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Live Review and Photo Gallery: Rise Against (Residency) at Metro • Chicago

| April 3, 2023

Tim McIlrath Rise Against (Photo: Curt Baran)

Rise Against

March 30, 31 and April 1


Chicago, IL

Review by Jaime de’Medici; Photos by Curt Baran

Over the past year, the Metro has welcomed a number of Chicago superstars as part of the venue’s ongoing 40th anniversary celebration. Among them have been The Smashing Pumpkins and Fall Out Boy, with Wilco even joining Yo La Tengo recently for an extended encore. So it’s only fitting that another Chicago success story would perform on the Wrigleyville stage for the venue’s 40th birthday.

Across three consecutive nights, hometown heroes Rise Against delivered three unique sets with (almost) no repeating material. (A decision frontman and singer/songwriter Tim McIlrath stated as seeming like a great idea months ago until it became time to rehearse.) The exception to the rule was the ultra-anthemic “Savior,” off 2008’s Appeal to Reason, which closed out all three shows with a burn down the house exuberance.

Otherwise, each night found the band traversing material from across their massive twenty-year-plus discography, with “Alive and Well,” from their 2001 debut, The Unraveling, serving as both the name of the residency and the spark that lit the fuse on Thursday night. It was indicative of three shows that would find the band digging deep into their extensive catalog, with many selections being performed onstage for the very first time. Live debuts included the longing “About Damn Time,” off the 2020 expanded edition of 2014’s The Black Market, as well as a fiery delivery of Endgame bonus cut “Lanterns.” Other premieres included “Escape Artists,” underscored by Joe Principe’s bass work, as well the more rhythmic title track from The Black Market. And Nowhere Generation‘s “Sudden Urge” found McIlrath tense and on edge leading up to catharsis in the song’s choruses.

Evident across all three nights was a sense of urgency and intensity as the group delivered Chicago-made punk rock at breakneck speeds. Such was the case with a blistering rendition of Endgame cut “Architects,” with McIlrath belting out, “Do you still believe in all the things that you stood by before?!” “Dancing For Rain,” meanwhile, was powered by standout guitar work from both McIlrath and Zach Blair, especially in the breakdown. Similarly, The Sufferer & the Witness’ “Prayer of the Refugee” showcased a standout solo from Blair, while “Whereabouts Unknown” found McIlrath shredding his vocals as he left nothing on the table. Both “The Great Die-Off” and “State of the Union” featured the band at their heaviest and most assaultive. And Revolutions per Minute cut “Torches” was bolstered by jagged riffs and Brandon Barnes’ thundering drums.

On the Metro stage, Rise Against’s percussive proficiency had a chance to cut through more than it might in a larger venue. The racing “Last Chance Blueprint,” off 2003’s Revolutions per Minute, was propelled by Barnes’ playing, while “The Numbers” was made all the more blitzkrieg by the drummer’s impact. Both Barnes and Principe worked in unison to build tension on “Broken Dreams, Inc.” and The Unraveling‘s “Six Ways ‘Til Sunday,” the latter fueled by the raw songwriting of the band’s early days. And Principe’s bass provided a foundation for the more pop-tinged “Tragedy + Time.”

It wouldn’t be the only time the band’s more melodic sensibilities were on display during the residency. Appeal to Reason‘s “From Heads Unworthy” featured a building tempo and backing harmonies from Blair and Principe, while emotion was front and center in McIlrath’s vocals on the  power pop-infused “Everchanging.”

Elsewhere, Blair’s guitar work brought out the natural hooks in a speeding version of “Anywhere but Here,” and a sense of yearning in McIlrath’s delivery came through on “Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.”

Each night also provided a brief calm among the storm, with all three encores commencing with stripped-down performances. Thursday night featured McIlrath on acoustic and Blair on electric for a solemn rendition of “People Live Here,” while Friday’s crowd got McIlrath acoustic for the band’s best-known ballad “Swing Life Away.” The frontman recalled writing the song during his time living in Albany Park, where he spent so much time on the porch his landlord took away the porch swing. And Saturday’s emotive “Hero of War” started with McIlrath on acoustic and Blair again on electric before Principe and Barnes joined halfway through as the song built its intensity.

Between nearly every song across all three nights, McIlrath held court with the crowd, treating them like old friends and even bringing them into inside jokes within the band. An especially noteworthy story came from a time when a 16-year-old McIlrath had a ticket for a Smoking Popes, and Jawbreaker show at Metro. His best friend, however, didn’t get a ticket before the show had sold out. So the future singer waited with his friend outside Metro, trying to score a single ticket from people entering the venue. Finally, one man, who they asked about a spare on his way in, came back out a few minutes later with a ticket so both friends could enter the show. That man, who McIlrath described as walking up to the building “like he owns the place,” was Metro owner Joe Shanahan.

It wasn’t the only sentiment the band would show for the Metro. Each night, McIlrath recalled how early on, as a fan and performer, he believed the northside concert hall was to be the greatest venue in the world. After Rise Against got to tour the globe many times over, the frontman determined his initial assertion was correct.

McIlrath also shared other Rise Against – Metro memories, such as filming music videos at the venue and the band writing material in the building’s hidden (and haunted) Top Note Theatre. The singer also recalled Rise Against performing at an empty venue in 2020 for a Save Our Stages livestream, a show of support for not just Metro but other independent venues affected by the pandemic.

The three-night run served as a homecoming for the band, not just in getting to play in a room so connected to the group’s history but also serving as an end to the tour cycle for 2021’s Nowhere Generation. As such, the mood across all three sets was never anything but celebratory. A victory lap for a Chicago band that’s seen the world over the past two decades but can still have a home where it all began – at “Cabaret Metro.”


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Category: Featured, IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews, Weekly

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