Sunday afternoon, I woke up on the wrong side of the couch. After my plans had been scrapped in a typical fashion, I awoke to witness the second of two preferred NFL football teams lose their championship game. Forfeiting any chance of arriving early enough for an interview with AFI at The Commodore Ballroom prior to the show -- combined with my sour mood -- I put my ticket up for sale on craigslist. Shortly thereafter I smartened up and decided not to take my ball and go home, got on the train, and hoped for an experience more positive than the last time I saw the guys perform. It seems that I made the right choice.
The Commodore Ballroom always seems like a second home and often puts a smile on my face immediately. My grimace was only accentuated by the myriad of nearby eye candy, including a T-shirt that read “Fuck Skull.” I was amused, to say the least. Feeling rather anti-social I kept to myself and enjoyed my version of Beck’s lager while I waited for the Californian clan to commence.
In my opinion, there’s nothing cheesier than opening a show with your current rock radio hit (“Medicate”). What comes close is following it with your biggest mainstream breaking single, “Girls Not Grey,” from 2003’s Sing the Sorrow. Semantics aside, both cuts sounded fantastic -- immediately. After a splendid rendition of “Leaving Song Pt. 2,” Davey criticized the crowd for pot smoking. “That’s right. I’m fucking serious,” he said, only coming across half-serious. If there was one thing we could agree on, it was that. I have nothing against pot (aside from the shitty smell and the even shittier high) but the amount of dope in the air was surprising for a crowd presumably comprised of a measurable concentration of straight-edge kids.
“I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here” was the second tune played from 2009’s Crash Love album. While it’s certainly a catchy pop-rock offering, blending edgy guitars and a head-bobbing bubblegum chorus, it was “End Transmission” that I’d hoped to hear most this evening. Is this my favorite AFI song, spanning a 19-year career? Not even close. It is, however, my favorite song from this era of AFI. The people (who came) shouting song and album titles from our youth simply didn't get them. AFI refuses to be a nostalgia act; they believe in the current roster of songs. For the most part, I can’t blame ‘em. They did, however, include “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” from 1996’s Very Proud of Ya, which sounded out of place, much like the opening act Skin Like Iron probably did (and to whom they dedicated the song). If you didn’t see them play the classics when we were kids, then you missed the boat...deal with it.
Hearing and seeing Hunter’s tapping bass interlude during their upcoming single “Beautiful Thieves” was a treat. The song is a Crash favorite and hearing it live gave new life to the anthemic tune. I was more than pleasantly surprised to hear Davey and Jade come together for the rare live offering of “Leaving Song” from Sing the Sorrow. This, followed by “On the Arrow” (a B-side from 2006’s Decemberunderground), was surely the highlight of the night’s performance. The preferred song of the December bunch was a non-album track. Go figure.
The Mortal Kombat-influenced track “Death of Seasons” wasn’t a favorite in 2003 and it was enough this evening to make the pizza in my stomach churn. The annoying “Miss Murder” single from Decemberunderground followed and closed the set less than an hour after they hit the stage.
Adam’s bombastic toms started the night’s encore off with a roar during “Too Shy to Scream.” “Love Like Winter” came second, offering a vocal high point for Davey on a song I otherwise don’t care for. The third and final number of the encore was “Silver and Cold,” a fan favorite which never sounded heavier, thanks to Jade’s crunchy live guitar sound. While I half-expected a different evening closer, it only made sense that the three encores were from the past three albums.
Many old-school AFI fans may not share the level of appreciation I had tonight -- and to each their own. There are other bands I loved as a teen whom I certainly have zero desire to see live and although I thought AFI might be in that boat -- it’s clear that they aren’t (quite yet). I’m proud that no matter how diluted some of the original sound, style, and vision is -- they still don’t fail to impress. I’m glad I saw the boys one last time in my favorite venue. Its atmosphere and soundscape, combined with an expected tight performance, had this guy smiling by the evening’s close. While I might not be a fan of Sundays, I am still a fan of AFI.
[Originally posted at WestCoast Weasel blog]