AFI @ Fox Theater

afi1AFI | Fox Theater (Pomona, CA) | October 25, 2013 |

“Through our bleeding, we are one!”

It has been four years since AFI’s last album. The crowd chanting started well before the show began. Die-hard fans in the front row hung over the rail like a lifeline. Some had been there since 7AM. Others had camped out. Emotions were high perhaps because of the band’s recent hiatus.

Then it happened, the lights went down and one by one, Adam Carson (drums), Hunter Burgan (bass), and Jade Puget (guitar) filed onto the stage to steadily increasing screams. Frontman, Davey Havok charged out with his mic stand just in time to lead their faithful fans in the first lines of “The Leaving Song Pt. II,” a punchy anthem with enough intensity to warrant Hunter split kicking off the amps, balanced with quiet moments to allow the audience to catch their breath in time for another shouted chorus.

After the final, agonized scream, the band exploded into crowd favorite (and Rock Band theme), “Girl’s Not Grey.” Fists started flying. Bodies started flying. Someone spilled into the barricade, mobilizing security and scattering the photographers in the press pit. In the midst of the roiling crowd, Davey climbed in and was carried out a few rows to where those lucky enough to be nearby could reach out.

The rest of the set consisted of a crowd-pleasing mix of new and old songs (mostly from Sing the Sorrow andDecemberunderground), ballads and shit kickers that had the mosh pits rolling. Energy flagged a bit during the lesser traveled songs on the new album, Burials. The sweetly mellow “Heart Stops,” which they had never played live before, had a lukewarm reception due to the crowd’s unfamiliarity with the song. “17 Crimes,” with its catchy chorus, and “The Conductor” did well enough, but it was the first single, the tortured “I Hope You Suffer,” that got the best reaction.

afi4AFI never let the crowd wallow for long though, fans went mad for everything else. “Love Like Winter,” “Miss Murder,” and the undying “Days of the Phoenix” had the entire room singing and screaming every word. Hands reached towards the stage, even some tears were shed during the slower tracks like “Ever and a Day” and “The Interview.” It was clear that these songs meant something to people in the room, had gotten them through some tough periods in their lives, or brought back memories from the past. “The Interview” also features Jade alternating vocals with Davey towards the end, their voices blending into a soothing lullaby that held everyone enthralled.

In contrast, “Kill Caustic,” their cover of “Today’s Lesson” by Filth, and “Wester” were shots of pure adrenalin. “Today’s Lesson” was dedicated to their opening acts, Touche Amore and Coming. “Wester,” a more obscure throwback from The Art of Drowningreleased in 2000, evoked a particular hysteria, being one of the older songs on the set. It wasn’t the oldest however, that honor remained with “God Called In Sick Today,” an epic ballad that has remained a staple on AFI’s live shows since its release on Black Sails In The Sunset in 1999. As has become custom, Davey crowd-walked his way back into the middle of the floor to stand on the shoulders of his most fervent followers as he screamed the lyrics.

The mantra started up again even before the band ran offstage, the chanting much more intense than at the beginning of the show. Emotions were raw. Adrenalin was high. AFI knew exactly what to do upon their return. Starting off the encore with “6 to 8,” they calmed and crooned the crowd into a swaying mass before whipping them back into a frenzy with “Dancing Through Sunday.” A well-known and loved ballad from Sing the Sorrow, “Silver and Cold,” seemed an odd choice to end the night but the reason became clear when the second verse started.

“Light, like the flutter of wings,
feel your hollow voice rushing
Into me, as you’re longing to sing
So I, I will paint you in silver,
I will wrap you in cold
I will lift up your voice as, I sink…”

These are the words that shook the very rafters of the Fox Theater that night. It was a promise from the band to their fans, and a vow returned by those who screamed the words along with them. It was at that moment, the voices of the band and the audience became one. The roar that followed the last ringing note was louder than anything else that night. It did not abate, even after the band waved and slowly made their way offstage. No one on the floor moved. They didn’t want it to end. It was only when the house lights came on, and the overhead music started, that people began to shuffle out, even then with hopeful looks towards the stage as if hoping for another encore. That is the hold AFI has on their fans. Their music and their ability to connect keeps their audience coming back for more and that’s the mark of true showmanship.

– Joy Jarme