Rise Against, Thursday, Poison the Well

Huw Evans 22/11/2009

I've often debated the point on bands that have quite a political leaning. The main issue people tend to be sceptical about is the whole 'If they're so anti-establishment, why are they with a major label?' debate. To me, I don't question the motives of the bands that make the music, I'm just glad that something of substance is being created to counterbalance (if only slightly) the largely inane and vacuous pop industry. The fact that these bands are with major labels just increases the audience they can spread their message to. The only other question is: Do the fans even listen to or believe the message that these bands put across? Who knows. Anyway, rant over.
This is the last night of the tour for Rise Against, and I got there just in time to hear Poison the Well's last song. This hardcore band from Miami, Florida have been around for a good ten years now but I can't really say much about them given how little I heard.
The next band on was Thursday, a band from North Brunswick and good mates with Rise Against. With singer Tim McIlrath from Rise Against joining them on stage for one song, having been announced as guest vocalist on the single, it's hard not to come to that conclusion. Very oddly, though, for their last song, two topless men come out and acted out a rather bizrare boxing match. It made things quite memorable and almost akin to a rock/opera/ballet. On first listen their music doesn't strike me, but they sound well worth checking out in more detail on the net.
Rise Against kick off with Collapse (post-Amerika), a song which sums them up quite well from the album Appeal To Reason. It's got the political lyrics and the heavy punk tinged guitars, this is a band that aren't afraid to say what they think and we need more of them. They carry on in style with Re-Education (through Labor), Drones and Savior, keeping up a late Sunday night crowd, driving some insane pits and starting a circle pit to rival any. I've not seen Cardiff uni as alive as this in years and frontman Tim McIlrath controls the show. They end with Prayer Of The Refugee and the place erupts with the start of the memorable riff.
Obviously that's not all that's to come from Rise Against tonight and - right on cue - Tim emerges with his acoustic guitar for the inevitable Swing Life Away. This was the first Rise Against track I ever heard and it's ingrained in my memory - the lyrics give such a vivid narrative and are also socially conscious. This is what I associate Rise Against with the most, and Tim says while announcing the next song 'This is still relevant today, we still have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq that shouldn't be there', he then presses on to play Hero Of War. Not many songs can hit someone square in the face with such clarity as this, having not heard this song before it blew me away completely. Rounding off the night with the classic Ready To Fall, I was now a fully-fledged Rise Against hardcore fan and soon to own their full back catalogue of music. I urge everyone to go and listen to Hero Of War without it having a massive impact on them - failing that, just read the lyrics they are incredible.