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Live Review + Photos: Rise Against 2015

Rise Against / Clowns / Outright
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 05/12/2015
Review: Matt Doria | Photos: Sandra Markovic

At the risk of having Peter Z brandish me a plagiarist, Rise Against are a goddamn institution. Melodic enough to make friends with Triple M, but still heavy enough to have the underground scene on lockdown, the Chicago heavyweights have soared above and beyond to cement themselves as not only one of the biggest punk bands in the world, but also one of the best. The proof is in the pudding, or rather the stadiums they fill – when the quartet announced they would be kicking off this year’s Foo Fighters tour, the response from their fans was so rhapsodic that it nearly outweighed the Fooeys’ themselves. A headline run was pretty much inevitable.

Dripping with the kind of fervid energy that not even a coke’d up lion could approximate, Melbourne quintet Outright stormed the stage, a fire in their eyes matched only by their instruments as they unleashed a wave of pure sonic terror upon the Hordern Pavilion. Admittedly though, their crowd seemed less blown away by the chaos unfolding than we were; a thousand or so punters stood in dead silence as the band delivered their set, which is a shame, because they fucking killed it. Jelena Goluza is a frontwoman like no other, her bloodthirsty ire pulsating through the venue with every gracious stomp and fiendish roar she dispatched. Brad Fulton and Allan Stacey were equally as cogent behind their axes, a wall-to-wall assault of skull-shattering riffs making it crystal clear why Outright were standing in front of us.

The sudden transition from sketchy local pub to inner-city arena is one that fellow Melbourne collective Clowns have embraced without a hiccup. They’re slathered in grime, sour and seeping with obscene irreverence – in other words, a hardcore punk band of the highest order. It’s obvious that this kind of show is a pipe dream for frontman Stevie Williams, who wasted not a second in living it to the extreme. While guitarist Jarrod Goon was shredding faces off to his heart’s desire, Williams was diving straight into them (before the first song had ended, no less) at any other times either screaming for a circle pit, or scaling the stage like a burglar before their next hit.

But of course, this was still a Rise Against show, and as the lights dimmed one final time, a cheer nothing short of slaughterous made it known that onlookers were here for one reason, and one reason only. A roaring guitar lick came booming out of the speakers as Tim McIlrath and his backing band of badarses sprinted their way onto the stage, soaking in the love of their fans before slamming straight into 2014’s The Black Market opener, “The Great Die Off”. Not a soul was spared throughout the hour-long assemblage, following tracks “The Good Left Undone” and “Satellite” proving that, sure, Rise Against have transitioned into a lighter and more approachable style as of late, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still the heavy-hitting motherfuckers they were in ’99.

There were no screens for us to infatuate ourselves with, nor any pyro to drop our jaws. Instead, the focal point of the show was set on McIlrath himself, who effortlessly enticed his audience without the need for any grandiose bullshit. With a mic in his hands, he thrashed around the stage like an unsupervised kid in a candy store, making sure every last inch of his platform was graced with a footprint. With a guitar against his waist, he toppled into full Rockstar Mode, abusing his strings like a true master of the art. His vocals were less than equitable at times, but with the crowd eager to scream along to his every word, that was never much of a problem. The same can’t be said for the rest of the band, however, who were sometimes thrown so out of whack that their parts sounded more akin to a chainsaw in a blender than actual music. Thankfully, this was only an occasional pitfall.

We often write of shows in which smaller bands bring an arena-like feel to their theatre (at best) surroundings, but tonight, Rise Against made the 5,500-capacity Hordern Pavilion feel like a 100,000-cap stadium. Amongst choice cuts from last year’s opus, they tapped into all eras of their discography, save for their 2001 debut, The Unraveling. In the middle of the set, the band dedicated “Chamber The Cartridge” to Outright, powering into the tune as their previously-blank banner dropped to reveal the Long Forgotten Souls artwork. “Prayer Of The Refugee” followed, and with its basslines pounding, McIlrath invigorated, and the fanfare clamourous in every sense – it was an easy track to highlight.

Sighs were aplenty when McIlrath stepped out alone for the first encore, equipped with nothing but an acoustic as he propped his foot atop an amp. After all, nobody goes to a punk show itching to get their lighter-sway on. The first few strums of “Hero Of War” immediately switched the mood around, though, as the vocalist sung to swaying arms, cameras flashing, and a sing-along stronger than any this scribe has ever seen. “Swing Life Away” followed suit, before a second encore of “Dancing For Rain” and “Savior” attempted (but ultimately failed) to bring the energy back up to 11. Some hits and misses aside, Rise Against put on a damn good show for Sydney, and while it might not have been worth all of its $90 ticket price, the set was undoubtedly one of the year’s most memorable.

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