Back in 2001, a little-known band from El Paso, Texas, arrived in Australia for their first tour and proceeded to blow minds with their super charged, frenzied live show.
Sydneysiders still talk in nostalgic terms of At The Drive In’s Metro Theatre set, which many fans still rate as one of their greatest live experiences ever.
Little of that was present when the ban again stormed the Sydney stage, this time at the much bigger Hordern Pavilion (29 September) that was severely undersold on the night.
Being a hard room to maintain atmosphere at the best of times, the half-full room was always going to be a tough one and as soon as the band hit the stage it was clear they had their work cut out for them.
'Relationship of Command' banger ‘Arcarsenal’ kicked things off frenetically, with frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala delivering his classic microphone-stand-twirling moves to an enthusiastic crowd. Some newer tunes like ‘No Wolf Like The Present’ from 2017’s 'In Ter A Li A' – their first studio album in 17 years – felt a little flat, but few people seemed to mind.
In fact, the more recent tunes got such a rousing response from the crowd that it was instantly clear ATDI had found an audience in a new generation.
Despite ATDI not doing anything particularly bad, it was hard to not feel like the band were going through the motions. Many have been trying to work out why: be it key guitarist Jim Ward’s absence, age, the influence of The Mars Volta leading Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez down a more navel-gazing path, or the aforementioned cavernous venue.
But without their next-level energy, ATDI sounded simply like a fatigued, stadium-rock band past its glory. Things picked up at the end, with old favourite ‘198d’ from the 'Vaya' EP and 'ROC' big tunes ‘Invalid Litter Dept’ and their breakout hit ‘One Armed Scissor’ rounding out a set that lasted little over an hour.
And for a man who has plenty to say in interviews about politics and social issues, Bixer-Zavala steered completely clear of any soapboxing on stage.
This was surprising, given the political nature of a lot of their work – ‘Invalid Litter Dept’ addresses the women murdered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – but on this night the band let the music do the talking. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to have everyone listening in.