This is probably a one-time deal, but I thought I’d experiment with a review post as more of a digest in lieu of posting numerous times some very small reviews. I’m not sure how much I’ll like it, but there you go. Hell, I almost didn’t post any of these reviews because I felt they were lacking and even incoherent (not to mention this is the first time in almost 5 years I’ve reviewed anything). I was persuaded otherwise with gluten-free cookies and promises of sippy cups in lieu of my usual dirt bottles I suck.
I’m starting of with my reviews from September 13th, 2012 at the Granada in Lawrence, KS.
Stolen Babies is one of those acts that is best described as slightly unpredictable but entertaining. Their musical style contains some metal elements, some influence of hardcore (mostly in the focus on breakdowns and rhythm), hints of polka (both instrumentally and rhythmically), and goth lyrics tied together with zaniness and showiness of cabaret. Not every band can combine the following while utilizing the ensuing dissonance to their advantage. It’s unique, unusual, and pulled together cohesively without the fallbacks or the triteness found in those genres. The result is an interesting and intense sound reminiscent of a soundtrack from a Tim Burton film.
Despite a limited performance space, the band has an equally quirky stage act that filled what space was available. Some of the elements of the stage were utilized fully in the way instruments were hung (such as the bass drums on chains), and some of the storytelling elements conveyed throughout the songs and in between. Unfortunately, the band’s uniqueness wasn’t enough to engage the audience at first. As the set progressed with stronger elements of musical breakdowns, complex rhythmic structures, and thrash elements the audience warmed up and got into the spirit of the music.
This band’s performance is not without some of its issues. While it was resolved some of the lighting actually got distracting and sort of complicated watching it. I’m into the ambiance that lots of darkness adds, but not so much I feel as if the set’s in total darkness. There was also an issue with some of the sound. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the venue or not, but there was also some complications with the sound system where the bass overpowered everything but the drums. Sometimes this type of loudness works, but in this case it was a disservice since it overpowered the vocals at times. Since this was a common problem with every band that night I’m willing to cut some slack.
The overall performance is one which is memorable and fun. Stolen Babies provides something unique and quirky without compromising musical integrity. Sometimes the characteristics of the band proved a disservice at times but were easily resolved. The talent inherent in this band is immense and shows in their performance.
Brownie Points: 0.5
Paradise Lost has an interesting musical history, so much I wasn’t sure what to expect from a live show. What I should have tried to predict instead was how much the audience would contribute to the dynamic of the concert since they were an incredible driving force. That said, the band brought forth a powerful performance of their own with the sheer vigor of their music.
The vocals are strong enough to compliment anything from their more melodic songs to more raw songs filled with breakdowns, strong bass, melodic riffs, and blastbeats. Paradise Lost unapologetically display their versatility to perform songs that range from simplistic but powerful to raw and heavy. The nature of the vocals also reflected the mood of the song—be it entrancing melodies or pulsating rhythms—without sacrificing integrity. This enthusiasm was fueled by the band but kept strong with audience participation.
The audience loved them the moment Paradise Lost stepped onto the stage. There was a fervor for the band that lasted throughout the set while the band incited more audience participation. The band seemed to ask the audience to participate too often for my tastes, but no one else seemed to mind; the band’s performance didn’t seem to suffer for it either. If anything it seemed to keep the band’s enthusiasm going despite sound issues (everyone seemed to have sound issues at this venue that night, so I’m cutting everyone some slack). As with any experienced performer they rolled with the punches and knew what they were doing. This band knows which songs, attitudes, and moments will charge the crowd enough to keep the energy going throughout the set.
Brownie Points: 0.5
I thought Katatonia put on an impressive show. Between the music and the intensive stage production I’m still processing everything that happened in that set (and this happened well over a week ago. Thank god for notes!) This band brings to the stage intricate rhythms paired with melodic parts. It gets heavy, but adds a touch of progressive metal. One thing that really got me was how there some subtle nuances that stood out to me but added new layers to the songs. I found it incredible how those little details were often part of the transitions into something calmer and melodic, then back into the intensity. It happened almost effortlessly. The deep bass added to this combination that adds to the abrasiveness of their music.
When Katatonia delivers a show, they go all out. They supplied everything from fog and strobe lights to their own stamina. The only complaint I have was how the lights cut out at the end of several songs. Sometimes the effect provided the extra “oomph”, other times it felt a little contrived. Basically it was hit or miss. The audience didn’t seem to mind, and in fact seemed to multiply compared to the other acts playing that night; it was clear whom they wanted to see. Almost everyone loved what they saw and heard and that’s all that mattered.
Katatonia delivered an intricate style while maintaining a heavy sound. This sound reflected in their overall performance to bring something intense, complex, and at times intimidating. However, that last part is most likely because I’m a wuss. Beyond that I’m not sure how else to sum up this review save, “wow!”
Brownie Points: 0.5
My note: I seriously considered not posting this review for various reasons, including my strong bias in favor of Devin Townsend and scant note-taking. After various taunts from my peers and the promise of a sippy cup I’ve decided against my better judgment.
Devin Townsend brings to the stage an incredible virtuosity with musicians capable of complimenting his bravado and skill. He and the rest of the project knew how to flow with everything thrown at them from flubbed pitches (and the prevalent sound issues) to nailing songs with the necessary power and volume. There is one issue where I can’t tell if I fell under the power of suggestion with Devin Townsend’s banter or if he truly is tired of the song “Lucky Animals” because I felt like he just plodded through the vocals. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because that seemed to be the only thing truly lacking in that song. Despite a few blunders these guys nailed the set.
The entire performance delivers something on both a visual and auditory level. One clever way this is pulled off is by a screen projection of various graphics and animations, especially during the setup since it becomes a distraction and a way to excite the crowd. Later it’s another layer to the performance. The level of participation from the audience was phenomenal and one where Townsend used it to his advantage. He incorporated any heckling into his act, even if he used it as a statement of his artistic intentions; the audience loved him for it. What I loved probably more than anything was his willingness to take the harmony on some of his songs so the audience could sing the melody. I don’t know how common it is for musicians to do that, but it isn’t in my end of the woods. The audience enjoyed themselves, the project enjoyed themselves, and it was an overall great way to end the concert.
These guys put on a great performance, and I think I’ve repeated that fact every way I can. Yes, there were a few flubs here and there. Most of these flubs were handled well and sometimes even incorporated into the performance. The audience didn’t notice or care because they found a way to become as much a part of the performance as the musicians on stage.