Published Oct 26, 2016Yesterday evening (October 25) at the Commodore Ballroom was one to remember, as Against Me! played in support of their latest release, Shape Shift With Me.
Little Destroyer and Dave Hause opened the show, each bringing very different sounds and making for an eclectic range of sets. The former represented the Vancouver music scene, blending punk with synths and dance-oriented beats. Next, Dave Hause and his brother, multi-instrumentalist Tim Hause, indulged their numerous fans in the crowd with heartfelt, stripped-down punk. Their performance featured a special guest, Matt Goud (also known as Northcote).
Although it was less than a year-and-a-half since their last jaunt through western Canada, Against Me! brought a marked increase in confidence to their set. This was evident in their choice of songs, the band notably omitting "The Ocean" (from 2007's New Wave), filling the set with cuts from their latest three records. From the moment the band took the stage, the pit was relentless. "True Trans Soul Rebel" had the audience singing along with gusto, frontwoman Laura Jane Grace replying with a wide smile.
It's impossible to leave an Against Me! concert feeling negative or indifferent: they truly leave everything onstage, demonstrating enormous energy and love for their work. Drummer Atom (Adam) Willard is powerful and enthusiastic, bassist Inge Johansson pummels his instrument while constantly jumping around and guitarist James Bowman — the most senior member of the band, apart from Grace, who began Against Me! as a solo project — is perhaps the most understated of the band members. That being said, he still brings the commitment that punk feeds on.
The first songs by this incarnation of the band are on Shape Shift With Me, and it was a pleasure to hear them live for the first time. Grace introduced the ironic yet defiant "Delicate, Petite & Other Things I'll Never Be" to rapturous affect, the crowd singing along to every note. Other highlights from the new material included the infectiously catchy "Crash" and single "Haunting, Haunted, Haunts."
Fans lapped up the older material as well, standouts including "Bamboo Bones" — with its empowering lyrics, "What god doesn't give to you, you've got to go and get for yourself" — and "Thrash Unreal," which provided a raucously good time. "Black Me Out" was the perfect way to channel anger, while "Don't Lose Touch" rocked the room with that bass line.
The audience and the band were totally in sync, feeding off each other's high energy and love, sharing in the moment of a cathartic rock show. Grace made a comment during the night to the effect of, "This is why I play music," addressing the crowd with warmth. It was a privilege for Vancouver Against Me! fans to be a part of that reason. Grace and her bandmates reminded those in attendance why they continue to support the band, even almost 20 years into their career.