New York City’s dismal skyline was perhaps the best backdrop for Friday night’s Alkaline Trio show at the Nokia Theatre. The gloomy, soaked setting was evocative of the mantras of the band and their 15-year run, but what they showcased on stage bordered more on lightheartedness than their well-known mischievousness. Guitarist and lead vocalist Matt Skiba donned in cat whisker makeup reminiscent of a younger Peter Criss, exhibited vivacity during the sold-out show. Whether it was his constant praising of New Yorkers, messing up the lyrics on “Mercy Me”, or switching instruments with drummer Derek Grant during the bands encore, Skiba and company did it all with a grin.
Opening the show with the title track off their latest release, This Addiction, the band mixed new and old throughout the set. This release marks the first on the band’s newly minted Heart & Skull label, formed last year with Epitaph and embraces the true-spirit of Alkaline Trio; energy, pain, emotion and punk-rock rawness. The band’s new tracks “Dine, Dine My Darling”, – a song abut what you should say to your loved one before you die - and “Dead On the Floor”, are full of reflective and pensive material and notable lyrics, which have helped sustain the band’s hardcore and explosively dedicated fan base throughout the years. Bass guitarist and vocalist, Dan Andriano crooned alongside Skiba in buoyancy that cut through the theatre like jagged knives.
The setlist of impressive and esteemed tracks ranged from the really old “97” to not as old, yet still classic “Crawl”, and “Mr. Chainsaw”, to more recently released female named tunes “Sadie” and “Emma”. Never ones to hog the spotlight, Alkaline Trio recruited a member of Cursive to play trumpet on “Lead Poisoning” and dedicated “Continental”, – a catchy radio-friendly song that pays homage to regret and mortality – to American punk-rock singer/songwriter GG Allin.
The set mixed everything that an Alkaline Trio show usually does - compelling lyrics and vocals, evolved musicianship and enigmatic, punchy chords mixed with back and forth playful banter between band and fan. However, this time the usually murky air was full of liveliness and an incredibly strong energy from the Trio.
“Blue In the Face”, performed acoustically during the encore was perhaps one of the most heartfelt and engaging tunes of the night. The song, full of metaphors and references about, you guessed it - death, was played by a stripped down Skiba to a crowd full of watchful eyes.
This range not only showcased the versatility of the band but also reminded fans of their brilliant songwriting skills and dark, heavy punk past. But to box the band into a gothic-rock genre is limiting and unfair. Their lyrics, while often shrouded in death and dark imagery, are consumed with passion and innovation. Their set lists and albums are full of bright spots of hope in the midst of dark, stirring songs. “This Addiction” is full of faction-like prose that rivals a Hunter S. Thompson book. “The American Scream” is a song Skiba penned about a solider who returned home from war and committed suicide on his mother’s grave.
For better or worse, Alkaline Trio are emo-rock shape shifters. They have the range, the die-hard tattooed fans, the punk rock cred and most of all the ability to jump from rock genre to punk genre all while churning out tunes that never let go of the jugular.
Alkaline Trio have an incendiary stage presence, immense lyrical skills and vocal ferocity that when paired with the voracious nature of their fans will ensure the continuation of the Trio’s longstanding career and this show was the perfect example of their longevity.