Rise Against

The Joint, Dec. 8

The best shows are the ones where you can tell the bands believe in what they are doing, both musically and in their message. The Chicago hard rockers proved their devotion on the second night of X107.5’s Holiday Havoc. Opening-night headliners Jane’s Addiction proved something else entirely by canceling at the last minute. But Rise Against is one of the best acts I’ve seen this year.

First of all, they’re loud. Like really loud. Like my-ears-were-ringing-for-almost-the-entire-next-day-loud. Singer/guitarist Tim McIlrath has a strong enough voice to hold up to the collective sound bomb put together by guitarist Zach Blair, bassist Joe Principe and drummer Brandon Barnes.

It’s strange to say this, a highlight was actually the acoustic stuff, a solo performance of “Swing Life Away” and an electric version of “Hero of War,” which featured the lead singer offering the following thought on Iraq: “Fuck this war.”

All this from a band that once played the lobby—not the main stage—of the Huntridge Theater. Of course, it’s clear they have a special place in their hearts for Las Vegas (their current North American tour started here in April), and the screaming, singing and moshing fans gave that love right back. Chants of “Everybody Rise” were vocal, and songs such as “Ready To Fall” and “Give It All” had the crowd appropriately frenzy-whipped. At one point, McIlrath hit upon the old rock ’n’ roll adage about living in the moment, exclaiming, “What you have is right fucking now.” It’s that attitude and that fervor that made Rise Against leave so much of themselves onstage and the audience so happy to take so much of it home with them.