red lights

Smooth Operators

Alien Ant Farm
The Metro
Chicago, IL
Nov. 4, 2001
Dryden Mitchell
Dryden Mitchell in top form.

Review and Photos by Barry Brecheisen

"Thanks for joining us tonight for our rock and roll adventure," proudly proclaimed singer Dryden Mitchell. Alien Ant Farm, the SoCal alt-metal quartet arrived on a cold fall night to make their headlining debut at Chicago's Metro.
Opening the night with the battle cry "Courage," the lead track off their hit CD ANThology, they proved right out of the gate why many are considering them to be the most promising new rock band of the year. A band that back in 1999 was a struggling act that had to fund their first release themselves. However, that same year they went on the road with another unknown act, Papa Roach. This relationship would change their lives forever. When Papa Roach was signed to Dreamwork Records they brought their touring mates along for the ride and the rest is proving to be HIStory.
Alien Ant Farm Fast forward to 2001 and these native Californians are making a name for themselves on the radio and MTV with their cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." Tonight they are here showcasing their stories of relationships and break-ups and bringing therapy to the hungry crowd. Taking a break between songs Dryden asks, "Anyone in a relationship boy or girl?" Silence everywhere. "Man you guys are a bunch of losers! Well, this song is for you." With that, the guitars kicked in the opening melody to "Attitude." An interesting song dedicated to struggling couples everywhere that was contrasted nicely by the hard tone of the song. This is not your typical happy go lucky love song. But that's Alien Ant Farm in a nut shell. "Thanks for digging the love songs. These are the best songs," confesses Dryden in the middle of their 12 song set. Putting on an acoustic guitar, the first and only time that evening, Dryden confesses jokingly that Brett Michael's gave him the black guitar. Continuing the joke by introducing the next song as "Every Rose Has It's Thorns" before going into the heavily chunky and speeded-up "Death Day."
The one thing you'll notice when you see them live is how much harder the sound comes across than their studio counterparts. The next song on the list is the original single, "Movies," a song that was quickly forgotten the minute their cover of "Smooth Criminal" hit the airwaves. The second the song was introduced the fans went wild and by the time the chorus hit there was not a single person that was not bouncing to the jam being spread all over their bodies. Perhaps they could have made it on their own without the help of the gloved one?! These are the kind of decisions that can brand bands as a novelty act. We won't know for a year or two as the jury is still out. They even plan to re-release this song as their next single. Next on the set list is the only song on tonight's agenda that appeared on their debut release Greatest Hits that didn't get carried over to the current CD. None the less, "S S Recognize" continued to generate enough heat to help sustain them in what would be an hour long set of twelve songs. Of course, what we were all waiting for was that "novelty song." While we are on this subject, what is the deal with these hard rock bands covering the alternative pop from the 80s, anyway! If it's not Alien Ant Farm, it's Disturbed covering Tears For Fears' "Shout." Is Marilyn Manson to blame for this trend. Hell, everyone else blames him for everything else evil in the world! He did cover Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" way back in 1996.
"Did you bring your son out tonight?" Dryden asked a fan in the audience as they prepared for their encore. "The first concert my parents took me to was Michael Jackson at Dodger's Stadium and I cried like a little baby!" The crowd went airborne as the familiar beats pumped out of the speakers like an erratic heart beat waiting for emergency surgery. This is the reward we've been waiting for and they delivered it with a wry smile and a wink. During the song Dryden offered a little taste of Sade's "Smooth Operator" just for fun as the bass player sang the name "Annie" in falsetto.
So maybe they needed the push of Jackson's cover to get them over the hump. It's one of those songs that makes you smile and brings you back to a simpler world. Let's just hope today's world is now ready to embrace the new offerings that these young guys from Riverside, California have to offer. Proving as they did tonight that they are more than just a one trick pony act!

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