It’s been a little over a month since I last stepped inside a concert venue to review a show for Music In Minnesota. I certainly haven’t been on vacation over the last month, but instead, have been kept busy with various obstacles life has thrown my way, but I’m officially back in the saddle and damn it does it feel good to be covering live music in the Twin Cities again!
Like many people in my age group, I have a strange relationship with the three bands I saw perform at The Armory in Minneapolis last night. Those three bands, who all fall somewhere in that grey area known as pop-punk/hardcore-punk/melodic-hardcore, were Rise Against, Anti-Flag, and AFI, who were all in town in support of their 30-date Mourning In America tour.
While these three bands certainly fed fuel to the fire known as teenage-angst during my younger years, (especially Rise Against’s “Savior” which helped me through a particularly difficult highschool breakup!) I never found myself gravitating towards them in my everyday life. However, if one thing was clear during all three performances, it was my misunderstanding of the impact all of these bands have had on my musical journey through life.
While I, unfortunately, arrived at the venue a little too late and was only able to catch the second half of Pittsburgh-natives Anti-Flag’s set, it was full of throwback hits that practically anyone in my generation could recognize, many of which from their 2006 album For Blood and Empire. “This Is The End (For You My Friend)” was, as I assume it always is, a crowd favorite, and a performance of their 2015 song “Brandenburg Gate” which originally features Tim Armstrong was a personal favorite for me. You could tell a large portion of the crowd may have been in attendance strictly for this band, and they definitely did not disappoint.
After a relatively brief changeover, which featured more than a few songs that the crowd enjoyed singing along to, as well as ample time for me to purchase an ice cold Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, the perfect summer beer, it was time for the 20+ year veterans from Northern California, AFI, to take the stage.
One of the things I have always praised about The Armory is the incredible sound quality inside that building, which was certainly not built with any intention of housing a high-end concert venue. However, I can’t say that I was completely satisfied with the sound quality during AFI’s performance. Everything had a sort of muddy sound to it, and it was very difficult at times to distinguish Davey Havok’s vocals from the rest of the band.
I’m certainly not holding the band accountable for the shortcomings in the sound department; I’ve never seen AFI before but I have to assume that a band that has been doing this for over 27 years (21 with the current lineup) can’t stay relevant that long when putting on a sub-par performance. I’m more than happy to give them the benefit of the doubt and will say that even though it was sometimes a struggle to hear, their high-energy performance was received very positively from the crowd and kept the night moving along very nicely.
After another short intermission, and another opportunity for me to purchase an ice cold Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, the perfect summer beer, it was time for the main event of the evening.
Formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1999, a city they will return to tomorrow night for a special performance with Fall Out Boy at Wrigley Field, Rise Against has been a force in the punk rock scene since they first signed with Fat Wreck Chords and released their debut album The Unravelling.
After over 19 years in the industry, Rise Against has slowed down a little bit over the last few years, releasing only one album of ‘new’ material since 2014, with their 2018 release The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1 containing “re-imagined” versions of some of the bands most popular songs over the years.
While they may be on a bit of a downward trend in the music-creating department, their live show has not suffered from it. Trotting out on stage like a bunch of twenty-year-olds, all four members of the band were full of energy and knew exactly how to get the crowd involved in each and every one of their songs.
These guys are seasoned veterans in this game and after years and years of performing in “Churches, rec-rooms, dive bars, basements, and basically, anywhere else they would let us play!” as frontman Tim McIlrath says during the show, they can command a crowd of any size with ease.
Their setlist was masterfully put together, highlighting the hits from each of their eight full-length albums, as well as deeper tracks that “only the hardcore Rise Against fans would recognize!” McIlrath exclaims.
The band performed for a little over an hour and a half, with a special acoustic four-song performance coming after the closing notes of their undoubtedly biggest hit, “Savior.” After a raucous round of applause, the band scampered out on stage once again to perform a three-song encore, capped off with a fiercely energetic version of their undoubted second biggest hit, “Prayers Of The Refugee.”
Although all three bands might have benefitted from a smaller venue, as this was by far the smallest crowd I’ve seen inside the recently renovated Armory since it’s re-opening, it was still an incredible show that was well worth the price of the ticket. My guess is you’ll be able to see all three of these bands plenty more times in the Twin Cities, and I would recommend checking them out each and every time.