Live Review: Rancid – Manchester

Live Review: Rancid - Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
21st June 2023
Support: Grade 2, The Bronx
Words: Dan Barnes

Last night’s show at Wembley Arena was Rancid’s first British show since 2017 at the Sheffield Arena, and tonight’s is the band’s first return to Manchester since 2012. That evening they were in the Academy, whereas tonight they are out west, in the literal shadow of Old Trafford football ground.

Such an event would rightly be attracting a sizable gathering and, according to Lars, we were the first show of the tour to sell out. People have travelled from far-afield for this one, judging by the accents in the queue; but when you have the best Punk band of their generation in town, supported by two incredible acts you’re on to a winner, even before you’ve wound your way through the maze of barriers and fences to get to the front door.

Kicking the evening off are Grade 2 from the Isle of Wight, who’re are no strangers to supporting big bands. I’ve seen them opening for the Dropkick Murphys and for Social Distortion, and their latest, self-titled record is a real treat, so expectation were high from the outset.

It feels as though most of the three and a half thousand capacity crowd have already arrived by the time the show starts and Grade 2 crank into Judgement Day and Only One that I Trust. From the get-go we are treated to a fat bass sound and some aggy Oi! with Jack and Sid constantly switching sides of the stage to provide those obligatory gang vocals. Doing Time laces up its boots and comes out stompin’, while Fast Pace slows it down with a reggae rhythm.

Of the half dozen or so visits to the latest record, Brassic and Under the Street Light have that snotty attitude you demand of a Punk track, while Gaslight is another fast and frenzied explosion. Virtually every voice in the room joins in on the cover of Misfit’s Where Eagles Dare, leaving only Tired of It from the Graveyard Island album to close out the set and demonstrate Grade 2’s undoubted ability to hold their own with anyone.

One thing you are always guaranteed from The Bronx is a good time and having Rancid waiting in the wings seems to have spurred the Californians on to even greater ferocity. We’re given a dance intro tape, featuring some heavy techno, before the band take to the stage and Matt, in his inimitable way, makes the call to “fuck shit up.”

It’s straight into the big driving beats of White Shadow from the VI record, given a fatter sound than Grade 2 mustered, perhaps due to the presence of a second guitar. There’s a call for the old school punks before Shitty Future and Heart Attack American is built on an unflinching bassline and a Don’t-Give-a-Fuck attitude.

This is the last night of The Bronx’s involvement in the Rancid tour and they are looking to leave on a high. Curb Feelers has its roots in the So-Cal punk scene with a soupcon of the West Coast Hardcore sound woven through. It’s never a proper Bronx show without Matt venturing into the crowd during the set and tonight is no different as he heads into the melee during Knifeman.

As ever, the show is a high-energy demonstration that Punk is alive and thriving and in good hands with bands like The Bronx, and it leaves only the relentless bouncing of Around the Horn bring the show to a close. Another triumph from a band incapable of anything less than giving their all.

There’s an old adage about judging someone by the company they keep and I’ve always considered this to be a truism when it comes to touring. Headlining artists don’t want to be upstaged, so when a band like Rancid – and Motorhead were the same - bring round bands of this calibre you know you’re in for a hell of a headline show.

If there is anything scientific about this, then Rancid’s performance tonight should be added to the data set. But, before that, there’s just enough time for a cool down and to take on liquids as the crew switch the stage. Positions are jostled for and the temperature in the room is going through the roof before a note has been struck; it’s obvious this place is going to bounce.

And bounce it does. From the first chords of Tomorrow Never Comes the fired-up crowd are ready to go. For their part, Rancid offer a full-bloodied punk assault, worthy of their status. The intensity in the room goes up further for the back-to-back classics Roots Radicals and Radio, the volume of the voices when Maxwell Murder is aired almost makes Tim and Lar’s vocals redundant, while the underlying reggae vibes of The 11th Hour harken back to Matt’s time in Operation Ivy.

It’s been thirty-years since the band landed on the scene with the debut self-titled and, in that time, they have, to me at least, become the modern equivalent of The Clash. By that, I mean they are a band never afraid to try new ideas and incorporate a variety of sounds into their output. Journey to the End of the East Bay maintains its Punk credentials while stirring in a dollop of Hard Rock; Dead Bodies has a scratchy riff and Black & Blue is built around a killer guitar hook.

This show’s setlist manages a deep dive into Rancid’s past in the form of I Wanna Riot, the B’side of Roots Radicles back in 1995, finding its way back into the repertoire for the first time in a decade. Lars has a solo spot for The Wars End, Rejected is filled with the sort of youthful exuberance you would expect as being from the debut, St Mary is introduced with a call to keep the energy levels up and Olympia WA sees the crowd singing back to the stage like devotees at a religious gathering.

But, time, as they say, waits for no man, and after the anthemic Fall Back Down shows not a single body in the room to be stationary, it is announced Rancid won’t be going through the charade of leaving the stage only to come back on for an encore. Rather, they would be playing through their final three songs for the evening.

Beginning with a final visit to Let’s Go, Matt steps up to the microphone to give the lead vocal on Tenderloin, leaving even the most casual of fans to know the closing duo will be …And Out Come the Wolves’ Ska stomper, Time Bomb and an incendiary version of Ruby Soho. If there was any energy left in the room by this point, it was completely spent as we filed out into the welcomingly cool Manchester night.

So that was that: two awesome support bands and the greatest Punk band of their generation doing what they do best. It was only on the drive home that I thought how Rancid had played a set with songs from every album, bar …And Honor Is All We Know. Curious, I thought, but they did play nearly thirty songs and the line had to be drawn somewhere.

If there’s a better Punk Rock show out there this year then, boy! I cannot wait to see it.

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