Recap: Bad Religion at the MetroPhil Collins - June 29, 2015
It has become so commonplace for a band to play one of their albums in full at a live show that the whole idea has lost the element of surprise. I still like when bands do it. It gives fans a chance to see some deep cuts off a classic album that might otherwise never be included in a setlist. Sometimes bands play the album from the first track to the last, exactly as it appears on the album while others approximate the effect of throwing a disc in the CD player and hitting the shuffle button. Bad Religion took a different approach to reminisce on their formidable career at the Metro last week. They played the venue (Bad Religion started about two years before the Metro opened) on two consecutive nights. The first show featured songs released in the 20th century and on the second night they played songs from their 21st century releases.
In the photo above, look just to the right of the drummer to glimpse the unfurled scroll of a setlist, which hung lower than is visible in this shot. Bad Religion played more than 30 songs each night. The conceit of the engagement dictated that not a single song be repeated between the two evenings. Lead singer Greg Graffin told the crowd the band only attempted this feat in about eight cities around the world and would not be attempting it again, in part because he did not think he could remember 60-plus songs without the use of a teleprompter.
There is a finite number of bands that have the material to pull off a stunt like this. Bad Religion have 16 full-length albums (10 20th century albums and six 21st century albums.) More importantly, the quality has remained consistently high throughout their career. If they were to choose one album to do in full, there would be at least half-a-dozen entries that would have a compelling claim to be the chosen one.
Bad Religion didn't play a single album in full either night, but on the first night they played a big block of songs off of both Suffer and No Control. They played plenty of hits off their other albums, including "We're Only Gonna Die," "21st Century Digital Boy," "Stranger Than Fiction," "American Jesus," "Skyscraper," "Against the Grain," "The Gray Race" and "Infected." Highlights from the second night included hits off The Process of Belief, which ranks right up there with their older classic albums if you ask me. "Sorrow" is a staple of their set and it was their last song before the encore on night two. "Epiphany" was a bigger surprise in the set and stuck in my head for days after the show. "Sinister Rouge" and "Los Angeles Is Burning" off The Empire Strikes First were also big crowd-stirrers.
Greg Graffin told the crowd that Bad Religion intends to record another album. They were not on tour supporting a new album last week. Instead, they had flyers for Graffin's new book, Population Wars. He holds a PhD in zoology from Cornell University. Listening to Bad Religion's lyrics, it should be no surprise that there is a scholar behind them.