Bad Religion Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg MB, July 4

Bad Religion Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg MB, July 4
Photo: Greg Gallinger
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Considering the pomp and circumstance of Trump's 4th of July celebration in Washington, it seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity by punk stalwarts Bad Religion to not contrast show openers "Them and Us," The End of History," "Fuck You" and "Stranger Than Fiction" with Trump's military-themed celebration. If there ever was a time for the Southern Californian skate-punk veterans to add fuel to the political fires, it's now.
 
That might be a hard thing to imagine for a group that have toured during the Reagan years, the Bush dynasty, the new hope of Obama and the Twitter-fuelled presidency with Trump. Bad Religion have always rallied against the superficiality of U.S. political monoculture, whether it was on the blazing fast "Do What You Want" from Suffer, the MTV-approved "American Jesus" or skate-rock anthem "No Control."
 
Newer songs like "Chaos from Within" or the Suicidal Tendencies-influenced "Do the Paranoid Style" or "My Sanity" don't shy away from what's been happening south of the border, but feel more like counter-punches than the knock-out blows. That didn't put a damper on the evening, especially when older tracks like "Infected," "Suffer" and "21st Century Digital Boy" are weaponized in the warm-sounding Burt instead of a sweaty punk venue.
 
Showing a surprising lack of local knowledge, considering his past experience with Winnipeg, singer Greg Graffin ended up calling himself "an idiot" after a series of gaffes about Canadian history and geography led to some awkward moments throughout the evening. It's something you would expect from a nervous frontman heading out on his first tour, not a seasoned PhD-holding singer who has been through it all.
 
The group's "Los Angeles Is Burning" takes on new meaning as California wildfires have been devastating communities, and the City of Angels struggles with an out-of-control homelessness problem that is in stark contrast to the glitz and glam of Hollywood.
 
Bad Religion's slashing power chords, vocal harmonies and SoCal sound have helped define a generation of bands, but that hasn't made the West Coast punks any less relevant or potent in today's surreal world of political discourse.