House of Blues Boston
October 25th 2009
I’ll start this review by saying this was my second time seeing AFI in less than two weeks, and I’ve already written a glowing review of their Providence Performance here. So, I’ll just get the praise out of the way early. AFI once again sounded great and brought a boatload of energy to the stage with them. They once again played a set that was a little too short and a little too thin on older favorites. And once again, they made both of these concerns seem like an afterthought with their performance.
The night began with the realization that AFI isn’t as big as they used to be. The House of Blues was as empty as I’ve ever seen it, with the mezzanine level closed off and floor only about half full. The only opening act was Boston’s own the Unseen, an old-school punk band that played solid set and was well received by those in the crowd. The group’s mohawked frontman Mark Unseen was even able to inspire a large circle pit towards the end of the set as he jumped down from the stage and allowed those at the front to do the vocal work.
AFI would make thier traditionally grand entrance and start the set just as they had done in Providence, with “Torch Song” and then “Girls Not Grey.” Seeing as that the band doesn’t change up their setlist very often, I wasn’t expecting many surprises. However, it was obvious from the start that lead singer Davey Havok and Co. were ready to give it their all on what was the last night of the tour’s first leg.
During the set’s third track, “The Leaving Song Pt. II,” Havok would do a flying somersault into the crowd, causing a free for all that had everyone at the front of the venue wildly grabbing for a piece of the charasmatic frontman. After clawing his way back to the stage, Havok would jokingly scold one fan for trying to rip off his shoe.
This would not be Havok’s only foray into the crowd, for he would return later in the set for a successful head-walk. The band would throw in the set’s big surprise with “The Despair Factor,” a rarely played track from 2000’s The Art of Drowning. During this song it became clear that while many of the band’s fair weather fans might have skipped the show, the diehards were well represented. This became even more clear when the band would play “Don’t Make Me Ill” from 1995’s Answer That and Stay Fashionable. Havok once again climbed down from the stage to share the mic with the enthusiastic fans pressed up against the barrier.
Once again, the band’s new songs may not pack the same punch as some of their older counterparts, but they still sound great in a live environment and had those in the crowd singing along. As in Providence, AFI would preform Crash Love lead single “Medicate” towards the end of the set, and it would once again receive only a luke-warm reception compared to the other Crash Love songs.
After closing the set with “Love Like Winter,” the band would return to the stage for an encore that began with undoubtadly the show’s best moment, “The Interview.” The often spectacular light show would be put on hold for a song as Havok and guitarist Jade Pudget would trade lines on the somber Decemberunderground track.
Closing the set with “Miss Muder” and “Silver and Cold,” the band would put an exclamation point on a show that had witnessed quartete at their best. While they had put in a very solid effort in Providence, they seemed to bring something extra to the Boston show. Havok’s stage diving antics showed he hasn’t lost touched with his hardcore roots, while Pudget, bassists Hunter Bergan and drummer Adam Carson were once again supurb in providing the soundtrack.
It’s unfortunate that AFI’s constant reinventions haven’t sat too well with the fans who flocked to the band during the Sing the Sorrow era, but it is obvious that they’re the ones missing out, as AFI continues to put on spectacular live shows. The crowd at the House of Blues would certainly attest to this.
Lupo’s, Providence RI
October 14th, 2009
Three years. That was the last time AFI had visited the northeast or done any major touring. For die hard fans like myself, it had been far too long. With the release of Crash Love, AFI was finally ready to hit the road and debut their new tracks, new outfits, and new hairdos.
Their second of four New England appearances brought them to Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in downtown Providence, where they had last appeared along with the Explosion in 2006. That show had seen the quintet at the height of their popularity, supporting both a chart topping record in Decemberunderground and single in “Miss Murder.” Crash Love has not seen the same type of success, which may be why the band performed as if they had something to prove to those in the audience.
The show featured only one opening band, UK-based hardcore outfit Gallows. What could (and probably should) have been another bland set from a band most weren’t familiar with turned into a thoroughly enjoyable 40 minutes. This was mainly due to the antics of frontman Frank Carter. After playing two songs that featured little crowd participation, Carter climbed down from the stage and into the crowd, mic in hand.
Positioning himself at the back of the small dance floor, Carter proceed to sing the remainder of the set from the complete chaos that surrounded him. While I haven’t been to many hardcore shows, I found this move to be both unbelievable and completely awesome. Gallows is apparently bigger in Providence than I had expected, for there were a host of bandanna-clad fans ready to mix it up and show off their headcore dancing skills.
And of course, there were some not so savvy fans who decided to join in as well. One was a young female who shoved Carter and then challenged him to a fight. The somewhat stunned frontman stopped the music and had the girl repeat the question into the mic, which earned a laugh from the rest of the crowd. Carter then shook his head and jokingly encouraged the girl to pick a fight with any of the other boys in the crowd, for they would be happy to oblige.
After closing the set back on stage with “Orchestra of Wolves,” Gallows would make their exit, along with at least a handful of their fans. After the standard 30 minute wait, AFI took the stage, one member at a time, dressed in their trademark black, except for lead singer Davey Havok. The charismatic frontman instead was decked out in a sparkling polyester suit. I don’t think anyone was surprised.
They would being the set with “Torch Song,” the first song from Crash Love. While it is a solid track, I don’t think it works well as an opener, and most in the crowd didn’t seem to think so either. Things would pick up quickly though as the band ripped though “Girls Not Grey” and “Leaving Song Pt. II,” both of which woke the crowd up in a big way.
Next the band would debut another Crash Love track, this being “Too Shy To Scream.” Unlike “Torch Song,” this did inspire quite the sing along, as did the moody “Ever and a Day,” the only Art of Drowning-era song to make the set list.
Throughout the set Havok danced around the stage as if he were the lead actor in a dramatic play, while guitarist Jade Pudget and bassist Hunter Burgan barely avoided crashing into each other as they raced back and forth. After playing “Kill Caustic” and “End Transmission,” Havok stopped to ask if anyone in the crowd was 18 years old. After a few in the crowd cheered, Havok proclaimed “so is this song” before launching into “Self-Pity,” which appeared on 1995’s Answer That and Stay Fashionable.
Following “Beautiful Thieves” was “Dancing Through Sunday,” which featured a blistering solo from Puget that was one of the highlights of the set. It’s remarkable how good this band sounds live, especially compared to some of their counterparts. The show would then slow down considerably with “The Leaving Song” and “On the Arrow.” Both were a very nice addition to an otherwise fast paced set.
The band would close with the trio of “Death of Seasons,” “Medicate,” and “Love Like Winter.” Despite being Crash Love’s first single and most familiar track, it inspired only a half-hearted sing along. “Love Like Winter,” on the other hand, not only sounded CD-quality but also inspired another huge response from the crowd.
As the band walked off stage and the house lights stayed down, I took a look at my watch to see that the band had spent less than fifty minutes on stage. I was hoping for a long encore, but knowing the band rarely played long sets, certainly wasn’t expecting one. After returning to the stage, the band would play an upbeat cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” before transitioning to two of their biggest hits, “Miss Murder” and “Silver and Cold.”
While “Miss Murder” may not be the band’s most original work, it certainly brings the house down in a live setting, and it didn’t disappoint tonight. Closing the show with “Silver and Cold” was an interesting choice and it worked well, as Havok raised the mic stand high in the air and let the crowd do the singing during one part of the song.
As “Silver and Cold” concluded, the band took their bows, and slowly left the stage. The set had only lasted an hour, and it absolutely flew by. It’s almost understandable that AFI would play a shorter set, for even a world class athlete would be exhausted after sprinting around stage the way they do. Havok’s vocal theatrics also must be commended. The frontman deftly moved from vocal cord-shredding screams on “Kill Castic” and “Death of Seasons” to huge melodic choruses on “Girls Not Grey” and “Beautiful Thieves.” Overall, the show was another memorable AFI performance, and while the absence of older material was disappointing, the new Crash Love tracks packed the type of punch that could rock stadiums. Maybe some day.