The first handful of live shows after a band releases a new album can, by most accounts, be a bit nerve-wracking. Although times have certainly progressed to the point where all but the most casual of fans have heard a band’s new material in advance (sometimes well in advance) of its actual release, there can still be a bit of trepidation as to how those songs will not only translate live but how they’ll fit in to a set list that includes older material. Rest assured, Against Me! fans; Shape Shift With Me doesn’t just sound great in album form, it absolutely slays live.
A mere three days following the release of their above-mentioned seventh studio album, Against Me! brought the early stages of a two-week Eastern US tour into the familiar confines of Boston’s Royale nightclub. Over the course of a hair over an hour, the foursome’s main set drew heavily from the new album and its predecessor, 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Case in point; the first four songs (“True Trans Soul Rebel,” “333,” “12:03” and “Dead Friend”) found the band hitting hard and fast from the word “go.” And that makes sense, obviously. Though Against Me! has a long and storied history and has endured various member changes throughout the years, the current lineup of frontwoman Laura Jane Grace and long-time left hand man James Bowman on guitar, Atom Willard on drums and Inge Johansson on bass is far and away the band’s tightest and most fundamentally solid lineup.
In what has to be seen as a reassuring sign for the band, each of the half-dozen songs that the band ripped through from Shape Shift With Me was met with the same passion and intensity from the constant barrage of crowd surfers (which, by the way, when did the trend of people taking selfies while stage diving start? This really needs to stop. Like, yesterday.) who hung on and chanted every word regardless of which AM! era the song came from.
Direct support came from Potty Mouth, the three-piece (four, if you count the touring guitarist) outfit who cut their teeth in the western part of Massachusetts before just recently moving to California. For the uninitiated, they’re raw without being unhinged, and play a passionate form of grungy post-punk that would have fit in nicely in the 1995 indie music landscape, and yet still sounds new and fresh and interesting in 2016. And apologies to Frameworks, the Gainesville-based five-piece who served as show opener. The relatively early start time, coupled with traffic and “day job” responsibilities resulted in me walking in to the venue as they were walking off stage. Next time, gang.
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