A frigid Tuesday night is not the ideal date for a gig hoping to pull a large crowd at the Lemmy, but Alien Ant Farm clearly have trust in their Noughties fan base who once put their cover of “Smooth Criminal” at #3 in the UK charts. This is one of their last gigs on their ANThology tour, celebrating 15 years since the release of their best album. Supporting them is rock band The Dirty Youth and slightly better known InMe, an alternative metal band that got lost around 2005.
There is some confusion about the official gig start time and walking in at 7:30 I realise The Dirty Youth is already most of the way through their set, not that I can tell looking at the audience. Singer, Danii Moore, does her best to involve the half empty room and her few hard-core head bobbers but it’s clear the majority of us have turned up to see Alien Ant Farm. Her vocals are good but the lyrics fall into pop rock cliché and the rhythms quickly become repetitive. Her attempts to get the crowd excited, flash-lighting us with her sparkly microphone and jumping up and down with energy deserves some merit but, for the most part, we’re standing catatonic and listless as each song sounds like the one before.
As they finish, the Lemmy starts to fill up, 90 minutes before Alien Ant Farm are due on stage. The stream of people moving through the door shows a varying audience of a black-clad emo teens; a majority of T-shirted late 20 somethings with their hipster beards just growing in; and a spatter of serious metal heads in their 50s.
Some of those who had idled around the bar during The Dirty Youth move into the dark and clammy main stage area as InMe take the floor. They manage to command the growing audience and this time I can hear people actually singing along. Their top-selling, grungy single “Firefly” still gets us swaying, the guitar doesn’t slip into overdrive and is free from any fuzzy background overtone while singer, Dave McPherson, half-fulfils his vocal comparison to Kurt Cobain; half-fulfils.
There is a half hour lull between InMe and the main act and the room becomes saturated with people. A tangible change in the atmosphere is happening, a feeling of genuine excitement, at last. Alien Ant Farm come on and launch straight into “Courage”. The crowd isn’t moshing and head-banging like a traditional Nu-Metal crowd but we’re definitely enjoying it. Front man Dryden Mitchell, an old hat at crowd working, thanks us all for being here and starts “Movies”, everyone knows the words and Mitchell moves with the crowd. Although his eccentric magnetism fails to field past the third row and the 6 footer in front of me, Alien Ant Farm are definitely a great live band. Mitchell ties up the song much to our amusement with “I’m having a good day, are you having a good day? I had a shower this morning and a wank this afternoon, today is a good day.”
The set continues, working its way through their most successful album, the ANThology Album. Before “Attitude” Mitchell asks the crowd to sing for his mother, referring to her as an alcoholic who is mad at him, and keeps thanking us for coming, with enough sincerity to make it believable but a smoothness clearly rehearsed. He carries the other band members who fail to engage with the audience, at one point getting off the stage and leaning over the barriers to serenade the front row. After “(Happy) Death Day” they fake a finish and are called back to encore, finishing off with “Glow”, where Dryden adopts an acoustic guitar, and “These Days”, both from their TruANT album. Having gone the whole gig without playing “Smooth Criminal” we are hardly surprised they finish up with a fantastic performance of it, then inviting the crowd to hang out with them at The Old Firehouse.
The Dirty Youth are not worth leaving the house for and InMe are over the hill, but Alien Ant Farm could definitely claw their way back to mainstream metal/rock listeners if their new music measures up to their live performances. Perhaps all Mitchell needs is to find a way to transform changing nappies into teenage-angst material.