It was a typical Wednesday night as commuters headed home from their day at the office, with parents preparing dinner and busybodies setting out for a night on the town. And, for the many Rise Against fans that were heading to Margaret Court Arena, a night of face-melting hardcore fun was to be had. After their recent support of Foo Fighters earlier this year, the Chicago punk rockers were back and in fine form for their headlining show.

Welcoming the international heroes to the stage were Melbourne bands, Outright and Clowns. Emerging from the shadows, frontwoman Jelena Goluza made a quick and hard-hitting impression of the energy of Outright. Dedicating ‘A City Silent’ to the UN’s 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender Violence, the unit presented themselves as a band with a strong message to share, bled deeply in their sound. As the foursome smashed out epic breakdowns from their debut LP Avalanche (2014), early arrivals were given a chance to warm up their vocal chords and bodies for what was to come.

Not too long after, it was time for Clowns to show Melbourne why they were handpicked to welcome and heat up the space. Introducing themselves with an instrumental piece, the band members waited for their notoriously charismatic frontman, Steve Williams to accompany them. Typical of the local entertainer, Williams dove into the crowd within minutes and brought ‘Swallow Your Dreams’ to a close from inside the chaotic pit. After five and a half years on top of countless shows, the Melbourne-based group have got it down pat – and so do their fans. With their non-stop movements in the mosh, they showed Clowns the appreciation they deserved but humbly, didn’t expect. Clearly the right choice, Clowns’ performance was compelling as ever.

Then again, there’s nothing quite like being in the presence of an international act with cult-like following. Rise Against took the stage to an eerie soundscape, which was soon drowned out by the sounds of screaming fans. Starting out with ‘The Great Die Off’, the hour and a half set saw a collection of fan favourites from the band’s career. Vocalist, Tim McIlrath led the rock icons and the audience in an all-night sing along, starting out with, “All because of you!” from ‘The Good Left Undone’. Next up were the rolling drums of ‘Satellite’, followed by a foot stomping introduction to ‘Give It All’. Doing exactly that, McIlrath launched himself into the crowd as one determined fan followed suit and crawled on top of fellow fans for a chance to grab hands with the American hero.

Long-time fans were soon put to ease as Rise Against performed older hits from their 2003 album, Revolutions Per Minute. From the shredding guitar performance of ‘Drones’ to the conversational lyric style of ‘Survive’, the guys did the songs more than justice and even took the time out to thank the crowd for supporting them over the years. In return, fans screamed ‘Prayer Of A Refugee’s’ “down, down, down!” at the top of their lungs and ran rapid in the pit to ‘Ready To Fall’ with no sign of letting up.

Other obvious highlights of the set were the multiple all-time fan favourites, which began with ‘Re-education Through Labour’. Blending their familiar heavy sound with their adored softer side, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Here’ displayed the band’s sheer control over their audience and the venue’s atmosphere. Similarly, McIlrath’s tale about their first time performing ‘Blood, Red White And Blue’ at Melbourne’s Hi-Fi Bar sent a flood of memories throughout the room. Taking it back to where it all began, the track saw a circle pit that took up over half of the floor area, ripping through the crowd like a tornado to the sounds of distorted guitars and screaming vocals.

A historically controversial squad, Rise Against’s show would be incomplete without ‘Make It Stop’ which draws attention to the lack of equality in the LBGT community. As a group of unruly crowd members prepared to circle pit their way to destruction, the song’s “ooh, ooh, ohh” momentarily delayed the outbreak and instead led them to embrace each other and singalong. The heart-warming display was a true sign of the band’s influence and diverse sound, that is, until the group erupted into a mess of mayhem.

Surprisingly, after a night full of anarchy, the clear front-runners were acoustic encore tracks, Redgum’s ‘I Was Only 19’ and the delicately sincere, ‘Swing Life Away’. The two were equally stirring and evoked a tender sing-along from a truly touched audience. Closing the show with ‘Dancing For Rain’ and ‘Saviour’, Rise Against left a ringing in our ears and warm feeling in our hearts.

Cover image by Mikki Gomez.