Review: Bad Religion, Against Me! make up for lost time at St. Petersburg's Jannus Live
Bad Religion and Against Me!’s show Wednesday night at St. Petersburg’s Jannus Live was a long time coming — three years, in fact.
The two punk bands were slated to tour together in 2013, including a stop at Tampa’s Ritz Ybor. Then Against Me! dropped out, saying they needed to work on securing a lineup and their long-in-the-works new record.
Though it was disappointing news at the time, it proved to be for the best, as that record turned out to be 2014’s career-revitalizing Transgender Dysphoria Blues. And now with a stable lineup in tow, the former Floridian punks joined the '80s Southern California legends in hopes of making it worth the wait.
Providing support was singer-songwriter Dave Hause of The Loved Ones. He did a capable job in the spot, both effectively shutting down a heckler yelling at him to bring out the other bands and then actually bringing them out, with Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley and Against Me! drummer Atom Willard serve as the backing band for a few tracks.
Certainly, there seemed to be almost as much excitement for Against Me! as there was the headliner. The band worked to make the most of their time, which was still a support slot. At one point, frontwoman Laura Jane Grace apologized for not talking much, as they were trying to play as many songs as they could.
The group has since released another album this year, Shape Shift with Me, and played a couple of tracks off of it including the rollicking Rebecca. Yet much of their setlist came from Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which makes sense as the album has already become a minor classic two years after its release.
And with any Against Me! show, they went back into their catalog as well. They played Pints of Guinness Make You Strong and Walking is Still Honest off 2002’s Reinventing Axl Rose, along with Sink Florida Sink from As the Eternal Cowboy and Pretty Girls (The Mover) from Searching for a Former Clarity.
Still, when it comes to expansive back catalogs, there’s no comparing to Bad Religion’s 32-year career. And after an introductory audio montage of various presidents, the band showed it with an expansive, nearly 90-minute set.
Certainly, it’s hard to imagine anyone would come away from their show dismayed that they didn’t play enough. Their setlist touched on everything from ‘90s hits like 21st Century (Digital Boy) and Infected to newer tracks like F--- You to ‘80s fan favorites, including their very beginning with F--- Armageddon, This is Hell.
If anything, you could argue that a roughly hour-and-a-half set was a bit too long for a punk band that largely trades in two-minute thrashers. At some point during the show, you might think, “Hey, Bad Religion has a lot of songs, which are all pretty short, and all kind of sound alike.” But every time that thought might’ve crossed your mind, they’d pull out a track like Suffer or You and the crowd would go wild anew.
One thing that was immediately apparent at Wednesday’s show was that Bad Religion is important to a lot of people. Even the apartments next door to Jannus Live, which usually just has a few curious residents come out, had a full balcony of fans watching them.
They’re a formative band for a lot of people. They’ve shaped listeners’ sociopolitical views, or introduced people to ‘80s punk and indie through guitarist Brian Baker’s other work or been the reason a punk pulled out a dictionary and learned the word fecundity.
And they’ve somehow found a way to be that for multiple generations — from those who’ve been with them since the ‘80s, to those who discovered them from their major label records in the ‘90s, to those who heard You in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 in the ‘00s. Judging from some of the young faces in the crowd, they’re still finding new fans.
During Television, the band brought Grace back out to perform vocals. And the she looked like she was having the time of her life, living out a dream many punks have likely had while singing along to No Control at home.
It was just announced that Against Me! will be touring with Green Day, another hugely formative group for many. For another generation, Against Me! has become one of those iconic, life-changing punk bands. And in their pair-up with punk legends Bad Religion, they felt like peers.
-- Jimmy Geurts