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Rise Against are well known for their strong stance on a number of important issues, from the Iraq war to animal welfare; so it’s no surprise that tonight’s show is loaded with politics and morals. The fact that the Academy is almost at its capacity tonight shows just how influential the music of band like Rise Against and Anti-Flag can be; their message reaching thousands every night of the tour.

First up are Flobots, who although being something very different to the other two bands on the bill, go down very well with the crowd and share the same values and passion for change as their tour mates. Their hip hop style could potentially have been a disaster in front of a predominantly punk crowd, however their individuality seems to get a fair few on side; Mackenzie Roberts’ violin solo going down a storm. Debut single ‘Handlebars’ seems to be pretty well known, with the crowd voicing their approval and singing along, however as a band just starting out in the UK, the rest of the set is unfamiliar for the majority.

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Anti-Flag definitely don’t like to sugar-coat anything, launching straight into ‘Fuck Police Brutality’ in an overt attack against everything they see wrong with the world. Their anthemic yet very much punk sound provides plenty of opportunities for interaction, the crowd roaring back ‘Turncoat. Killer. Liar. Thief’. There is less energy onstage than might be expected, however after Justin Sane broke his jaw playing a previous show in Birmingham, it’s difficult to blame him for wanting to stay firmly on the stage. Besides, the crowd clearly don’t need any encouragement to get stuck in, with crowd surfers flying over the barrier and battered and bruised punk fans staggering out of brutal circle pits.

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It’s pretty clear that most people here are already well established Anti-Flag fans, but a well placed cover of the Clash’s ‘I Fought The Law’ makes sure to win over anyone who’s still unsure. Whether or not the message is really getting across is less obvious, but it’s good to know that someone’s at least listening.

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As Rise Against take to the stage with the explosive ‘Drones’, the entire crowd is in motion, fists raised and clearly following the band’s advice to ‘Give It All’. The whole set is charged with anger and a call for change, and although Tim McIlrath doesn’t talk extensively about the ethics that the band feel are so important, the music they play easily speaks for itself. The variety in the band’s sound makes for an interesting set, ranging from the raw and relentless ‘State Of The Union’ to far more pop punk sounding choruses, especially on new album ‘Appeal To Reason’.

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A few problems with the microphone during some of the set result in a whole verse of ‘Re-Education (Through Labour)’ being missed out amongst other things, but fans can hardly complain as the band get through twenty songs covering all five albums.

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The atmosphere completely changes as McIlrath emerges for the encore to sing a couple of more melodic songs; the sobering take on the reality of conflict, ‘Hero Of War’ and old favourite ‘Swing Life Away’. This quieter, calmer mood doesn’t last long however, as the set closers ‘Audience Of One’ and ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’ have the crowd tearing itself apart all over again.

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With this much energy and passion filling the room, it really does feel like something is coming across, possibly enough to inspire at least some of those in the crowd to take notice and make a difference.

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Set List:
Drones
Give It All
State Of The Union
Ready To Fall
Injection
Re-Education (Through Labour)
Chamber The Cartridge
Stained Glass And Marble
Behind Closed Doors
Life Less Frightening
Like The Angel
Collapse
Heaven Knows
Long Forgotten Sons
The Good Left Undone
Hero Of War
Swing Life Away
Survive
Audience Of One
Prayer Of The Refugee

Review – Helen Catchpowle
Photos – Steve Gerrard

6 Responses to “Rise Against + Anti-Flag + Flobots @ Birmingham Academy – 26th February 2009”

  1. Ami Says:

    I agree with most of the review. However, I don’t think the crowd was a predominantly punk crowd – it was mostly school kids (and there is a pic above of a DreamTheater tee which doesn’t spell punk).
    But Rise Against were the band I went to see and I was pleased with their performance! I have been deaf in one ear since, as we were right by the speakers, and for me, I couldn’t hear which songs they were playing because of this! Rise Against deserve every success!

  2. Terra Says:

    This was a great show, but I think Anti-flag relly didn’t shine quite how you say. Their schoolboy punk ethics and pretty banal speechs really brought them down. That and the bassist acting like a tool most of the set. At least Bush is out of power now so they’ve written a new speech.

    That said, Rise Against were excellent, intelligent punkrock done with passion. It’s great to see such a good band reach such heights.

  3. Lucy Says:

    oh my god im sooo jealous you got to photograph them! pictures look awesome steve!

  4. Haz Says:

    It was my first gig. And it was great. I agree with most of the review altough I didn’t think Flobots got the croud moving. This gig got me into Anti-Flag a bit more. Turncoat was great, really got the croud singing. Then Rise Against came on, their lyrics really hit home especially when you see Tim sing them out to the croud. brilliant set, they played all my favourites and it was just a riot. I can honestly say it was one of the best nights of my life.

  5. Dan Says:

    No i disagree, Flobots were not well welcomed, i was there and all around me, and me, were people not happy with the “band”, they were trying to hard to be punk but it wasn’t working. I was begging for a real band to come on and it was a huge relief to see Anti-Flag tear the place down.
    Anti-Flag were better live than Rise Against which was a dissapointment :(

  6. Sam Says:

    The crowd were not pleased with Flobots at all. However, the chick on Violin was smoking hot and awesome with a bow too. She got the biggest applause, but their attempt to get the crowd’s hands up went as far as the front row….
    Anti-Flag stole the linelight and made every punk fan scream their lungs out. Personally, I did not know much of there stuff and bought some tracks for my ipod on the way. I am so glad I knew what to shout. Their interaction with the crowd was awesome. The pit was good and not too brutal, yet the couples and teen girls still had time to run to the back.
    Rise Against played away with minor talking to the crowd, though they blew the crowd away. The crowd in unison singing along to most of the songs, it is a shame the pit stopped. I agree with Dan about the dissapointment. Rise Against did attempt to speak to the crowd but lost the people who were their main focus. Namely the “guy in the green shirt”, that was “a head taller” than the rest of us, Tim tried his hardest to find.
    An overall brilliant gig. I will definately catch them next time round.

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