Live Review: AFI – O2 Academy, Newcastle, April 11th 2010

With people literally sleeping on the streets to be first in the queue tonight, it’s somewhat of an understatement to say that AFI have dedicated fans. Jollying round the UK in support of new album Crash Love, Davey Havok and his bunch are out to show Newcastle tonight, why they’re worthy of such a loyal following…

Kicking the night off in a fairly mundane manner is Orange County’s The Dear and Departed, as they deliver their brand of mellow punk rock with some slight dreary, gothic undertones – a sound pretty reminiscent of AFI’s Crash Love at times, but clearly not as good. It’s not horrendous, it’s just not memorable at all.

NY wrecking crew Sick Of It All are an unorthodox choice for a band like AFI’s support to say the least, but they manage to pull it off, and in style. It’s clear who’s treating this like it’s the four-pieces headline show, as the middle of the floor erupts into a massacre of 40-year-olds flailing limbs like teenagers. After almost 25-years going strong, the band still slay. Old tearer-uppers like Built To Last and Step Down sound massive in the Academy’s main hall, and the culmination of a huge wall of death for Scratch The Surface to top things off leaves grins galore on the (slightly sweaty) converted, and curiosity and respect for those unfamilar. Top performance.

A trademark ‘OH!’ starts proceedings as AFI take to the stage to a fairly depleted crowd, beginning with Medicate, before soaring through a very Crash Love-heavy set with the likes of End Transmission and Veronica Sawyer Smokes. The Newcastle crowd tonight even get a choice between Cold Hands and I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here, with the latter chosen.

It’s not all radio-friendly pop-rock though, a couple of token oldies are thrown in for good measure when frontman Davey Havok asks the audience, “Was anyone here at that house party in Oakland in 1993? ‘Cause we played this…” before firing through Love Is A Many Splendored Thing – keeping the old school happy. Along with the heavy-hitting hardcore punk anthem No Poetic Device from their 1999 classic Black Sails In The Sunset, managing to get a flurry of fists in the air.

As always, Havok’s vocals are absolutely spot on, particularly shown off during  Sing For Sorrow’s chaotically chilling Death of Seasons, as he effortlessly transitions from powerfully raw screaming to his high-pitched melodic tones, exuding an enormous amount of energy throughout, making for a captivating performance.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere isn’t at its best tonight, predictably, it’s only the hits like Love Like Winter and Miss Murder that seem to garter an exciting response. Although, another oldie The Days of the Phoenix, during the encore, receives a pleasantly surprising reaction from a small, loyal portion down at the front.

While it does appear that AFI’s popularity is slipping, there is no doubt about it – as they end with Silver and Cold – that this band still know how to put on a magical performance, even after 17-years; definitely something not to be missed.

Faye Turnbull (The Dear and Departed & AFI) and George Cannings (Intro & Sick of It All).

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