Indie/emo vets American Football returned to the stage this past weekend for the first time since 2014’s handful of reunion shows. At that time, nobody would have believed that the band would return again a short three years later, with not only a tour, but a brand new and highly regarded album to back it up.
American Football’s return to prominence began with the October 2016 release of their second full-length LP, also self-titled, a paltry 17 years after the band’s initial demise. The band indicated that it just felt like the time was right for them to get back together and play music again. Frontman Mike Kinsella was the only original band member to build a career in music after American Football dissolved. However, on Saturday 28th January at Terminal 5 in New York, you would’ve thought that they’d never missed a day. Clearly the time was indeed right.
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Following an introduction to the night by young indie rockers Mothers, the show continued with the always entertaining indie/avant-garde act Joan of Arc, fronted by Kinsella brother, Tim Kinsella. Tim has been quoted as saying that he enjoys using the band’s music to mess with people’s heads. That was crystal clear as backup singer Melina Ausikaitis spent most of the set strumming a stringless, wooden facsimile of a guitar at center stage. The band is effortlessly weird, and in this case rendered the Kinsella nepotism entirely justified and wholly appreciated.
Though Joan of Arc certainly grabbed the attention of the many well-behaved hipsters in the audience, they handed it over to the main event, American Football. There was excitement on both sides of the barrier at Terminal 5. Fans beamed on all three floors of the towering, sold-out venue, and as the band launched straight into track one from their new record, “Where Are We Now?”, there was of course a chorus of cheers.
Following the end of this first song, grown men proclaimed their love for the always bashful Mike Kinsella, who could barely get through “My Instincts Are the Enemy” without laughing. Clearly, he and the band were as thrilled to be there as their fans were. To perform on such a scale so many years after they broke up thinking they’d be forgotten, it must have been an incredibly exciting and humbling moment.
With Mike’s brother Nate now in the band on bass, and two backup musicians on percussion/xylophone and third guitar/backup vocals respectively, the band were bigger than ever before. American Football treated fans to their entire new record from start to finish. The infamous trumpet even reappeared, played by drummer Steve Lamos. Between “My Instincts Are the Enemy” and “Home Is Where the Haunt Is”, he performed a solo trumpet interlude, sequenced with a loop pedal to create an impressive atmospheric piece.
Fans were excited to hear the new stuff, sure. Nearly everyone already knew the words, creating moments of full-on choral singalongs. The crowd anticipated and cheered on Kinsella’s guitar solo in “Give Me the Gun”. But, we eagerly anticipated hearing the old songs.
That seems to be a trope, that people will go see bands that have been around for a long time hoping to hear the classics, the early work that got them to where th ey are. Those fans are often disappointed by a set list that is lopsided in favor of the latest record, whether they like it or not. But when American Football took the stage and played through their entire new record from start to finish in sequence, nobody was upset. The new album isn’t just a new album, it represents the band’s comeback. It represents the resurrection of a band everyone thought was resigned to the history books. It’s unique when a band’s music takes on a life of its own long after its members have moved on, inspiring and influencing a whole new generation of fans and musicians, and even more so when that very fandom is directly responsible for that band’s new record.
Following a quick break after wrapping up “Everyone is Dressed Up”, the last song on the new record, the band returned to take everyone in the room on a trip down memory lane. They began the second half of the set with “The One with the Tambourine”, a rare song released on the band’s very first EP and one of their earliest works. Nobody in the room was having more fun than drummer Steve Lamos, whose ear-to-ear grin had been present and unrelenting since the show began.
The band continued into “StayHome”, the meandering, eight-minute centerpiece of the band’s first record. Ironically, after this song, Mike informed the audience that his bassist and cousin Nate had a four-day old baby at home. Sorry, baby, but daddy needs to go entertain a bunch of music nerds in New York. Much more important.
“Honestly?” followed and concluded with a massive crescendo that got everyone off their feet, and a delicate trumpet interlude bled into the slow, somber “For Sure”. The lighters came out, and as the band serenaded the audience, Mike paced the stage with a beer awaiting the soft vocals in the latter half of the song. The energy came back up with “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional” that heard the whole audience singing along.
As expected the show was concluded with their most well-known and popular song, “Never Meant”. The goodbyes were brief. There was no encore, as the band either ran out of time or out of songs that they’re capable of playing live. That didn’t matter though. The air as the houselights came up was one of satisfaction, like we’d all hit a milestone in being among the lucky few to see this legendary band live. With the exception of the reunion shows in 2014, nobody had heard American Football play these songs live in 17 years, and it was the first time that anyone heard any of the new material live. There’s much more to come from American Football as they return to the fans that demanded them, including tour dates across the US and, for the first time, in Europe.
Where Are We Now?
My Instincts Are the Enemy Home Is Where the Haunt Is
Born to Lose
I’ve Been So Lost for So Long
Give Me the Gun
I Need a Drink (or Two or Three)
Desire Gets in the Way
Everyone Is Dressed Up
The One With the Tambourine StayHome
I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional
Upcoming Tour Dates:
Feb 11 O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire / London, United Kingdom
Feb 25 The Ace Hotel Theatre / Los Angeles, CA
Mar 11 VIVA PHX Festival / Phoenix, AZ
Apr 01 Granada Theatre / Dallas, TX
Apr 02 Houston Whatever Fest / Houston, TX
Apr 29 First Avenue / Minneapolis, MN
May 26-28 Sasquatch Festival / George, WA
Jun 15 Magnolia Summer / Milan, Italy
Jun 16 Bi Nuu / Berlin, Germany
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