Most bands will wind down their shows by telling their audiences, “OK, we’ve got two more for you,” sort of signaling the pending arrival of a signature hit moment not to be missed while stuck in line waiting for a beer or a bathroom.
Rancid isn’t like most bands. Somewhere around song 19 in the band’s blistering set Sunday at the House of Blues, singer and guitarist Tim Armstrong checked the pulse of the packed house and informed it, “OK, we have,” then paused and looked down at the sheets of paper taped to the stage, and began counting, “8, 9, 10, 11, 12 more songs for you.”
And he wasn’t kidding, just off by two as Rancid ultimately aired a 29-song catalog survey in the first of its two nights in Boston.
Armstrong pulled double duty, as his other band, Transplants, opened for Rancid. Skate-core band Crown of Thornz was also on the bill.
Emerging from the great West Coast punk dust-up of the early ’90s, Rancid has stayed true to its original sound and vision, as songs both new and old sounded lean, jagged, and uncompromisingly unpolished. While peers stepped off the punk platform into bigger pop careers, Rancid practically recoiled from the spotlight when the songs “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” became really popular in 1995.
Rancid still accords those songs encore status, but in the intervening years managed to keep its music and its shows fairly raw, and, ultimately, more personally resonant. Even when Rancid launches into a broad anthem such as “Fall Back Down,” it doesn't milk the camaraderie for too long. The bulk of the 90-minute concert featured songs that were confrontational (“The 11th Hour,” “I Wanna Riot”) and confessional (“Journey to the End of the East Bay,” “Olympia, WA”).
Rancid’s brilliant execution of the riff and anthemic chorus sometimes belies the fuller musicianship at work in its compact tunes. Bassist Matt Freeman best displayed his dexterity on “Maxwell Murder” and took the lead vocals on “Black and Blue” and “Black Derby Jacket.” Drummer Brett Reed likewise swung with more finesse than a punk band usually gets from its beat keeper, a point underscored after watching Travis Barker’s maniacal pounding with Transplants.
Transplants featured several songs off its forthcoming album, “In a Warzone,” a comparatively stripped-down set that emphasizes the band’s punk roots over its hip-hop influences. Singer Rob Aston played fiery preacher to Armstrong’s mercurial prophet, as Transplants marched through a set of grime and folly.Scott McLennan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcLennan1.