Rock band AFI was not messing around Saturday night at Kia Forum in Inglewood as it delivered a biting, passionate performance of its entire “Sing the Sorrow” record.
Though there was palpable excitement as thousands of fans had gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of their favorite bands’ biggest albums, there was a heavier, moodier vibe — heightened by a thick fog that had rolled in following the daylong rainstorm and the ominous red lighting shrouding the venue — that complemented the now decades-old release.
For one night only, the band, which originally formed in Ukiah and the Bay Area 33 years ago, played “Sing the Sorrow” straight through for the first time and, according to its social media sites, “the last time.”
Generations of fans lined up early, some even braving the rain the night before, to get their wristbands so they could buy exclusive 20th-anniversary merchandise and be among of the first inside the venue to get as close to the stage as possible. Members of Generation X mingled with millennials, some of which brought along their Gen Z offspring to enjoy the evening that explored the lyrically dark and musically experimental album.
“Sing the Sorrow” was the sixth studio release by the band and its mainstream breakthrough, supported by the singles “Girl’s Not Grey,” “The Leaving Song Pt. II” and “Silver and Cold,” all of which received massive play on the radio and had popular music videos in rotation on MTV and MTV2. Recorded between 2002 and 2003 at Cello Studios in Los Angeles, it was co-produced by Nirvana’s “Nevermind” producer and Garbage drummer Butch Vig and the late Jerry Finn, who had previously helmed pivotal albums for bands like Green Day, Blink-182, Rancid, Tiger Army and, one of the evening openers and early AFI influences, East Bay punk rock band Jawbreaker.
After sets by Jawbreaker, Chelsea Wolfe and Choir Boy, the crowd was ready when the first notes of “Miseria Cantare: The Beginning” hit. The stage was flooded with red light and a giant, sheer black curtain hung in front of it. The massive looming shadow of drummer Adam Carson banging away on drums was soon met with silhouettes of bassist Hunter Burgan and guitarist Jade Puget as vocalist Davey Havok’s mighty vocals began floating throughout the venue. Once all four members were on stage, the curtain fell away for “The Leaving Song Pt. II” and the room shook as fans sang and chanted along, pumping their fists in the air and belting out every word and soaring note in between.
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Havok, who has long been a dynamic force on stage, leaped into the pit and stood on the barricade to sing straight into the faces of those in the front. He seemed extra fired up Saturday night as he launched into the high notes and deep belly growls. He did all of this while running the length of the stage and jumping from various on-stage risers, at times dramatically falling to his knees, microphone pressed to his lips, to seemingly purge the emotion that came with the lyrics as he sang them. After a particularly fiery performance of a song, he’d forcibly throw down the mic, causing it to thud audibly onto the stage. It was especially noticeable after the chaotic “Dancing Through Sunday,” when the frontman plunked it down, caught his breath and intensely stared down the crowd, soaking in the applause.
There were several mic-drop moments throughout the evening including “Girl’s Not Grey,” during which Havok pointed the mic at the crowd to roar out the “what follows” line, to which they happily obliged. He pointed the mic out several times in the set, almost like a test to see how well the crowd knew or remembered the material. This audience passed with flying colors. However, “Girl’s Not Grey” was interrupted as Havok halted the performance upon seeing a female fan in distress. He made sure she was all right before Carson counted the band back in.
Havok thanked the crowd for its support several times during the show and also took a moment to acknowledge the openers, specifically Jawbreaker, to whom the band dedicated “Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings).” For the acoustic “The Leaving Song,” Havok, with Puget on guitar, relocated to a small stage set up near the soundboard. The crowd lit up the building with its cell phone flashlights and swayed along as Puget picked at the guitar and Havok showcased his beautiful vocal range through the haunting single.
The pair rejoined the band on stage for “…But Home is Nowhere,” followed by “The Spoken Word,” a hidden track on the album, and “This Time Imperfect,” another hidden track on the album and a piece that starts slow and sweet but builds into a booming, almost operatic ballad with a massive finish.
That was it. No additional tracks. No medley of hits to polish off the evening. Just “Sing the Sorrow” from front to back as promised, and a humble bow.
AFI’s “Sing the Sorrow” 20th Anniversary Show
With: Jawbreaker, Chelsea Wolfe and Choir Boy
When: Saturday, March 11
Where: Kia Forum, Inglewood