Author's Note: I was blessed with the opportunity of seeing one of my favourite bands, Rise Against, live in Toronto July 9th, 2011. This piece is for a friend who really, REALLY wanted to go to the concert but just couldn't-she knows who she is! ;) While my anecdote cannot possibly relay the full, amazing, wonderful experience of actually being there, I hope you will enjoy it just the same!
The excitement begins the moment you step into the car.
You've waited so long-days, weeks, months-and now finally, finally, you get to go to see your favourite band play live, right there, in front of you. It's almost too much to bear, and you try to contain your excitement, try to think of something else as the car speeds along to its destination. Resistance is futile, though, because your thoughts circle repeatedly around the same subject. What songs will they play? Will the lead singer use his favourite Les Paul? How many people will be there? You watch the landscape change as you drive by, from trees, to the flat stretch of highway. The car doesn't seem to be going fast enough, and almost as if to mock you, there is a traffic jam. Cursing inwardly you check the time: 6:30pm. The concert begins at 8:00 and what if, what if, you arrive too late, and there are already too many people so you can't get close enough to the stage? After an eternity, the cars begin to inch forward and again, the excitement comes rushing back. You're almost there, almost there…!
It's time. You're in the crowd, pressed up against your fellow fans, excitement crackling in the air. You're not exactly a crowd-lover, but the intimacy can't be helped and you don't care right now; the people that surround you all love the band and yes, you'll even take the occasional drunk and pothead. It is, after all, part of the package. There are scatterings of chants but you've got eyes only for the stage crew tuning the guitars, and setting up the microphones. You wish they'd hurry up because now that you know the band is about to come onstage any second, everything is taking too long. There is a sudden sonic wave of electrified ecstasy as a guitar chord is struck and the crowd goes wild:
"RISE AGAINST! RISE AGAINST! RISE AGAINST!"
You join the chant, the blood pulsing through your veins, your heart beating faster, and their symbol begins to appear: the heart, the fist, the arrows…and the lights go down. There is silence, the calm before the storm, then shadows racing across the stage. And then the lead singer is perched at the very front of the stage, screaming into the microphone, his face contorted with emotion, raising his right fist in the air, he might as well have been recruiting an army as he implores:
"RISE! RISE! RISE! RISE!"
You scream, louder than you ever thought you could, as the electric guitar fries your ears, sending the familiar notes soaring in the hot, nighttime air; the bass performs CPR on your chest; the drums beat your heart for you; and the lead singer knows the emotions deep within that same heart, he speaks for each and every one of your fellow fans. All your fists are in the air, and Rise Against opens with "Chamber the Cartridge:"
"What's mine was always yours, and yours in mine…"
Next is "Satellite" and then "Re-Education (Through Labor)," song after song, each one more exciting than the last. The mosh pits start and it becomes a fight just to keep from going under; you elbow, and punch, push, kick, link arms with strangers next to you…but somehow, they aren't strangers anymore. Under the July sky, breathing the same air as the band, listening to the songs you fell in love with: classics like "Prayer of the Refugee," and "The Good Left Undone." As you watch the band run around on stage, leap and do split kicks in the air; the guitarist a maniac with his energy, the bassist smiling to the crowd as he moves, the drummer pounding away at the back, the lead singer sharing a place in your mind akin to that of a messiah, you know everyone around is sharing the same feelings and thoughts.
The flashing lights, everything from crimson reds to electric blues, eventually die down, and the lighters come out, piercing the shadows with points of gold. Everyone links arms again, swaying gently, first to the warmth and peace of "Swing Life Away" and then the melancholy of "Hero of War." But the lull doesn't last, and soon sweaty testosterone filled boys start mosh pits again, circles opening up, and fists in the air once more as "Ready to Fall" assaults your ears with the force of a sonic hurricane, right until the last "READY TO FALL!" tears from the singers throat, and yours.
And then the band disappears.
There is a momentary chord of confusion within you, and your thoughts are echoed all around:
"Are they gone..?"
That simple question is said with weary disappointment; you're tired, you can feel your muscles tense, exhausted from the effort of flailing around; you've screamed yourself hoarse and your throat is definitely raw. And yet, you hope they come back, as clearly others do, chanting again; it can't be over, somehow you know it deep in your gut. Besides, the lead singer hasn't given a farewell speech….
And then you see their silhouettes, just off to stage left. Your heart beats quicker, as other hands point through the air and there it is again: that familiar taste of electric excitement in the air and on your tongue as you shout: "They're coming back!" They start the encore with "Entertainment," lights flashing and pulsing all around, casting them in an ethereal glow. Now you feel an urgency, a rushing certainty, tinged with melancholy: you want them to keep playing but you know it's almost over. The band knows it too, which is why they play a fantastic extended solo on "Savior," the guitarist peeling away screeching notes, his face screwed up in concentration, the singer's eyes closed as he not only sings, but feels the lyrics, and your heart is full. Just as the song ends, the drums become faster now, somehow louder, and the lead singer begins to thank everyone:
"This is our last song. It goes out to all our fans, to everyone who's supported us throughout the years. This song's called Give… It… All!"
You throw your head back and belt out the lyrics, moving with the crowd now, united, and loving every minute of the song, as it, along with all the others and indeed the entire night, will forever carry a special place within your heart. This band has truly given it their all tonight, and you know that long after the last chords are struck, after the band depart the stage, and the crowd begins to disperse, after you've endured the drive home, and collapsed onto your bed, a blissful smile on your lips, that this was an experience you will never, ever, forget.