Against Me! Concert Review
Seven years ago, I saw Against Me! tearing up the Amway Center opening for Green Day. Since that powerful night of aggressive alt-rock, the quartet has gone through an immense transition, but through it all, Laura Jane Grace and her bandmates have retained the same energetic thrashing style that drives passionate support from their rabid fans.
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Watching Laura Jane Grace on stage, you see a ferocious rocker who is at peace with where she is headed in her life. With a constant smile plastered to her face, she commanded the stage and had the fans offering up their unconditional appreciation.
The atmosphere in the Beacham Theatre was electric as the band took the stage. The crowd was as diverse as you’ll see at an Orlando event. A mix of heavily tattooed punk rockers, a myriad of fans from the LGBT community, business men and teen girls dotted the audience, many sporting Florida Equality stickers.
Grace and the band took the stage to a rousing welcome and immediately leapt into an explosive “True Trans Soul Rebel.” The track was one of many from the fantastic 2014 release, Transgender Dysphoria Blue, the album that finished atop our 2014 Albums of the Year feature.
Although we heard numerous cuts from that album, we were also treated to a great variety from across the band’s diverse catalogue. Early on Grace offered “We’re playing some songs on this tour we haven’t played in awhile,” and she was true to her word, as the 20+ song set featured music from every stage of the band’s life cycle.
Longtime guitarist James Bowman is still a hard-driving rock to Grace’s left and dished out punk-infused riffs throughout the show. Drummer Atom Willard and Inge Johansson dished out solid rhythm all night. Johansson shined, bouncing around the stage, rhythmically clapping with the crowd and generally having a blast. But, the band is all about Laura Jane Grace, and she was on top of her game this evening. She was fun, raw, engaging and at times humorous, “This guitar doesn’t play well, but it looks great.”
Highlights from the set included two tracks off of Transgender Dysphoria Blues, a killer version of “Unconditional” which Grace introduced with “This song is about self-respect.” And a song she said “is about fighting back,” “Fuck My Life 666.” Some of the earlier cuts that shined on this night included “Don’t Lose Touch,” “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” and a fantastic version of “Black Me Out.”
The crowd became progressively more energetic as the night wore on and for a handful of songs, turned the floor into a raucous pit with bodies flying as frequently as beer cups. The mixed crowd had a collective blast, dancing, screaming, clapping and re-bonding with Grace. It was clear that this relationship still works exceptionally well.
For the encore, it was just Grace and her guitar for the first few songs. She whispered, “Thanks, this is fun, really fucking fun” and then kicked into “Baby I’m An Anarchist” which quickly became a spirited singalong. Offering up a song for “old and new friends,” she put an acoustic spin on “Thrash Unreal” with the band joining her midway for a rousing and powerful finish, before they wrapped up the night with a smoking version of “We Laugh At Danger (and Break All the Rules).”
Laura Jane Grace is indeed breaking all of the rules and transitioning to a place in her life where she seems much more at peace. It’s a good place for her, and just as importantly for the many satisfied fans in attendance.
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