Sound: AFI (A Fire Inside) is a seasoned touring band and it shows through the quality of the band's sound. The sound was accomplished, Davey, Jade, Hunter, and Adam each bringing their personalities to the fore. Havok's performance was accomplished to say the least: his flawless transitions from singing to hardcore shouting (Coin Return, Love is a Many Splendored Thing) and screaming (The Leaving Song Pt.II, Dancing Through Sunday, Kill Caustic, Miss Murder, and Death of Seasons) do a lot to demonstrate to the audience just how much goes into an AFI performance. Havok is often criticised for not being able to perform as he did prior to vocal surgery, but this is evidently not the case. Perhaps the greatest praise to Havok is that his voice adds so much to the music, really animating AFI's sound. Havok's voice is at the forefront of everything this band does: he simply never gets lost in the mix.
Jade Puget, perhaps the most underrated guitarist in modern music, was certainly on form. Using his Gibson LP he pulls off complicated rhythms and chord patterns with ease. His ability to play hardcore punk at pace has never left him, and his guitar tone is to die for; not many guitarists in AFI's genre pool manage to pull off such a varied number of tones throughout a show, but Jade does: he's on top of his game whether it be during glisteningly warm Acoustic numbers (On the Arrow) or when incorporating legato and tapping during a would-be shred solo (Dancing Through Sunday).
Rock music is somewhat infamous for underestimating the virtues of an accomplished bassist. In Hunter Burgan, AFI have not only have an accomplished bassist, but an accomplished musician. His bass lines during most songs just come across so much better live, driving the audience as well as the band. He doesn't miss a note, and that's counting the tapping technique on Beautiful Thieves.
Not as flamboyant a personality as Davey, Adam Carson stamps his authority all over the bands set list with his lively drumming. Again, versatility is vital to each AFI band member's personal sound, as they work towards the bigger picture. Drummers are often described as metronomes of a band, but Carson is more than that: he's not boring, switching from hardcore power-drumming to swing rhythms and more. He even shakes it up during On the Arrow. Not overly loud, Carson brings sophistication to what can be an uncultured occupation. // 10
Perfomance: When talking about an AFI gig it's easy to get lost in Davey's performance, ignoring the skills of Jade, Adam, and Hunter. Amongst other things, Davey likes bunny rabbits, clandestine numbers, and glitter, especially glitter. He takes to the stage in a flamboyant silver-glitter blazer, playing to the crowd's every desire, shooting into the air with great spring, snarling and glaring at the audience, and at his charismatic best pulling off some moves of which a pole dancer would be proud. Davey is a showman in the best sense of the term: he has substance behind his theatrics, and his audience adores him for it. He isn't quite as plastered with make-up as he was during the DecemberUnderground period, but Davey still has glittered earpieces.
Opening with Medicate, AFI might be criticised for abandoning their Tradition of opening with a designated opening song (Keeping out of Direct Sunlight, Strength through Wounding, Miseria Cantare, Prelude 12/21), but it serves its purpose well, as perhaps the best known song of the Crash Love era. Two Sing the Sorrow singles in Girl's not Grey and The Leaving Song Pt. II are used to further ignite the crowd, Davey's screams during The Leaving Song Pt. II eliciting great crowd response, as do the gang vocals of the next song: I am Trying Very Hard to be Here, during which the audience was all too pleased to provide the Flash, Flash! Kill Caustic includes more screaming, but the intriguing part of this song is that it comes across so much better live than on record. As perhaps the favourite song of the Crash Love era, End Transmission is not only a song of outstanding musicianship; it also exhibited just how captivating AFI is live. It might not be played at the same pace as some of the band's hardcore songs, but it was one of the best performed songs of the night, the band's enthusiasm undermining any lingering doubts I had about how Crash Love might sound live. Leaving the audience barely a moment to savour the musicianship of End Transmission, Davey warns that he'll catch out his audience, declaring a quiz time, obvious allusion to an older track. Jade struck a few sharp barre chords as the band hurtled through a hardcore song from Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes: Coin Return.
Beautiful Thieves is AFI's next single, and it includes a tapping section by bassist Hunter; it's another great performance, the backing vocals as present live as they are on record, Davey enunciating certain words more than he does on record, unafraid of mixing it up a bit. Dancing through Sunday, a Sing the Sorrow favourite was next, Davey in his element screaming his way through it as a terrific pace: oh, and Jade, cool as ever stepped up onto Davey's glittery monitor to deliver a guitar solo of great technique, wowing the crowd. Too Shy to Scream might not be everybody's favourite track, but it is expertly delivered live, its brisk and bouncing beat provided by Adam, Davey enjoying another opportunity to really get flamboyant: those hips really shake. Another hardcore classic came next in the form of Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Let's just say its content belies its sentimental title, and was greatly contrasted by the next song, On the Arrow, a fantastic melodic masterpiece. For this number Adam joined the band lower on the stage to direct the percussion, really adding an almost romantic moment to the night. AFI's versatility was to Shine Again during Death of Seasons, a song pleasing crowds since 2003. Its initial bass guitar warning signals to the audience that Davey is about to scream with great strength, and it is beyond anyone's capability to keep up with him. A lot of front men are spoken of as feeding on the energy of the crowd. In Davey's case he has all the necessary energy to ignite the crowd, and as the final stars collide the crowd takes a collective breath: there are only four songs left. The first is The DecemberUnderground favouriteThe Interviewwhich particularly satisfies the audience as a result of the duet by Davey and Jade, serenely delivered. AFI's most mainstream song came next in the shape of Miss Murder. It sounds like swing, and it sounds like pop, but Davey puts in some of his most caustic, furiously delivered screaming on this track, the audience thriving on its genius. Pen ultimately Love Like Winter is the second song of the night (after Death of Seasons) to incorporate some sound electronic sound effects as AFI goes new wave, producing several moments for audience sing-along. As part of the Encore came Silver and Cold, a song that needs no introductions; yet again AFI deliver as a band, but one might miss the glory days of God Called in Sick Today.
An almost indispensible part of the performance is certainly the lighting. AFI bring it themselves, and it works wonders for the show oozing professionalism.
Davey Havok has a vice-like grip on the audience, his eyes demanding constant and ubiquitous attention. He knows how to warm the crowd, discussing the city and the vegan restaurants he likes there. All of these factors point to a band that deserves a bigger following on the live-circuit.
Here we come to just a couple of problems for the band. There are factions within the fan base who dislike newer material, namely the most recent two albums, and others who are only really aware of AFI's newer material. This gives rise to a certain culture of disinterest or cynicism about some of the band's songs, which is hardly a welcome feature of any gig. // 9
Overall Impression: The Glasgow O2 ABC is an adequate venue for any band; although it would have been better had AFI played the Barrowland. Adam Carson more or less said this himself an hour or so after the show as he crossed the road to get a Subway sandwich.
The support bands were The Dear & Departed and Sick of it All. The Dear & Departed was good at New Wave-influenced rock that they play, but perhaps it is difficult for some AFI fans to relate to that brand of music. Then again AFI themselves are big fans of New Wave, so one shouldn't be quick to generalise. One thing that D&D could learn from Havok is to summon up more stage presence. This would work towards building a bigger fan base of AFI fans. Speaking to vocalist Dan Under after the gig I embarrassed myself by asking whether he is Australian. He isn't. He lived in New Zealand for some time. He took it well enough, and he really comes across as someone who cares about making music. Dan was wearing a pendant around his neck of a DecemberUnderground bunny, which was given to him by Davey.
Sick of it All on the other hand needs no introduction, having been around longer than AFI. Legends of the New York Hardcore scene, they really went for it, brothers Lou and Pete Koller at the centre of attention with their terrific energy.
Finally, AFI whose performance for just measly 16-18 was just excellent should be lauded from all quarters as an act deserving of the adulation they receive. When Davey asks, So who will follow? Who is the lead? one cannot help but think he knows the answer to his own question in terms of a live setting. // 10
- Samuel Agini (c) 2010