L.A.’s always reliable hardcore punk heroes Bad Religion capped a four-week U.S. tour with a pair of sold-out Hollywood shows at which, with little fanfare, the band offered a satisfying and triumphant survey of its 22-year recording career.
At the Friday show, the sextet powered through an amazing 29 songs in just 75 minutes, visiting nearly all of its 13 studio albums, with extra emphasis placed on its latest release, “The Empire Strikes First” (Epitaph). While BR has always tackled political issues, the new album is possibly its most straightforward and scathing indictment of U.S. policy, both foreign and domestic.
Show opened with “Sinister Rouge,” which condemns organized religion (a tested BR theme, to be sure) and the injustices perpetrated on its behalf. “Lick the wounds, cleanse the land, the modern world rejects your hand,” sang agitated front man Greg Graffin, while the band delivered a tightly wound two-minute punk attack.
Civic ignorance was railed against in “Social Suicide,” sheep-like religious zealotry exposed in “God’s Love,” while the recent radio hit “Los Angeles Is Burning” condemned the Hollywood lifestyle. Levity was rare, to be sure.
The packed yet boisterous crowd on the floor supported as many as four separate mosh pits, with attendees especially rowdy for such established faves as “21st Century Digital Boy,” the anthemic “Stranger Than Fiction,” 1988’s “Suffer” and “Recipe for Hate.”
The five-song encore began with the seldom-heard “Cease,” from 1996’s “The Gray Race” (Atlantic), with Graffin alone onstage singing and playing piano. “There’s something you don’t see everyday,” he offered at song’s end.
Show wrapped with two of BR’s most celebrated tracks, the classic oldie “We’re Only Gonna Die” and 2002’s melodic “Sorrow,” arguably the band’s catchiest song.
Perf was filmed for an upcoming DVD release, so the band brought in its own supplemental audio equipment, resulting in an impressive sounding evening despite the venue’s infamously poor acoustics.