It only took AT THE DRIVE-IN In 17 years to return to the studio, and perhaps they never should have stepped a foot back into it. The legendary post-hardcore crew released ‘in.ter’ which didn’t bode well with critics back in 2017 but excited fans to see the return of the former great emo band.

They were once known and loved as the weird eccentric band to creep out the other kids at school, so why not book support acts to match that? LE BUTCHERETTES (7)  are the first to grace the 02-academy’s stage and do not disappoint; the contemporary punk-rock group force the crowd listen. Bowie-style face paints, boilers suits and an unearthly electric performance make their presence known and get the crowd ready for AT THE DRIVE-IN (6). Unfortunately, DEATH FROM ABOVE (5) provide a less than underwhelming performance that manages to destroy any hype that Le Butcherettes managed to create.

The lights come down and darkness surrounds the venue and, ever so faintly in the distance, emerges Cedric Bixlet-Zavala – with his trusty maracas in hand. As he takes centre stage a sheer roar erupts from the Brixton 02 Academy. Suddenly we’re transported back to the year 2000, as Cedric rattles the maracas into the mic and the set begins with ‘Arcarsenal’.

It’s clear that they’re not making new fans anytime soon, as the reception to their new material is underwhelming. Tracks like ‘No Wolf Like the Present’ and ‘Pendulum in a Peasant Dress’ are painfully dull to the point where your mind would escape elsewhere to avoid what was on stage. The old school tunes spark some interest but doesn’t draw you in. Although it is nice to hear the classics like ‘Sleepwalk Capsules’, the performance doesn’t meet the expectation. It certainly relived memories for the audience made up of predominantly males in their late thirties; No one is there for ‘in.ter’. They want ‘Relationship of Command’.

There was such a time when you could rely on Cedric Bixlet-Zavala to hold an audience and deliver an unforgettable performance. On this occasion, this was not the case. He’s stationary throughout the set beside the occasional limp kick in the air, yet he is the most active member during the whole set. Gone are the flailing limbs and jumping from the balcony in favour of a much more reserved performance. This is especially relevant of lead guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who for the most part, looks incredibly bored throughout the fifteen-song set, staying mostly stationary while looking at the floor.

Perhaps if Cedric were to focus his energy into his live performance rather than his tangents in-between songs it would make for a better live experience. His ramblings became a burden on the ears and loses the attention his audience.

As the set draws to a close, one hopes they would be able to salvage the show with their biggest song to date ‘One Armed Scissor’. This is the only time during the 90 minutes where you would see total engagement from the audience and the energy is reciprocated on stage. As the chorus builds up and Cedric belts out “Get away, Get away” the hook sinks its teeth in and you’re finally captivated by AT THE DRIVE-IN. However, it took an hour and a half for this to happen. The set consists of their early 2000’s material mixed in with their latest studio album. A 17-year gap of songs would make for unorthodox set list. The band just simply feel out of touch with what made them so special in the first place.

The whole show seems like a desperate attempt to travel back in time, back to the early 2000’s, back to the height of their career. AT THE DRIVE-IN are desperately clinging to the past in that “Look at me, I used to be a rock star” way. As unfortunate as it is to see, bands do have a time and place. Some fade away and remain and although AT THE DRIVE-IN are back, perhaps they should have never returned.




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