AFI has long been an anomaly: A little too creepy for mainstream music fans, a bit too androgynous for the macho rock scene, a little too angry to be truly emo, and even a bit too melodic for the 1990s Bay Area hardcore punk scene from whence the band sprang.
Yet somehow, these factors have earned the band another unusual distinction: Popularity spanning 25 years so far.
AFI (short for A Fire Inside) performed Jan. 28 before a sold-out crowd at Denver's Gothic Theatre in support of the latest self-titled effort, promoted as “The Blood Album.” Among the first songs were fan favorites “17 Crimes” and “This Celluloid Dream.” Frontman Davey Havok, clad in a restrained (for him, at least) black ensemble with metal studs alternated between whirling dance moves and microphone-strangling vocal belting.
While the capacity crowd was rapt and rowdy, there wasn't much in the way of moshing. In fact, the biggest stunt of the night came at the climax of “The Leaving Song Part II,” when Havok somersaulted into the front row. Still, there was no shortage of crowd participation: Particularly during “The Days of the Phoenix” and other songs from “The Art of Drowning,” AFI's trademark call-and-response structure worked like a time-tested charm.
The show reached peak AFI with the one-two punch of “Snow Cats” and “Miss Murder.” As Busby Berkeley-inspired black-and-white moons sailed by on a projection screen, Havok delivered lyrics about wearing dresses and life in the spotlight with equal parts bitter irony and vaudevillian flounce.
Earlier, Souvenirs broke out pitch-perfect vintage emo, while The Chain Gang of 1974 delivered synthy indie rock with hints of the Cure.
AFI's tour rolls on with a Jan 30 show at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Click here for tickets to select shows.