There is a gift few artists have in their career and that is the capability to honestly and naturally reinvent themselves throughout their career. David Bowie made it seem almost effortless as he evolved from Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, Thin White Duke, and even closing out his career with the Blind Prophet on Black Star. Opeth started out as a crushing Death Metal band before going in a more Progressive Metal approach with haunting melodies.
Then there is AFI, which started out on their 1995 debut album Answer that and Stay Fashionable with a very distinct Hardcore sound, however, with every following release their sound and image continued to evolve incorporating different elements of Horror Punk, Goth, and yes to some extent Industrial. Were there some purist fans who abandoned these bands and claimed ‘selling out’ or other negative statements? Sure, however the core foundation fans not only stayed and grew with the band but they grew in numbers to the point that they began influencing numerous artists and artists of other mediums through the years.
It goes without saying, lineup changes are a part of most bands’ histories, AFI found their core lineup of Davey Havok on vocals, Adam Carson on drums, Hunter Burgen on bass, and Jade Pudget on guitars rather quickly compared to most and remained the same since 1998. For AFI while many would point to their 2000 classic release The Art of Drowning as a major turning point in the band’s direction, one has to point out that it actually really began to morph the year before with their 1999 album Black Sails in the Sunset. Their change in course was rewarded with the unleashing of 2003’s Sing the Sorrow, which opened in the top ten of the Billboard Charts. How could it not? The plethora of hit singles never seemed to end with “The Leaving Song Pt. II,” “Girl’s Not Grey,” and “Silver and Cold” delivering unforgettable melodies and choruses.
While AFI’s sound continued to grow through the years whether it was the more Post-Hardcore/Emo sound of Decemberunderground in 2006 or the more Rock based approach of 2009’s Crash Love, one could always count on AFI to deliver one of the most intense live shows an audience can hope for. So, it came as a huge disappointment to fans of the band when the album Bodies and the tour to promote it were going to be delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the album having been released in 2021, and the tour in full swing, AFI dropped into Denver, Colorado at the Fillmore Auditorium with touring opener Drab Majesty on Friday, November 18th. With crowds wrapping well around the block, it was clear it was going to take more than the winter weather to keep away these fans.
Shaking off the 18-degree chill outside fans filtered into the venue and were quickly warmed by the infectious grooves from Drab Majesty. The California androgynous duo started out in 2011 and features a sound unlike anything else on the market these days. The blending of haunting vocals from Deb Demure and keyboard work of Mona D, is the perfect marriage for releases like 2015’s full album debut Careless, 2017’s The Demonstration, and 2019’s Modern Mirror.
With the audience fully defrosted, Drab Majesty took the stage kicking off the night with the atmospheric and entrancing “The Other Side.” As the music washed over the audience, the whole crowd was in full motion swaying to the music. The audience was immediately hooked as they let the music take them on a sonic journey. Picking up the pace slightly the band jumped into their track “Oxytocin” from the album Modern Mirror, delivering sonic melodies that would have made Depeche Mode or The Cure listen with envy.
The highlight of their set was hearing the song “Ellipses” featuring a staccato keyboard line perfectly punctuated with percussive beats and perfectly topped with the duo’s vocals. One has to hand it to AFI as this was a great example of how they have always sought to help younger or more obscure artists get recognized by their fans. So, we highly recommend getting familiar with Drab Majesty and then seeing their unforgettable live performance.
With the lights dimming a second time the crowd let loose their anticipation for AFI and their set. AFI wasted no time rewarding them for their patience as they unleashed a swirl of musical fury for the anthem-esque “Strength Through Wounding.” Without hesitation the crowd erupted in the opening chant “Through our Bleeding, we are one,” the energy going between the fans and Davey Havok was absolutely electric, only further showing the unique bond between AFI and its fanbase. The band gave the audience no time to catch their breath as they followed up immediately with “Girl’s Not Grey” from their groundbreaking Sing the Sorrow.
Keeping the gas pedal pressed firmly down AFI delved into newer material the almost frantic melody of “Still a Stranger” from their 2017 release The Blood Album. It is hard not to take notice the vastness and the variety of the sound which makes up AFI, from the Horror Punk sounds of “The Boy Who Destroyed the World” to the more industrial inspired sound of “Death of the Party” only to follow up with the Hardcore favorite “Third Season,” AFI knows how display their unique ability to reinvent themselves through their music. One of the most intense moments in the show came when the band jumped into one of their more atmospheric tracks from 2013’s Burials called “I Hope You Suffer” as it saw Davey being held up by his fans as he proceeded to serenade them. As the band closed out the night with “Endlessly, She Said” and “The Days of the Phoenix,” one could hear from the crowd how much the wait since COVID was worth every minute for this show.
With the tour in full swing still, this is a great time to get out and be rewarded by a night of incredible music experience. If that is not enough for you, AFI just announced a show on March 11, 2023 where the band will be performing their acclaimed Sing the Sorrow in its entirety in California at the Kia Forum, celebrating the twenty anniversary of the album. So, waste no time and get out there for these adrenaline packed shows.