Music review: At the Drive In

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Roberto Finizio/REX/Shutterstock (9435415d)'At The Drive In'At The Drive In in concert at Alcatraz, Milan, Italy - 22 Feb 2018
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Roberto Finizio/REX/Shutterstock (9435415d)'At The Drive In'At The Drive In in concert at Alcatraz, Milan, Italy - 22 Feb 2018
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Cult Texan punk troupe At the Drive-In first erupted out of the border town of El Paso in the late 1990s, bringing a riot of rage, taut energy and a succession of relentlessly gymnastic stage shows to what had become a fairly comfortable alternative rock scene. They made it as far as Later With Jools Holland, laying waste to the studio while Robbie Williams looked on like a man thoroughly upstaged, before splitting up just as their star was ascending.

O2 Academy, Glasgow ****

Since then, no band has quite filled the void they left, so there was nothing for it but to reform, older but only marginally less athletic. Frontman Cedric Bixler may no longer leap from speaker stacks but mic leads were there to be whipped and bass drums to bounce off as his compadres harnessed the incendiary blast of punk, the groove of garage rock and molten metallic riffs with an MC5-like testifying fervour.

From the first shake of Bixler’s maracas, it was clear they meant business, teasing with the snake-hipped calm before the explosion of lithe, lightning drumming and gothic guitar on Arcarsenal. But they also unleashed a delicious frisson in their slower, slinkier moments, foregrounding more of Bixler’s range from a Latin croon to a soaring rock god wail.

They came bearing new material but inevitably the audience pounced on old favourites such as their oblique homesick note One Armed Scissor, power punk ballad Napoleon Solo and Invalid Litter Dept, raging against the epidemic of abductions and murders of women working in the maquiladoras just across the US/Mexico border in Juarez.

Enfilade was a jammed-out highlight with flinty funk bass, wah-wah feedback and more expansive, textured, proggy passages, demonstrating that not everything has to be a short, sharp shock for this grown-up progressive punk band.

There was sterling and quite bonkers support from Mexican trio Le Butcherettes, whose rock solid rhythm section anchored the set leaving their brilliant, demented frontwoman Teri Gender Bender free to indulge in art punk theatrics, rock operatic vocals and idosyncratic dance moves, stabbing at her keyboard, wrangling her guitar, howling off mic and giving it her all.

Toronto two-piece Death From Above 1979, though in the tradition of power duos who pack the punch of a seven nation army, with chunky metal riffola and vocals on the edge of a nervous breakdown, could only sound pretty standard in comparison.

FIONA SHEPHERD