Caught Live: Alien Ant Farm, East Village Arts Club Liverpool, 9 January 2016

The years are fairly flying by now; first gig for me in 2016 and it’s to see a band whose heyday was during the nu-metal era, over a decade and a half ago. It was around then that I last saw Alien Ant Farm, as support to Papa Roach, then flying high with their major-label debut ‘Infest’ album. That night, it was AAF who impressed me the most, with some impressive playing and I thought vocalist Dryden Mitchell was a cut above most of the singers of that era. This was before they had the hit with Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, although the song was played in their set that night.

Since the heady days of 2001, Alien Ant Farm have had rather a chequered career; they parted company with their guitarist Terry Corso in 2003, then a couple of years later bassist Tye Zamora followed him out of the door. They continued to release albums with members coming and going, but in 2010 the line-up that recorded the breakthrough album ‘ANThology’ (vocalist Dryden Mitchell, bassist Tye Zamora, guitarist Terry Corso and drummer Mike Cosgrove) reunited. They recorded and released the album ‘Always and Forever’, then toured, but Zamora quit once again in 2014, so the band is now completed by bassist Tim Peugh, previously Corso’s guitar tech.

This tour was to commemorate that ‘ANThology’ album, with the band declaring that they would perform the album in full on the night. Another pang of nu-metal nostalgia then, and the tickets for this show (to the best of my knowledge, the first time they have played in Liverpool) sold very well, in fact the gig may well have sold out on the night as the downstairs hall of this refurbished venue was already busy as I made my way in. I’d failed to spot that this was actually a three-band bill, so apologies to The Dirty Youth for missing them, but I was able to get onto the floor in time for main support InMe. This band are also survivors of the early 2000s scene, having had a hit album (‘Overgrown Eden’) at around the same time as Alien Ant Farm were charting with ‘ANThology’. They are all very good players, with a lot of dual guitar from Gazz Marlow and frontman Dave McPherson, with  virtuoso playing also from bassist Greg McPherson. At times all three were indulging in things like ‘hammer-on’ solos, and here was me thinking that sort of thing was verboten during the nu-metal days! Although there was a lot of excellent playing and some strong vocals from the frontman, it didn’t really set me alight. Their songs after a while began to run into each other, built as they are on the same sort of dance-influenced beat that many bands of that era based their sound on.

With so many here to relive their youth (the audience seemed to comprise many thirty-somethings, who would have been in their teens or early twenties when AAF were in their heyday), all the headliners had to do was turn up to be cheered to the rafters. Of course, a few of us were well into our thirties already back when nu-metal was hot (!) Dryden is carrying a little more timber now than he was back then, but still has the shaven head and more importantly, still has that voice. As they were playing the ‘ANThology’ album in order, their ‘other’ hit ‘Movies’ came second in the set and a mass singalong was already going on. The slight disappointment on my part that founding bassist Zamora was not present this night soon melted away; although Tim Peugh has a far lower profile on stage he is just as fluid on the bass as his predecessor.

Unsurprisingly, they saved ‘Smooth Criminal’ until the encore, after having played everything else off ‘ANThology’ in the main set. Throughout, the band were getting a lively reaction from the floor, with plenty of crowd-surfers, some moshing and a hearty reception throughout. Although it was exactly the sort of nostalgia-fest their younger selves might have scoffed at years ago (when the ‘old school’ Metal bands started to do the same thing by touring their older material), it was a thoroughly enjoyable gig nonetheless.

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