LOS ANGELES — As he stood chatting with fans in the loft at the Troubadour, someone asked Alien Ant Farm’s Dryden Mitchell how he was feeling.
After all, it was only a year ago when a tour bus accident gave the singer a Christopher Reeve-like injury, and yet here he was hanging out just minutes after finishing an energetic set with his band.
“Well, my neck hurts,” he answered. “But my neck would hurt whether I was onstage playing shows or not, so it’s cool.”
As Alien Ant Farm took the stage Thursday night — part of a string of shows booked to shake the cobwebs off of the newly invigorated band, which was sidelined when its tour bus crashed in Spain last year (see “Bus Accident Forces Alien Ant Farm To Cancel Shows” ) — the packed house welcomed the band with loud cheers.
Playing a set that leaned heavily on the forthcoming truANT, the new album Ant Farm recently finished with Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean and Robert DeLeo producing, all of them looked healthy, happy and positively alive and kicking in every sense of the phrase.
Dressed in a cap, glasses and buttoned-up shirt, Mitchell led the group through back-to-back renditions of a new track called “1000 Days” and the ANThology hit single “Movies” with scarcely a word spoken between the songs.
Playing a wood-finished six-string bass, one-man show Tye Zamora stomped, robot-danced and grimaced throughout the performance, his face a constantly animated canvas of cartoonish expression. On the other side of the small stage, guitarist Terry Corso, sporting his usual dark blue mesh hat, injected the proceedings with a wide-ranging mix of heavy crunch, lilting jangle and eerie effects with echoes of fusion and even dancehall.
The crowd sang to old favorites like “Whisper,” “Sticks and Stones,” “Attitude” and “Courage” and displayed more than just a polite patience for Ant Farm’s enthusiasm about unleashing new songs like “Never Meant,” the cautionary drug tale “Sarah Wynn” and Ant Farm’s next single, “These Days,” which they recently shot a video for in Los Angeles (see “Alien Ant Farm Crash Justin And Christina Tour, Gay Parade, BET Awards” ).
At one point, Mitchell thanked the crowd for being into songs played in “6/8th time signature,” as Mike Cosgrove’s athletic and often mind-numbingly complex Stewart Copeland-like drumming reminded everyone why he was a featured performer at Drum Day LA earlier this year (see “Alien Ant Farm Play New Song At First Show Since Crash” ).
Toward the end of the set, Ant Farm played a couple more new songs, including the heavily hook-laden and chorus-driven “Drifting Apart” before dipping back to their ironically titled 1999 self-release, Greatest Hits, for “S.S. Recognize,” a tune that was resurrected in the studio and will soon appear on an Ant Farm major-label album, much like “Movies” before it.
After treating the crowd to one more truANT number, “Goodbye,” Mitchell asked them if they’d rather hear “Michael Jackson or the smooth voice of Sade.” The response was louder for the latter, so they launched into a spirited and faithful take on “Smooth Operator,” with Mitchell — who had spent the evening running in place, waving his arms and generally dancing around as if no injury had ever happened — more than proving he has the pipes to handle the vocally heavy number and sticking the line “Smooth Criminal” into the chorus.
Before exiting the stage looking anything but tired, whether out of obligation or continued love for the track that gave them their breakthrough hit, Alien Ant Farm rocked out Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” with Mitchell — you guessed it — crooning “Smooth Operator” during the chorus.
The band’s current club tour takes it through an early August date in Houston before Ant Farm cross the pond for a handful of shows in the U.K., including appearances at the Reading and Leeds festivals, just as truANT hits shelves on August 19.
For a full-length feature on Alien Ant Farm, check out “Alien Ant Farm: The Crash And The Recovery.”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.