On the third stop of a 22-city North American tour, longtime iconic punk band Bad Religion rolled into a sold-out show at San Diego’s North Park Observatory for an entertaining night of punk rock spanning the band’s four decades.
As one of the most successful punk acts of all time, Bad Religion is one of those special bands that can sell out shows despite no new album to promote. Bad Religion’s musical formula of aggressive punk riffs and tempos, often served up with commercially palatable melodies utilizing the unique warm and soothing vocals of co-founder Greg Graffin, has led to great success and a madly dedicated fanbase. The band, formed in Los Angeles in 1980, has such an extensive song catalog, that every show can be different.
With the sold-out venue already about 80% full, openers Speed of Light took the stage. This band out of Los Angeles made a solid impression.
If bands were stocks, I’d highly recommend investing in this trio big time. The three Christensen siblings are 16-year-old Riley on bass and vocals, and her brothers; 18-year-old Tyler on drums and vocals, and 20-year-old Cameron on guitar and vocals. Despite their young age, they display the punk fury, tightness, and seasoned stage presence of musicians twice their age. Riley’s dynamic aggressive vocals delivered intensity and attitude as the band smacked you with a barrage of thrash punk/grunge hooks with interesting, subtle moody grooves. Speed of Light just released the song “Teeth” last week, including a video, and you’ll be glad you checked it out.
Bad Religion took the stage with “The Defense,” an interesting, slower tempo choice for an opener. But the veteran quintet didn’t take long to kick into high gear with the fast-paced “Against the Grain.” What was immediately clear was these guys sounded perfect – just like the damn album.
Graffin’s vocals were spot on; the backing vocals, an important part of the band’s sonic signature, were also just nails. Bassist and band co-founder Jay Bentley is the most animated onstage, jumping around smiling, singing backup vocals, having a great time.
Guitarists Brian Baker and Mike Dimkich book-ended the band onstage, blaring out distorted punk riffs, with drummer Jamie Miller smiling while banging out one furious tempo tune after another without a hitch.
The 26-song set list would please any Bad Religion fan, pulling songs from 14 different albums. Except for “American Jesus,” I think every popular tune was covered: the epic “Sorrow,” “You,” “Los Angeles is Burning,” “Infected,” their commercial hit “21st Century (Digital Boy),” and “F*** You” – my go-to driving song.
They pulled two songs out of the basement; “Portrait of Authority” and “Drunk Sincerity” hadn’t been performed live in 25 years. The energetic crowd showed their appreciation on “Drunk Sincerity” by starting an avalanche of crowd surfing craziness that lasted the remainder of the show.
Bad Religion offers an impressive, no-frills live concert experience. They truly sound just like the record; maybe better. Graffin is great vocalist, fun to watch as his chill stage presence offers an interesting contrast to the loud raging punk craziness going on around him.
Check out upcoming tour dates to see if they’ll be in your neighborhood soon on their North American tour.