As they approach nearly thirty years together, tonight marks P.O.D.’s first performance in Belfast. Even this far into their career, having weathered the fickle successes of some of their peers of the nü metal era, the band has maintained a sizable following, as evidenced by the turnout they later enjoy. Unfortunately for ’68, the excessively early doors and scheduled stage slot mean that they play to a meagre gathering. It’s a shame, for the brainchild of Josh Scogin (formerly of Norma Jean and The Chariot fame) is an enticing blend of indie, hard rock and hardcore that sounds colossal in the confines of the Limelight. For those who do catch their set, the performances of ‘Summertime Blues’ and ‘This Life Is Old, New, Borrowed and Blue’ are more than enough to persuade them to dig deeper into the band’s repertoire.
It’s pretty clear from early on in Alien Ant Farm’s set that the crowd is predominantly unfamiliar with the band’s post ‘ANThology’ output. Opening with ‘Bad Morning’ from 2006’s ‘Up In The Attic’, the response is fairly muted, as is the case for the subsequent ‘What I Feel Is Mine’. That all changes as soon as they launch into the ever-infectious bounce of ‘Movies’, finally eliciting some significant audience participation. The band has enough self-awareness to make sure the majority of their set is comprised of cuts from their 2001 mainstream debut; ‘Courageous’ and ‘Sticks And Stones’ are received particularly vociferously. Frontman Dryden Mitchell’s introduction to ‘Attitude’ is a rather bizarre moment – offered up as a confusing tribute to his mother (“I miss my mom…we’re not talking right now”), and to the late Chester Bennington (“This was his favourite Alien Ant Farm song, he told me so.”). It’s a soaring and ambient performance that far outdoes the recorded version. There is of course the elephant in the room in the guise of a certain Michael Jackson song. Towards the end of their time on stage, Dryden announces an incoming cover, but not “that child molester song”, causing a fairly equal split of cheers and grumbles that’s quickly dispelled by the Bad Brains’ ‘Gene Machine/Don’t Bother Me’. It’s a bold statement from the band on a concern that is indelibly related to their early success and legacy. However, it’s a shame then that after seemingly finishing with the fitting ‘Goodbye’, they decide to close with ‘Smooth Criminal’ anyway; a case of having their cake and eating it which garners little apparent disproval.
If there was any lull in energy levels during Alien Ant Farm’s set, then the San Diego headliners more than make up for it right off the bat. The unmistakable riff of ‘Boom’ receives a suitably explosive reaction, with the almost immediate inception of the first of many circle pits tonight. Unsurprisingly, the ‘Satellite’ material incites the loudest singalongs – the title track, ‘Alive’ and an overwhelming ‘Youth Of A Nation’ all retain a sense of vitality that goes beyond mere nostalgia. Even so, the generous number of tracks off 2018’s ‘Circles’ goes down impressively well – the Tom Morello-inspired guitar lines and reggae breaks of ‘Panic Attack’ juxtapose each other remarkably well live, whereas ‘Rockin’ With The Best’ and ‘Soundboy Killa’ now stand as some of their most pummelling material in their catalogue. Sonny Sandoval manages to conduct the crowd with a seemingly effortless charisma, be it conducting the refrain of ‘Will You’ or the subtle intensity of their cover of U2’s ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’. Guitarist Marcos Curiel remains the true rock star of P.O.D., as he struts the stage with a coolness so oozing that it’s amazing he doesn’t leave a trail. “This is our punk rock song,” declares Sonny before whipping up more circle antics with the hardcore slam of ‘Without Jah Nothin’, with the band repeating the song for a female only pit section. The closing ‘Listening For The Silence’ from their most recent release is as well received as any of their biggest hits– indicating that this is a band with a focus on the here and now of their career, instead of revelling in past glories, and the fans are right with them. It may have taken them a while to get here, but P.O.D. successfully “rocked the party off the hook” tonight in Belfast.
Review: Jonni Davisdon
Photography: Marc Leach