Rise Against

support Coliseum
author PP date 20/03/11 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

The first time Rise Against played in Denmark was during Halloween 2009. The promoters had originally planned for the show to take place in the 500 capacity Lille Vega. They were completely oblivious to how long punk fans of Denmark had been waiting for one of the best and most consistent bands in melodic hardcore to come out and play on our turf, so the show sold out almost instantly, and was upgraded to the 1450 capacity Store Vega a few days later. This, too, sold out over a month in advance to the show, demonstrating the extreme anticipation Denmark had for a Rise Against show. It was a resounding success, as I'm sure those of you were there can speak for, not least because it provided the loudest sing alongs I've heard to date in Store Vega, but because it was a culmination of an extremely long and patient wait, an explosion of emotion and passion from both the band and the fans, that resulted in an incredible show that in retrospect I probably should have graded a full 9er.

Tonight, however, pales in comparison with that night in every possible way. Plenty of tickets available at the door and touts forced into selling their tickets at face value outside only moments before the show speak of a much reduced attention to Rise Against. My guess is that a great deal of people who were here a year and a half ago figured they wouldn't focus on the older stuff anyway, and at a steep ticket price of 275,- (if I remember correct), the fans of the older material were kept away. But more on that in a moment, lets first deal with opening band Coliseum.

Coliseum

Coliseum used to play straight forward hardcore punk with a rock'n'roll twist on their early albums, but they've since then adopted an approach that draws heavily from the likes of Fucked Up. It's a style that utilizes repetitive riffs that are heavily reliant on solid bass groove driving the songs forward. This has a hypnotic effect when witnessed live, but not before a few songs into the set, as the band needs to convince the crowd with their no-frills, straight forward rock show execution. At first, Coliseum seem boring because they are so static on stage and the coarse vocals aren't exactly easily accessible to the modern Rise Against crowd, but all it takes is a few groovy rock'n'roll sequences to get the crowd going in a small circle pit, while others are nodding their head in acceptance. The songs are deliberately made to sound extremely similar to one another in order to create a unified sound that carries on throughout the set, helping achieve that hypnotic, rollicking effect Coliseum have on people when they play live. The longer they play, the rowdier their set becomes, despite a lack of any spectacular movement on stage.

The band speaks to the crowd every few songs or so, but it's not your ordinary "thank you so much Copenhagen" talking-down-to-people sort of thing. There's an abundance of sincerity and honesty in what the guys are saying when they tell us about how happy they are and how amazing it is to play in a country so far from home, that they never could have imagined to be here when they were growing up in small towns in Kentucky and Alabama. "Music is just an idea, it starts with one guy with a guitar, a bass, or drums", the vocalist proclaims, encouraging everyone to do the same by saying "there's no reason this couldn't be any of you guys right now". The majority of their set though the band are silent, letting their music speak for itself, though the highlights do come from their hardcore punk influenced older material when the speed is kicked up a notch. In the end, Coliseum prove to have played the sort of hardcore/rock'n'roll set that's appropriate for large venues, but one that feels like it could be a great deal more intense in a smaller venue, where these guys excel.

Rise Against

"RISE...RISE...RISE...RISE!" is how any Rise Against show starts these days, with vocalist Tim McIlrath pumping his fist in the air in order to the get the crowd fired up, whilst the opening riffs to "Chamber The Chartridge" (or whatever is the first song that night) echo across the venue. The crowd responds with a furious "RISE!" back to every one of his echoes, until the band bursts into the fast paced riffs of the song and the place goes crazy. Circle pits spread across the floor and a gang shout-along rises above the music during the "whooah-ooah" ending of each line during the chorus. The sing-along tonight, however, already gives an indication of what's in store in terms of the crowd response: without a sold-out crowd, one that has been anticipating the concert for more than a month in advance only to go absolutely crazy when it actually happens, the response is mild to say the least, barely loud enough to cover the melodic guitars underneath it. Of course, tonight is a Sunday so people are much less drunk and less likely to party hard than on a Halloween Saturday, which explains a part of the underwhelming response, but the root cause is found within the band's sound technicians tonight.

In short: the sound is awful. It's clear, clean and you can hear the songs as they are meant to be played, but Tim's vocals are so low that whenever the backup vocals enter the mix, they drown his rough clean vocals almost completely underneath, when they are supposed to work as a contrast in normal conditions. Usually, flaws like this get fixed rather quickly, but tonight the crappy vocal mix lasts until the acoustic pieces "Hero Of War" and "Swing Life Away" after the encore, resulting in a quiet and a thoroughly underwhelming vocal performance from Tim if you're standing more than 15 meters away from the front of the stage. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem because the crowd is so loud anyway, but apparently tonight's audience mostly consists of fans of "Appeal To Reason" and parts of "The Sufferer & The Witness", considering the miniscule response songs like "State Of The Union", "Heaven Knows" or "Injection" have on the crowd. Take it from someone who has seen Rise Against eight times prior to tonight, the chant-along to these songs tonight is easily the worst I've heard thus far.

Basically, all the passion, the energy, the climaxing anticipation is missing from their previous Copenhagen date. This can probably be attributed to the lack of early Rise Against material fans who decided last time that "Black Masks & Gasoline" and "State of The Union" just isn't enough to satisfy their more hardcore-oriented roots, but it doesn't help that the venue feels hopelessly calm and unenergetic in comparison. Fortunately, Rise Against are also known as one of the most consistent bands in the genre, so despite the sound troubles and an underwhelming audience response (save for "Give It All", the acoustic songs, and "Ready To Fall"), they're still able to pull off a great performance. The rant about Type/Writer Distro publishing company and taking your approach to punk rock further than just this show proves why Rise Against are a hell of a lot more punk than Against Me! these days, if the song "Architects" didn't already demonstrate that in the first place.

Setlist:

  • 1. Chamber The Cartridge
  • 2. State Of The Union
  • 3. The Good Left Undone
  • 4. Heaven Knows
  • 5. Re-Education (Through Labor)
  • 6. Survive
  • 7. Like The Angel
  • 8. Help Is On The Way
  • 9. The Dirt Whispered
  • 10. Injection
  • 11. Prayer Of The Refugee
  • 12. Audience Of One
  • 13. Architects
  • 14. Savior
  • --Encore--
  • 15. Swing Life Away
  • 16. Hero Of War
  • 17. Black Masks & Gasoline
  • 18. Give It All
  • 19. Ready To Fall

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