The new millenium seems to have brought some much-needed good fortune for Bad Religion, the band who were arguably pivotal in the creation and growth of the Californian punk rock scene. After a slew of sub-standard releases and inter-band problems in the mid-to-late 90’s, the quintet finally returned to form with 2002’s ‘The Process Of Belief’ album, which compares favourably with early classics such as ‘Suffer’ and ‘Generator’. Last weekend saw storming performances at the Reading and Leeds festivals, and tonight they’re finishing a brief UK tour with a return to London.
Emanuel are clearly happy to be on supporting duties; however, their scream-laden, discordant rock n’ roll is a lot more fun to watch than it is easy to remember. They receive only half-hearted applause from a largely disinterested crowd, of whom several people are clearly nursing their post-Reading festival hangovers.
Tonight is unquestionably Bad Religion’s party, and their opening gambit of ‘Sinister Rouge’ (from last year’s excellent ‘The Empire Strikes First’ album) is enough to blow away the remnants of even the worst hangover. There’s little left for the SoCal veterans to prove in terms of their live potential, so they get on with doing what they do best: blasting out raucous yet intelligent melodic hardcore anthems with no shortage of conviction. From the old (‘Generator’, ‘Anaesthesia’, ‘Do What You Want’) to the new (‘Sorrow’, ‘Los Angeles Is Burning’), there’s no shortage of classic songs to keep the crowd singing along with their fists in the air. Vocalist Greg Graffin’s light-hearted banter contrasts with the gravity of his band’s message, whilst often-talkative bassist Jay Bentley is largely content to provide backing vocals and show off his new moustache.
They close with ‘American Jesus’, accompanied by the whole venue chanting along to the “One nation…under God” refrain; a memorable end to a great show from the elder statesmen of US punk rock. Let’s keep believing in this Bad Religion.