REVIEW: DREAMCAR Transports Irving Plaza to 1985

Dreamer IrvingWhen forming a supergroup or side project, it’s important to be distinctive. The new project should have its own legs, serving up different melodies, arrangements, and/or genres that are far different from the bands that made them famous. DREAMCAR, featuring No Doubt’s Tony Kanal (bass), Adrian Young (drums) and Tom Dumont (guitar), along with AFI’s Davey Havok (vocals), has achieved just that. While the dreamy, 80’s-soaked tunes found on the band’s self-titled debut are probably more in No Doubt’s wheelhouse than AFI’s, the band has positioned itself 100 percent in New Wave territory, with tons of start-stop melodies, flashy keys and pulsating bass riffs. Havok brings an edgier darkness to the outfit that befits the era they’re emulating like students of the bands they loved as teens—from Depeche Mode to The Cure, and more.

On Friday night, DREAMCAR brought it’s live show to the east coast, playing New York City’s Irving Plaza. The record dropped exactly one week prior, so while only a handful of the crowd were singing along with Havok, that in no way represented the reception the band received. Opening with the bass-heavy opener “After I Confessed,” the band quickly showed its colorful new feathers. The three No Doubt members have a built-in chemistry comprised of almost three decades of playing together. Kanal, Young and Dumont had smiles on their faces in between jumps, spins and cymbal smashes. They gelled together immediately, probably because they’ve never been unglued. You could feel a sense of family and friendship between them, and that bond exuded throughout the performance. Also notable was Gabrial McNair on keys and sax—McNair’s been playing with No Doubt since 1993, so long-term followers, this reviewer included, were glad to see him.

And then there’s the once-make-uped frontman Havok, a guy who used to scream hardcore punk in the (very) early days of AFI. Comparatively, Havok is now a chameleon, or perhaps, an artist with a calculated visual direction, one who’s not afraid of change. Havok exceeded expectations with his ultra-flamboyant stage strutting, perfect for the music they were presenting. Adorned in a salmon-pink suit (with matching shirt, tie and shoes—so boss), Havok floated around the stage with style—in his vocals and mannerisms—oozing mystery and charisma. He’s a multi-faceted performer (obviously, fronting three projects simultaneously), and when matched with the skilled musicians of No Doubt, one can see the long-term potential of DREAMCAR.

With only one album, it’s no surprise that the band played every single song, along with two covers—David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and INXS’ “Don’t Change.” Also unsurprisingly, lead single “Kill For Candy” received the greatest accolades since fans have spent the most time with it. The set was a skintight 60 minutes, leaving a lasting blue-and-purple tinged impression upon a crowd that was left wanting more.

This stretch of the tour ends May 27 in Chicago, (Havok returns to AFI this summer in support of The Blood Album) but it feels like they’re just revving up. DREAMCAR will undoubtedly ride again.