The first Doc Marten has barely been lobbed onstage by the time Rancid has stormed through five songs...
You gotta hope security get paid extra for punk shows. The sign is clearly posted in black and white on the balcony. “Do not go over the barricade, violators will be ejected”. Rancid’s arrival onstage sparks a gradually accelerating circle that occasionally erupts, spewing sprawling bodies over the rail into the waiting arms of the patient bouncers on the other side, who graciously ignore the printed threat.
Coming from the punk school of thought that a four-minute song is an extended jam and three-minutes is self-indulgent, the first Doc Marten has barely been lobbed onstage by the time Rancid has stormed through five songs. Careful to pepper the spaces around stand-out new tracks such as ‘Antennas’, with the songs the kids first dyed their hair blue for, Rancid please the young teens who have been keeping it real since ’97 or so, as ‘Tenderloin’, ‘Roots Radicals’, and ‘Time Bomb’ each get a frantic airing.
A nomadic stage presence, singer/guitarist Tim Armstrong roams from monitor to monitor, eyes buried behind oversized shades, frequently letting his guitar dangle uselessly as he sings and occasionally standing it upright and taking some half-hearted strums at it. Content to leave the snarling, sneering and pacing to Armstrong, fellow frontman Lars Frederiksen handles the bulk of the guitar duties on the evening and stands alone for a slowed solo reading of ‘The Wars End’ that just might be the night’s highlight.
Indeed, with punk rock gone the way of pet rocks, much of Armstrong’s attitude seems misplaced and ineffectual, like an old-timer glaring bitterly at a car and proclaiming the continued greatness of the horse and buggy. Perhaps not coincidentally, the ferocity of the pit wanes as the show progresses, despite Frederiksen’s assertion that “this is the best circle pit I’ve seen in a long time”. Shamed into showing some energy by Frederiksen’s comment, the lacklustre throng rediscovers their flagging energy for a spell, a resurrection that lasts through the closing encore of ‘Ruby Soho’, but dies weakly at the door.