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Bad Religion Brings Punk Rock Back To The Fillmore Detroit

Bad Religion © John Swider Please do not alter image

Detroit, Michigan (Nov 12, 2021) – California-based punk rock band Bad Religion had a massive global tour planned for 2020 to coincide with its 40th anniversary and release of the group’s latest album, “Age of Unreason.” The mayhem was originally scheduled to to kick off in March 2020, but like we all know so well that never happened. Fast forward to 2021 and the new year brought a announcement that Bad Religion and Alkaline Trio would finally get the chance to embark on their co-headlining tour after postponing the outing due to the pandemic.“This tour is special,” said Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin in a press release. “Not only are we celebrating the return of live music, but we get to do it with Alkaline Trio, who are such a great band, really excited about this!” The newly rescheduled 30-date tour would kick off October 15th in Riverside, California, then makes its way east before returning to the West Coast for a final gig on November 26th in Los Angeles.

Punk rock is typically no frills and socially charged by its nature, even when played by a sextet of suburban dads with a median age comfortably into their fifties. To punk legends Bad Religion age is just a measurement of time – talent and temperament are are their calling card– but it is an inevitable discussion point for any new, let’s just say younger fan. Hence the reason for the wide diversity of “experience” in the fanbase present at The Fillmore Detroit Friday night. The burning fact is the first cursory exposure to the Fridays thunderous set opener “New Dark Ages,” or reliable rockers ” Los Angles Is Burning,” “ Leave Mine to Me,” or even the old school favorite “We’re Only Gonna Die,” quickly dispel any such notion to the seasoned punk rockers or casual fans who catch a Bad Religion performance for the first time.

Bad Religion © John Swider Please do not alter image

Founding member and frontman Greg Graffin, himself a doctor of evolutionary biology, did his best to conserve energy while commanding the stage like a guest lecturer holding class on a series of the most fascinating topics imaginable. Jay Bentley’s patented supporting vocals were incredibly strong and vibrant most notably during the riff heavy “Generator,” “Murder,” or the omnipresent “Man with a Mission.” Overall the band was remarkably strong and tore through the 80-minute set like a well oiled machine should. I would be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to Jamie Miller who held down the beats and rhythm like he has been behind the set throughout the bands 40 plus years. Everywhere you looked, there was cause to be impressed.

The Fillmore Detroit performance was an unsubtle reminder of Bad Religion’s appeal to diehard fans that have soldiered along from the beginning. The changed (improved?) setlist from previous tour stops featured high energy cuts “Better Off Dead,” “Candidate” and “21st Century(Digital Boy),” culminating the with 1989’s landmark “No Control.” Bad Religions performance was fast and raw as it should be, subsequently providing a musical interlude back to a period when the punk genre served as a catalyst of social protest and unrest. Proof? Look around and ask any 30-something year old about demolishing the warehouse level of the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to the defiant strains of “You” another hit that contributed to the sense of growing momentum on this glorius night in the Motor City.

Speaking of song selection, any ardent fan could take issue with the chosen setlist on any given night and tonight was no exception. But any perceived negatives were offset nicely with few deeper cuts that Bad Religion felt necessary. One change every fan welcomed (and missing from previous tour stops) put the finishing touches on the brilliant performance, the Bad Religion anthem, “F$ck Armageddon (This is Hell).” The song has such  a deep meaning to fans that when the drums finally kick in, there is a feeling like no other and can only be experienced in person. Honestly, no matter how many times you live it, you leave wanting to be a part of it one more time.

Bad Religion © John Swider Please do not alter image

Bad Religion may not provide the revelatory live experience of a main stream rock or metal band – their substance to flash ratio is too hopelessly skewed, their brand of chaos a bit too clinical and tightly controlled overall.  Conversely they are  bulletproof performers who deliver exactly what they promise: Eighty minutes of incendiary, transformational punk rock. Just six guys playing their asses off in front of a two-story logo, with lights, accoutrements, and high impact video screens taking a backseat to moxy, musicality, and maximum adrenalized brainpower. Because of their steadfast insistence on intelligence above all else, Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and company have always been a breed apart from not just their punk brethren – few, if any, of whom have logged sufficient hours to be considered peers – but the larger alt rock flock. No one ever knew quite what to make with them, and so Bad Religion, despite their influence and desire to give back to subsequent generations, became something of a genre to themselves. With a body of work that takes a backseat to nobody, has quietly become one of the most impressive and important in the last three decades of music. Bad Religion gives credence to the pervasive idea than fun music can’t be intelligent, and vice versa. The crowd at the Fillmore Detroit certainly seemed convinced.

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