There are very few situations in which I find myself in a room of grown men jumping up and down in excitement, while screaming lyrics into the abyss as though their lives depend on it. Alexisonfire’s only New Zealand show was one of those rare situations, and I loved every second of it.
It’s been ten years since Alexisonfire were in New Zealand, and, coincidentally, since I last saw them play in the UK when I was just thirteen. In the past decade, as the band broke up and got back together (for touring purposes only. We’re still waiting for new music…) I’ve had a growing appreciation for their music over this time, which allowed for a whole new experience while seeing them this second time around.
From the get go the crowd was all in. What had, seconds before, been a chilled out, evenly filled room, became half empty at the back as a wave of people surged towards the stage as the first notes of Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints were heard, as though the band might just disappear if they lacked a certain level of enthusiasm. As the track smoothly transitioned into This Could Be Anywhere in the World (an obvious crowd favourite), it was clear that there wasn’t going to be any loss in momentum as the show went on. There was nothing half-hearted about the response to this band finally being back with us, and the Cheshire Cat grins that were plastered on their faces made it clear that the band was just as pleased.
The setlist was made up of mostly tracks from their album Crisis, as well as classic favourites, such as .44 Caliber Love Letter, and Young Cardinals which were particularly successful in working the crowd up into a frenzy. You wouldn’t believe for a second that Alexisonfire had come out of a pretty nasty five year split with how in sync they all were, and as far as I could tell, there was no lingering animosity on the stage as they cranked out hit after hit. I was continually impressed throughout the seventeen song setlist – which, mercifully, included my two all time favourite AOF tracks, Crisis and Rough Hands – as each member held their own on the stage, standing out as individual talents, and showing us exactly why this band still works. While Dallas Green (who now more commonly plays as City and Colour) presents us with soft, soothing tones, and George Pettit offers stark contrast with his roaring screams, Dallas is never drowned out. While I think I already knew, it consciously dawned on me as to why Alexisonfire could not go on without him in 2011.
Without question, the most wonderful part of the gig was right before the band nailed Accept Crime – a track that is very blatantly about free love. George gave an empowering speech about how “this is a safe place” regardless of your race, colour, sexual orientation, etc. But simultaneously, “this is not a safe place” if you are a homophobe, a racist, a bigot, or a xenophobe. Naturally, the crowd roared – all (from what I could tell) in absolute agreement that this is how all gigs should be from now until the end of eternity, and it was particularly apt considering the recent and controversial inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. There was endless cheering, that only continued as Wade MacNeil continued with an anecdote about a man who he had heard had recently punched a Nazi in the face (more cheering, clapping etc.). He followed up with probably the best words ever spoken by anyone in the 21st century:
“I’d just like to say, if you ever get the chance to punch a Nazi in the face, I think it’s your obligation to do it. PUNCH EVERY NAZI IN THE FACE, ALWAYS.”
As the band performed Accept Crime, I, at least, was inspired to truly listen and hold onto every word, and was not at all ready for them to launch into Young Cardinals, since I knew from my (potentially obsessive) pre-show research that it meant there was only the encore left to go. The show we’d all been looking forward to since August was soon to be over. It was a bittersweet moment as Happiness by the Kilowatt – the last track in the four song (!!) encore – drew to a dramatic, intense and climactic close, and while I was already mourning this band that will likely never, as a whole, step foot in New Zealand again, I was still awestruck by what I had just experienced.
It was amazing to me that even though it has been almost eight years since the band has released new music, and an entire decade since they last made it to our fair shores, they still received such an incredible reception on their return. It shows the kind of loyalty that they inspire, and that despite them all going different ways, they’re still an exceptionally important band to their fans – both in New Zealand and internationally.
Drunks, Lovers, Liars and Saints
This Could Be Anywhere in the World
We Are the Sound
Waterwings (and other Poolside Fashion Faux Pas)
.44 Caliber Love Letter
Happiness By The Kilowatt