The Forum is a beautiful venue, is it not? The wonderful Greek theatre-like aesthetic to the left, right and above the spacious stage; the feeling you get that the stage itself doesn’t end when the light rig ends as you look up to the arches towering above you; that blue light-tinged ceiling that contrasts the stage lights below and creates the image that you’re looking up at a night sky; that simply lovely floor carpet found throughout most of the venue that you could easily sleep on – it’s a very posh and surreal location, to say the very least. One that’s made even better by the fact that someone finally came to their fucking senses and ripped out most of that awful seating area that took up the back half of this heritage listed venue, freeing up space even more and making exiting the venue a short and easy stroll to the doors, rather than a slow-moving bottleneck of death.
Now, the last time I came to The Forum was two years ago for Enter Shikari’s 2015 headline tour (yes, the Melbourne show with the now infamous Hands Like Houses on-stage meltdown) and I was very happy to be back. And returning to such a wondrous venue to see a terrific band like AFI play? It doesn’t get much better than that, I don’t think.
Fresh from the BIGSOUND (AKA “Dads Gone Wild”) stages, Newcastle’s Introvert where the first band to bounce sound waves off of The Forum’s lavish inside walls for what was a laid back, decent set; their grungy, alt-rock sound taking on a much larger feel in such a venue too. In playing both new (and hopefully soon to be released) material as well as ‘Is It Too Late?‘ and ‘Everything Is Different Now‘ from last year’s solid ‘Old Tastes‘ EP, among other tracks, the Newwy locals held their own against the grand stage, large venue, and the barely half-filled crowd in attendance. Bassist Max Priest and guitarist Mitch Raschke really help to keep the band’s on-stage presence lively as they thrashed about, providing the chords and basis for their two other bandmates to capitalise off, especially drummer and backing vocalist, Frank Stephen Hopkins, who was the real star of their short but sweet set. It’s just a shame that that same energy was not reciprocated by those in attendance – with the exception of one enthusiastic punter screaming out “NEWCASTLE” at one point – who were all, of course, waiting around for just one band in particular to take the stage.
Polite but overly lukewarm crowd reception aside, I truly feel that big things will be afoot for Introvert long into 2018. Fingers crossed!
Admittedly, an AFI tour featuring two support bands like Introvert and Basement is a… little odd. After all, Basement with Introvert supporting is a tour in of itself! Then again, when AFI did this did this same tour cycle in the States this year, they brought Touche Amore with them, but the conundrum lies in the fact that that band already toured Australia earlier this year. So the next logical step down from getting Jeremy Bolm and co. is to get either Turnover or Basement, and with the former busy, the latter was picked for this. Or so goes the show booking “math” in my head.
It’s only been a year since Basement swung through on a headline tour and with me having missed that tour for whatever reason, and while not the biggest fan of these lads, I was actually quite keen to see the English group run through various material of their three albums. And as expected, their set was just that; a mixture of 2011’s ‘I Wish I Could Stay Here‘, 2015’s ‘Colourmeinkindness‘ (thier best album if I do say so myself), and last year’s so-so ‘Promise Everything‘. All the usual suspects were present and accounted for – ‘Earl Grey‘, ‘Aquasun‘, ‘Whole‘, ‘Brother’s Keeper‘, ‘Promise Everything‘, ‘Fading‘, and ‘Crickets Throw Their Voices‘ (which is arguably Basement’s best song), to name a few. A much larger crowd had gathered than the openers by this point but there was still fuck-all engagement from the audience apart from a couple bobbing heads, the small few that clearly sung along throughout, and the odd older dickhead wearing an equally old AFI shirt visibly mocking those enjoying Basement’s set like a complete and utter cunt.
That aside, the band’s set was solid and was instrumentally on-point. However, while vocalist Andrew Fisher was energetic and clearly having fun on-stage, his vocals were just off at times. See, his clean singing was all well and good and was often finely complemented by guitarist Alex Henery’s backing parts, but Fisher’s screams were lacking. Like, a lot. Whenever the band delved into their faster, louder, punk rock territories, like on that sweet midsection of ‘Earl Grey‘ for instance, he’d miss lyrics and his screaming and yells just wouldn’t land as well as they should, seemingly getting lost in his band’s own live sound. Which might explain the quieter nature and further restrained sound of ‘Promise Everything‘, as it’s clear that Fisher struggles with such louder, aggressive vocals live, and that’s a real shame. It also screams to me that as this band moves forward, older songs may become fewer and far between live with some exceptions.
So, if you’re a Basement fan and you’re going to these remaining Australian AFI tour dates, I sincerely hope this band plays a few fabled older tracks for you. This may very well be the last time you see such tunes live…
Look, straight up, AFI are one of my favourite live bands to watch and I will maintain they’re one of the best modern rock acts anyone will see live in this day and age.
What struck me about this American group’s live show the very first time I saw them (way back at Soundwave 2010) is that their on-record sound is superbly captured and effectively represented in the live setting; something they fully proved to me again during a repeat Aussie visit in 2014. Admittedly, there’s nothing instrumentally insane, overly layered and nothing that complicated going on in their music that it’s easy to fuck up. (Well, unless you count guitarist Jade Puget buggering up the opening riff of ‘This Celluloid Dream‘ on the night in question). But not only do AFI consistently sound great live, they also dole out their anthemic, heartfelt rock songs in a near-perfect manner; showcasing vast levels of physical energy as they run and leap around the stage, all the while delivering to fans a truly captivating stage presence.
Of course, every single aspect of their live musical cues performances, as well as each four members on-stage moves and actions are all very well-rehearsed, yet they pull it off so damn well that you aren’t ever bothered by the routine. I know I sure wasn’t. And tonight was no different.
After some of Health’s most banging songs were played over the PA, a series of ludicrous sub drops that’d make an over the top Hollywood action flick’s trailer green with envy were used to announce that the night’s headliners were here. Before you could blink, AFI got right down to business, and that meant starting out with a classic tune from their long and stellar hit-list – ‘Girl’s Not Grey‘.
Then, from something 2003 to something a little more 2013, without a pause, the band went straight into one of the very few worthy tracks off ‘Burials‘, the short but deliriously catchy ‘17 Crimes‘. This damn fine start to AFI’s hour-plus set was a solid showing of both the old and the new. The band then flung back and forth between older ‘Art Of Drowning‘ tunes like ‘The Despair Factor‘, ‘Morningstar‘, and the true classic ‘The Days Of The Phoenix‘ right over to much newer cuts like ‘Feed From The Floor‘, ‘Snow Cats‘, and ‘So Beneath You‘ from this year’s self-titled/”Blood” album (No ‘Aurelia‘? Boo-urns!). However, whether it was from two decades ago, the ‘Sing The Sorrow‘ bangers of the last decade (‘Silver And Cold‘, ‘This Celluloid Dream‘, ‘Paper Planes (Makeshift Wings))’, or the material of our current one, the band – supported by a great light show – proved exactly why they’ve endured for 26 years and why they have a special place in my heart and the hearts of many, many others.
I think what truly makes AFI such a great band – both on-stage and off – comes down to not just having great songs, but also coming down to who performs these killer tracks.
Drummer Adam Carson really plays for his band’s music; providing simple yet air tight, flowing drum grooves and patterns that allow the guitar and vocal melodies to soar high above his playing. He’s not doing anything crazily technical but nor does he need to in order to create such a great percussive backbone for what are some unforgettable songs. Likewise, the same can be said of bassist Hunter Burgan, who moves around the stage as much as his two other non-drummer band mates do; never once missing a note and providing backing vocal harmonies and shouts to ensure that their set is as well-replicated and as filled out as possible. Guitarist Jade Puget (who apart from that bung start to ‘This Celluloid Dream‘) moves his guitar around his body and takes it all over the stage throughout their set, ensuring he isn’t just stationary stage dressing, adding further to the high-octane energy. As for the always moving and charismatic frontman, Davey Havok, the man is as passionate, as kinetic, and as vocally stellar as usual, hitting all the right notes and screams, with the occasional added Havok flair for good measure.
Again, it’s all tightly rehearsed and all pre-ordained, but fuck it! When it all culminates into such a great live show, one cannot help but watch on in appreciative awe.
After a massive first set closer with ‘Silver And Cold‘ and with the obvious encore arriving soon after, the band and their grand hostess of a stage – all bathed in a fitting red light beneath the venue’s hazey blue heavens – the band pulled out the two killer set enders that most people’s hearts and lungs had waited all night for: ‘This Time Imperfect‘ and the seminal ‘Miss Murder‘. This final pair yielded the best response of the night from the eager crowd (myself included), because well, of fucking course they did! These two songs have helped get AFI where they now stand today, so you’d best bet they get eaten up by eager ears.
With the “thank you’s” given, the band having left, and with the soft croons of Radiohead swaying out from the PA over the mass exodus of fans from The Forum’s interior, I had one thought in my mind – “Yep, AFI are still one of my favourite live bands to see!”