Closure. It was the feeling that hung over the evening, the cathartic canopy to the entire event. The fickle thing about farewells is that they feel so somber as it nears, but, as was evident at the Alexisonfire show, a farewell doesn’t have to be lined with a sad tone. As vocalist George Petit put it, this wasn’t a funeral, but a wake.
For me, this was the break up sex. Hot, aggressive, sweaty break up sex. Seeing Alexisonfire was an opportunity I would never have again, so I had little doubt in buying tickets. Consequently, the audience that packed in the Pacific Coliseum was holding nothing back. Knowing that you’ll never have the chance to do something again can do that to people.
The night was unpleasantly cold. As close as people got in the line ups, there were still shivers. The warm blood pulsed and muscles tensed in anticipation, but nothing could keep out the creeping cold as it froze feet and made knees knock and shake. It made the admittance into the venue even more of a relief. Not only were we closer to the show, but we were away from the frigid air.
Moneen, another veteran of the Canadian hardcore scene, opened up the night punctually at 8:00. As a band that never really intrigued me, the performance exceeded expectations. Energy was abundant and natural and it made for an enjoyable spectacle adding extra emphasis to their catalogue. Unfortunately, once everyone got into the flow of the opening act, they were done. The 30 minute set was obviously to maximize time for the headliner, but it almost felt irreverently short given that their place in the genre. Counter-intuitively, it was still a thoroughly pleasing performance given the limited set. Moneen did as much as it could in the brief thirty minutes and put together a performance that could surpass some of the headliners I’ve seen. In the end, the opening felt less like a hurdle and more of an unexpectedly pleasant side.
I have never seen Alexisonfire, but I’ve heard stories. Some ended with broken noses, bruises and other miscellaneous body damage. There was also the unfortunate death at the free Vancouver show that George loosely referred to during the show, as well. Perhaps it was the naïvety in me that had me believe I could have a good experience at the front. As soon as the lights dimmed, the pushing began. It was bearable at first and nothing new, but when they started playing “Young Cardinals,” it got increasingly aggressive. The distance between torso and steel fence decreased rapidly until fabric was the only separation between flesh and metal. Trying to push back the force of a crowd was obviously a futile endeavor and getting kicked by crowd surfers finally made me back out. Though a good crowd can’t turn around a bad show, a bad crowd can certainly detract from an incredible one. The latter was certainly the case for this concert. I was prepared for aggression, but it made for an insufferable experience. For the first few songs, I was so focused on not getting injured that they just seemed to blend together. Perhaps I just wasn’t prepared, but being closer to the back made for a much more mellow experience only detracting for the whole event a few times.
The crowd aside, I can’t imagine Alexisonfire putting on a better show. For every ounce of enthusiasm the crowd put in, the band reciprocated ten-fold. For anyone who may have seen the show, they likely would have assumed it to be a farewell tour as they put out everything they could. The setlist was an appropriate mix of songs with nearly an even mix of their three most notable albums, Crisis, Watch Out! and Old Crows/Young Cardinals, respectively, with a few exceptions from their self-titled debut and Dog’s Blood EP. As one can imagine, such a thorough set made the event of seeing a band I adored when I was younger all the more fulfilling. I felt the youthful aggression resurge at various points in the night when a song came on that I could remember hearing for the first time at a friend’s house. It was an experience of rediscovery and it brought back multiple emotions and reactions that I only loosely remembered. All nostalgia aside, it can be objectively noted that each band member was at their best. The only complaint I can really have was the sound levels at some points. At these various moments, Dallas Green’s vocals got drowned out by a droning guitar. But for the most part, those doing the sound did a good job in maintaining clarity. It made those instances of flashback more vivid.
To properly assess the night, one has to decide how to judge a show. If one is to focus on the event as a whole, then the Alexisonfire show was an incredible spectacle of a band’s catalogue. But if one is to focus on the faults, the night will be brought down by those members of the audience with total disregard to their fellow concert goer. For me, it is not my place to fault these people to try and get the most out of a conclusive night and experience. After all, imminent ends can do peculiar things to people.
Photos © Jamie Taylor