Davey Havok is perhaps the last in what I consider to be a dying breed - the punk rock icon. Some may scoff at this notion, but for a certain demographic in their mid-to-late twenties, he was one of the few larger-than-life figures of our high school years. With all the respect in the world for the forefathers, most of the early punk rock heroes may as well have been ancient history to us kids at the turn of the century. The mid-nineties resurgence produced a lot of music that we loved, but the significance of that time period was all seen through the rear-view mirror. Guys like Tim Armstrong and Fat Mike, as great as they were (and still are), unfortunately felt a generation removed. But then came Davey, hitting his stride just as we were coming into adolescence.
When Havok and the rest of AFI hit the stage at the Beacham in downtown Orlando on January 21, 2014, I was reassured that I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Opener "The Leaving Song Pt. II" from 2003's Sing the Sorrow was met with what could safely be described as a warm welcome. From there, the band took a very no-nonsense approach, refraining from any lengthy stage banter. Songs from their most recent release, Burials, seemed to blend into the set without the usual "new material" moans. The energy from the band and the crowd was apparent throughout the night, and Havok's signature vocals sounded as good as ever.
Those looking for the blistering-paced classics from earlier albums may have been slightly disappointed, as "File 13" from Very Proud of Ya was the only pre-1999 track of the evening. But for a band that has evolved so much since that time, the song seemed to fit in very naturally among newer material. I certainly did not get the impression they were trying to hide their roots, but that they simply had a lot of ground to cover in their 17-song set.
For better or for worse, Davey is a entertainer. Much of his look and stage movement is reminiscent of Morrissey, and that isn't such a bad thing. And while the devil-lock is gone and his shirts aren't quite as tight as Danzig's anymore, the punk influence is still apparent. You can tell that he believes in what he is doing, and really, what else can someone ask of a performer? Guitarist Jade Puget along with rhythm section Adam Carson and Hunter Burgan played their roles just fine, but there is no denying that Davey is the life force of this band (at least as far as live performances are concerned).
Played just prior to the encore break, "God Called in Sick Today" from fan-favorite album Black Sails in the Sunset was certainly the sing-along of the evening. The band also performed their version of The Cure's hit "Just Like Heaven," and while it fell short of a groundbreaking interpretation, the cover was well received. The band closed out their set with their single "Silver and Cold," with the crowd just as enthusiastic as they were at the start.
Some who fondly recall the AFI of their youth may pass on the show when this tour rolls into their town, thinking that the group's most exciting days are likely behind them - but that would be a mistake. I can assure you that if there ever was a time to catch this band and its charismatic front man, it is now. The hassle of parking downtown and the cost of admission are a small price to pay to see an icon, after all.
The Leaving Song Pt. II
Girl's Not Grey
I Hope You Suffer
Love Like Winter
Ever and a Day
The Leaving Song
The Days of the Phoenix
God Called in Sick Today
Just Like Heaven
Dancing Through Sunday
Silver and Cold