Bad Religion’s 40th anniversary tour finally hit NYC just before Halloween, after being twice delayed due to the pandemic. Joining them were Alkaline Trio, who were co-headlining the tour, along with openers War On Women. As you can imagine, all added together, this lineup made for one hell of a punk rock show. I do admit I went to this show as a WOW fan first and foremost so they were the band I was most amped to see, but to get to see Alkaline Trio and Bad Religion on top of it??? Don’t have to twist my arm!
War On Women are one of my favorite bands (read my recent interview with frontwoman Shawna Potter) and one of the bands I missed seeing live the most when shows were at a standstill in the midst of the pandemic. During this time they also put out their excellent third album, Wonderful Hell, though obviously had to hold off a while to be able to tour behind it. The wait was worth it though because getting to see some of these songs performed finally was like a sonic blast to my consciousness; it was obvious the rest of the crowd was feeling it too. Their set was of course too short for my liking- only eight songs- which they split four songs each from Wonderful Hell and 2018’s Capture The Flag, but they absolutely obliterated every single note, standing shoulder to shoulder with legendary bands Alkaline Trio and Bad Religion as equals.
Watching the early birds at the show, it was clear some of them were already fans like me, but a lot also seemed like they were definitely there for Alkaline Trio or Bad Religion and had no idea who WOW was at the start of the set. But you could see them reacting and getting really into things before the first song was even done, becoming fans right away. I’ve seen WOW play small rooms, mid sized rooms, and now this was the biggest stage I’ve seen them on, but it was no matter, they can command any room they play big or small. The firebrand performance is led by Potter, yes, because this is usually the case with a lead singer (and she is without a doubt one of the best front people in the game today, bar none) but the rest of the band matches her in intensity at every level. From the dual guitar onslaught of Brooks Harlan and Jennifer Vito, to the rock solid rhythm section of bassist Sue Werner and drummer Dave Cavalier holding up the foundation, this is a band on top of their game through and through and everyone who comes early to these shows on this tour should count themselves lucky. (And make sure they are buying tickets when the band comes back through on a headline tour!)
WOW Setlist: YDTMHTL, Divisive Shit, White Lies, Lone Wolves, Big Words, Aqua Tofana, Predator In Chief, Silence Is the Gift, The Ash Is Not The End
War On Women at Hammerstein Ballroom
As I mentioned, this was mainly a night about War On Women for me, and I have to confess that Alkaline Trio are one of those bands that I’ve long been “adjacent” to (and how could I not be being in the punk world for years?) but had not listened to in quite a while and had always been a band I was definitely more casual with listening to overall. That being said, of course I was excited to get to see them live and gave myself a little refresher listen before the show. Once there, I was definitely treated to a powerhouse performance and a set that encompassed songs across the gamut of their nine album strong career. “Radio,” and “Clavicle” were definite highlights of the night because I know they are favorites of FTA webmaster extraordinaire, Jenifun, who doesn’t live in the US so unfortunately missed out entirely on this tour, but I was very delighted on her behalf to hear those songs live.
Alkaline Trio Setlist: Private Eye, We’ve Had Enough, Blackbird, Is This Thing Cursed?, I Wanna Be A Warhol, Nose Over Tail, Every Thug Needs A Lady, Cringe, Clavicle, Armageddon, Mercy Me, Emma, In Vein, Continental, Warbrain, Fine, This Could Be Love, Radio
Alkaline Trio at Hammerstein Ballroom
Bad Religion are one of those bands I’ve been listening to for so long it seems like they’ve always been in my life. But while this the case, it’s also true that somehow I never managed to see them live before and I’m not really sure why that is. Suffice it to say that it was definitely a long time coming and I’m glad the dry spell has ended. A 40 year career is beyond impressive and naturally with a career heading into its fifth decade, the audience reflected fans of all ages. The band did not disappoint any one of those fans, playing a set that was a true treat for long time and younger devotees alike, hitting songs from the very beginning up to their most recent release, 2019’s Age Of Unreason.
I’ve long been a fan of their earliest work, along with the albums that came out in the 90s, and I admittedly do need to do a little catching up on the last few records that were released. But as I said, this was a set that appealed to fans from any era and hit plenty of early staples like “20th Century (Digital Boy),” “Generator,” “No Control,” and “American Jesus,” all of which had me singing along. The biggest highlights for me though were the songs from their very first album 1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse? “Damned To Be Free,” and one of my all time favorite punk songs, “We’re Only Gonna Die” which they played as their encore. This is not only one of my favorites of the genre, it was one of my earliest introductions to the world of punk when I was just cutting my teeth in the mid 90s, so it was pretty awesome to see such an important song to me played live after all these years. I do wish there would have been a little “Fuck Armageddon…This Is Hell” action but I definitely left satisfied even without it.
This night brought my punk life full circle in a way. Bad Religion is a band that started out and began releasing records when I was a baby and that I discovered in my early teens and opened a door to a much wider world for me. Before I discovered bands like them (and a handful of others), I had little to no concept of music or culture outside of what MTV and big music magazines were presenting to me, and that a whole rich world of independent artists/labels/zines/etc existed. That this entire universe was there made up of people who were thriving and making not only viable careers of it, but vital ones. Now at 40 years old, I savor this musical and DIY punk education and am happy to still be a part of it all these years later and that the punks who taught me those lessons are still out there making music, teaching new generations, and bringing powerful openers along with them as well to share the love and the stage and in turn inspire and teach even more. It’s well more than I could have ever imagined back in the early 90s when I picked up the “80-85” comp by Bad Religion for the first time, but ultimately a major dream come true.
Bad Religion at Hammerstein Ballroom
Bad Religion Setlist: New Dark Ages, Modern Man, Recipe For Hate, Los Angeles Is Burning, Fuck You, Chaos From Within, Epiphany, I Want To Conquer the World, 21st Century (Digital Boy), Damned to Be Free, Man With A Mission, Murder, Better Off Dead, Candidate, Do What You Want, No Control, Generator, You, Infected, Sorrow, American Jesus. ENCORE: We’re Only Gonna Die
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
WAR ON WOMEN