On Friday night at the Vogue Theatre, Against Me! played a high-energy set and the crowd lapped it up. Laura Jane Grace and co. treated a nigh ecstatic audience to classics old and new, traversing the length and breadth of the band’s seven-album body of music.
Hitting the stage just a few minutes after their slated set time (gotta maintain that punk-rock credibility), Against Me! launched straight into ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ — a truly anthemic song from 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
In fact, Against Me!’s two latest albums are arguably their best. The band has always made great, foot-stomping music, but the move from cookie-cutter, anarcho-punk sloganeering to truly personal yet still political material has elevated Against Me!’s music.
From ‘True Trans Soul Rebel,’ the band moved straight into ‘I Was a Teenage Anarchist.’ It is another great song — again, anthemic, sing-along stuff — but lacking the gut-punch element of the more personal previous song.
Nevertheless, the near-capacity crowd at the Vogue Theatre danced and sang their way through every single song Against Me! played. Beer cans flew through the air, crowdsurfers punched the air with glee and everyone was happy as the band raced from song to song in a breathless set.
For the most part, Against Me! launched straight from one song into the next, but Laura Jane Grace took a few moments here and there to dedicate a song or compliment the energy of the Vancouver crowd. She also had good things to say about Vancouver’s punk rock shows and, of course, BC bud.
Towards the end of their set, the band played ‘Black Me Out’ — another heartrending but inspiring (and truly rocking) song from Transgender Dysphoria Blues — unveiling as they did a new banner displaying a leering skull. It was a theatrical moment, but it was well-received by a crowd that had worked itself up to fever pitch.
Since coming out publicly as a transgender woman, Laura Jane Grace has become a figurehead for anyone experiencing a similar struggle with self-identity. On stage, she actively embraces that role, expressing solidarity with people struggling to feel comfortable in their own skin.
That is what made Friday night a great show — the fact that a darkened room with hundreds of people in it became a deeply personal shared experience.
At the end of the band’s set, there was no doubt that Against Me! would return for an encore (especially as a roadie was visibly preparing instruments for it), but the Vancouver crowd made doubly sure of it by chanting “One more song!” and stamping its feet until the Vogue Theatre shook.
After a stripped-back cover of The Replacements’ ‘Androgynous,’ Against Me! went back to what they do best. Reaching all the way back to the beginning, ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’ was greeted with rapturous cheers. By the time they played ‘Thrash Unreal,’ an ode to getting by, the band had the building jumping.