Worth the wait?
At The Drive-In - Live At O2 Academy, Brixton

So here we stand in the ever reliable O2 Academy, Brixton, to catch a real moment in recent rock history – post hardcore giants At the Drive-In taking care of some unfinished business. It’s been almost twelve years since the band’s messy break up, not so hushed whispers of drug abuse, artistic conflicts and good old fashioned exhaustion amounting to the five-piece stepping down at the height of their powers. With interviews as recent as 2009 laughing off the idea of a reunion as some kind of absurd notion it’s a good feeling to find yourself standing in a sold out venue in your home town awaiting a performance you never dreamed would happen.

Support MMOTHS gently warms the crowd first, his own brand of electronica neither matching nor clashing with the forthcoming onslaught. MMOTHS' minimal set happily allows the crowd to get comfortable while still absorbing the Irishman’s ambient tweak fest. Like a fine dinner MMOTHS is a good choice of starter. Laptop packed away and usual nerve shredding wait endured and the lights dim... and ‘The Flight of the Valkyries’ begins.

The crowd go wild. Really wild. After all this has been a long wait for most present and they’re going to enjoy every second. Arms are thrown around best friends, girlfriends passionately embraced and beers flung with insane abandon as the period venue gets a tangible semi-religious vibe stewing. A storming ‘Arcarsenal’ gets the night off to a frantic start, Tony Hajjar’s drumming damaging kidneys and eardrums. Following ‘Pattern Against User’ just gets the crowd more excitable, Cedric Bixler-Zavala spinning mic stand around his head, shaking in Morrison-esque voodoo fits and jumping about like he’s been transported back into his teenage self by the material.

A truly epic ‘Napoleon Solo’ makes one of the night’s highlights, tonight’s version bettering the studio version in every way. It’s tighter, more passionate and backed by thousands of souls singing along.

Between songs and sips of tea, Cedric proves chatty while right hand man Omar solemnly stands lost in the music, he seems more reserved than when onstage with The Mars Volta but a sly smile is visible as every track dropped sees the room erupt. It must be said that there’s an inescapable air of nostalgia tonight but also one of real love, and of friendships fixed and strengthened.

A blistering ‘Enfilade’ keeps the good times coming, and what good times. Some complain about the sheer wall of noise and the pain it’s causing to their mortal frames, but they all admit they can’t move or leave for fear of missing something spectacular. Fourteen numbers down and it’s time for a brief encore, ‘Catacombs’ and the anthem ‘One Armed Scissor’ finishing things with aplomb. Teenage memories bring forth the frantic energy and angst of At the Drive-In but live it’s the psychedelic touches and sheer grandeur that hit home.

It’s been a great night and everyone present knows it - this time round the band can walk away smiling. Worth the wait? We think so.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Photo by Matt Wash

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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