Review by Toni Woodward with Photography by Andy Watson

Openers for tonight’s pricey concert are Death From Above, which is a big name for a support act as they could probably sell out the venue on their own, and they don’t fail to deliver by giving the crowd a ten song set.

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The duo consist of bass and keyboards player, Jesse Keeler, and Sebastien Grainger on drums and lead vocals, which manage to create an immense sound whilst maintaining a unique noise that is distinctly their own. The bulk of the set is made up of tracks from the new album Outrage! Is Now, beginning with Nomad, a track that lays down the band’s intent to whack you in the solar plexus with a smile on their faces that make you want to go back for more. The new music is a clear development from their first popular album You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine as it incorporates an apparent groove, bordering on pop vibe, with the likes of Freeze Me.

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Don’t be deceived into thinking that Death From Above have mellowed, it appears they have honed their song writing skills to demonstrate Grainger’s vocal range to its fullest and Keeler’s adeptness at riffs whether they be on the bass or keyboards. Keeler barely interacts with the audience, as his head down for most of the performance whereas Grainger jokes about whether Black Sabbath are from Birmingham and deals effectively with a heckler who is already shouting for the headline band. The final couple of songs are from the 2014 album The Physical World which may have disappointed some who would have preferred more music from the first album, yet it is clear that the band are musically moving away from the earlier songs. All in all they leave a very appreciative audience suitably warmed up ready for the headliners.

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If Death From Above punch you in the gut then At The Drive In obliterate all of your senses without a hint of mercy. Intentions are laid out from the outset with the post-hardcore band returning to their critically acclaimed album, Relationship of Command, for the opening track, Arcarsenal. Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s energy knows no bounds as he leaps around the stage, whipping the enthusiastic crowd into a frenzied state by leering over them, spitting each word out with contemptuous sneer before rebounding off the drum kit. The rest of the five piece leave Bixler-Zavala to bathe in the limelight and entertain whilst they focus on the production of angular churning guitar lines and complex rhythmic drum patterns courtesy of Tony Hajjar.

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The choice of songs for the 75 minute set are mainly taken from Relationship Of Command and ATDI’s latest offering In*ter a*li*a which is where the second track comes from. No Wolf Like The Present sees Cedric take a microphone stand and wields it around the stage in an intimidating fashion as his Biafra-like penetrative holler resounds around the arena supported by often squealing guitar sounds produced by Davis and Rodriguez. ATDI produce inimitably angular music that is challenging to the listener both sonically and lyrically but a challenge that many rise to and their popularity and influence is evident from the audience’s response that heightens with each song; admittedly there is a peak when the mid-set blinder of One Armed Scissor is freed. One Armed Scissor brought ATDI to the forefront and for very good reason, often heralded as one of the greatest rock songs of the noughties and became genre defining for many with its changing dynamics and pace, none of which is lost in its live performance.  Napoleon Solo illustrates the deftness at which the band can generate a more obviously sentimental song that sees many singing along with the Bixler-Zavala as he pours out his emotions as if his life depends on it and certainly allows him to rest from the onstage mania temporarily.

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The highlight of the set comes in the form of Invalid Litter Dept with the repetition of the line “dancing on the corpses ashes” and hint of Echo And The Bunnymen sounding guitars flows throughout. The visceral set concludes with Governed By Contagions that sees rapturous applause for what has been an intense hour or so. The band’s absence from the stage is brief, however, quite a number of the audience leave during this period even though it is apparent that ATDI intend to return. Before the encore starts Cedric thanks people for coming out and then completes the set with one final song, Pattern Against User, that allows the crowd a last few minutes to soak up the mania.

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As one of the most influential post-hardcore bands, At The Drive In, changed the face of rock music in the early millennium and from this live performance, evidently still retain the passion for constructing complex, aggressive and vigorous music.

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See the complete photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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