Rise Against returned to the Hordern Pavilion on Tuesday night and found some old friends in the crowd assembled in Sydney.

The Hordern is where I first saw Rise Against back in 2008 and is the setting for tonight’s gig as well.  I get in around 8.45 and there is already a healthy crowd in watching the local Sydney band, Bare Bones kick off a tight and heavy set. Playing about thirty minutes of heavily distorted punk rock, the local boys let it rip with a good performance that has the crowd suitably warmed up for the main act.  The boys lay the love down for both Rise Against and the opener for the night, Pagan, who also garner a healthy cheer.

About 9.45 the lights go dim and sirens commence wailing, signalling the entry of the foursome from Chicago and the anticipation is intense.  Mad strumming commences and they emerge from the darkness to a massive roar.  Tim McIlrath kicks off proceedings immediately, getting the crowd fist pumping and chanting “Rise” before breaking into the opening lick from Chamber The Cartridge and the crowd explodes.  Fans rush forward from everywhere and the heat in the venue increases tenfold.

Drummer Brandon Barnes and bassist Joe Principe keeps the set moving without giving the crowd time for breath as the band breaks into Give It All which induces further jostling of the crowd as everyone wants to be up the front,  Tonight McIlrath is struggling a little vocally at times. It seems he is fighting off some virus or impact from heavy scheduling but that still doesn’t stop him from giving his all every song.  He has the Sydney crowd wrapped around his finger, constantly making the crowd aware of how happy they are to be back in Sydney.

The early set list is up tempo and covers a number of their albums and with one or two off the new album Wolves.  The energy given from the band as they barely stand still is returned in spades as they crowd surf, form circle pits, fist pump, clap and sing along to most of the songs. Prayer Of The Refugee gets an extended solo where Zach Blair gets to show off his chops before the stage is emptied.

After a few minutes McIlrath returns with his acoustic guitar and shows some love for the earlier bands.  He reminds us how when they first toured Australia, as support for System of A Down, they weren’t who the crowd was there to see but the support they got was so important.  He then plays an acoustic set of People Live Here, Hero of War and Swing Life Away.  The whole crowd sings along, word for word, and this reminds me of why I love seeing live music so much.

The rest of the band take their place back on stage and break into Help Is On The Way, and older gems like Bricks and Survive before pulling out the title track off the current album, WolvesSatellite gets sung along with gusto before the band leave the stage once more and the crowd starts chanting for Rise Against knowing they can’t leave yet.  The band returns to the stage thanking everyone and finish off the night with Saviour.

So as the last notes fade, the crowd starts to leave, all with a smile on their face and a story to tell.  We can’t wait for these guys to come back again.