Alkaline Trio is a band I have greatly admired since my youth, but, for whatever reason, I had only ever seen live them at Warped Tour. I was eager to rectify this, so I knew I had to attend their recent stop at the House of Blues in Boston, MA on March 18th. The show landed in the middle of their current tour in support of My Shame Is True, their latest effort and (I would argue) their best in a decade, with support from Bayside and Off With Their Heads.
Like their albums as of late, Alkaline Trio's set was heavy with material with guitarist Matt Skiba on vocals. Clad in black, accented by pink Converse shoes, an inverted cross necklace and a fedora, Skiba commanded the audience. Bassist Dan Andriano also had his share of gems, and his voice was on point. Both singers added fresh backing vocals and harmonization to some of the older material when they weren't doing leads. Derek Grant, an increasingly integral element in the band, rounded out the group with his precision behind the drumkit.
The band came out with the punchy, Ramones-esque "She Lied to the FBI." It's the first track on My Shame Is True, and it makes an equally-great live opener. They went on to perform 20 songs in about 80 minutes, ranging from their latest material to old favorites. As a band with such a vast and beloved catalog, it was nice to hear them break out some deep cuts.
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but I'm hoping the inclusion of lesser-known Good Mourning tracks, such as "Blue Carolina" and "Donner Party," was primer for a 10th anniversary tour later this year. Other fan favorites included "Hell Yes," "Clavicle," "My Friend Peter" and "Crawl." One unexpected addition was an electric version of "Olde English 800," a catchy ditty from their acoustic album, Damnesia. I'd love to hear them record the full-band version, as it sounded great.
Although they exited the stage following "This Could Be Love," the Chicago punks returned a moment later for the best three-song encore for which a fan could ask. They came out blazing with "Cringe," followed by the beloved "Radio," which turned into a giant singalong, before closing with the first song they ever wrote as band, "97."
Bayside spent the early years of their career being endlessly compared to Alkaline Trio, pairing them together for a tour is a no brainer. They teamed up once before in 2008, and five years later both groups are as strong as ever. Bayside's supporting slot lasted 45 minutes, but the positive audience response made them look like co-headliners. Although their setlist hasn't varied much over the years, they mixed it up enough this time around to keep things interesting for returning fans and new listeners alike.
For starters, the band kicked off with "Devotion and Desire," which is often reserved for the closer. They also busted out an electric cover of Smoking Popes' "Megan," which they dedicated to Alkaline Trio. They didn't play longtime staple "Blame It on Bad Luck," instead ending with a curveball, "Dear Tragedy." Frontman Anthony Raneri passed off his guitar to a crew member and just sang the closer, something I had never seen him do. He seemed to enjoy the freedom and rocked it like a true frontman. At the end of the set, Raneri told those who hadn't heard the band before, "If you like what you hear, go home and download the records, then come back to the next show."
Alkaline Trio's Epitaph Records labelmates Off With Their Heads opened the show. Not unlike the Trio's old cohorts in Hot Water Music, the band's ferocious punk rock stylings are anchored by guitarist Ryan Young's gruff vocals. They didn't waste much time talking, instead packing as many songs as they could into their half hour allotment, drawing largely from this year's Home.
Although the majority of the audience members were unfamiliar with the material, many were converted by the end of the set. The band sent "Self Checkout" out to local heroes Dropkick Murphys and later dedicated "Jamie" to Bayside and the anthemic "Drive" to Alkaline Trio for taking them out on tour. They closed with the brutally honest "Clear the Air," and Young made the crowd believe him when he sang, "God damnit, I'm falling apart!"
During Alkaline Trio's set, Andriano stated this might be the best tour they've ever done, which is saying a lot considering their extensive history. Skiba was quick to one-up his partner's sentiment by saying that this was the best show of the tour. "You can't lie with YouTube these days," he quipped. "I shit you not!" The band has been at it for 17 years now, and their set proved that they haven't lost any steam. From new material to fan favorites and deep cuts in between, there's no shame for Alkaline Trio.