Let's get this out of the way right now, I'm a HUGE Bad Religion fan. That being said, I'm very critical when it comes to music and I have no problem being completely honest and transparent. Now that that's out of the way, the following is a glowing review of Bad Religion's back to back "Battle of the Centuries" shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY (my hometown):
"Shed a tear for the criminal, give him something to believe. Light a fire for the miserable, give the darkness some meaning" was the opening salvo from Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin as they tore into "Spirit Shine" off of 1996's The Gray Race to open night one of what proved to be two glorious nights of punk rock brilliance.
These shows are giving fans a unique look into the Bad Religion catalog as they play songs from 1981-1998 the first night and songs from 2000-present day on night two. It's a concept that works really well, particularly if you attend both shows. I do know fans however who like "old" BR more than the later stuff so they'd be more inclined to go to the first night and vice versa for fans of the bands later material.
I've been a fan since the late 80's and I continue to be a fan today so seeing both shows for me was an absolute must. If you've never seen them before (um, what the hell are you waiting for?), it will be nearly impossible to do them justice here, but I'll try. Seeing a Bad Religion show is more than just a rock concert. It's a musical, political, educational and dare I say spiritual experience all wrapped up in an impossibly tight, loud punk rock gift basket. Drummer Brooks Wackerman delivers a ferocious, sonic assault most drummers simply cannot attain. His speed and precision are mindblowing and they lay down the foundation for every note of music played. Guitarists Brain Baker and Mike Dimkich trade off riffs, short solos and the claasic Bad Religion shredding we've all become accustomed to. Founding member, band "spokesman" and bassist Jay Bentley pogos around the stage while providing wicked bass lines and backing harmony and vocals. Lead singer, songwriter, (Brett Gurewitz is also a main song writer and band co-founder but rarely tours anymore), philosopher and resident Phd (he actually does have a Phd from Cornell University, taught Life Science at UCLA and currently teaches a course in Evolution at Cornell), Greg Graffin commands the stage like a caged lion, pacing back and forth while spitting out the most intellectual lyrics in the history of rock music.
I've attached the setlists for both shows at the end of this piece but some personal highlights from the first night were: "Stranger Than Fiction", "Suffer", "No Direction", "I Want to Conquer the World", "The Handshake", "Infected", "Generator", "American Jesus" and the set closer, "Fuck Armageddon...This is Hell".
Night two highlights include: "Kyoto Now!", "Los Angeles is Burning", "True North", "Broken", "Fuck You", "New Dark Ages", "Sinister Rouge", "Let Them Eat War", "Robin Hood in Reverse", "Dearly Beloved" and "Sorrow".
In the intimate setting that is The Music Hall of Williamsburg, seeing Bad Religion play 63 songs over two sold out shows to fans who were singing, moshing, stage diving and simply having an amazing time will be an experince that will be extremely hard to beat....until they come back and do it all again!