AFI Marks 'Burials' Release With an Inconsistent Set: Concert Review

Chris Godley
The punk band offered an inconsistent and occasionally unpracticed performance in celebration of their new album release.

Tuesday evening, Davey Havok climbed atop a crowd of fans smashed into the Fonda Theater and raised his arms, cultivating a messiah-like aesthetic as the audience members clambered to touch him and scream along with him into the microphone. The AFI singer has drastically morphed over the years, shifting far more drastically than the rock band’s actual music. On the band’s ninth album, Burials, out Tuesday via Republic, Havok has embraced hipster rock god imagery, his hair slicked, his black jacket emblazoned with an inverted cross. It’s apropos for AFI’s new music, much of which is targeted to Alternative radio, straightforward rock songs that hint at the band’s punk rock history while leaning toward the mainstream.

The band frontloaded their set with hits, opening the 80-minute performance with “The Leaving Song Part II” and “Girl’s Not Grey.” Both singles off Burials, the caustic “I Hope Your Suffer” and pop-laden “17 Crimes,” appeared early on, leaving the band space to explore their back catalogue. The set was slightly too short to delve that deep, although AFI slammed through old favorites like “God Called in Sick Today,” off 1999’s Black Sails In the Sunset. The setlist a sincere real flow, leaping between disparate eras in the band’s career, although AFI managed to touch on each of those eras at least once.

Partway through the show Havok paused and raised his arms out toward the crowd. “Tonight we play a song for we have yet to play for anyone,” he announced. “Please join us in this awful, awful moment if you will.” Unlike much of the set, which felt practiced and smooth, this number, “A Deep Slow Panic,” received a messy debut. The instrumentals and vocals failed to gel, and Havok’s usually impressive voice never quite connected with the notes. The audience was quick to forgive -- and to acknowledge that every song has to premiere live sometime -- but particularly compared with tours on past albums, AFI’s latest show felt somewhat unpracticed.

The encore consisted of a three-song selection of secondary singles (the band laid out all their hits too early to leave anything major up for grabs at the end) and a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” It was a strange choice, especially for a band that has moved away from their past synth tendencies back into punk-drive rock riffs on Burials. The cover’s performance was unimpassioned, offering no new interpretation of the beloved number.

During songs like “Kill Caustic” and “Miss Murder” it was clear why fans continue to grow up with AFI. The crowd was notably made up of fans who’ve loved the band since their 1995 debut album and the musicians have never given a reason for anyone to stray. The music has successfully evolved from album to album, and Burials is a consistently powerful collection of propulsive rock songs. Perhaps the band is still getting in the groove of touring after so much time off the road, and maybe they’ve set such a high standard in the past that it’s difficult to ensure that every performance lives up to that. But they can – and probably will – reflect their music better than they did last night.

Set List:

Leaving Song II

Girls Not Grey

I Hope You Suffer

Wester

Love Like Winter

Ever And A Day

17 Crimes

Overexposure

Leaving Song I

The Conductor

Kill Caustic

Bleed Black

A Deep Slow Panic

Miss Murder

Days of the Phoenix

God Called In Sick Today

Just Like Heaven

Dancing Through Sunday

Silver and Cold

Twitter: @EmilyZemler

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