die for your government?) but they have evolved into a band who have enough great songs to fill a set, with many to spare, so I can?t really complain. Their 45 minutes flew by, and they were so tight and with such a fat sound that they still sounded perfect even when Chris had put his bass down and was getting passed around the crowd like a school girl. Kudos too for instigating the biggest pit I?ve seen since the last Reading I went to.

Rise Against had a lot to live up to. The venue is amazing ? as big as it can be whilst still feeling quite intimate. There were a lot of people there. But maybe, just maybe, this tour is a bit more of an occasion for Anti-Flag than for RA. I was surprised at how good AF were ? even more surprised to find RA just about matched them for energy and rock levels. The last couple of times I watched this band I was beginning to think they had become a shadow of their former selves ? the last time they seemed like they were going through the motions ? detached so far from the band who recorded ?Revolutions Per Minute?, which in my humble opinion is one of the finest punk albums this side of the millennium. But tonight they had some venom ? borrowing liberally from ?Siren Songs? and ?Sufferer & The Witness? ? they blazed through a lot more of their older stuff than I expected, whilst making the stage their own. They sounded a little emptier on the songs where it was one guitar, but classics like ?Give It All? and ?Life Less Frightening? sounded better than they did the last time I saw them. There wasn?t much on offer from the first two records (no ?Black Masks and Gasoline? ? how a band can not play that song I have no idea) but there wasn?t too much from the new album either. A nice balance, played with integrity. There was the usual lighters-in-the-air acoustic interlude, and the crowd hung on just about every word. The biggest and trendiest band in this kind of punk rock in the world they may be, but they are so close to the top of the tree still, you can barely criticize.

There you have it. 2 major label punk bands with less than perfect new albums, playing like they meant it and reminding us all in the back (us old, jaded individuals) that punk rock is still going strong on stages of all sizes.


P.S. Apologies ? I missed the Flobots. Of course. Because shows start damn early.