How to maintain a reputation as one of the greatest live bands of a generation can’t be an easy question to live with and yet it’s a one which seemingly At the Drive In enjoy as they return for their second (of sorts) live reformation this decade. And answer the question they do.
17 years on from what should have been their creative and performance peak, this is a band that still burns as brightly as ever.
Back on stage in support of 2017’s ‘In*ter a*li*a’ album, and missing former guitarist and occasional lead vocalist Jim Ward, all five drivers are in fine form this evening, exploding onto the stage with ‘Arcarsenal’, the lead track from 2001’s, ‘Relationship of Command’. Post-hardcore in its sound, it’s a perfect introduction to the aggressive, alternative, philosophy of the band.
Cedric, all long hair, mic throwing and inexhaustible energy, is on typical form tonight, giving his all to the songs and playing with the crowd in a style that is challenging and, almost, confrontational – he’s a true modern day Johnny Rotten.
The safety net for his energy is provided with serious musicianship, particularly from wizard guitarist Omar who activates his guitar genius with sharp flicks and a zen-like presence; how he makes his guitar-playing look so simple is an art itself.
Tonight’s show, though, belongs to rhythm guitarist Keeley Davis whose playing, backing vocals and physical energy keeps the nuclear explosion of At the Drive In grounded; and nowhere is this more apparent than in stand-out track, ‘Enfilade’, which owes much of its magic to Davis’ call and response “freight freight train coming” refrain. Grounded in loud noise, energy and rebelliousness, it’s a track that reminds us of the punk undertone to At the Drive In and their fundamental belief in the importance of freedom of speech. It’s also a track that reminds us that live music, mixed with attitude and a brilliant stage show, has the ability to change people’s lives forever.
Intense and purposeful, At the Drive In put on the type of live show which is spellbinding – and they certainly know how to answer tough questions.