Live in Vancouver (01/24/17)

Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC




During one of their first stops on the Blood Album tour, AFI did something I almost never see: they played a real, genuine encore Tuesday night in Vancouver.

In the fourteen years of going to concerts, I can think of maybe two other instances where a band did an unplanned encore. Strike Anywhere at Avenue Skatepark and Beach Slang at The Cobalt. Otherwise, they’re always written into the set list. They’re structured and predictable to the point where bands make fun of the idiocy of them and the crowd cheers them on.

AFI planned their encore but then went a step further.

The second the opening chords of Miss Murder echoed through the Commodore Ballroom, the crowd erupted, the floor bounced, and you know it was it. It had been an hour, this was their biggest single of their career; so set-list wise, it made sense to place this as the final song of their regular set. And it was. The band pounded it out, the crowd sung back to Davey Havoc and his comrades and then the four musicians walked off stage. Thirty seconds of chanting accompanied by blinding flashing lights and Havoc alongside guitarist Jade Puget strolled across the stage to croon The Leaving Song to the audience.

It was soft, soothing and powerful – leading nicely into Silver and Cold before saying their final farewell. They stood, they bowed, they shook hands, waved and said goodnights. The houselights turned up, the roadies started packing up gear but the crowd just stood. They chanted “One more song! One more Song! One More Song!” and then the roadies were confused. Looking to the side, they got the cue to start plugging gear back in. The houselights dimmed and AFI were back. They huddled centre stage, talking amongst themselves, figuring out what to do. Havoc turned to the crowd “Wow, a real encore – this is nice” and then jumped into The Art of Drowning‘s The Lost Souls.

It was sincere. Honest. Real. Unplanned.

The crowd begged for more and the band delivered and in a time when everything is always so structured, choreographed and orchestrated – it’s nice to see AFI carrying on their punk torch.

Because no matter their evolution, AFI are at their hearts a hardcore band. Decked in all black, the quartet plays like a hardcore band even as their style has developed into emo and goth and rock territories. Havoc is an impeccable front man, his shadow projected on the illuminated screen behind him. He swings his mic with abandon, storms all over the stage, delivers blood curling screams and soaring falsettos, spits words with the speed of a viper or elongates and enunciates each specific syllable.  It’s a wide reaching style, punctuated after each song by tossing the microphone to the floor.

The highlight came during I Hope You Suffer when he not only stepped into the crowd, but eventually crawled on top and stood on them, thrusting the mic down so everyone can sing. It was a sight to see – he’s done it before, but it still carries the same sense of awe every time he does it.

Moments like this made up for the somewhat lack luster sound that hindered the set all night. The mix seemed muffled as they flipped through tracks like 17 Crimes, Beautiful Thieves, The Days of the Phoenix, Girls Not Grey, This Celluloid Dream and a few newer cuts such as Dumb Kids or Snow Cats. It failed to let Havoc’s voice truly soar the way it was meant to be heard.

Years from now you won’t remember  the sound quality though, you’ll look back and remember the true encore – the unexpected moments that concerts live and die upon.