Bad Religion graced Stockholm, Sweden with their presence last week. Tivoli, an amusement park, was the venue. Not an ideal choice for any band, much less a punk rock band of Bad Religion’s caliber. I mean, an amusement park is a family place, the equivalent of the county fair back in the USA, not a punk rock venue. Bad Religion deserved better than what the Stockholm concert organizers gave them. This was a reflection of the powers that be in Stockholm and NOT Bad Religion.
The park was packed with punks amidst all the roller coasters and cotton candy stands. Bad Religion played like a machine. Roughly 30 songs in an hour and a half flat with Brooks Wackermans’ relentless speed drum beat as their backbone. The sound was great and the band was tight and explosive as expected. They had time to scorch through all the fan favorites and old classics plus some obscure tunes like Submission Complete and, one of my personal favorites, Beyond Electric Dreams. The mosh pit went wild for adrenaline-pumping anthems such as Recipe For Hate and Fuck You. Greg Graffin’s hair was a bit whiter than I last remembered but to me he’s more punk than a poseur with a purple Mohawk. He showed off his wry sense of humor between comparing his bands’ music to today’s pop music and poked fun at the venue. New guitarist Mike Dimkich is doing fine on his first tour with Bad Religion as replacement for Greg Hetson. It is a shame about Hetson, though. Nobody outside of the BR’s inner circle knows why he’s gone but I know none of the true die hard BR fans will ever forget him. He is synonymous with the original Los Angeles Hardcore Punk scene and he had a much better stage presence than Dimkich has. Hetson looked and played like a punk, plain and simple. But like I said, Bad Religion is a machine and their music is a sum greater than their interchangeable parts. The fact is, the band isn’t the same without him but they are still Bad Religion and last week’s performance was equal in quality to previous gigs I’ve seen when he was still with the band.
The band was in good spirits and seemed very relaxed especially original members Graffin and bassist Jay Bentley. I sensed they are still feeling a nice afterglow after the acclaim from critics and fans alike for their latest album True North. True North was a return to form in the twilight of their career and an album that will solidify their amazing legacy. It’s clear they are enjoying the ride into the sunset.
For all the melody and slickness that has gradually become part of their sound through their long career, they have never forgotten that the foundation of their music is the high tempo beat and wall of sound guitars with fast, shifty power chord riffs. For me, that foundation defines the way Southern California Hardcore Punk is supposed to be played. Those lyrics are pretty damn good too.
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