A few thoughts about the venue: Majestic. Colossal. Nicholas Cage.
The War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville could eat every single venue in C-U and still feel a little hungry. Erected in the 20s as a dedication to World War I veterans, the War Memorial is equipped with fountains, pillars, and an engraved quote from Woodrow Wilson. Who would have guessed that the songs of Bad Religion and The Polar Bear Club would echo through its halls all these years later? I think Woodrow would be game, because this was, absolutely, a killer show.
The Polar Bear Club had the difficult, yet distinguished honor of opening for one of the most influential punk rock bands of the last 20 years. Bad Religion is the Ty Cobb of punk rock. Polar Bear is a classic 5-man operation that rests on the foundational quick-kicking bass drum, while the guitars parallel the distorted voice of lead singer Jimmy Stadt. I need to rig up an alarm clock with Stadt’s yelling, because that will hit you like Listerine. Stadt also takes charge in energizing the crowd as he ping-pongs across the stage between his band mates. Songs like “Screams in Caves” and “Pawner” would be right at home in a 90s ‘feel good’ as the main character races across town to swoon his true love. It’s hard to capture a crowd that’s restless to see the headliner, but The Polar Bear Club took it in stride as Stadt made frequent shout-outs, like “Are you ****ing ready for Bad Religion?! ****!” and so forth, which always got a nice inaudible “ByRrAAaaUuuhhh!” out of the audience.
Truth North is Bad Religion’s SIXTEENTH studio album and can be classified, simply, as ‘more of the good stuff’. The 2013 release was showcased with angst, and mastery. Not a flat note or off-lyric the entire show. Bad Religion sticks to what they do best, contrasting rumbling bass lines, intricate guitar solos, and hopeful lyrics delivered by frontman, Greg Gaffin. Songs like “In Their Hearts is Right” and “Robin Hood in Reverse” get everyone singing along even if they wait around until the second chorus to learn the words. Truth North also contains the Bad Religion-signature of placing harmonies behind the main lyrics, which gives the songs a satisfying weight.
Even though the show didn’t sell out, there was a sizable crowd considering a band called “Bad Religion” was playing in the ‘bible-belt’ of America. Enough die-hards showed up to voice the roaring choruses of B.R. classics like “Sorrow” and “Los Angeles Is Burning”. I have held this band in high esteem since adolescence and they didn’t disappoint. The show challenged the caliber of their studio recordings all while keeping their stage presence personal and not too glossy. You can rock out with Bad Religion at their upcoming show, April 5th, at the Congress Theater. I encourage it.