Rancid at Skyway Theatre, 9/18/13

Rancid at Skyway Theatre, 9/18/13
Photo by Arik Cannon

Skyway Theatre, Minneapolis
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's been over 20 years since Rancid rose from the ashes of Operation Ivy. In that time, a lot of mohawks have been spiked and consequently fallen as youthful vigor has been replaced by adult responsibilities. Wednesday's return to Minneapolis showed an older Rancid, one that jumps around less often, keeping their guitar chords plugged in and their harmonies on point. The stage presence may have been calmer, but the floor show was another perspective on the age spectrum.

After co-vocalist Tim Armstrong essentially opened for himself with side project Tim Timebomb and Friends (through which he releases a new YouTube video on a daily basis), Rancid took to the stage, revealing a skull banner that loudly proclaimed "twentieth anniversary." Immediately, the 18-year-old "Roots Radicals" kicked into action and it was clear that the musicians and many of the audience members may have aged, but the spirit of their songs remains in eternal, fist-in-the-air youth.

While the set mixed things relatively evenly from their catalog -- hitting something from each of their seven studio albums and even a couple of compilation and b-side tracks -- it was heaviest on 1994's Let's Go! and 1995's well-known ...And Out Come the Wolves, only hitting the edges of their newer material. In fact, the first four songs all came from the 1995 gem, and it also established a connection to an audience that was definitely younger up front, but gained life experience as one neared the back of the room.

They didn't talk much, and when they did it was generally in a retrospective tone and one of a love of music -- just as their discography has always been. The biggest difference from previous concerts was a set that focused on keeping the sound tight. Rancid are eternally young, jumping on stage and running around like a youth in the garage, but last night it was a largely stationary set from the four-piece, choosing to stay by their respective microphones and hit each note rather than lose themselves in the moment. It was a bit reserved, and perhaps a showing of the real wear and tear that a life on the road can bring. The two-tone and ska song seemed to result in a more enthusiastic performance from Armstrong.
It's not to say the show lacked in energy, however. Armstrong makes frequent entertaining hand gestures and his distinct guitar playing that focuses almost solely on the neck can be fun to watch. Meanwhile, Lars Frederiksen -- usually the more active of the band -- held to his position, wandering only when he needed something from his technician. On bass, Matt Freeman remains a force and he stole the show in many ways. Far from a primary singer in the group, nearly every song he has taken the lead on over the years made its way into the catalog, including the lone song from 1993's debut, "Rejected." As for the drumming, Branden Steineckert made his presence known, frequently standing atop his kit during cathartic singalong moments -- and there were plenty and, from the back of the room, it may almost have been to their detriment. There was a tendency (that was clearly planned) for the band to stop all vocals and turn it over to the crowd. When it works, it works wonderfully. Those on the floor no doubt were pulled further into the moment. From the back, however, it is something of a dead space, minus the amplification on some of their best known material.

All in all, though, these are petty issues. The set was tight, the sound was excellent, and the band proved that music is timeless and, to lift a direct quote from the Tim Timebomb set, "brings people together." A comment was made a week ago that all Rancid concerts are the same and the speaker wasn't incorrect. What makes it powerful is that, while still incredibly familiar each time, the music hits with an energy that knows neither a limitation on age nor the passing of time. "When I got the music, I got a place to go."

Critic's Bias: Rancid was unquestionably my favorite band during my high school years.
The Crowd: Older than the last time I saw the band and also less "punked up." Predominantly younger.
Overheard In the Crowd: [on opening act The Interrupters] "They're the kind of band that, if my kids were in a band, I'd be happy. But when they're not it's kind of annoying."
Random notebook dump: Tim Timebomb's Karaoke Show
Tim Timebomb and Friends
Into Action
Change That Song Mr. DJ
Concrete Jungle (The Specials)
She's Drunk All the Time
30 Pieces of Silver
Lip Up Fatty (Bad Manners)
Bob (NOFX)
California Sun
Ooh La La (Faces)
Too Much Pressure (The Selecter)
Working (Cock Sparrer)
Sound System (Operation Ivy)

Roots Radicals
Journey to the End of the East Bay
Maxwell Murder
The 11th Hour
Last One to Die
Dead Bodies
Old Friend
I Wanna Riot
Black & Blue
Fuck You
Listed M.I.A.
The War's End
There Is Power In a Union (instrumental)
East Bay Nights
It's Quite Alright
Fall Back Down
St. Mary
Something in the Air Tonight
Time Bomb
Black Derby Jacket
Ruby Soho

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