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At The Drive-In: Brixton Academy, London: 29/08/12

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Hot drinks, they help sooth the throat.  When barking stream of consciousness surrealities for an hour, it makes sense to have a kettle on stage.  It’s logical.  It’s a natural progression.  Much in the way that when my feet are cold I put on a pair of socks.  Or if I’m short of money, then I’ll apply my skills to avenues most lucrative.  Yeah, that’s the popular reaction to have to this show, and why not?  “As far as the creative element went, it very much was finished business.”, words from Omar Rodríguez-López as recently as 2009.  So why now?  Why here?

Ten years ago, the curiosity and debates of legitimacy may have been at greater temperatures, but around the high-profile pension-swelling reunion tours of Pixies all of that seemed to change.  Now it seems that the door is open, it’s too common an occurrence to get worked up about.  On the whole, these reunion affairs are underwhelming experiences, a checklist of differences between what once was and what now lacks.  Even a positive example such as The Dismemberment Plan on one of their exuberant reunion shows last year lacked the hunger and creative ambition those men once had when these songs were new.  People change.  I wrote songs ten years ago, I was a different person then.  The experiences and emotions that influenced my actions are just memories now.  Such is the way with a reunion show.  A glorified covers band of their former selves.

However all experiences are relative to expectation.  The first Matrix film was an unexpected journey of joy from start to end whilst its sequel an underwhelming disappointment in comparison.  Context cannot be ignored.  With all of this in mind, I attended perhaps the last ever At The Drive-In show forcing low expectations into the conscious mind in an effort to make the most of it.

And the verdict?  Fucking incredible.  I knew what it was, knew what it could be.  I’d read about Omar’s apathy in previous shows, statistically I knew that the Jools Holland performance of years gone by couldn’t possibly be reflective, but with a breathtaking setlist including a prime selection from their entire back catalogue, I experienced those songs in a way I had never done before and for so long had craved.  What more could I ask for?  Well, Rolodex Propaganda and Invalid Litter Dept to be precise, but this show was not for me alone.

They knew what the crowd wanted, opening with the lead two tracks from the only album 50% of this audience had heard before, though it seemed Cedric hadn’t prepared in the same way beforehand as I.  “I genuinely don’t know, are you guys having a good time?” he asked, and despite its suggestion of cliche, the question seemed sincere.  Gone were the flailing crowds of years gone by, replaced by the older audience who could afford over £30 for a ticket to this show.  “Mate, do you mind not standing in front of me, you’re blocking my view” spoke some humourless dreadlocked twat as I stood mere rows from the front.  The only option was to continue travelling deeper forward until the cynical, tired eyes were behind us, away from us, left to their own devices.  It is what you make it.

With the distance from At The Drive-In to Mars Volta putting a far greater emphasis on the melodies of Cedric’s voice, it was so refreshing to hear those poorly recorded vocal takes delivered so much more tunefully by the older performer.  With the poor quality of recordings like Vaya, to hear these tracks played live, even with the dubious quality of Brixton’s sound, was exhilarating.  198d soared miles above its recorded counterpart as the giant sound, just one example amongst many.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the show came not musically, but during a tender moment where Jim Ward seemingly spontaneously addressed the crowd to point out “those guys (pointing to the Mars Volta contingent) are the best fucking friends of mine in the world”.  There’s not much been said on what happens behind closed doors with this tour, but even if this is the end of the line, the last show, the final moments, it’s a cathartic experience for everyone involved and a happier, smoother second attempt at the closing chapter.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.