They’ve got legs: (l-r) Amy Lee (Evanescence)
and Jonathan Davis (Korn) rock the skirts.
Family Values Tour
Performing Arts Center, Aug. 7
Frankenstein’s-monster version of Korn slogged through
a patchwork set at SPAC on Tuesday night. Opening with “Here
to Stay,” the band seemed to be trying to reassure themselves
that they would make it through the song. With two of the
founding members MIA, this version of the band featured Clint
Lowery on guitar (he didn’t move much); Zach Baird (who pranced
annoyingly across a catwalk from time to time, toting an apparently
useless synth) on keyboards; Kalen Chase (who thrashed his
hair about and also annoyingly pranced without explanation)
on backing vocals and percussion; and Slipknot drummer Joey
Jordison, whose kitwork overwhelmed the simple beat structure
of most of Korn’s songs.
While most of Jonathan Davis’ lyrics are about being overwhelmed,
beaten down, molested, or hating oneself, tonight they seemed
especially poignant as the band came across as only half-alive,
fueled only by Davis’s desire to persevere (and make some
dough). During the dance-beats-and- distortion-propelled “Coming
Undone,” a set highlight that drove the crowd into contortions,
it seemed as though Davis might just walk off the stage, as
he had just summed up the band’s entire existence in one chorus.
Since their inception in the mid-’90s, Korn have desperately
tried to become more than the big, dumb rage that got them
into the spotlight. And while they were trying to evolve,
their gusto was stolen by thirdhand copycats like Limp Bizkit
and P.O.D. Linkin Park, Slipknot and Evanescence all mined
Korn’s basic formula and tarted it up with bells and whistles—Linkin
Park with boy-band appeal, Slipknot with metal chops (and
clown suits), and Evanescence with a talented singer and straightforward
Since then, Korn have tried to ape the things that made their
progeny successful. Rather than relying on the base savagery
and primal instinct that let them play the game, they repackage
themselves with each, evidently now yearly, release to fit
the latest metal trend. Thus, the newer material sounded awkward
and unnecessarily complicated. What Korn are good at is being
big and ugly; unfortunately, at SPAC the band had to filter
their intentional ugliness through a sound system that nearly
caved under the band’s weight. It made their newer material,
which thrives on its heavy-handed production, that much more
futile and decadent. But when the band finally laid into their
first album’s highlight track, “Faget,” even the distorted
audio couldn’t hold back the unfiltered rage that propels
the track. If Korn stop trying to make money, they may find
out they still have something left to say.
Evanescence seemed out of place in the sea of ugliness that
is the Family Values Tour. Singer Amy Lee probably could have
taken the stage alone with her piano and captivated the crowd,
as her voice simply devoured her backing band, antiquated
nü-metal posing and all. Lee’s work on the piano was the most
exciting and natural-sounding musicianship of all the headlining
Atreyu proved that they may be the least funny joke in the
music industry, with a set fueled by ’80s-metal bravado and
headbands, backed up by a stilted set of chops.
Between the Buried and Me
Hall, Aug. 5
Four songs into Between the Buried and Me’s set on Sunday
at Revolution Hall, I thought, “Between the Buried and Me
may very well be the best band in metal today.” But for some
reason, that seemed a little over-the-top.
As it turns out, that was an understatement.
Scene darlings the Red Chord had just finished their set with
a crowd-marshalling “Dreaming in Dog Years” that ended with
a pile of fans clamoring to reach the stage. The audience
But toothpick-sized BTBAM singer Tommy Rogers seemed oblivious
to the adrenaline-fueled crowd frothing with impatience at
his feet as his band performed an extended sound check. And
it didn’t seem the crowd was expecting much: Their initial
amusement came only from drummer Blake “Beef” Richardson’s
two kick drums, both emblazoned with the face of David Bowie
in his Labyrinth film role.
When Rogers, one of the most talented singers in metal today
(he sings, growls, screams and plays keys), finally acknowledged
the crowd, he thanked them for coming and told them the show
was over. Before a crowd that generally favors bands who look
as tough as the music they play (Rogers and his band look
like a group of RPI freshmen), his sarcasm could have been
Like a fight between Iron Maiden and Queen, the band slammed
into “All Bodies” from their breakthrough album Alaska.
Grinding and churning distortion filled the room as Rogers
viciously growled, “We are their property, we are their slaves,
we surround all bodies,” his hands shooting into the air and
the crowd surging forward like lepers looking for alms.
Rogers dropped the growl and channeled Freddie Mercury, singing,
“We are just mortal souls left to die.”
Think “We Are the Champions” played by Cannibal Corpse.
of Nothing,” a track from the band’s forthcoming release,
Colors, was 10 minutes of roiling prog-death-metal
with fist- pumping, operatic choruses, time changes, Pavement-inspired
indie-rock breaks, cascading keyboards, and even an apparently
polka-inspired breakdown. This song alone reinforced my earlier
theory that Between the Buried and Me are the best band in
metal today, if not one of the most important bands in any
genre. Like Radiohead circa OK Computer, they are in
their musical prime—they bat their muse around in fits of
ecstasy like a cat with a catnip-stuffed toy mouse.
The crowd united once again for the band’s largest “hit” to
date, “Selkies: the Endless Obsession,” a progged-out jam
graced with Rogers’ voice, which was almost overwhelmed by
the crowd’s sing-along. Rogers sang and played keys along
with lead guitarist Paul Waggoner, who pulled a virtuosic,
heart-melting solo from his instrument. The young men in the
front row of the pit, who minutes earlier had been throwing
punches, flipped open their cell phones to film them, like
preteens at an Usher concert.
It was an odd sight for any metal show.
When the band reemerged for an encore, the audience shouted
out a countless number of requests, to which Rogers announced,
“We will each play a part of one of our songs.” Guitarist
Dusty Waring fiddled with a rhythm line. Rogers played the
keyboard part from “Selkies.” Then Waring strummed the chords
of “Shine” by Collective Soul, clearly amusing Rogers, a smile
breaking through his normally stoic appearance. The crowd,
both amused and inspired, began singing the chorus, and the
band picked up the song until the whole building was singing
On Sunday night, if only for an hour, Between the Buried and
Me were the best band in the world.