Live Review: Rise Against, Clowns, Outright

3 December 2015 | 3:04 pm | Tim Kroenert

"The rest of the band returns to bring proceedings to a frantic finale with the one-two punch of Dancing For Rain and Savior."

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Take a wrong turn at Melbourne Park tonight and you might wind up finding peace of mind at an Oprah Winfrey show instead of losing your shit in the Rise Against circle pit.

Luckily we turn right instead of left and wind our way into the whale's belly of Margaret Court Arena, where a parade of fury and black tanktops is already underway in the form of Melbourne quintet Outright. Vocalist Jelena Goluza can scream with the best of them and ensures things get political nice and early, dedicating a song to the fight against gendered violence and another to Sea Shepherd long before tonight's lyrically didactic headliners are anywhere to be seen. The local flavour continues as Melbourne four-piece Clowns hits the stage for their own furious set. Current guitarist Jarrod Goon manages the rapid-fire riffs that were previously the domain of now departed shredder Joe Hansen, vocalist Stevie Williams struts, sprawls and howls as the moment demands, and James Ahern's bass and Jake Laderman's kick drum combine for a sublimely guttural synergy that we can feel writhing deep in the pit of our stomachs.

After the raw noise of Clowns, for a moment Rise Against sound like a goddamn pop band. Sure they're fast and loud, and front man Tim McIlrath brings bagloads of bluster — but it's the melody that shines through on opening song The Great Die-Off, from last year's The Black Market LP. It's followed by two older songs, The Good Left Undone and Satellite, which ratchet up the volume and tempo and get the crowd churning. McIlrath thrives on the frantic energy coming back at him from his audience — two choruses into Drones and he's up on the barrier front of stage, taking hugs and sharing the mic with zealous crowdsurfers. He introduces Survive, rather unimaginatively, as "a song about survival", with Zach Blair's mad guitar licks, Brandon Barnes' feverish drumming and the sing-along bridge "I have never felt so fucking great." It's a real crowd pleaser. The anti-homophobia anthem Make It Stop (September's Children) takes on added significance tonight, in this venue named after a notorious anti-gay activist. It segues into Prayer Of The Refugee — another song that could meaningfully echo in the halls of Australia's political institutions — which stirs the crowd into an outright frenzy. There's a more or less permanent circle pit going now, and it expands convincingly as McIlrath introduces the riotous punk song Blood-Red, White & Blue.

McIlrath leaves us waiting a fairly long time before returning for the obligatory "acoustic encore." Tonight he has a surprise for us, a cover of Redgum's I Was Only 19. It's well received by the crowd, but we can't help but wonder if the band's own anthem about the dehumanising effects of war, Hero Of War, might have done just as well. He follows up with the touching porch song Swing Life Away before the rest of the band returns to bring proceedings to a frantic finale with the one-two punch of Dancing For Rain and Savior. It's hard to imagine Oprah topping that.

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