Rise Against are more familiar with playing the hallowed main stage at Donington as opposed to the small basement confines of an intimate club in Leeds. This, however, is going to be epic and one for the history books, 50% of Rise Against have made their way across the pond to say hello to a few of their most dedicated fans on the back of the release of their latest masterpiece, ‘Nowhere Generation’. These Chicago punk rockers are stripping it back and giving us an evening of decadent and sublime acoustic renditions of their fan favourites and biggest hits, new and old, and an opportunity for every soul in the Key Club tonight to unleash their singing voices and exercise their larynx’s from start to finish.
The crowd were suitably warmed up by the time Tim McIlrath and Zach Blair unassumingly strode onto the small stage in front of an audibly enthusiastic, jam packed, simply fanatical gathering, and launched into the opener for the evening, ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’. Whilst Rise Against normally adopt energy and passion from every corner of their performance, tonight’s stripped back set was flooded with elegance and refinement, energy and passion was still on show, just in a different style to their normally bounding and jumping forte, this time they were firmly rooted to two stools positioned on either end of the small and basic stage. No elaborate back drop or lighting show tonight, this was personal and intimate beyond belief.
‘Prayer Of The Refugee’ certainly set the tone, and the combination of the strings from the dual attack of the acoustic guitars married perfectly and only led to compliment the angelic vocals from McIlrath. The admiration flowing onto the stage from the worshipping throng was spine chilling, and the enthusiasm with which each word was sung back to the stage was mesmerising, being louder than the actual windy city duo for most part of the evenings set.
The set continued in pretty much the same way, Rise Against pausing at times to engage with the crowd and offer some banter of varying guises. Whether this be from reminding us that this is there first gig over seas since the pandemic hit, to explaining that they are uber excited to be returning to our shores in June to grace the Download stage once more, this received one of the loudest cheers of the evening as I’m sure you could pretty much guarantee that every person gathered here tonight will be in attendance. Mid set was punctuated with a trio of ‘Like The Angel’, ‘Hero Of War’ and ‘Nowhere Generation’, this trilogy seemed to encourage the biggest crowd participation of the whole set, the crowd seeming to be the loudest they were all evening for this set of tunes and this in turn seemed to then encourage more passion to flow from the strings on stage.
The set closed out with mega hit and firm fan favourite, ‘Saviour’. This almost seemed a catalyst to encourage and demand more crowd participation than had been seen all evening. The crowd were visibly overwhelmed by their idols, and absolute stars, being in such an intimate venue for the evening. Every voice was singing every word and the joy this created was evident to be seen on the faces of each of the Rise Against boys tonight.
As the set closed, I can guarantee that everybody who has been witness to this once in a lifetime event was leaving on cloud nine. This will live in their memory for a very long time, if not forever; a truly remarkable occasion and one which I was very very grateful to have been a part of.