Rise Against with AFI and Anti-Flag
A Call To Arms
Photos and Article By: Jennie Walker
Rise Against’s 2017 album, Wolves, was almost called “Mourning in Amerika.” Fearing the name seemed to complacent after the 2016 election, they opted to save the name for their 2018 tour with AFI and Anti-Flag, where, together, the groups spent three-and-a-half hours telling the crowd at the State Theatre that they had to fight for what they believed in.
The show began with no lighting and a dark rumbling sound, like something was crashing down and rising up at the same time.
Anti-Flag took the stage first with such infectious energy that even those who didn’t know the words to their songs were raising their fists and singing call and response phrases back to the band. Lit underneath red and green lighting, the “Mourning in Amerika” flag backdrop had an unmistakably eerie feel to it. The red lighting above the band illuminated the vertical red stripes, but the green lighting turned the usually white stripes into a sickly lime color. Along with the band’s name - Anti-Flag - the backdrops miscoloring strongly drove forward the initial message of the show: something is very wrong in our nation. Alongside the powerful imagery was the powerful yelling of the phrases “fuck nazis,” “fuck police brutality,” “free of fascism, free of racism, free of sexism.” Thus, the second message of the tour was mentioned: with this horrid state of affairs was a dream that could be enacted, and we had to take action to create it.
Once Anti-Flag had finished, the dark rumbling sound began again as AFI took the stage. Under initial monochromatic lighting, the flag backdrop turned into a wall of pure red with black silhouettes. The flag barely looked like a flag and appeared more a banner of blood or giant shining stop light of warning. While AFI’s song selection wasn’t as overtly political as their tour-mates’, their songs continuously had an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and challenge, such as “Snow Cats” with the line, “Am I loud too much, proud too much?” They ended their set by singing hit “Miss Murder” as the crowd joined in.
Once again, the final set began with a low rumble, but this time there was a voice speaking along with it, indiscernible over the roar of the waiting audience. Then a bright white light flared, settled into a nice teal, and Rise Against was on stage. They started off with “The Violence,” the third song off Wolves. Like “Snow Cats,” “The Violence” is a song consisting of theoretical questions, but when applied to the examination of the nation, it becomes a very obvious questioning of what morals we hold, if any. “Are we not good enough?” it prompts, “Are we not brave enough, is the violence in our nature just the image of our maker?” It was loud, it was intense, and it was the perfect song to kick off a set that asked where we were as a country and where we wanted to be.
As the set continued on, the lighting changed from the electric teal to a swampy green, and then to a bright white as Rise Against played unreleased song “Megaphone.” During “Blood-Red, White & Blue,” bright red and and blue lights shone onto the stage while white lights from the stage rotated as they shone into the crowd. Similarly to previously played songs, the track asked questions but this time did so in a more straightforward and political manner. “Would God bless the sweatshops that we run, would God bless America?” Once the song was over, an invitation was posed directly to the audience: “I want you to sing this with me if you stand up for what you believe in.” A beat of silence, then “Re-Education Through Labor” began blasting through the building.
While there was a brief period of acoustic music from the band, including a lovely rendition of “Swing Life Away” after a shout out to Maine’s freezing winter temperatures, the show was incomplete without one last rallying song and inspirational speech. Before the band played their last and most popular song, “Prayer of the Refugee,” lead singer Tim McIlrath asked the crowd to make a difference instead of just standing by. “Remember, hope is not enough,” he said. “Remember, hope will get you so far, but it’s action. Shed light in darkness, put your hands on the steering wheel of history and drive it wherever you want.”
With that, he jumped into a song about a beaten down refugee who was finished pretending that simply getting by in America was enough. “Keep quiet no longer,” he yelled, and the audience yelled with him, fed up with a system that seemed to be crumbling down around them and vowing to make things better.