9th November 2011
Set against the foreboding backdrop of social inequality, student protests. grave economic uncertainty & growing Occupy movements. Tonight’s Brixton Academy line-up was about as fitting as they come! Headliners Rise Against, themselves bastions of a free and just society, were mere pretenders when faced with the politically prosed legends due to support their good cause on stage tonight.
Polar Bear Club
Polar Bear Club despite not falling into this category, did remarkably well at packing the venue by a little after doors. They had the soaring melodies to pack a big punk punch, but the vocals were slightly too distorted from where I was standing. This assured performance was met with equal amounts of love and indifference (split down the age divide).
No sooner than reports of his earlier exploits of playing impromptu songs on the steps of St. Pauls for the gathered Occupiers, were streaming off the Evening Standard printers. All round political warrior and guitar hero Tom Morello stepped out to a bulging Brixton crowd as his acoustic wielding alter-ego The Nightwatchman. Singing self proclaimed ‘World Wide Rebel Songs‘ Tom was an enigmatic presence towering over his pointed folk rock. The tunes themselves were as simple and catchy as campfire ditty’s with the crowd being given sing-a-long moments at a rapid fire pace.
Special Guest Billy Bragg
Tom even invited a few special guests to sing alongside him onstage. Both Tim & Zach of Rise Against and a man he was clearly overwhelmed by, British political punk poet legend Billy Bragg. With only a handful of morello signature guitar solos and a single taking from RATM’s Renegade’s (Ghost of Tom Joad) this was the Nightwatchman’s night.
Rise Against returned as a full compliment to almighty roars from the stoked up fans. Their punk rock left no room for seatbelts tonight. This was a full tilt exhilarating parade of powerful guitars, infectious chorus chants and sublime melodies. The sound inside the academy tonight was truly gigantic, often drowning out the husky throaty rasps of vocalist Tim McIlrath .
Picking the setlist from albums new to old in equal measure, they pleased every gathered face in abundance. Proving their hardcore roots, they threw in plenty of relentlessly paced circle pit igniters such as Heaven Knows and Survive alongside more recent pop glossed offerings Architects and Satellite.
To their credit Rise Against were not preachy, yet they spoke with gusto and a collective enigmatic spirit that filled the heart with pride and honour. This was none more evident than on the acoustic double header of Swing Life Away and the poignant anti-war anthem Hero of War. The latter sparked an almighty emotional crowd outpouring of voices, minds and love.
If only every crowd were as joyous, if every line-up as committed to the good fight, the world would be a much better place for all. Not to mention one that truly rocks!