On an appropriately cold and rainy Friday night in the Minneapolis warehouse district, the Despair Faction, AFI’s fan militia, was working itself up, chanting the intro to Black Sails in the Sunset (”Through/Our bleeding!/We/Are one!”) and throwing up martial fist pumps. The all-ages crowd had already been primed by opening act Gallows, whose lanky, ginger vocalist, Frank Carter, spent half his time singing from the middle of the pit and the rest on stage, gobbing loogies with impressive trajectories.
The Faction had just spent three years waiting for AFI to break their hiatus with a new album, Crash Love, and now the anticipation and Red Bull were making them antsy. While they hadn’t filled this first stop on the tour to capacity, the crowd made up for it with enthusiasm as the band started off with “Torch Song” – the first track off of their new record. Lead singer Davey Havok was decked out like a lounge act Rufio, with a sparkly suit and a skunk-stripe pompadour. For the rest of the show, Havok vogued, emoted and skillfully milked the audience’s energy, conducting them like a fifth band member.
The set showcased the split personalities of the band, which stuck older, more hardcore songs like “Nyquil” between pop anthems like “Silver & Cold” off of their breakthrough, Sing the Sorrow. Different parts of the crowd surged and ebbed through the set list, depending on their appreciation of the AFI timeline.
Havok, likewise, alternated between vampy lounge singer and mic-cord-wrapped-around-forearm screamer while his bandmates built a precise wall of sound behind him. Drummer Adam Carson set a thrashing pace as bassist Hunter Burgan spun in circles with his arm on a piston. Guitarist Jade Puget stalked back and forth, sticking his chin out and occasionally hopping on a PA to aim a stratospheric solo at the VIP balconies of the Epic nightclub.
Brandishing his mic stand like a wizard, Havok led his Despair Faction through their sad-but-united sing-alongs, pausing only to proclaim, at various times, that the crowd, the city and being back on tour after a year and a half were all “fucking awesome.” The last, at the very least, seemed to be a heartfelt statement, as the band banged out one expertly rocked song after another with professional efficiency, packing as big a playlist as possible while still ending inside a 10:30 p.m. deadline.
As they finished with an encore of “Miss Murder,” AFI saluted and left the stage, but kept their floodlights up so the cathartically revitalized Despair Faction could see their way past the merch tables and back out into the cold October rain.