Live Review – AFI @ Festival Hall, December 16h 2006

To all those out there in internet land, you’re going to need to bear with me. You see, I can’t just review an AFI show. I have to give you some background information for you to truly understand what my eyes and ears were privy to on the night of December 16th.


I have been AFI fan for close to 10 years. From the first time I heard them on a Nitro Records compilation when I was about 15 years old, I was hooked. Everything about the band intrigued me: their sound, their artwork and yes, their image (AFI did have an image of sorts before they became the make up wearing phenomenon we know them as today). As an elder statesman in the AFI fan ranks their return trip to Australia was something I’d be foaming at the mouth for.


On their maiden voyage to Australia, AFI played at the more intimate (but still respectable) HI FI Bar. With a capacity of 1000 people it was probably one of the smaller shows the band had played in recent memory. So to see what can only be described as a “radio rock” crowd milling around Festival Hall made my blood boil. No matter how hard I try to grow up, I will always be that jaded punk kid. AFI are MY band and who are these people that are here to see MY band. The audience members hinted at what was to follow. But we’ll get to that in a moment.


First up were New Zealand’s finest, The Bleeders. As usual they played a tight set, full of gang vocals, sing a long choruses and a full sound which resonated throughout the venue. My only gripe is that the guitarists really need to up their movement on stage. Planting your feet and staring at your shoes might cut it at the Arthouse but when you’re playing in front of 4,000 people you need to up the ante. Apart from that, The Bleeders demonstrated why they are currently their homeland’s primary export.


After a half over (or so) change over the stage was set for AFI. There was a thin, semi transparent black curtain draped across the front of the stage which was light up like a clear night sky as the band walked on stage.


As I anticipated, they opened with Prelude 12/21 – the intro song off their current release December Underground. This was quite possibly the most epic and dramatic beginning to a show I had ever seen. 4,000 people completely enthralled with the shadowy figures they could only just see in front of them.


As the curtain dropped we were greeted by a new look AFI. Gone was the gothic inspired dress and make up. What we had on our hands was a band decked out (head to toe) in white attire. What was even more impressive was the fact that all the band’s amps, drum kit and mic’s were sprayed white as well. It made for an impressive visual and it allowed the band to incorporate some of their current album’s visual aesthetics into their live performance.


AFI then ripped into Girls Not Grey which had the floor pogoing within seconds (yep, definitely siked to see the old pogo mosh back with a vengeance). As I hinted at earlier in this review, the members of the audience were an indication of which songs AFI would be playing tonight. Barring 2 tracks, the set was made up entirely of material from their breakthrough album Sing The Sorrow and their current opus, December Underground.


It should be noted that the 2 older songs were the classic Days Of The Phoenix, and my personal favourite, God Called In Sick Today. However the lack of older material was disappointing. That’s not to say the set didn’t kick in all the right places.


Death Of Seasons had the crowd moving like the days of old, with the dance inspired breakdown pulsing throughout Festival Hall. Davey gave a shout out to The Bleeders and I couldn’t think of a more fitting song than Dancing Through Sunday to say thanks to the Kiwi’s for their support on this tour. Jade’s guitar solo was flawless and was definitely the highlight of my night.


The inclusion of Summer Shudder and Love Like Winter demonstrated that A Fire Inside are more than capable of pulling of their newer, more ballad-esque material off live – and they were rewarded with more than a few raised cigarette lighters.


All in all, it was an amazing show and AFI reminded why I have worshipped them for close to a decade. Still, what I wouldn’t give to see them at the HI FI Bar again.

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