At The Drive In, Le Butcherettes: The Roundhouse, Camden

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At The Drive In

Just as Getintothis’ Paul Riley was on the brink of despair, a pair of tickets for At The Drive In’s sought-after Roundhouse show dropped into his lap.

Much has been written about the return of one of rock’s most innovative acts, not least by Getintothis. When At The Drive In tweeted, for the first time since their 2012 reunion, a short video promising a return to the stage that was accompanied by a snippet of previously unheard music, it is fair to say that a large proportion of folk were frothing at the mouth with anticipation.

Not only was this comeback purported to be a reunion of the classic ATDI line-up, but the fact that they were collaborating on new material promised much more than just dragging out old tunes for the sake of a quick pay check. The prospect of a revitalised and ascendant At The Drive In is one that would be a huge kick in the teeth to many of the insipid acts who pass for rock bands these days.

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Needless to say, when the show went on sale, there was a nervous and rather stressful few minutes that can only be likened to a Glastonbury ticket panic. This writer, after spending the best part of a month re-listening to the entire back catalogue and researching the article on their comeback, was counting down the seconds to the 9am release time. To cut a long story short, an iMac spinning-circle-of-death scenario meant that five minutes later, the event had sold out and Getintothis hadn’t got into it.

Fast forward to last Friday, three days before the show at Camden’s Roundhouse and by the grace of God (or, Brendan, actually – ta la!), two tickets miraculously appeared.

Many of you will be aware that the population of Liverpool has recently been rather ill. This writer was no exception, unfortunately catching the Scouse Plague and feeling like death for the best part of a week. Nevertheless, this was a show that could not be missed, so Getintothis made the trip to London, braving bank holiday rail-replacement buses and numerous other pitfalls seemingly hellbent on making life more miserable than it was already.

Personal circumstances seemed to echo the band’s own turbulent history, and the theme continued. Just four days before At The Drive In‘s debut show of the tour Jim Ward, founding member and guitarist/vocalist of the ‘classic’ line up, left the band. Again. This caused anger from some fans, who claimed to have bought tickets only on the understanding that they were to see the ‘proper’ band, but to be perfectly honest, fuck it. At The Drive In have never been bland, offstage or on it.

Even the most cynical purist wouldn’t have been able to contain their excitement, queuing up in the pouring rain outside The Roundhouse that night. Whining and moaning that it’s not like the old days is going to get you nowhere but miserable and old before your time. Sometimes, you just have to grab hold of something and go for it. As Alan Partridge would say, ‘it’s balls out of the bath on this one, Lynn’.

This approach to the show seemed to have been taken by both band and crowd alike. Le Bucherettes‘ opening set was well received and well executed, but to be perfectly fair to the band, they were supporting legends. An unenviable position, despite the gusto with which they took to the task.

The brief reunion of 2012 saw ATDI play a number of dates Reading and Leeds Festival, and while it was exciting to see them in the flesh, it was clear that they weren’t totally into it. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez gamely played despite having only just lost his mother, so it is understandable that the shows were somewhat difficult for the band.

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The big question: after the sudden departure of Ward, would this be a second difficult evening with a band who were just back for the quick money? Gladly, the answer to that was a resounding no.

From the opening salvo of Arcarsenal, it was clear that At The Drive In meant business. Vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala flew out onto the stage, and proceeded to spend the next hour throwing himself from the drum kit, all over the floor and into the crowd, while not scaling the amps and PA like a health and safety officer’s worst nightmare. His vocal delivery was perfect, while banter between songs showed that he was fully into the performance.

Getintothis highlight of said banter would have to be ‘Yeah, GRAB THAT ASS!’ to a member of the security team who was holding the back of his jeans as he stood on the barrier, screaming into the faces of the crowd. Shortly after this he spent a good few minutes on his back, surfing atop an adoring sea of arms, while not missing a word of his vocals.

As he continued to run riot, it was difficult to know where to look, as Rodriguez-Lopez was also on some serious form. It defies belief that he is able to play such intricate guitar parts, treading the razor-thin line between melody and total discordant chaos, while also throwing himself around like a 16 year old in a Krazyhouse moshpit. Until this evening, Getintothis hadn’t fully appreciated what an incredible guitarist he is. Quite simply, he is one of the best.

A non-stop, punk rock explosion, with Tony Hajjar pounding away on the drums as if he was still the fresh-faced youngster who joined the band in 1997. Likewise Paul Hinojos underpinned everything with that growling bass tone and it was all quite wonderful. Not a hint of nostalgia here, but a band who were fully present, in the driving seat, and smashing the shit out of their set.

Absentee Jim Ward, to be fair, wasn’t missed too badly, as his shoes were filled with the excellent vocal and guitar work of Keeley Davis (who, for the completists out there, makes up the other third of Sparta with Hajar and Hinojos).

The band played a fair selection of tracks with an emphasis on album Relationship of Command, and while it is hard to pick stand out songs from such an explosive show, 300 MhzInvalid Litter Dept. and Napoleon Solo were something to remember. As they launched into closing track One Armed Scissor, all that was left to ponder was when, and if, we will get to see a new release.

At The Drive In are back, and we wait with bated breath for what comes next.

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