DS Show Review/Photo Gallery: Bad Religion and The Bronx at House of Blues Boston (3/28/13)

DS Show Review/Photo Gallery: Bad Religion and The Bronx at House of Blues Boston (3/28/13)

I’ve got a confession to make. When last I saw Bad Religion (May of 1998 at the legendary Middle East Club in Cambridge, MA), I assumed it was the last time I’d see them. The show then was decent, yet underwhelming. Admittedly not a fan of the band’s 1998 No Substance album (or its 2000 follow-up The New America), I assumed my time as a Bad Religion fan had come and gone. It was sad, really, since BR was the band that birthed my love punk music earlier in the decade. But all good things must come to an end, or so I thought.

I was dead wrong.

The arrival of Brooks Wackerman just over a decade ago ushered in what has become my favorite period of the Bad Religion era. The early years obviously stood to build Bad Religion’s legacy as one of the most important acts in the punk rock hierarchy. The last decade has demonstrated their staying power, proving that a punk band can be just as vital in its fourth decade as it was in its first. A series of life events popped up, keeping me from seeing Bad Religion in any of their Boston stops over the last several years. It looked like that might happen again this time, but things broke the right way, allowing me to catch the Boston stop on the band’s True North tour. I left kicking myself, not for having attended this show, but for not catching them in recent years. Bad Religion are truly a ‘can’t miss’ band.

The punk rock gods may have prevented me from catching a Polar Bear Club opening slot for a record third time (mea culpa, guys…really, I WILL catch a PBC show someday), but they did at least allow allow me to witness a blistering set from The Bronx. While I was one of the many who were beyond stoked to catch Against Me! in their previously-announced opening spot, I can also be included on the list of those who were equally as stoked that The Bronx were added when AM! bailed for the most Spinal Tap of reasons.

The Bronx certainly did not disappoint, more than succeeding in their task of warming the crowd up for the headliner. The ‘pit’ seemed to be made up of a high volume of people who were familiar with the LA band’s catalog, prompting frontman Matt Caughthran to perform a song from the middle of the venue’s floor. Certainly not the first time this has been pulled off by the frontman of a hardcore band, though the combination of his corded microphone and a capacity (+/- 2400) crowd could have been met with disastrous consequences (that’s not me being a cautious old guy…just click the link). The Bronx made the most of their 45-minute set, cramming songs from all four of their self-titled albums in rapid-fire fashion (perhaps a little too rapid-fire for some of the older, long-time BR fans that were within earshot).

It would be easy to claim that touring band in its fourth decade was merely a money-making venture, a collection of virtual dinosaurs content to go through the motions, play the hits, and retire to the tour bus. Not Bad Religion. The touring five-piece came out swinging, kicking theirĀ  set off with “Past Is Dead” from their latest album, True North (released back in January on Epitaph), and proceeded to hammer through thirty songs (by my math) over the course of the next ninety minutes. It’s hyperbole to say that the band have never, in their thirty-four year history, sounded better. But it would be entirely accurate to say that on this night, Bad Religion sounded as fresh and as vital as they ever have.

I’ve argued for the better part of a decade that Brooks Wackerman reinvigorated the band, and is arguably as important to Bad Religion’s sound, both live and in-studio, as any drummer in punk. The man is an animal, no two ways about it. He and Jay Bentley (one of my favorite people in punk) worked in lockstep all night. Greg Hetson still bounds around his side of the stage in a manner that has been his trademark for thirty years. Brian Baker’s technically skilled leads still provide a certain amount of ferocity to the mix. And Greg Graffin, well, is Greg Graffin. In many ways, Graffin has seemingly relished the role of the anti-frontman, and was equal parts professorial and self-deprecating on this night.

Bad Religion’s set, and performance, served as a lesson to any and all doubters that they do, in fact, still have it. The set featured a great mix of songs from all (well, most) points of the band’s career, and the half-dozen-or-so songs from True North seemed right at home amidst the ’21st Century Digital Boys’ and the ‘Against The Grains’ and the ‘I Want To Conquer The Worlds’ that we’ve come to know and love and weave into our personal fabrics. “Epiphany” and “Vanity” and the couple songs from The Grey Race were welcome surprises, and I think the band knew that. More than anything, I took away an overwhelming sense that Bad Religion in 2013 are still having fun, even breaking into an impromptu cover of the classic Tom Petty song “Refuge”…twice. They still seem to genuinely enjoy bringing high-quality, high-intensity punk rock to the masses when they could have simply given up the ghost long ago. They continue to prove that while punk is nowhere near dead; while it may have gotten a little longer in the tooth, Bad Religion’s sound and message are just as important now as they were thirty years ago. Don’t miss them.

Check out the full Bronx/Bad Religion photo gallery here.

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