Written by Robert Johnson
Mar 13, 2013 at 08:00 PM
ImageIt has been a long time since I last played a Bad Religion album. Back in 2000, I couldn’t take The New America out of my CD player. It was catchy and thoughtful, and it turned me into a Bad Religion fan. Because of that album, I went through the Bad Religion catalog and fell in love with albums like No Substance, Stranger Than Fiction, and Recipe for Hate. Yet, like losing contact with a close friend, it had been a long time since I last caught up with Bad Religion. Boy have they been busy!

Since The New America, Bad Religion has returned to Epitaph Records and released five more stellar albums. On March 13, Bad Religion swung through Houston for a night of exceptional punk rock in support of its latest release, True North. Thankfully, I had a chance to catch them!

Right away, there was a notable absence. Drummer Brooks Wackerman suddenly left the tour in the wake of his mother’s death. Amazingly, and on extremely short notice, Steve Port of Polar Bear Club filled in seamlessly. According to frontman Greg Graffin, Port only had a matter of hours to learn the twenty-six song setlist. Yet, despite the late notice, Port was absolutely perfect. Every rhythm, progression, and detail was beautifully executed. Although it came under unfortunate circumstances, the last minute change lended a unique character to the show. It demonstrated the strength of Bad Religion as a unit, and its ability to adapt.

Sonically, Bad Religion was completely on point. The guitar tones, vocals, and drums were all full and polished. From the first song to the twenty-sixth song, the band didn’t lose a beat. What’s even more astonishing is that they did all of this with a brand new drummer.

After thirty-four years in the industry, the band is still felt fresh and relevant. Active since 1979, Bad Religion hasn’t lost a bit of the character that has made the band unique. Even if you’re a first-time listener, it should be readily apparent that the music of Greg Graffin and company has a distinct message.

ImageGraffin, a Ph.D. graduate of Cornell University and Professor at University of California Los Angeles, has long written thoughtful music about politics and society, not romantic ballads. Despite the serious undertones of Bad Religion’s music, the group takes on a more playful attitude with the live performance. For instance, before playing “Fuck You,” Graffin proclaimed “we mean no offense, but it took us a really long time to come up with the name of this song.”

Later, the band made a tongue-in-cheek dedication to newly-appointed Pope Francis with its performance of “Sanity.” As an introduction to “No Control,” Graffin explained “I think this song is from 1980-something.” Undeniably, Bad Religion has refined its live performance to convey an important message while not being too in-your-face about it.

Whether you’re a longtime fan or first-time listener, Bad Religion should be on your concert bucket list. Bad Religion was an integral part of the punk rock scene and will hold a place alongside bands like Bauhaus, Minor Threat, U2, and the select others that started a movement and made a significant impact in the industry. Taking all that away, Bad Religion puts on a impeccable show. So, even if being part of history isn’t your thing, the performance itself should be more than enough.

Setlist:

Past Is Dead
We’re Only Gonna Die
New Dark Ages
True North
Anesthesia
Generator
I Want to Conquer the World
21st Century (Digital Boy)
Los Angeles Is Burning
Fuck You
Recipe for Hate
Suffer
Sanity
Them and Us
You
Do What You Want
No Control
Modern Man
Come Join Us
A Walk
American Jesus
Sorry
Fuck Armageddon… This Is Hell
Stranger Than Fiction
Infected
Dept. of False Hope

Contact Robert at robert@starsandsatellites.com