What better way to get into the Halloween spirit than with Alkaline Trio and the Horrorpops? Fresh off the When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas, Alkaline Trio were playing a pair of Southern California shows, with the second being at the House of Blues, Anaheim.
Up until a few weeks ago, no opening act was listed, so fans were excited to see that a legitimate headlining band in their own right, such as the Horrorpops – who also rocked the WWWY fest – added to the bill.
As the clock struck 8 p.m., the psychobilly band from Denmark took to the stage. Skulls and white sheets and rose garlands adorned the speakers; a typical Horrorpops stage design. Lead singer Patricia Day picked up her white, graffiti-laced stand-up bass and the band led off with “Julia.” In May of this year, the band announced that Day was diagnosed with cancer and the band would be taking some time off so she could rest. For those concerned about her health, she looked healthy and happy, with her signature smile and wink present while playing through their 40-minute set.
The band played “Undefeated” and before the song’s catchy bridge, she coaxed the crowd into singing the “never let me go!” along with her. They also played “Hit ’n Run” and “S.O.B.” from their 2005 release, “Bring It On!” Guitarist Kim Nekroman, dressed in his usual all-black suit, ripped through songs like the popular “Thelma and Louise.” He really showcases his talented playing, reminiscent of a demented Eddie Cochran.
Drummer Henrik Stendahl kept a solid backbeat throughout their set, alternating between slow, moody intros and fast psycho blitz songs. Day spoke about an internet troll who had left a nasty comment and dedicated the line “my fist in the middle of your face” from “Missfit” to this miscreant. For their final number, Day and Nekroman traded instruments for “Psycho Bitches,” which emanated a huge cheer from the women of the audience.
The lights turned down, signaling the headlining act was coming out as Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” played on the venue’s P.A. As soon as the song ended, the haunting piano intro of “Time to Waste” started off as the Chicago natives took to the stage with a huge ovation. I love the depth of musicianship and talent in Alkaline Trio, despite just having three members. Guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano share co-lead singer duties.
Even songs where Skiba sings lead, Andriano’s presence is always present, providing distinct background vocals to every chorus. The two have such incredible chemistry that perfectly complements each other. Drummer Derek Grant has been with the group for over two decades now, but has a versatile background drumming from the Suicide Machines to hardcore and metal bands.
Three songs in and Grant began the familiar drum intro to the fan favorite Andriano song, “Take Lots with Alcohol.” This kicked off the first mosh pit of the night as people began pogoing and slamming into each other, all the while singing along in unison to every word. The recently bleached-blonde Skiba kicked off “Calling All Skeletons,” singing the opening lyrics as Andriano led the audience into clapping along to the beat.
Looking over their setlist, the band played a mind-blowing 10 albums worth of material. Most bands never even achieve the status of having that many albums in their entire career, much less showcased in a single set. Part of what makes their live show so unique is that they really like to highlight songs from their entire discography – for instance, they played “Warbrain,” the popular song off of their B-sides album, “Remains” – in addition to often swapping up the setlist, sometimes even from show to show.
As usual it’s always a pleasure watching Adriano play bass, as I love his playing style. From the way he plays to his stage presence in general, I found myself watching him practically the whole set. Clad in a pair of loud plaid golf pants and newsboy cap, he just looked like the coolest guy in the room. Watching him play the audience as he sang “Every Thug Needs a Lady” was such a fun moment.
Overall, the band in general seemed to be really having a good time and enjoying the show. As soon as they took to the stage, a friend noted that Skiba was actually in a good mood, smiling as they played through songs. He could be seen interacting and talking to various crowd members throughout the night. It was great to see them enjoying themselves as much as the crowd was them.
The band opted not to play an encore, but rather play an extended set of 21 songs for nearly ninety minutes. They closed with two fan favorites from each vocalist – the Andriano-led “Emma,” followed by the Skiba “This Could Be Love.” Then, as is customary, they closed their set with the familiar slow song that has come to define their career; almost akin to what “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” has become for Green Day. The closed with the ballad-turned hate anthem, “Radio.” It was the perfect ending to a night filled with macabre lyrics and chilling songs; just right for a chilly fall evening.