Review: At the Drive In rocked Riot Fest 2017 (pics, videos)
It still feels like a miracle that At the Drive In are not only back, but have a new album that echoes their classic material. Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López abandoned ATDI's raw power with post-De-Loused era Mars Volta, and when they finally took a back-to-basics rock approach with Antemasque, they lacked ATDI's weirdness. When the band's first attempt at reuniting proved to be short lived and Jim Ward left the band, ATDI's future didn't seem promising, but here we are in 2017 and At the Drive In are a vital, powerful band.
They've been on tour all year (we caught them in NYC and at SXSW), and my first time seeing them was Saturday night (9/16) at Riot Fest. Like they used to do on the Relationship of Command tour, they kicked the show off with that album's opening track, "Arcarsenal," complete with Cedric on maracas and the whole band making a ton of noise and jumping right into their lively stage show. Jim Ward's replacement is Engine Down frontman Keeley Davis (who also played with Jim and ATDI's rhythm section in Sparta), and while Jim's screams are missed, Keeley really looks and sounds the part and fits in perfectly with At the Drive In. Keeley, Omar, and bassist Paul Hinojos were always rocking out without ever messing up their intricate parts, and Cedric was being his usual wild self, throwing mic stands and jumping off amps and kick drums. Cedric is always in the spotlight, but the secret weapon to ATDI's comeback may be how much of a beast drummer Tony Hajjar still is. They say rock bands are only as good as their drummer, and Tony is a big part of why ATDI is still razor sharp.
They kept the set mostly to Relationship of Command and their new album in•ter a•li•a, only reaching back for one older song, the great "Napoleon Solo" from In/Casino/Out. Again, it's kind of amazing just that in•ter a•li•a sounds as much like Relationship of Command as it does, and that really came across in the live environment. If you didn't know any better, you'd never guess that the albums came out 17 years apart. "Governed By Contagions," which they played second to last, even ranks in quality among some of the classics. But really the high points were all the Relationship of Command songs. The drum-fill-and-"hey!"s that bookend "Pattern Against User" were as tight as they are on record. The spoken word sections and "dancing on the corpses' ashes" refrain of "Invalid Litter Dept." were as impactful as ever, and Keeley really got a nice bark going during the "wishing well!' part. And when they closed with their biggest song, "One Armed Scissor," the fairly large crowd was yelling nearly every word while the band nailed all of its musical subtleties.
Check out ATDI's full setlist and a few videos of their Riot Fest set below, and pictures in the gallery above. Pictures and a review from Queens of the Stone Age's Saturday night set HERE, and pics and recaps from the rest of Saturday HERE.
At the Drive In at Riot Fest 2017 Setlist (via)
No Wolf Like the Present
Pattern Against User
Invalid Litter Dept.
Call Broken Arrow
Governed By Contagions
One Armed Scissor
photos by Aaron Peipert