AFI was the first band that I can remember feeling cool listening to. In 8th grade, I got my copy of Very Proud of Ya on cassette and that was all I needed. They were my own little band that me and 4 other kids from my high school had heard of and we all loved them. They also happened to be from Berkeley, which was right in our backyard, which made them feel like hometown heroes to us. I proudly wore the East Bay Hardcore t-shirt (you know, the one with the guy holding the gun) to school and was repeatedly called a “fag” by some of the football players, but I didn’t care because I knew how great AFI was, and I didn’t care jocks like that to join my little club anyways. By the time I finally got to see AFI live I was a junior in high school; it was right before the All Hallows EP came out, and they blew me away. I felt like I was watching some modern day Misfits (they did their cover of "Halloween," which is one of my favorite covers ever). I found the make-up a little cheesy, but the energy and intensity blew me away. While screaming “Through our bleeding, we are one!” with the frenzied crowd I felt like I was really part of something. I saw AFI twice more started to be less and less excited by each release (I haven‘t even purchased Decemberunderground). When my friend called me up to see Tiger Army and AFI in their triumphant return to the East Bay at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco because she had a free ticket, I was a bit apprehensive as I hadn’t seen AFI for 4 years, but this was the band that I had loved through all of the good times and the bad so I figured for free the show would be worth it.
The first band of the night was Saosin, but I missed them due to my friend with my ticket not being there. I didn’t really care though because I am not a huge Saosin fan. By the time I finally got in to the 8,000 person capacity Civic Center, Tiger Army was about to take the stage. I hadn’t seen them since I saw them with AFI and the Nerve Agents about 5 years ago and I was really excited to see them. Tiger Army did not disappoint, as they played a fairly high energy set that sounded almost CD perfect. The only low point was when the band played the steel guitar ballad “The Orchard,” which Nick dedicated to his family, and in return, nearly killed all the momentum that the set had generated. The set heavily drew on material from the band’s latest release, Ghost Tigers Rise. The band started off with “Ghostfire,” and finished with "Anabelle Lee" (a rendition that included a few solos by the drums and bass and awesome backing vocals). For those familiar with the newest album, they will know that most of the songs are moderate in tempo, and the songs remained lively, sometimes leaving the crowd wanting to dance but being unable to do so, but never too much to the detriment of the set. I am a huge fan of Tiger Army’s first album, but the only song played from there was “Nocturnal.” Overall, Tiger Army played a brief but triumphant set and seemed excited to be playing to such a huge audience.
45 minutes later AFI took the stage. The first thing that popped into my head was, “My God, they have stage props!.” The stage was decorated with white dead “trees” covered in Christmas lights which could change color. Then all over the sides of the stage where these artsy film camera apparatuses that were actually lights and fog machines. Finally, behind the band was a giant movie projector that played various clips of their videos or band members, etc. This is all to be expected from a major band, but still, it caught me a little off guard coming from AFI. The band then came out dressed in pure white, Jade with his fashion mullet proudly displayed, and the crowd went nuts. The band started with “Prelude 12/12,” which went straight into “Girls Not Grey,”which I must admit is a catchy song. The band played with all of the energy and passion which AFI is known for live. Hunter was running everywhere and beating the crap out of his bass, while Jade twirled in circles like some neo-glam rocker, and Davey pranced about like some sort of tortured punk/goth Freddie Mercury. The crowd was eating it up all of it. Davey stopped a few times to thank the crowd and say how glad they were to be back home where they started, but other than that the talk was kept to a minimum.
Often I felt very much on the outside as the band only played 3 pre-Sing the Sorrow tracks, with those being “Totalimmortal,” “God Called in Sick Today” and “Ever and a Day.” I was hoping because they were back in the East Bay and with Tiger Army I might get at least “A Single Second,” but alas, no. The band played songs like “Silver and Cold” (complete with a confetti explosion) and “The Leaving Song” and several songs off of the newest album. What got me was that the older material seemed so much more full of life than the newer stuff, but from the crowd's reaction to each song, I can only guess that I was in the minority. It was while standing in the crowd, thinking about all of these things, staring at the guy in front of me with an Aus Rotten patch that I wondered why we were there. I knew this is what the show would be like: all the newer fans and goth kids loving everything while I remembered the greatness of AFI shows gone by and knew few of the new songs. Then it hit me, I was there to pay my respects.
AFI has achieved a level of success that few bands that started writing songs titled “Brownie-Bottom Sundae” could hope of achieving. They still play a high energy show that is entertaining more kids than an album like Very Proud of Ya or even Black Sails ever could have. Hell, two of the guys from their first two albums aren’t even in the band anymore. Also, after hearing really new AFI, it isn’t too hard to see the evolution form “Morningstar” to “Endlessly, She Said.” AFI have more than paid their dues and are now reaping the fruits of the labor. They no longer need fans like me (and I don’t mean this in a negative way), when they have legions of dedicated fans covered in Decemberunderground tattoos who worship Davey and Mac eyeliner. In the same vein, I no longer need AFI. I have my memories of what they were and what they meant for me at the time and that is more than enough. I was there to see what the little band from Ukiah had become, and see them dazzle a whole new group of fans.
The band closed with “Miss Murder” after about an hour set and the crowd left sweaty and happy. If you like the two new AFI albums, I highly recommend catching this tour, because the band is tight as a unit, Davey’s voice sounds stellar and they still put on a high energy show. I myself never need to see AFI live again, as we have gone down different paths from the road we once shared. I harbor no ill will, hence the three stars. I have to congratulate them and their success, thank them for the fond memories, and wish them the best of luck.