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Bad Religion, The Bronx @ Wellmont Theatre 3.23.03 (review)

Bad Religion live

By: Terrance Pryor

Montclair has always been the epicenter for punk rock in North Jersey. The defunct Bloomfield Ave Cafe and Stage held numerous punk shows with noticeable acts such as Blanks 77, Against All Authority and Roger Miret & The Disasters. If you want to get a true punk rock experience, The Meatlocker is just a few blocks away. Considered one of the most reputable (and sometimes notorious) punk rock venues in the Northeast, The Meatlocker has often been called New Jersey's version of CBGBs. Starland Ballroom's unfortunate temporary closing seemed like a blessing in disguise for the city. One of the most influential punk acts of all time came to town, and every punk on the street was determined to let loose on in the pit.

When news broke that Against Me! had to drop off the tour, many were bummed out. Some didn't bother to buy tickets while others gladly sold theirs. Luckily, The Bronx had an empty schedule and jumped on the run at the very last minute. While they might not seem like an equal substitute to some folks, The Bronx did what they came to do: melt faces off and spark madness.

Wasting little time, TB started their set with "The Working Hand" from their new album The Bronx IV. Vocalist Matt Caughthran seemed almost like a motivational speaker that night as he stated that the show was a culmination of the audience's lives. That changed quickly as Matt then proclaimed, "It's all downhill from here, motherfuckers" before getting into the track "Shitty Future". The band went through cuts from The Bronx II and their new full-length including "6 Days A Week", a song that was dedicated to everyone from snakes to felons.  Even with people in the crowd opening up some circle pits, many in the audience just stood around which forced Matt to jokingly ask if it was a Tuesday night. Mr. Caughthran didn't stay on stage for too long as he found himself screaming his lungs out in the moshpit during "Heart Attack American" and "History's Stranglers". His last words for the night? "Your life as you know is over".

There's not much to say about Bad Religion that hasn't already been said. The California punk act has been the forefront of smart punk rock since their formation back in 1979. Sure, most punk bands can easily scream "Fuck the government" over and over again on every single record. Bad Religion can do the same thing but with an intelligent point of view thanks to frontman Greg Graffin and guitarist Brett Gurewitz.

Guitarist Brian Baker stepped onto the stage playing the opening chords to "Past Is Dead" from their new record True North, which got the crowd fired up. The intensity multiplied by 100 with crowdsurfers and circlepits as the song went into full force. While the sound quality was excellent (you could certainly feel Brian's guitar solos in your chest), the mics were a little off but things of that nature are always common with punk shows. Greg Graffin joked about having new stage moves for this tour ("I'm using my left hand this year") before heading into "True North" and "Anesthesia". For "Generator", the act performed the intro with a slow build up and some nifty drumming from Brooks Wackerman. Before heading into "I Want To Conquer The World", Greg talked about how New Jersey governor Chris Christie would become the new President of the United States, which drew a ton of boos from the crowd (Greg then dedicated the tune to Christie).

For "Los Angeles Is Burning", the lyrics were tweaked a little for the local crowd ("It's showtime for dry climes/ New Jersey is dreaming of rain") while "Fuck You" instantly became a fan favorite. The band swiftly went through cuts from their new record, Recipe For Hate, Suffer and The Grey Race. Unlike Starland Ballroom (which Greg considered "the ultimate little setting"), the Wellmont Theatre has a theatre-like atmosphere which was kept intact since it's opening back in 1922. Greg joked about not wanting to destroy the venue's antiques before going into "No Direction", a tune that Bad Religion hasn't played in several tours. During "Come Join Us" (which Greg called "a Bad Religion ritual"), a fan made a song request in an interesting manner by throwing a large piece of cardboard with "We Are The Government" written on it. Greg laughed and stated that it would be a travesty if they screwed that song up.

As the band came back to the stage for the encore, Greg said, "Thanks for sticking around for the encore" which got some laughs from the crowd. As the band unleashed "Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell" one wheelchair attendee found himself crowdsurfing to a loud roar. After their last song "Dept. of False Hope", bassist Jay Bentley thanked the fans for inspiring the band for many years. From the looks of all of the sweaty punks in attendance, it's pretty obvious that Bad Religion were the real inspiration.


The Bronx setlist

The Unholy Hand
White Tar
Shitty Future
Under The Rabbit
Rape Zombie
Too Many Devils
Six Days a Week
Youth Wasted
White Guilt
They Will Kill Us All
Valley Heat
Heart Attack American
History’s Stranglers


Bad Religion setlist

Past Is Dead
We’re Only Gonna Die
New Dark Ages
True North
I Want to Conquer the World
21st Century (Digital Boy)
Los Angeles Is Burning
Fuck You
Recipe for Hate
Robin Hood in Reverse
Them and Us
Do What You Want
No Direction
Dearly Beloved
No Control
Modern Man
Come Join Us
A Walk
American Jesus
Fuck Armageddon… This Is Hell
Dept. of False Hope


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