On a crisp, clear Autumn evening, Rise Against took the stage at Jacob’s Pavilion in Cleveland like a steamroller on a deadline. Tim Mc Illwrath (vocals/guitar), Zach Blair (guitar), Joe Principe (bass/Backing vocals), and Brandon Barnes (drums) matched the energy in the crowd, responding through the driving force of their music.
Crowd surfing is not exclusive to the audience. The second song was no less energizing than the first as Mc Illwrath leaped into the crowd and surfed along without missing a beat. Jacob’s Pavilion is a true amphitheater, built for near-perfect sound, and Mc Illwrath’s vocals are flawless. (He would sound just as incredible if he were singing in a subway tunnel.) Blair is an accomplished guitarist and it is always a special treat to hear him perform. Principe is a strong on bass guitar, providing resounding bass lines all the way through. Barnes keeps it all together with his faultless timing and original fills. Returning to the stage, Mc Illwrath shouted, “Let me hear your voices” and finished the song, with the fans singing along, in an intimate moment that is not often seen in such a large crowd.
The staging is secondary. The backdrop featured the album art from their newest release, The Black Market and six foot letters spelling the word RISE in front. There were strobes, spots, and flashing colors all around. However, most concert attendees did not notice the staging as they spoke enthusiastically about the songs they heard and personal experiences related to Rise Against music. I have to admit, I only noticed the staging after the show had ended. I was more impressed by hundreds of fists in the air, symbolic of the band logo, throughout the show. This was their music, their voice, and the show was a cooperative exchange of sentiments ranging from acceptance to outrage.
Activism is a way of life. Rise Against is well known for their activism, but do not demand or require that you support issues they do. Instead, by the very nature of the band’s name, they encourage fans to simply take part in life. Anyone who lives in this world has witnessed or suffered an injustice at some point. The message from activists, like Rise Against, is that you can do something about it. We all have the power to right a wrong. Mc Illwrath stood alone on the stage with his guitar and played “People Live Here” from The Black Market album. He explained that he wrote it because people often get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of problems we face in our global society. He stated, “We don’t have all the solutions, but together we are going to keep trying.” It may seem like a problem is too large to solve, but it is essential to do what you can to effect better outcomes.
Fill in the blank. The title of this article includes an empty line for each person to complete as they see fit. Look around, decide what makes you want to ‘Rise Against’, then fill in the blank and get busy. After expressing their collective admiration for Cleveland audiences, Mc Illwrath told the crowd, “We came here tonight because we love this, because we believe in this, and because of all of you.” With that kind of validation, from one of my favorite bands, I left knowing I can accomplish anything.