By Ward Pettibone, Contributing Writer
Describing an AFI show as energetic is like describing a parachute jump as refreshing. Parachute jumps at least involve safety equipment, but there was none in sight as frontman Davey Havok stepped out onto — yes, onto — the crowd at Terminal 5 in the most surreal moment of the sold-out, 80-minute show. There was plenty of jumping onstage, too, as guitarist Jade Puget and bassist Hunter Burgan whirled, kicked and very nearly flipped across the stage, leaving only drummer Adam Carson earthbound. If AFI set out to prove that they’ve still got it, well, Q.E.D. and thank you very much.
At this point, AFI have enough of a back catalogue that they could have entirely avoided tracks from their new album, “AFI (The Blood Album),” and the crowd would have gone home happy. As it was, they played only three — an odd choice, as “AFI” is their highest-charting album since 2006’s “Decemberunderground,” and their best-reviewed since 2003’s “Sing the Sorrow.” The rest of the set drew heavily from the latter album and others of a similar vintage.
AFI have always been a fundamentally nostalgic band: one of their first big hits and a staple of their live shows, “The Days of the Phoenix,” is about the band’s early gigs at the Phoenix Theater, and Puget switched among guitars emblazoned with previous albums’ logos. It was a testament to the dedication of their fans that new tracks “Aurelia” and “Snow Cats” were greeted with the same fist-pumping enthusiasm as, say, “Triple Zero,” a song which hadn’t been played live since 2010 and was taken from an album released 20 years ago.
There were a few similarly deep cuts (“Clove Smoke Catharsis,” appearing smack in the middle of the show, comes to mind), but for the most part this was a play-the-hits singalong — and sing along they did. Havok pointed his mic at the crowd so often during songs like opener “Miss Murder” and “Girl’s Not Grey” that one might have justifiably wondered why Puget, Burgan and Carson even bothered singing backup. For their part, the musicians were as technically proficient as they were acrobatic, with Puget lingering over some juicy solos and Burgan improvising a few delightful licks. Carson shone in particular on “17 Crimes” and closer “Silver and Cold.”
But it was at the moment towards the end of the show, when Havok was borne on the hands of the audience, that the concert became, in its own way, transcendent. It’s a true showman indeed who can pull off such a move while maintaining the dramatic flair that has made Havok famous. The song was “I Hope You Suffer” — a bit on-the-nose, perhaps, for the fans beneath his shoes — and he had dedicated it to “New York’s own” Sick of it All. More than once, earlier in the show, he had remarked that New York had always been a favorite stop on their tours. Here, it seemed, was one manifestation of why.
Email Ward Pettibone at firstname.lastname@example.org.