Alien Ant Farm + SOiL @ O2 Institute Birmingham, 12 February 2018

The first thing I’m going to say about this gig is that Soil should most certainly have been joint headliners, and as such I’m going to give them half the column inches of this review. I always turn up for the support band because I’ve come across some fantastic musicians that way (Glen Hansard supporting Eddie Vedder is one example) but having only heard Soil’s first album I wasn’t expecting much other than the pleasure of seeing ‘Halo’ performed live and a few memories of my late teenage years spent at the one local ‘alternative’ venue in the town where I grew up. So boy was I surprised by their epic performance.

The set was mind-blowingly cohesive, note perfect and contained a whole lot of hair (good going for a band whose members are in their 40s!).

Chicago band Soil worked their way through their back catalogue with hits such as ‘Pride’, ‘Retribution’, ‘The Hate Song’ and ‘Unreal’, and played a fantastic cover of Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’ which gave guitarist Adam Zadel the chance to let rip on his black and white flamed Les Paul.

Singer Ryan McCombs had great rapport with the audience throughout the set, with some witty observations (‘If I find a really heavy stone I could say I only weigh one stone’).

For one awful moment at the end of the set I actually thought they were going to finish without playing ‘Halo’ when Ryan went off the stage with his mic. But moments later he appeared in the crowd and finished the set with this classic early 2000s single whilst moshing with the fans.

Around 9.30pm Californian band Alien Ant Farm took to the stage. Drummer Mike Cosgrove was raised above the others with a funky sparkly drum kit and singer Dryden Mitchell had bleached his hair a bright blonde for the occasion. Current bassist Tim Peugh brought some movement to the performance – dancing around the stage whilst playing AAF’s trade mark five-string bass lines – however I have to confess I missed comedic founding bass player Tye Zamora who always had some cracking facial expressions.

The set opened with ‘Bad Morning’ from Up In The Attic, and it didn’t take long for the singing to start. By track three — hit single ‘Movies’ – the whole crowd were joining in. My personal highlight was ‘These Days’, before which we were reminded of the classic video for the song where they crashed the 2003 MTV BTE Awards.

Overall the sound was well-mixed, but at points the distortion on the vocals made it hard to understand the lyrics and produced an overly harsh sound. The effect was still present between some songs meaning that when Dryden dedicated the song ‘Attitude’ to the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, I for one was unable to make out what was most likely a touching tribute. It had something to do with San Francisco and a favourite song…

Other highlights during the set included ‘Glow’, a hit single from album TruANT, with some zesty lead guitar from Terry Corso, and the more energetic audience members enjoyed a mosh pit during the heavy ‘Simpatico’.

The main set closed with ‘Wish’ before the band returned for a lively encore of ‘Sticks and Stones’ and the band’s best-known single — a rock cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’.

The fun didn’t end there: Dryden invited the whole crowd to hang out with him afterwards at rock bar Subside — great business for them on a cold Monday night!

Set List

  1. Bad Morning
  2. Forgive & Forget
  3. Movies
  4. What I Feel Is Mine
  5. These Days
  6. Lord Knows
  7. Never Meant
  8. Attitude (closing with “In The End” snippet by
  9. Glow
  10. Courage
  11. Simpatico
  12. Wish


  1. Sticks And Stones
  2. Smooth Criminal


Reviewer: Chrissie Duxson

Photographer: Chris Bowley

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