The Riverboat Gamblers, Rancid, Rise Against – PNC Pavilion, 22 July 2009

19 Oct

The Riverboat Gamblers

Rancid

Rise Against
22 July 2009
PNC Pavilion, Cincinnati, Ohio



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With so many different tours being cancelled for “reasons beyond their control” [i.e. poor ticket sales], it’s always a little nerve wracking to book tours in larger venues. What happens if tickets don’t sell? Do we move to a smaller venue? Cancel all together? Luckily, this wasn’t an option for this tour. Rise Against did a fantastic job of choosing two bands who fill out this bill perfectly so that poor ticket sales wouldn’t even be an issue. With the 800 capacity pit completely full, and the rest of house about 75% full, Rise Against once again proved that with quality acts and a fairly negotiable ticket price, people will come and support their favourite bands. It almost makes one ask, “Recession? What recession?” Not even fearing typecasting, the bands brought out some of more colourful fans that Cincinnati has to offer. You have, first and foremost, the old punks. You have the punks with families, who made sure that their five year olds came with perfectly coiffed Mohawks, mini Social Distortion t-shirts, converse, and headsets. There were the frat boys. There were the hipsters. Finally, there was the Hot Topic army, who showed up to hear Rise Against play the singles and only the singles.

Austin, Texas’ The Riverboat Gamblers, being fairly unknown to the majority of the crowd, exploded onto the stage and set a very high bar for the rest of the show. Not content to be “just a support act”, the band set out with a singular solitary purpose: play the best show of their lives, every night, and, in the process, convert as many people as possible. They proceded to make it quite clear that they simply do not care what anyone thinks about them or their music because they are there to have fun. Take a little bit of The Hives, mix in a whole lot of Vaux and New Bomb Turks, a pinch of The Refused, and add a healthy dose of The Unseen, mix well, bake in the Texan sun, and that is what kind of energy that this band puts out. In thirty minutes, they managed to turn a crowd of sceptics into a crowd of believers. It is evident that this band puts their hearts and souls into both their music and their performance. The evening’s setlist read like a primer to their catalogue. Fresh off the release of the excellent Underneath the Owl, they pulled the fastest, and most intense songs off the disc, as well as favourites Something to Crow About and played them all together in a frenzy if energy and passion. The two biggest highlights of the set were Hey! Hey! Hey! and Sparks and Shots, both taken from the latter record. The songs saw vocalist Mike Wiebe leaping, running, and throwing himself around his bandmates and across the stage. Eyeing the pocket of rabid fans, Wiebe quickly became discontent with remaining onstage and leapt onto the crowd whenever possible. Those who were showing to be less than enthused were purposefully caught in the crossfire, as if to say “This is our music and you will like it.” It worked because it was the people who just stood there who were later in line at the merch booth. The music industry needs more bands like the Gamblers. They are pure, honest, punk rock and roll. It is obvious that they care about what they do, what they say, and the music that they put out.

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Rancid were by far the most anticipated act of the night. After a long absence, this is the first real tour that the band has done since 2005’s Indestructable tour. Taking time on this tour to adjust their stage setup to the larger venues and larger crowds and stripping down their stage décor to the bare minimum since beginning this tour, the band took more time to focus on the actual music and their interaction with the crowd instead of being overrun by unnecessary digital distractions behind them. The stage, bearing a simple backdrop of graffiti style and stencilled artwork, recalled the back alleys of Gilman St or the interior of CBGBs. Even in such an expansive setting, they managed to keep their punk rock sensibilities and the band was nothing short of en pointe for the entire set. This evening, Lars Frederikson and Tim Armstrong were especially chatty, talking to both to the audience and amongst themselves. Tim, especially, seemed to be in quite high spirits throughout the evening. The band, with a solid new lineup which now features Branden Steineckert behind the kit, has never sounded tighter. Steineckert, who drummed like his life depended on it, looked like there was no place that he would rather be but behind the kit in the middle of muggy Cincinnati, Ohio. Even Armstrong, who exudes a naturally badass attitude, was grinning from ear to ear the entire set. Opening with live favourite, Radio, the band took the energy from The Riverboat Gamblers before them, magnified it, and returned it tenfold. Even during the acoustic Let the Dominoes Fall, Armstrong remained full of venom and vitriol. A strong start deserves a strong finish as they closed their set with Ruby Soho, starting the song and eventually just playing and having the entire crowd take over. There was a palpable undercurrent of punk rock solidarity that ran throughout the entire set. Everyone crowded up as close to the stage as they could get to spit Armstrong’s lyrics back at him. They raised the bar set by The Riverboat Gamblers’ set and silently said to Rise Against, “Ok. Top that.”

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Radio
Last One To Die
Journey to the End of East Bay
Roots Radicals
Midnight
Olympia
Salvation
Let the Dominoes Fall (acoustic)
Fall Back Down
The Way I Feel
Time Bomb

11th Hour
East Bay Night
Maxwell Murder

Ruby Soho

Rise Against. It’s interesting to see how far they’ve come since playing basement shows around the country. Ironically, not all of it has been forward moving. The majority of the crowd leaving after Rancid’s and The Riverboat Gamblers’ stellar sets should have been a bit of foreshadowing for what was to come. Gone is the band that were passionate and angry; the band that has replaced them is…corporate and radio friendly. Perhaps they were having an off night. Perhaps they were tired from having just come from Canada the night previous. The performance itself can only be described as lacklustre at best. They had their moments of clarity where flashes of the Rise Against of yesteryear made an appearance, but their heavy reliance on the “singles” nullified any chance that the second half of the set would be any better than the first. After a solid introduction with two back to back passionate renditions of State of the Union and Paper Wings, things only went downhill from there. The only true highlight in the set cae at the end of the main set with Everchanging, off their first record. Hero of War seemed patronising and almost trite with the accompanying music video being played on screens behind them. It appeared that they were trying too hard to make it work. Throughout the rest of their set, they seemed bored as if they were just there to be going through the motions. Their old spark was gone. Even the Rise Against of Warped Tour was fired up about something. They no longer appear to be having any fun. The only other time that McIlrath appeared to be full of vigour was when he was introducing both his band and the support bands. Indulging in a bit of hero worship while gushing bout Rancid, he became animated and full of life. It is evident that he has an amazing amount of respect for them, however, even at the calibre that they are at, this tour would have worked better on a smaller scale with Rancid coheadlining. Let’s hope that they take a step back with the next tour, and hopefully, they will get it right.

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State of the Union

Paper Wings
The Good Left Undone
Chamber the Cartridge
Audience of One
Blood to Bleed
Savior
Survive
Six Ways til Sunday
Everchanging

Hero of War
Dancing for Rain

Give it All

Ready To Fall

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