11.09.07 @ Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia Article by Billy Maulana November 12th, 2007
Ten years since their last visit, seminal punk band Bad Religion return to Australian shores with almost a decade?s worth of anticipation, five albums since, and throngs of fans both young and old hoping to catch what could be the last opportunity to see the legendary band down under. On the heels of the announcement months ago however, it would have appeared that much of the crowd had feared another looming cancellation, but as November arrived and news the band had finally touched down and commenced their tour, anxiety turned to great expectation- and to no end it seemed, this ageless Los Angeles band met every one of them when they finally graced the stage at Melbourne?s Festival Hall.
Packed to the rafters, the crowd was a strange brew of old time punkers donned with raggedy Descendents/Bad Religion shirts side by side with the new generation weaned on the post-Blink 182 punk canon; a testament perhaps, to Bad Religion?s enduring appeal. But before the now 40-something quintet took the stage, it was warmed with the arrival of Melbourne?s own renowned punk outfit; Mid Youth Crisis (MYC), who have been on-and-off again for past few years. Due to unfortunate circumstances however, we were unable to make it for their set, but according to a friend who did, they played a tight, ripping set, well deserving of the accolades they?ve received. Next up were long running Simi Valley punks / part-time Australians Strung Out- who over the past few years have made Melbourne a regular destination on their travels. True to their form, the band?s explosive set was peppered with their crowd favorites- ?Mind Of My Own,? ?Firecracker,? and the surprise inclusion of (my personal favorite) ?Solitaire.? Dressed in matching t-shirts (dressing for success no doubt), the band?s energetic set was only hobbled by two things- (no, not the shirts) the rather sluggish sounding audio that muffled the otherwise superb set, and a hideously short run time that saw the band on stage for no more than roughly 30 minutes. Regardless, Strung Out showed that after more than a decade in existence, an extensive touring schedule and a flurry of releases, their stage-shredding abilities are very much intact.
It is difficult to comprehend the promise the crowd has been holding for the past ten years. Having been an avid listener for the past twelve years, my personal anticipation was palpable. And as the fivesome took the stage, the atmosphere was, for lack of a better word, electric. Looking particularly aged (everyone looking quite like senior citizens except for Jay Bentley and Brooks Wackerman), the crowd?s uproarious applause was met with the realization that yes, Bad Religion are finally here, and as the band ripped into the opening salvo of ?Fuck Armageddon ? This Is Hell,? the swelling movement was proof the masses were just as ready as the band. The 90+ minute overture was littered with some of the band?s most lauded tunes, including favorites ?I Want to Conquer The World,? ?Modern Man,? ?21st Century Digital Boy,? and ?American Jesus.? Alongside, many of the band?s newer songs made the cut, including a healthy helping from their recently released New Maps Of Hell, highlighted by strong performances of ?Dearly Beloved,? ?Requiem For Dissent,? and the band?s latest single, ?New Dark Ages.? Other highlights included the modified rendition (or as they call it, the ?festival? version) of ?Generator? and a mass sing-a-long to ?Sorrow.? In between songs, Greg Graffin spent much time referencing the band?s lack of time down in Australia, getting the venue of the last show wrong, and calling Australian men ?uglier than Californians? (really quite hilarious) ? and the crowd, perhaps sensing the uncertainty of a return show in the near future, enjoyed every second of the band?s banter. Musically, the band was sound- a far step above the sound quality that plagued Strung Out?s set- and was bolstered by the terrific percussion work of Brooks Wackerman (who I neglected to mention in my review of New Maps Of Hell). No doubt, the driving backbone behind the band?s live sound, Wackerman was justifiably the most exuberant performer of the night, and definitely an energizing element of the Bad Religion resurgence of the past few years.
As the band?s setlist drew to a close, it was to no surprise the crowd wanted more. Closing the show with a quality encore (and wrapping up proceedings with a glorious performance of ?Infected?), Melbourne fans knew they had been part of local music lore; a punk music albatross had finally swooped down and graced the city with its long-awaited presence, and no one, no matter how young or old, left disappointed.
On a personal note, it was incredible to finally see some of the most meaningful songs you?ve come to love being performed live. Seeing Bad Religion themselves is an experience difficult to properly express into words. A few years ago, I wrote this essay about the band and the reissues of some of their best work. I look back and see that many of the thoughts I penned still ring true today, and in a short twist of irony, I thank God that I got see Bad Religion at least once in my life.