It’s a cold and wet winter night in Birmingham, however, despite the elements there’s an undeniable sense of excitement running through the crowd gathered outside the o2 Academy. With good reason too, as hot off the heels of their home run performance at this year’s Download Festival, Rise Against are back in Birmingham once again to bring the final European leg of their Nowhere Generation tour to a close.
By the time we’ve made it through the queue and brushed off the rain, tonight’s support act The Story So Far are just finishing up on stage. California’s pop punk veterans get quite the ovation too, having clearly done a great job of warming up tonight’s capacity crowd. One quick changeover and a trip to the bar later though and it’s time for the main event to begin. With an enormous cheer erupting from the audience as the lights dim and Rise Against’s intro music kicks in.
As the smoke begins to clear, our master of ceremonies for the evening Tim McIlrath’s unmistakable silhouette begins to appear. With his Les Paul Custom raised to the sky and his picking hand poised ready to unleash chaos, he seems to be feeding off the anticipation in the crowd. Until, after one final drum roll, he hits the opening chord of Re-education (Through Labour) and the carnage truly begins.
Crowd surfers appear almost instantaneously, hurling themselves towards the barrier while the band plays on. With over two decades on the road under their collective belts, Rise Against sound every bit as tight as you’d expect too. There are a few telltale glances towards the sound desk when Joe Principe and Zach Blair step up to the mic to add their backing vocals to the mix, but nobody really seems to notice and by the time the second chorus rolls around the pair are beaming from ear to ear. Bounding back and forth across the stage, with whatever issue they were hearing on their end already firmly left behind in their rearview.
Without stopping for breath, the band plough straight into Architects, another old school anthem that drives the crowd absolutely wild. Before seamlessly changing era’s and finishing off their opening trifecta with House on Fire from 2017’s Wolves. Their set is just three songs deep and sweat is already starting to drip from the ceiling of the 02 Academy when Tim McIlrath finally pauses to greet the audience. It isn’t just the crowd that are breaking a sweat tonight either, with drummer Brandon Barnes looking positively drenched as he pounds his way through the follow up track, Chambering The Cartridge, at a pace that would make even Bad Religion think about easing off a little.
Rise Against continue to drop hit after hit, pulling out all the stops to put on what can only be described as a punk rock masterclass. With each anthemic chorus garnering a greater reaction from the battered and bruised crowd than the last. Ready To Fall and Prayer of the Refugee manage the biggest cheers of recognition, however you get the feeling that no matter how deep the cut, the crowd here tonight is still going to know every word. Even without Tim helping everyone along using his megaphone as he clearly takes joy in doing during Satellite.
With their curfew fast approaching, Rise Against depart the stage. Leaving their frontman alone with his acoustic guitar for a heartfelt unplugged performance of Swing Life Away that see’s every camera light and even a few old school cigarette lighters held aloft during the epic singalong that follows. Before reuniting for Hero of War, which Tim appropriately dedicates to all those still embroiled in the current conflict in Ukraine. After seeing the connection Rise Against have built with their audience in a mere ninety minutes, their set’s finale, Nowhere Generation seems a fitting track to bring things to a close. Uniting new and old fans alike under one banner, it’s a track that epitomises the sense of family and unity that Rise Against bring with them to every show and it goes down an absolute storm.
Rise Against aren’t getting off that easy tonight however and just a few minutes later the audience’s constant chants and cheers beckon them back to the stage for a double encore of Make It Stop (September’s Children) and Saviour. The latter of which truly brings the house down and has even those in the balcony bouncing out of their seats. Bringing yet another textbook show to an end and reminding all those present that Rise Against are still very much at the top of their game, even after twenty five years.
Photos taken by Nick Allan at the O2 Brixton Academy show.