Bad Religion, Sonisphere UK Main Stage, July 9 2011

Bad Religion have their 16th album out next year marking yet another milestone in the 30-year existence of the band.

But let’s face it, when Greg Graffin set up his long-time project in 1979 at the age of just 15, he probably had no idea things would get this far.

Now revered among critics as one of the most influential bands in the punk movement, the six-piece have the impressive back-catalogue to boot. But do they still know how to work the live stage and teach those modern winy wanabee pop-punkers a lesson? 

Truth is, Bad Religion don’t really need to prove themselves and whether it’s an air of complacency that confirms this, or a conscious acknowledgment that their days of youth are over – the punk legends conserved their energy making a modest showing.

Bad Religion might have cut back on the overboard stage antics, but nowadays with every member over the age of 45 except drummer Brooks Wackerman, they arguably don’t need to jump around and make a fuss in order to get their message through.  This means they’re not headliner material for festivals, but neither would they want to be.  In the context of a lazy, drenched afternoon, this was a set that could be enjoyed in moderate doses.

The Resist Stance introduced us to the veterans’ set, but it wasn’t till fourth track Los Angeles Is Burning from 2004’s The Empire Strikes First album that their intentions became clear.  Graffin is wiser now, and his lyrics are put forward in lower reflective tone, with his body actions almost looking like he’s annotating a conversation with his audience.  It all makes for a calmed down, thoughtful feel, with brains ruling the brawn.  The Californians went through a decent rendition of American Jesus and finished with Fuck Armageddon…This Is Hell.

Whatever your view – aging gracefully or losing interest – Bad Religion have been an instrumental force in punk music.  In content, they still embody the same political and social angst as they always have, but there’s a stark change in the way it is channelled.  You just wonder whether their 2012 album will be the last in line.

Calum Robson