Against Me – Live Review

By Rob Keeling

02/06/2010

Against MeIn the eight years since the release of their debut album ‘Reinventing Axl Rose’, Against Me have gradually transformed from the angry anarchist darlings of the underground punk scene, into fully fledged rock stars. The shift to a more mainstream sound and the commercial success that comes with it has inevitably cost the band some of their fans who accuse them of having sold out their principles thanks to the lure of major label support.

Tonight’s show however allows the band to perfectly showcase that while they may not be touring in a tiny van and playing basement shows anymore, they still possess the same passion and live energy that they always had.

Their new album ‘White Crosses’ is a natural progression from their major label debut ‘New Wave’. Whilst the latter showed great promise and was clearly a fairly pronounced change of direction for the band with less rage and vitriol and instead sleeker, poppier hooks, it still didn’t quite feel like the finished article. ‘White Crosses’ however sees the band honing their new sound and skilfully blending the furious drive of old with the anthemic choruses that exemplify their newer output.

Opening with newbie ‘High Pressure Low’ the band launch into a wide ranging set at a breakneck speed which doesn’t let up for a second. They play old favourite ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’ second, and a sea of raised fists surges towards the stage. Older tracks such as ‘Miami’ and ‘Don’t Lose Touch’ are mingled freely with new songs such as ‘White Crosses’ and ‘Rapid Decompression’ as the band select choice cuts from across their discography. They are at a stage now where they can really pick and choose their set list and tonight they do so perfectly.

There are a specific couple of song choices made tonight however that perfectly epitomises the progression of Against Me.

The band closes the show with a very old favourite ‘Baby I’m An Anarchist’. Written at a time when front man Tom Gabel and the rest of the band were extremely passionate about their anarchist beliefs, the song is about a fanatical anarchist who is explaining to his ‘spineless liberal’ girlfriend why they cannot be together due to their conflicting political ideals.

Eight years on however, and the band have on their new album a track called ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’, a heartfelt anthem in which Gabel laments the folly of his youthful rage and turns his back on the rigid anarcho scene before emphatically stating that ‘The revolution was a lie!’  In the song’s soaring chorus, the front man poignantly roars, “Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?” A sign of a band growing up and moving on if ever there was one.

As band and audience alike finish the show a smiling, sweaty mess, it’s clear that while they may not be the angry young men they once were; Against Me still have a lot to say and remain a formidable live outfit.

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