Rise Against deliver politically-charged show in London

On Sunday night, Chicago punk rockers Rise Against took over London’s O2 Academy Brixton with support from Sleeping With Sirens and PEARS. 

Kicking things off are hardcore punks PEARS from Louisiana with their loud and old school hardcore punk, providing a class A first support act that gets the crowd all riled-up for the night.

Then we’re off with Sleeping With Sirens whose fans have taken over the first few rows, doting on front man Kellin Quinn as him and his bandmates play tracks off their new record Gossip as well as old classics. 2011’s Tally It Up, Settle The Score marks the start of Sleeping With Sirens’ set that sees the band rock the south London venue, even with slight sound issues it seems. Kellin left the crowd to join the crowd for We Like It Loud, off the band’s 2015 record Madness. With their new record Gossip being fairly different to their usual sound, it was interesting to see how the crowd would receive those live. But not a worry in sight, love all around for anthemic tracks Empire To Ashes and Legends. The latter of which has been chosen by Team USA as their song for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Earlier this year Rise Against released their eighth studio album Wolves via Virgin Records and now the band return to play their new tracks live to their UK audience. The show is packed with everything punk should be: revolt, good music and the need to stand up to racism, misogyny and hate. So when the show kicks off with Tim McIlrath standing on a monitor with a megaphone calling on the audience to get their fists in the air and chant “Rise! Rise!” we all know exactly what we’re in for.

Rise Against are just one of those bands that in times of despair and rising fears, they take to the mic and call out the monsters, reassuring their audience that if they just stand up and fight, they have a chance at defeating the racism and hate. The Violence off the band’s newest record demands to make a choice to reject violence. This is followed by a passionate speech from McIlrath: “We live in a world where on ever corner there’s someone telling you what to think, what to say and when the voices become too much we find music, and we come together for music, like a sanctuary, don’t we, London?” And his words are welcome by loud cheers and claps. “We won’t crawl for anyone, will we, London?” he adds before launching into 2008’s Re-Education (Through Labor). Throughout the night two huge screens to each side of the drum set feature distorted images of protest, tanks and children in war zones and post-apocalyptical scenes.

A short acoustic set of Swing Life Away and People Live Here showcase McIlrath’s powerful vocals that send goosebumps all around your skin. An acoustic intro of Hero of War takes the band back into full on punk mode.

Just before the encore, Rise Against perform an energetic Wolves, title track on their new album. The track, as many other songs on the new record, have a mainstream rock attitude while still delivering that iconic Rise Against pleading punk-rock.

The encore is short and sweet with Make It Stop (September Children) from 2011’s Endgame and 2008’s Savior finishes off an incredible show at O2 Academy Brixton that has reminded us how powerful music can be when politics go awry.

And it becomes clear Rise Against love playing shows in London, “between the venue and the fans, Brixton feels like home”, Tim McIlrath says in a declaration of love. 

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