The time Robbie Williams had to follow At The Drive-In

The time Robbie Williams had to follow At The Drive-In

The release of At The Drive-In’s album Relationship Of Command in 2000 was for me, and a lot of kids of my generation, nothing short of life-changing.

From the first time I heard the “bam-boom-boom-bap” intro to ‘One Armed Scissor’ as it blasted on the radio, I was glued to the car door stereo speaker for the next four minutes and 20 seconds, totally mesmerised by the explosions that were shooting into my ear and deep into my brain. What the fuck was this? How do I find more? How does this become a part of my life?

A few weeks later I was even more dazzled when I saw what the band looked like when they performed live on TV, catching them in a late night performance on Letterman. They were rock and roll personified – chaos, noise, destruction, acrobatics, dressed to the nines – it was terrifying, stupefying, totally ridiculous and the coolest thing I had ever seen. I was in love.

And although I’ll always have that Letterman performance seared into my brain, I’ve just stumbled across this gem of a clip that may very well be my favourite ATD-I performance ever.

It’s taken from an episode of Later With Jools Holland in 2000, and it features the band at their full afro, gear-smashing, drum-launching might, delivering a nuclear fallout performance of the aforementioned ‘One Armed Scissor.’ The guitars fall out of tune, the timing is way out, vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez  barely give a thought to maintaining the flow of the song (Zavala gives as much focus to a chair as he does the crowd, while Rodriguez Lopez launches his guitar into space 3/4 of the way through the performance and is just playing a tambourine by the end), but they throw themselves so unbelievably entirely into the show, it’s like they’re possessed. Somehow the other three members keep the song chugging along to completion, but only barely. And despite the walls crumbling in around them, the audience goes wild upon the final thundering drum beat.

What makes this clip truly special, however, is the fact that this all out rock assault proceeds a performance from pop “bad boy” Robbie Williams.

Williams looks utterly bemused as the camera swings across to him and the piano keys start chiming for him to sing another one of his soppy, love-sick show tunes. Although he makes a little gag about the fact that they’ve just destroyed the joint, you can tell by the exposed whites of his eyes that all he’s thinking is, “How the fuck do I follow that?”