David Garrick
No Comments

At The Drive-In Returns To Form, Sort Of

Decrease Font SizeIncrease Font SizeText SizePrint This Page

At The Drive-In. Photo: Daniel Jackson


If you were unaware, Omar Rodriguez Lopez is one of the most revered and talented songwriters in music today. He’s released ten albums this year alone, proving he’s also one of the most prolific. One of those ten albums was the latest from At The Drive-In, in*ter*a*li*a. While the other nine of his releases are anywhere from symphonic to blistering, this new release is the one album that should have been a mix of both, but it wasn’t. While there are moments of returning to form, the intensity that the band was always known for seemed to have been stripped from the bulk of the eleven tracks. While still a solid release in many ways, it just wasn’t the same. This was a factor to consider when I decided to catch the band’s performance over the weekend at Revention Center. While they played with precision, they definitely proved that sometimes you just can’t go home again.


At The Drive-In at Revention Center. Photo: Daniel Jackson


To be fair, I’m in the minority here, as I saw At The Drive-In one night at Electric Lounge in Austin two or three weeks before their album Relationship Of Command became the bible for every emo kid who heard it that year. At that show, my mind was blown by the intensity of their live set and everyone in attendance was in awe of their presence. The band I saw that night was not who showed up to Revention on Saturday for more reasons than one. For starters, founding member Jim Ward was noticeably absent from the show, though I knew this before heading into the venue. A lot of times, one guy doesn’t make a difference. However, with songs that had his signature vocals in the background, they were now replaced by Omar and new guitarist Keely Davis, formerly of the band Sparta. They started off strong with the opener off of their new album, “No Wolf Like The Present.” Full of throttled energy with Omar twisting back and forth, complete with spins and acrobatics, it looked like they were ready to prove all of the naysayers wrong.  


At The Drive-In at Revention Center. Photo: Daniel Jackson


Following with fan favorite “Pattern Against User” from Relationship of Command, remnants of the band in their heyday seemed to be in full force. With Cedric climbing atop amplifiers only to jump off like a maniac, this was the band that everyone in attendance was there to see. There were moments where it felt like the band was definitely ready to bring the crowd to their knees as they energetically ripped through the song with the same intensity that they brought at their sets twenty years ago.


Crowd at At The Drive-In at Revention Center. Photo: Daniel Jackson


Then, with their third song, “Hostage Stamps,” it felt like all of the lights, all of the climbing on a drum kit or whatever was around, would kind of be it. I don’t mean to find fault, but honestly, the energy the band displayed kind of felt like a put on by their third song. There’s a thing that happens in live music where, intensity, honesty, and interest in what you’re doing cannot be faked. But even as Cedric hopped into the audience to do a little crowd surfing, it felt to me — as a guy who saw them under their original lineup — that this was all for show. There’s a push and pull between the audience and the band that creates an energy that either can’t be matched in a larger scale music venue, or can’t be recreated from the past, no matter how much you want to.


At The Drive-In at Revention Center. Photo: Daniel Jackson


Of course, it didn’t help that the band followed up with what I think was the mediocre-at-best new song “Call Broken Arrow.” I say that because except for about three or so songs, I’m not a fan of the new album. By this point, I found myself bored with the whole experience. I understand that the point of making a new record is to break new ground and to prove that you can still bring it when it comes to making new music, but the addition of a slow song didn’t help by any means. In fact, with a band that was as insane and intense as At The Drive-In was, the phrase “slow song” shouldn’t really be something I have to type. But, the band insisted on playing “Ghost-Tape No. 9” and killed any of that “energy” they built up in the previous tracks.  


At The Drive-In at Revention Center. Photo: Daniel Jackson


The truth is, if you never saw At The Drive-In when they first were around, then you probably thought this was one of the best shows you had seen in a long time. In fact, if the band had performed in a smaller space, even House of Blues, maybe I would’ve felt differently. But after watching them attempt to bring the same intensity as they did twenty years ago, I left a little deflated and depressed by the guise of a band looking like they were trying to re-live the “glory days.”


Were they good? Yes, they were good and I don’t want to take away the fact that they performed songs both new and old admirably. But were they as good as they were twenty years ago? No. As I know it’s foolish to expect that a band could be just as intense and chaotic as they were two decades ago, there was still a part of me that thought it could happen; though sadly, it didn’t. It should be noted that the opening set from Le Butcherettes was pretty impressive, and in many ways stole the night with an energetic and often times chaotic performance.