Bad Religion at Bristol Academy - live review

Popcore stalwarts persist in preaching SoCal’s punk gospel

Crowd shot

Why you can trust Louder Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Cal’s punk gospel Bundle it into a sack, weigh it down with stones and lob it into the canal, but the indestructible zombie corpse of punk rock stubbornly refuses to die.

Seeing Bad Religion in 2017, almost 40 years since they formed at high school, is a reminder of how exhilarating that two-minute, three-chord, four-letter formula can still be – but also how limiting. While abrasive, politically charged rock genres have evolved and multiplied, these melodic West Coast punk-pop pioneers remain metaphorically stuck in their garage, ranting against parents and politicians and authority figures in an increasingly ironic suburban-dad manner.

Bad Religion may sound more like The Monkees than the Pistols nowadays, but one key saving grace is Greg Graffin’s wry stage patter; he dedicates Fuck You to all the purists who accuse him of being “not punk enough, too old, too fat”. The band also have a cluster of classic power-pop anthems, detonating moshpit frenzy with the caveman chant 21st Century (Digital Boy), the stupidly infectious Punk Rock Song and the apocalyptic epic Los Angeles Is Burning.

Graffin and co. can clearly do this kind of rabblerousing shtick with ease. But as founding fathers of SoCal punk, they should also feel secure enough to move outside their comfort zone occasionally, adding a little depth and diversity to these samey juvenile riff-slammers.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.