Friday, March 22, 2013

Punk icons Bad Religion prove it's never to late to play Music City

There's not much Bad Religion hasn't seen or done in the course of their 33 year career. Since forming in Southern California in 1980 they've been on countless tours and had numerous opportunities to challenge their fanbase to think for themselves. But there is one thing that's been missing from their agenda: a trip to play in one of music's most esteemed cities: Nashville, Tennessee.

It was a fact that frontman Greg Graffin didn't downplay, alluding to it several times during his interplay with the crowd. The band was top notch in every phase of the game, but Graffin especially shined with his ability to relate to his audience. He was wistful at times, reminiscing back to the slam dancers in San Fernando Valley in the 80s and reflecting on the fact that Bad Religion is perhaps the last surviving band from that scene.

Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin gives Nashville a lesson in Punk 101.

He made some moves to get the crowd into it without being too obvious, like when he invited them into a sing along while they played fan favorite "Generator." And he wasn't shy about dropping hints that this might not be their lone Nashville performance  Whether that's merely stage rhetoric remains to be seen, but if it is they at least left a hell of an impression on Music City.

Concise, catchy punk anthems backed by energetic driving rhythms were the order of the night, and they had the crowd moshing, rollicking  and singing their hearts out. Waiting for a specific song in the setlist? Don't blink or you'll miss them. With many song lengths well under the three minute mark, the best parts of their set translated into short but sweet adrenaline bursts. Fortunately, there were plenty of highlights to go around.

They hit most of the high points from their latest full length, True North, without going overboard. The band emerged onto the stage in darkness to the opening strains of "Past is Dead," a blistering rocker taking the public to task for their failure to learn from the nation's mistakes. Graffin blasted the Supreme Court on "Robin Hood In Reverse," while examining the plight of the working class man on set closer "Dept. of False Hope." But with a 30 song setlist, there was plenty of time to showcase the band's extensive body of work.

Obvious concert staples like "American Jesus" and "21st Century Digital Boy" take a look at America's role in the world and middle class society respectively, and are always good for getting a crowd amped. But the set was spiced up with the inclusion of slightly more obscure numbers like "Do What You Want," a deep album cut from their 1988 breakthrough Suffer, which sarcastically blasts mankind's oafishness and cynicism in a clever and revealing manner that can only be pulled off by a band with the insight and political acumen of Bad Religion.

And of course there were a couple of tunes dating back to the band's infancy, spawned during the hardcore punk era of the early 80s. They don't sound as raw or jagged as they once did then; in fact they fit in pretty well alongside the more melodic material of the band's later years, but their primal urgency and power ring through as clearly today as it must have done back then. Face it, what could be more gratifying than shouting "Fuck Armageddon this is hell!" at the top of your lungs alongside a legion of other rabid Bad Religion fans?
See also: Bad Religion - True North review

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