Punk's not dead, and Bad Religion did a great job of proving that when the band kicked off its first western Canadian tour since 2008 last night (June 25). Despite having gray hair and entering their 50s, the Los Angeles quintet proved that they can still rock harder than most bands half their age, and it was an inspiring thing to witness.
With a big banner featuring the famous cross logo hanging in the background, the guys came out and launched into "Spirit Shine" off of 1996's The Gray Race before dishing out other older tunes such as "Stanger Than Fiction" and "Supersonic." When you've released 16 full-length records, it's hard to make sure everything is covered, but Bad Religion did a decent job and ultimately decided to focus the most on 1989's No Control instead of 2013's True North, which didn't seem to bother the crowd too much. Before launching into "Change of Ideas," lead vocalist and original member Greg Graffin said the song's message was just as relevant today as it was back then. "Big Bang" and "I Want to Conquer the World" were other tunes that also made the cut.
The crowd was energetic, making it hard for security at the Burt to keep control. With no barrier, fans were jumping on stage and crowd surfing, having a blast. The band still have a huge draw, and while they've grown older, their fanbase still includes plenty of people who weren't close to being born when the band formed in 1980. Some parents even decided to bring their kids to the show.
Unfortunately, the sound at the Burton Cummings Theatre tends to be a bit muffled, and that was the case last night. The harmonies never reached their full potential, but Graffin is such a strong singer that his vocals weren't as drowned out as they could have been. Despite the sound, the guys were still super energetic and didn't seem out of breath by the time they played "American Jesus" before the encore.
Bad Religion came out again for "Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell" from their debut full-length, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? After the last song, "Fields of Mars," the band apologized for taking seven years to return to Winnipeg and left the stage to a deafening level of cheering from the satisfied crowd. It's not the original line-up, and the 20th century is over, but Bad Religion still know how to deliver a great show.
Starting the night was a much younger Epitaph band called Plague Vendor, who kind of sound like a mix between AFI and the Misfits. When opening bands play the Burt, it's common for most of the crowd to be absent and for everyone to be sitting, but this California band seemed to capture the crowd's attention playing tunes such as "Breakdance on Broken Glass." Lead singer Brandon Blaine was shaking and flailing all over the stage, not afraid to get into the crowd or jump on the seats with his white t-shirt pulled up over his head. He made their performance as memorable, or perhaps more memorable, than the actual songs.