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Noise Live: AFI / Thursday

RCKTWN Music Venue
Nashville, TN
February 27, 2004

Youcan tell a lot about a band by the way its frontman dives into theaudience. Thursday’s Geoff Rickly takes a sloppy belly flop, thencrawls back over fans’ heads like a man crossing the Sahara. AFI’sDavey Havok neatly somersaults into the fray, then mysteriouslyreappears onstage, as if by teleportation.

But then, Havokalways works clean, whether he’s standing aloft on the crowd’s handsduring the set-closing “Totalimmortal,” or looming over the audienceduring, well, pretty much every other song. He’s a vision in pristineblack, down to his hair, which is a darker-than-dark marvel of cosmeticscience. His bandmates are equally stylish-bassist Hunter looks like hewas plucked from an Australian ballroom-dance competition, drummer AdamCarson stares coolly from beneath a Frankenpunk haircut, and guitaristJade Puget looks like he’s on work release from a Flock of Seagullstribute band-which suggests that they’ve decided no one gets to be thebiggest band in the world without looking the part.

LikeAFI, Rickly and Thursday are living high in the dirty business of arenadreams after years of chiseling in small clubs. Though he’s not born tothe role the way Havok is, Rickly’s becoming one hell of a frontmanhimself, a scraggly dude with a mouth you could stick a basketballinside. He wound his microphone cable around his wrists, led the crowdin clapping, and twice performed a unique dance that showed off hislimber elbows. The crowd was loudly with him but fell silent when hededicated the mid-set “M. Shepard” to Matthew Shepard, saying he wasdisgusted “that we live in a country where you can get killed for doingwhat you want, even if it hurts nobody.” Maybe RCKTWN, a club foundedby contemporary Christian music pioneer Michael W. Smith, wasn’t theright venue for the sentiment; but it was more likely that everyone wasjust worn out by then.

Though “Division St.” and “Signals Over the Air” wereelectrifying live, seven Thursday songs seemed about all anyone presentcould handle. Everyone except Rickly, that is: He never tired. Andthough Havok’s voice gave out for good a few days later, forcing AFI topull the plug on this tour, Rickly’s wail held up through a half hourof screamed vocals that made me worry he would sneeze and accidentallyblow his trachea across the room. As even the biggest dudes in the moshpit melted into submission, Rickly climbed atop the drum kit and leapedfrom the bass amp. When this guy straps on his “The Fly” glasses andembraces his inner Bono, I want to be there.