TEMPE, Ariz. — Eyeliner-tinged catharsis and angst were alive and well at the Marquee on Friday night when AFI made their Arizona stop on The Blood Tour with support from Nothing, and Souvenirs.
Souvenirs got the night started with a set heavy on tracks from their newest album Posture Of Apology. With stark emotional lyrics focused on understanding, loss, and forgiveness, Souvenirs struck the perfect balance between the 90’s Sub Pop records catalogue and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me-era Brand New. Overall, while their set may not have astounded many of the ardent AFI fans in attendance, it served as the perfect transition to Nothing’s reverb-heavy set which followed after a speedy changeover.
Nothing proved to be an exceptionally polarizing band for the sold-out crowd. With awkward stage presence, dedications to the memory of George “The Animal” Steele, and rambling half-mumbled banter between songs, it would be easy to simply write off Nothing as a band trying to emit a false rockstar facade. However, as they worked their way through a reverb-drenched set of songs that called to mind My Bloody Valentine’s vocal delivery layered over instrumentals which would have felt right at home amongst the Smashing Pumpkins discography, or even Incubus’ Morning View, they revealed themselves to be truly adept performers and songwriters who deserved their spot supporting AFI on a large scale tour. Though Domenic Palerno’s airy, trance inducing vocals may have seemed out of place opening for the concussive ball of energy that is AFI, the fact that they were able to hold a largely unfamiliar crowds attention for a 45 minute set is testament to their well-deserved presence on the Relapse Records roster.
Following Nothing, the stage lights were tuned to an ominous purple while the hazers were ratcheted up to blanket the stage in heavy fog. Finally, the lights dimmed and AFI took the stage to a cacophonous roar from the packed Friday night crowd. Opening with a near-soulful rendition of “Strength Through Wounding” from legendary album Black Sails In The Sunset, Havok and company quickly ratcheted the energy up to a thousand by launching directly into “Miss Murder”, launching the crowd into a frenzy that never relented for the rest of the evening.
Most impressively, songs from the recently released Blood album received just as much of an explosive crowd response as tried-and-true Sing The Sorrow–era favorites. “Aurelia”, “Snow Cats”, and “So Beneath You” all found great strength in a live setting where Davey Havok’s powerful vocal flourishes combined with a wall of guitar tone, propelled them beyond an album sound which many felt was a bit too “clean” for a band which has consistently based their career on raw emotion.
The setlist also made a direct point to showcase how much pride the band takes in their material from each album by sandwiching Blood album lead single “Snow Cats” between The Art Of Drowning‘s legendary tracks “The Despair Factor” and “The Days Of The Phoenix”. Whether calculated, or simply a serendipitous surprise, this pacing showed that with age, AFI at their core is still focused on the same message of sorrow, regret, pain, and love.
Throughout the career-spanning set, Davey continually launched himself off of every available surface, while Jade Puget pirouetted effortlessly across the stage; making it clear that nothing about their performance or career would be slowing down at any point in the near future.
Highlights: Deep cuts from Sing The Sorrow, including “This Celluloid Dream” and “Paper Airplanes”, dedicated to anyone who had seen them at The Nile long ago.
Lowlights: An oddly-aged and very drunk crowd, who continued shouting for “Miss Murder” long after it had been played.
by Katherine Amy Vega
AFI – Marquee Theatre 2-17-17
Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
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