Friday, January 17, 2014

Live Review: Against Me!, Cat's Cradle (1/14/14)

Photos by: Erin Kennedy
No dimming of the lights.  No intro music.  No bullshit.  Without so much as a "Hello," Atom Willard, followed by Laura Jane Grace, Inge Johansson and James Bowman, respectively, popped out from the right side of the stage and donned their instruments just a few minutes before ten.  Each member was dressed in all black, just as past members had adorned themselves in the earlier years, and Grace ducked her head under the strap of her signature black and white Rickenbacker with one of the biggest grins imaginable.  This was my sixth time seeing Against Me!, and it was the happiest I had ever seen her.

The crowd was relatively tame during opener "FuckMyLife666," but as soon as those iconic introductory notes of "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong" buzzed outward from Bowman's Orange guitar cab, there was no stopping the insanity.  Liquids, both alcoholic and non, in addition to cans, cups and articles of clothing flew in all directions as the expected crowdsurfers made their way over the barricades, some crashing into photographers, others flopping into the gigantic arms of security.  On nearly every song for the remainder of the night, the audience was a continuous sea of raised arms and pointed fingers, pulsing in rhythm with the lyrics.

The set list (typed below) featured a solid mix from all six of the band's albums, with Transgender Dysphoria Blues taking the expected biggest piece of the pie with five songs.  Searching For A Former Clarity was the most snubbed, occupying a meager two spaces throughout the 22-song performance, though "Miami" garnered one of the bigger reactions of the night.  A cursory glance over the songs should signal a clear lack of deep cuts, as Against Me!'s ever-growing back-catalogue is slowly, but surely morphing their set lists into fairly unsurprising sequences, where those like myself who have attended multiple shows can guess with ease over 90 percent of what's going to be played on any given night.  The crowd loved it, though, and would equally erupt with energy to songs from every single album, spanning over the course of a decade.

Still, Grace and company found a few ways to throw in some unexpected snippets of fun during their hour-and-a-half set.  An extended jam during the bridge of "The Ocean" gave Willard and the rest of a band a few minutes to unchain themselves from typical song structures as Johansson, in all of his Swedish glory, let loose some infectious rhythm from his Rickenbacker bass, prompting some of the attendees to bust out their inner club-goer on the dance floor.  Skillfully protracted pauses in "Miami" and "Don't Lose Touch" additionally worked as great moments of tension, bolstering the power of both songs' verses and choruses.

As much as Grace doesn't want her transition to be an issue anymore, her newly open and warm onstage demeanor will be what I remember from this sixth time with Against Me!.  Never before has she seemed so at peace, so comfortable while performing.  Given how angry many of her songs can be, pairing that rage with a euphoric smile results in one of the most interesting live experiences in recent memory, where all in attendance are welcomed to join in, regardless of who they are or what they may be feeling.  Everyone belongs, and if you're not smiling by the final denouement of "We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)," you clearly didn't show up for the communal release.

Set List:
Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
New Wave
Walking Is Still Honest
True Trans Soul Rebel
Cliché Guevara
I Still Love You Julie
Transgender Dysphoria Blues
White People for Peace
I Was a Teenage Anarchist
Unconditional Love
Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists
Pretty Girls (The Mover)
Don't Lose Touch
Black Me Out
Thrash Unreal
The Ocean
Sink, Florida, Sink
Bamboo Bones
Rapid Decompression
We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)

Remaining Tour Dates
Grace's Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment