Gig review and photos by Music Vice editor Brian Banks
Gig/Concert: Bad Religion ‘New Maps Of The World’ Tour with The Bronx
Venue: Sound Academy, Toronto, ON, Canada
Date: 24 September 2008
Headliners: Bad Religion
In one word: Primal
For the past couple of weeks I’ve felt no hunger to go out to the next gig. And that’s usually what it’s all about – the next gig. I’m always hungry for my next fix of live music; it gives me such a buzz! That feeling of pre-show adrenaline and anticipation is something I’m unashamedly addicted to. [It’s my vice, if you will.] So, where did my recent apathy come from? Virgin Festival.
Virgin Fest in Toronto left me numb. Not because of the whiplash/neck-strain that I’d suffered at the end of it all, after being shoved in the back by some guy in a hurry to leave. No, the apathy was because that whilst overall I had enjoyed the festival, I had been disappointed by all of the headliners. Paul Weller and Oasis had both been uninspiring. I’d even been disappointed by the Foo Fighters, which may seem like an absurd statement, but yeah… meh. Their performance was extremely sub-par by their own once ehigh standards. My own personal dissatisfaction with the big boys at Virgin Festival had left me in no rush to run along to the next gig. Thankfully, after time, I snapped out of this stupor and saw light at the end of the tunnel when I read ‘THE BRONX’ on a list of upcoming concerts.
See, the thing is folks, the only cure for a dose of those bad gig blues is to go out and see a band that rocks your preverbials off. The Bronx were just the band to do this. They were immense back at Warped Tour just a few months ago. I knew they’d be stellar again for this gig, as the support band for Bad Religion. Oh yeah, Bad Religion, not a band line-up eh?
A couple of hours before the show I started to get that feeling in my veins again. That pre-show excitement. As I got off the bus at Union station and made my way to the Sound Academy, I started humming “Digital Boy” to myself. The Sound Academy is tucked away a few kilometres from Toronto’s downtown core, west on Queen’s Quay, and surrounded by docks and industrial wasteland. Walking to the venue is something that is probably ill-advised in the interests of personal safety. I walked past fenced-off industrial wasteland with ‘No Trespassing’ signs, while a homeless guy with a brown paper bag squeezed through a cut in the wire. Nearby there were a few railway wagons sitting on tracks. Everything was dimly lit and drenched in shadows. Passing through this grungy dockland area was the perfect pre-show mood-setter.
“Matt Caughthran, the fist-pumping, chest-beating gorilla of a lead singer, was on top form again. The Bronx were primal.“
I arrived at the venue just as The Bronx were starting their third song of the night. I stood much farther back than I usually do at a gig, as I wanted to soak it all up. I stood there, and appreciated what was another awesome performance by The Bronx. Then I stood a little closer, and closer… it’s hard not to get pulled in.
Matt Caugthtran, the fist-pumping, chest-beating gorilla of a lead singer, was on top form again. Respect from the audience is commanded and earned. Most people had likely never seen the Bronx before, but I’m sure many of the Bad Religion fans left that night as fans of them. The Bronx were primal. There is so much power in their performance. If the music doesn’t kick your ass to stop you standing still then it’s likely that Matt will jump into the pit and make sure your having a good time. They are truly one of the best live bands around. Simple as that.
And so, just like that, my bad gig blues were kicked firmly into last week. And the main event hadn’t even happened yet… bring on Bad Religion. They are an important band to be mentioned when discussing the history of American punk rock and hardcore. Since their formation in 1980, these So Cal punks have released 14 studio albums, with at least one more on the horizon. Lucky me then to be here in 2008 to see them for the first time, and to hear them performing some of their best known material as well as the newest stuff from New Maps Of Hell.
Bad Religion songs are mostly social commentaries rich with metaphors and imagery. Singer Greg Graffin is pretty much a one-trick pony when it comes to his singing style, but the powerful and creative lyrics keep things interesting. When Graffin isn’t on stage or in the studio, he can be found doing his other job as a professor at the UCLA, (University of California, Los Angeles). So Graffin is no fool, and no doubt equally as comfortable in a lecture hall. On stage here in Toronto he was worshipped by the hundreds of sweaty fans who raised their voices and their fists in accompaniment to every song. There was an intense connection between BR and their fans – a bond that was only broken for a moment when Graffin taunted the hockey-crazed locals about the misfortunes of their beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.
“The recent news story about that big scary Large Hadron Collider was mentioned before playing Big Bang, making the song more relevant than ever.“
Bad Religion currently have six full members in the band, but guitarist and co-songwriter Brett Gurewitz, the bloke who owns Epitaph records, was absent. The band kicked off their set with “21st Century (Digital Boy)”, one of their biggest and best songs. Of the most recent material I enjoyed “New Dark Ages”, and more so “Requiem For Dissent” which was one of the most well received songs of the night and met with stirring chants of ‘requiem!’. The recent news story about that big scary Large Hadron Collider was mentioned before playing Big Bang, making the song more relevant than ever. BR stormed through over 20 songs, then returned for an encore which featured “Sorrow” and the brilliant “Infected”.
I’ve never been a big listener of Bad Religion, only dabbling into their music now and again – but seeing them live was a cool experience. I found their music much more provocative and impacting when hearing it right in my face, and that’s just the way it should be. Their dedicated fans were raucous and passionate, and hungry for a good time with their heroes. I spoke to a guy on the way out who told me he’d been waiting 14 years to see the band live. No doubt well worth the wait. Brilliant night.
© Brian Banks