Has it really been 15 full years since the release of Alien Ant Farm’s ANThology? Not only is it the album that flung the Californian alt-rockers into the public consciousness but it is also the first album this particular rock journalist ever bought. As a celebration of its enduring presence in the rock community (or at least the occasional appearances of ‘Movies’ and that Michael Jackson cover on rock club playlists), the band have decided to give fans to the opportunity to experience that seminal work live and in full. What a start to 2016!
South Wales’ THE DIRTY YOUTH are a welcome rarity: an opening support band able to rouse a reaction from a listless nostalgia-driven crowd. Their infectious pop-rock anthems instantly caffeinate the no-longer-teenage sell-out room. Exceedingly charismatic frontwoman Danni Monroe, while showcasing an impressive pop vocal with added punk snarl, bounces across the stage clad in a glittery glam-rock catsuit. Highlights include the electro-inflected ‘The One’ and Monroe’s operatic vocal performance on ‘Fight’. Best support band of the year thus far.
The first thing frontman Dave McPherson says when on stage is “Sorry we’re back so soon”. Last time INME were in Birmingham was September last year, where they played the entirety of first two albums. While that resulted in an arguably overlong set time, their meaty nine-song performance tonight is without complaint. A meaty mix of old favourites and notable newer material, their supporting slot set is satisfying enough to be a headline show. McPherson’s fluid finger-tapping fret-work on both ‘Reverie Shores’ and ‘Myths and Photographs’ could give Matt Bellamy a run for his money, while closer ‘Faster the Chase’ brings the biggest cheers and a mandatory, but warmly received circle pit.
Deafening roars as ALIEN ANT FARM’s introductory tape plays ANThology hidden track ‘Orange Appeal’, the band itself tentatively make their way on stage before ripping straight into a shuddering ‘Courage’. 15 years may have had its effect on the incrementally chubbier, marginally balder band members, but the album itself is as fresh as ever. Initially lumped in either with the nu-metal lunkheads, or pop-punk clowns, their sound instead sought that sweet spot of pre-Morning View Incubus musicality, Californication-era Red Hot Chili Peppers chill with intermittent moments of Deftones-style abrasion. Singer Dryden Mitchell still rocks his absorbing West Coast re-jig of Elvis Costello’s rangey hiccup, similar but less harsh than the simultaneously concocted vocal style of Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo.
Where most album run-through concerts fall down is in the tracklisting, what may work on record may not retain attention in a live environment, especially as the majority of records consist of a commercially-stacked side A, and nothing of real note beyond track 8. ANThology works in this context as the two big songs are on opposite sides of the LP: ‘Movies’ works as a second song primer, with underrated third single ‘Attitude’ and videogame-famous ‘Wish’ sporadically appearing in the run up to their infamous track 12. Standouts ‘Flesh and Bone’ and ‘Sticks and Stones’ elicit moshpits fierce enough for one over-excited individual to be forcibly ejected from the venue.
Various tragedies and upsets have beset in the band in the last decade and a half: a bus crash that killed their tour driver and permanently injured Mitchell’s spine, progressively less successful follow up albums, unofficial breakups and band members leaving have all affected to group. An anonymous bassist now plays the really cool fill at the start of ‘Movies’, guitarist Terry Corso now looks like he belongs in a completely different band, Mitchell can no longer jump around and head bang as he once could and is arguably bitter that people did not like the truANT album as much they should have. His banter is mostly either deadpan or incredibly sarcastic, but when he says he “cherishes the audience’s voices, energy and support” this is said with absolute sincerity. Their conclusion, an incendiary strobe light-soaked ‘Smooth Criminal’, is greeted with smiles, screams and unstoppable movement – this is every crowd member’s youth encapsulated in three and half glorious metallic pop minutes. There are worse legacies to leave.