Show review by Paul Mooser
When the final leg of Bad Religion's 2003 Process of Belief tour came through Slim's in San Francisco on September 10, I was lucky enough to attend. This show (the second of two sold out nights at Slim's) was part of a limited run of shows that gave Bad Religion fans a rare opportunity to catch the band in small clubs.
The album The Process of Belief marked the return of Bad Religion's original guitarist and co-songwriter Brett Gurewitz, and the supporting tour was just as hungrily received by fans. Though Gurewitz, who runs Epitaph records - which Bad Religion rejoined for The Process of Belief - didn't perform at the two-night Slim's stand, the rest of the guys were present and accounted for: Greg Graffin on vocals, Greg Hetson and Brian Baker on guitar, Jay Bentley on bass guitar, and Brooks Wackerman on the drums.
After some brief jokes about the then-current California gubernatorial recall election, Bad Religion launched into their set with "Recipe For Hate", immediately followed by "Supersonic" and "Suffer". Barely catching their breaths, the band administered an auditory pile driver with their performances of "Get Off" and "Can't Stop It". The band was full of energy, with Hetson bouncing around the stage with his guitar and Graffin gesticulating to punctuate his lyrics.
Having been on the road for the past year supporting The Process of Belief, the band was relaxed and comfortable on stage, eventually taking some short breaks between songs to joke with the crowd. Continuing with the politics, at one point Graffin asked for a show of hands of who was running for governor. Almost every hand in the audience shot into the air. Like all good shows, the energy and attitude of the band infected the crowd, and vice versa. Having seen Bad Religion perform more than a dozen times in the past decade, I don't think I've ever seen them in better spirits.
I was thrilled to see performances of "No Control", "You Are The Government", and especially the final song of their set, the classic "We're Only Gonna Die".
Overall, the songs varied pretty widely over their whole back catalogue, but I noticed that "The Gray Race" was the sole selection from the albums from which Brett was absent. Whether this was by chance or by design, it was awesome to hear so many old favorites along with the new material from The Process of Belief.
As is often the case with most punk shows, the crowd also provided its own entertainment. For example, each time the band stopped between songs to talk with the crowd, a guy immediately in front of me would scream, "Less talk, more music!" Just beyond him, there were two guys whipping around in the mosh pit wearing surgical face masks; when the girl next to me nodded towards them and said matter-of-factly, "SARS", I could only shrug and smile. The crowd was having a great time and it seemed the band's energy clearly picked up on it.
It's gratifying to see that after so many years Bad Religion still genuinely enjoys putting on live shows for their fans. Every member of the band put an amazing amount of energy into their performance - clocking in with a 90-minute set that was much longer than many punk shows. By the middle of the show, Greg Graffin was already soaked in sweat from head to toe, but likely used to it after so many years, he didn't miss a single beat.
Overall, this show was really fantastic; it seems that performing for over two decades hasn't dulled Bad Religion's edge at all, and the band is looking and sounding re-invigorated with Brett's return. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on their next release (The Empire Strikes First is set for a June 8th release) and catching them live, be it at the Warped Tour or, should you be so lucky, in a small club like Slim's.