Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pinback with Obits

Black Cat
Washington, DC
October 28, 2009

Obits, hailing from New York City, did the honors of warming up the crowd for Pinback on Wednesday night at the Black Cat. A quick glance at the merch booth gave me all the information I needed to perk my interest in the band as I discovered they’re on the Sub Pop label, who’s ever growing list of artists is legendary to say the least. While tuning his guitar, vocalist/guitarist Rick Froberg casually asked the crowd if anyone knew the score of the World Series before he and the rest of the band launched into their set. From then on, Obits, which also includes guitarist Sohrab Habibion, bassist Greg Simpson and drummer Scott Gursky, were all business.

Obits’ sound is like listening to a garage rock band with Dick Dale playing guitar. The blending of the surf guitar style with their noisy punk rock was both fun and original. The kids down front didn’t seem to mind that the guys in the band are more than likely hovering around their parent’s age, as they bobbed their heads along to songs from Obits’ recently released debut album "I Blame You". There were no gimmicks to be found here, even when Gursky used a maraca as a drumstick. This is no frills rock n’ roll my friends, the kind that’s easy to move to, even if you’ve never heard any of it before.

Pinback are one of those bands whose pop songs take root in your head and they’re just impossible to get them out. If you enjoy listening to their music, then you’d enjoy listening to them play live because they sound great. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much else to say about the Pinback live experience. The San Diego side project turned focus of Rob Crow and Armistead Burwell Smith IV (Zach) consists of four multi-instrumentalists and a drummer onstage and that’s about all you need to know. The guys swap out playing guitar, bass and keyboards (they literally have four keyboards onstage!) throughout the set and all of them provide vocals, although Rob and Zach handle the majority of the singing.

The set did have a bit of an art-house vibe to it as each song was accompanied by a homemade video, which was being broadcast on a screen behind the band. Of course it’s always fun too, to see how many beers Crow will consume throughout the course of one performance (I counted six tonight…not counting the one he was drinking while inconspicuously watching from among the crowd as Obits played). Make no mistake, I love Pinback and I’ll be back to see them again, but Rob is a shy front man and Zach doesn’t really do much to step up in that department either. With these guys, it’s all about whether or not you dig the music…and I certainly do!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Metallica with Lamb of God and Gojira

Time Warner Cable Arena
Charlotte, North Carolina
October 18th, 2009

The Music Binge was on the road again this week, this time coming at you from Charlotte, NC. I was visiting a buddy in the Queen City who managed to score some amazing seats for the Metallica big thanks to him! But before I get ahead of myself, Metallica had a couple of heavy hitters lined up to play in front of them, so let's get on with it.

This was my second Gojira experience and I have to say, I've been impressed each time that I've seen them. These Frenchmen play a brand of poly-rhythmic metal with lots of stops and starts, much like Meshuggah. Heavier than a loaded cement truck, Gojira took their best shot at caving in the relatively new ceiling of the Time Warner Cable Arena.

Vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier, guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie did a great job of rotating around the massive "in the round" stage that had been set up in the center of the building's floor. With microphones set at all four sides and all four corners of the stage, the three bandmembers made sure to give each side of the late arriving crowd plenty of attention. All the while, drummer (and Joe's brother) Mario Duplantier sat center stage, pounding out the rhythms that were the backbone of Gojira's onslaught.

It was obvious that this was a special show for the guys in Gojira when Joe Duplantier informed the crowd that this was their last date on the Metallica tour. As if to commemorate the occasion, Randy Blythe from Lamb of God came storming onto the stage to lay down some impressive vocals alongside Duplantier. Gojira's vocalist showed his appreciation for being given such a prestigious opening slot by thanking each member of the legendary headliners individually. The crowd, which had filled in as the band worked their way through their half hour set, roared in approval when Duplantier announced that this was Gojira's first time playing in North Carolina. By the sound of it, you'll be welcomed back anytime Joe!

Lamb of God
As Gojira's equipment was removed, four carpets were laid down on the stage with Lamb of God's logo emblazened on them (no doubt to soak up the massive quantities of water that Randy Blythe would soon be dousing over his head) and the drumset that sat on a massive riser in the corner of the stage was unveiled. The biggest band of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal was up next and you could feel the anticipation in the air. When the lights went down, the boys from Richmond, Virginia hijacked the stage for 45 minutes of pure aural brutality.

I have to give it to Metallica, you must feel pretty comfortable with your ability as a live act to willingly follow a band like Lamb of God each night. Rolling through bludgeoning cuts like "Redneck", "Ruin" and "Black Label", the band simultaneously impressed and scared the shit out of the Charlotte crowd, who were primarily there to see Metallica and Metallica only. Unlike the guys in Gojira, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler and bassist John Campbell were content to stand their ground on the stage focusing solely on the music, leaving the aforementioned Blythe to rotate around, spitting and spewing his venom all over the audience. All the while, drummer Chris Adler sat atop that huge drum riser, pounding the skins and showing off his impressive, chest-long goatee.

The highlight of the set had to be when Blythe reminded those in attendance that there are some of us who couldn't be here tonight because they're in a shitty place, doing a shitty job so that all of us could be here. He was of course referring to the United States Armed Forces as he dedicated "Now You've Got Something To Die For" to the members of the U.S. military. As if to punctuate the dedication, someone in the crowd held up a U.S. Marine Corps flag to which Randy pointed, all the while nodding in approval.

Like Gojira's vocalist earlier, Randy took time out during his band's set to thank Metallica for the opportunity to play on their tour. He also mentioned that the headliners paved the way for bands like Lamb of God. Listening to some of their more recent albums, it's hard to believe, but Blythe is right and it was a nice gesture for him to admit it. With that said, Lamb of God's set was proof that Metallica fans and metal fans are not one and the same. The crowd seemed shell-shocked by the harsh vocal style and non-stop abrasive attack of the band. Not this reviewer, I was left wondering if Metallica had a chance of living up to the two amazing openers they'd pegged for their own tour.

Now let me start out by saying that I'm no stranger to seeing Metallica live, so this wasn't a new experience for me. And quite frankly, I've had a sort of love/hate relationship with this band since their "Load" and "Re-Load" days of the late 90's. I realize that a lot of hard core fans think that Metallica died with the release of the "Black Album" and an even more hard core contingent actually think they died with the release of "...And Justice For All" (and to a greater extent with the release of the video for the song "One" off of that album).

Well I disagree with both factions and happen to like both of those albums (as a matter of fact, Justice is tied with "Master of Puppets" as my favorite Metallica album). However, I just couldn't get past the blatant change in both musical style and image that accompanied the Load/Re-Load era. So with all of that being said, I've ironically always had a problem with the fact that Metallica themselves tend to primarily focus their live performances on older songs (from Justice, Puppets, "Ride the Lightning" and "Kill Em All"), neglecting their newer material and ultimately (at least in my mind) admitting that they're days of making quality music are behind them.

So tonight, I fully anticipated more of the same from the Bay Area thrashers when they proceeded to take the stage to an impressive array of laser lights and promptly roll through two songs off their latest release, "Death Magnetic". I couldn't believe my ears! Then, three songs later when I heard the familiar machine gun fire that opens "One", I was shocked that the band's usual encore song was being played so early in the set. This wasn't the same old Metallica set at all!

Now let me get back to that love/hate thing. The poor guys in Metallica...they really need no introduction, but here it goes anyway; James Hetfield (vocals/guitar), Kirk Hammet (guitars), Lars Ulrich (drums) and new guy Robert Trujillo (bass)...just can't win with me. All of a sudden I'm hearing these newer songs, which obviously proves that the band stands firm behind their latest opus, and I'm feeling disappointed! Here they are doing the exact thing that I typically accuse them of not doing, and I'm wishing for those old Metallica sets that shun the new stuff so that all us old school types can hear the songs we grew up I tell ya.

Make no mistake though, my disappointment was short lived. If you haven't experienced Metallica live, let it be known they are a consistently tight, accurate and precise beast...they do not miss a beat. And they are LOUD. The band either does not give their openers the same amount of juice, or the openers just don't have the sheer amount of equipment as the headliners, because the increase in volume was immediately ears were ringing! Metallica sounded soooo heavy during "Sad But True", I had to grab the railing in front of me to stabilize myself.

With all the requisite pyrotechnics, lighting rigs in the shape of coffins and a rotating drum set, Metallica were prepared to deliver a true rock show. Sprinkling in a couple of lengthy guitar solos by virtuoso Kirk Hammet, the band played a set heavy off their latest album "Death Magnetic" with favorites spanning their entire career making appearances throughout. Interestingly enough, the only albums omitted from tonight's set were Load, Re-Load and St. Anger...the three most criticized albums by longtime fans. Even two songs from the "Garage Days" cover album (Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" and Motorhead's "Too Late, Too Late") made the list!

By the end of the evening, when James Hetfield asked his audience if they'd enjoyed their night with Metallica, the resulting screams and cheers sounded like a resounding yes. It's obvious that these guys have cemented their place atop the metal heap for as long as they choose to stick around. Whether you love em or hate em...or maybe even a little bit of both, Metallica can still get you out of your seat with horns in the air. So when Hetfield led the crowd into the familiar chant along song "Seek and Destroy", there wasn't a vocal chord in the building that wasn't straining to join in...and I did my best to be the loudest. God I love these guys...until their next album.

Set List:
That Was Just Your Life
The End of the Line
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Four Horsemen
Broken, Beat & Scarred
Sad But True
Turn the Page
The Judas Kiss
Guitar Solo #1 (Kirk Hammet)
The Day That Never Comes
Master of Puppets
Fight Fire With Fire
Guitar Solo #2 (Kirk Hammet)
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

Too Late Too Late
Phantom Lord
Seek and Destroy

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures with Mini Mansions

9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.
October 14th, 2009

I'm not going to waste a lot of time talking about tonight's opener from Los Angeles, because this show was all about the headliner. To be honest, I spent the majority of the time Mini Mansions were playing trying to figure out how in the hell they managed to land this gig. The band is made up of three multi-instrumentalists, featuring Michael Shuman on drums (he plays them standing up) and guitar, Tyler Parkford on keyboard and guitar and Zach Dawes on bass and keyboards...all provide vocals. The band throws a lot of Beatles-esque harmonizing into their power-pop sound, which can be interesting at times. The highlight of the set was the tricked out version of Blondie's "Heart of Glass", which doesn't say a whole lot about the band's original songs. The crowd was subdued and frankly seemed bored when the openers were onstage. With very little crowd interaction and a somewhat bland sound, Mini Mansions wasted their opportunity to play in front of a sold out 9:30 Club crowd.

Them Crooked Vultures
If you haven't heard about this super-group, featuring Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Kyuss) on vocals and guitar, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) on bass and keyboard and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Probot, Nirvana) on drums, then shame on you. I've been to plenty of sold out shows at the 9:30 Club, but this one seemed extra sold out. The place was packed from wall to wall on the floor and in the balcony, with everyone craning their necks to see the slice of rock n' roll history that was about to take the stage.

In all the concerts I've been to, I have never before seen anything quite like this. Nobody in the room had a clue what they were about to hear because Them Crooked Vultures hasn't released any material to date. There would be no singing along tonight, no song requests shouted from the audience and no air guitaring to that familiar riff that everyone knows and loves. No, the people in attendance tonight were there because three of the most amazing rock musicians alive have decided to get together and try something new. They could have walked onstage and sang Christmas carols acapella and this crowd would have been in awe.

Fortunately, that's not what happened. When Grohl walked onstage, waved to the crowd and then took his seat behind the heavily sand bagged drum kit (yes folks, he hits them that freaking hard), the place exploded with excitement. Homme, Jones and rhythm guitarist Alain Johannes were right on his heels and the fun was about to begin. Grohl started with a nice, steady beat that got everyone's heads nodding and then...BOOM...he took off on a fast and furious rampage and the rest of the band dropped in right on time.

Grohl and Jones seemed content to take a backseat and allow Homme to play the role of band leader as neither said a word all night. About midway through the set, the frontman took a timeout to introduce the band. Of course, when Joshua said "ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dave Grohl" the place erupted, to which he remarked "I know, I love him too". There was no louder applause all night however, than when Homme simply looked to his right and said "John Paul Jones". Not to be forgotten though, the singer very appropriately introduced himself by saying "and I'm your host, I'm Joshua...I think I've slept on most of your floors"...hahaha...this guy never fails to make me laugh.

If you're wondering what Them Crooked Vultures sound like, I'd have to say its a very heavy version of alternative rock. The band sounded amazing, playing songs like "Scumbag Blues", "Gunman" and "Mind Eraser, No Chaser" off their forthcoming album. Given the fact that Homme's vocal style is so unique, it's hard not to draw comparisons to Queens of the Stone Age. Grohl's hard hitting style carries the music to a different level however, discarding the laid back feel of Homme's other band. Although, during one particular cabaret-like number, Joshua removed his guitar, lit up a cigarette and strutted around the stage like a member of the Rat Pack...very cool (on a side note, Jones played a key-tar during that song!). And then of course there's John Paul Jones, who is like the father figure watching over the boys and keeping them in check. His rhythm on the bass and keyboards is the foundation for this heavy, groovy rock. I can't wait to hear the album!

It was obvious that the entire band was having a blast onstage, but Homme wanted to make sure they weren't the only ones enjoying themselves. At one point in the show, he asked "you guys having a good time?...I can't really tell...I am...I'm having a great time...I love being in this band." The crowds overwhelming reaction told Joshua all he needed to know, that indeed we were having a good time. Later in the set, he sympathized with the fact that none of us actually knew any of the songs, saying "it's a lot of new music...kinda confusing...kinda exciting too though, right?". He hit the nail on the head with that one, exciting is the word that best described this experience. I think I can probably speak for just about everyone else in attendance when I say that tonight, I felt like I witnessed something truly special. Whether this band is just a one off project or a full time gig, seeing Joshua Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl onstage together is an image, and more importantly a sound, that I won't forget. Amazing!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Bravery with The Dustys and U.S. Royalty

9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.
October 11th, 2009

U.S. Royalty
Locals U.S. Royalty opened the show tonight at the 9:30 Club by happenstance. When The Bravery rolled into town, they were supposed to be accompanied by alt-rock up and comers Living Things, but unfortunately that band had their van and all of their equipment stolen the previous night in New Jersey. Like the old proverb says, one band's misfortune is another band's gain...or something like that. Regardless, U.S. Royalty, who happen to be old friends with some of the guys in The Bravery, were asked to fill in at the last minute. The band was actually playing a block party in Dupont Circle (a neighborhood in D.C. for those out of towners who may be reading this) earlier in the day when they got the call from The Bravery.

The band had an old school rock n' roll vibe with just a little Southern rock thrown in for good measure...kind of like if the Rolling Stones and the Black Crowes got together for a jam session. As a matter of fact, singer John Thornley bears a striking resemblance to the Crowes Chris Robinson and his dance moves onstage are eerily similar to those of Mick Jagger. The singer kept himself busy throughout the set, at times playing a harmonica, a tambourine and a maraca. The remaining members of the band include Thornley's brother and Boy George look-alike Paul Thornley on guitar, Jacob Michael on bass and Luke Adams behind the drum kit. Despite the late notice, U.S. Royalty were a hit with the crowd and a perfect compliment to the dance rock of tonight's headliner.

The Dustys
The same cannot be said for The Dustys from Arlington, Virginia, who were actually billed to play in U.S. Royalty's slot. With the late cancellation of Living Things, The Dustys got bumped up in the lineup to play in front of the headliner, a slot they seemed ill-prepared to fill. With very little stage presence and a bland garage-rock sound, the band fell flat and frankly seemed out of their element. The vocalist/guitarist had very little to say to the crowd, deferring to the keyboardist, who had even less to say (but at least he tried). I'm pretty sure at one point in the show he actually talked about the hat that he was wearing, letting us all know that he got it in Tulsa...huh? Forgettable.

The Bravery
New York City new wave purveyors The Bravery came out to the familiar riff of their hit "Unconditional". Awash in a sea of lights with a movie screen background, the band rolled through songs from both of their albums, as well as music from their forthcoming release "Stir the Blood". As a matter of fact, frontman Sam Endicott informed the crowd early in the show..."we're gonna play some new shit, we're gonna play some old shit, we're gonna play some middle shit". And that's exactly what they did.

John Conway's keyboards were the focal point of The Bravery's sound, at times nearly drowning out Endicott's vocals. That being said, when the band was on, they sounded brilliant. When the singer introduced "Time Won't Let Me Go" by dedicating it to Pony Boy and Soda Pop (if you don't get it, then please stop reading this and go read The Outsiders), the crowd erupted and the band fed off their energy.

Rounded out by guitarist Michael Zakarin, bassist Mike Hindert and drummer Anthony Burulcich, The Bravery were fun, but like their supporting acts, perhaps not all that memorable. Aside from the hits, especially "Honest Mistake" which sounded amazing, the rest of the show seemed like a blur of keyboards and lights. When Endicott said "it's good to be back, this is the city I was born in", the crowd seemed ready to welcome him. Only time will tell if they'll still be there when he returns.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Flames with Between the Buried and Me, 3 Inches of Blood and The Faceless

9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.
October 5th, 2009

If you had told me a couple of months ago when I started writing this blog, that it wouldn’t be until show #10 that I did a review from the legendary 9:30 Club, I would have called you a liar. You see, of all the venues in the D.C. area, and quite frankly in the country (I can’t speak for venues outside of the States…yet), the 9:30 Club is far and away my favorite. The place is truly a concert goers dream. It feels big, yet it’s actually quite small (capacity is approximately 1,000). The main level of the place is a large open space (perfect for the swirling mosh pits that open up from time to time) with two bars on either side and an additional window for ordering food (which is surprisingly quite good…and healthy too!). In addition, there is a two tiered balcony that encompasses the entire venue, so you can watch the show from any vantage point you like (i.e. looking straight on at the stage, or from the left or right of the stage). On the second tier of the balcony (all the way at the top) is a third bar. Finally, for those who want to get away from the action altogether (and perhaps have a drink with one of the band members) there is a fourth bar in the secluded basement, where there isn’t any view of the stage. I’m writing this description because my next few reviews, and probably quite a few more over the course of this project, are all from the 9:30 Club…as always, enjoy!

The Faceless
The first band of the night was a 5 piece death metal outfit from Encino, California, playing in D.C. for the first time. Quite honestly, I knew it wasn’t my thing as soon as vocalist Derek Rydquist opened his mouth and let out the first of what seemed like a never-ending stream of growls. It sounded as though Oscar the Grouch had taken over the mic at the 9:30 Club. The one saving grace for The Faceless was guitarist Michael Keene, whose classical style of playing was evident, especially during his solos. Unfortunately, aside from his solos, Keene was drowned out by the bludgeoning rhythm section (and I use the word rhythm loosely) of guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Brandon Giffin and drummer Lyle Cooper (who wore the band’s influences literally on his sleeve, by sporting a Nile t-shirt). Rydquist almost seemed bored as he addressed the crowd, and as far as I’m concerned, the feeling was mutual.

3 Inches of Blood
This was my second opportunity to see 3 Inches of Blood, having caught them on the second stage of Ozzfest a few years ago. Lumped in with a dozen other metal acts in a festival setting, I don’t remember being all that impressed. Tonight however, the boys from Vancouver completely won me over.

If you aren’t familiar with 3 Inches of Blood, they are a throwback to the time when good old fashioned thrash was all the rage. As soon as they hit the stage, I felt like I’d been time-warped back to the late 80’s. The chugging guitars, double bass and glass shattering, high pitched vocals were in a word…awesome! When vocalist Cam Pipes (has there ever been a more appropriate name for a metal singer?) screamed "Unleash Hell!", I knew I was in a for a pummeling.

Pipes is a vocalist that could bring a tear to Rob Halford's eye...seriously. Looking like he rode in with a group of Hell's Angels, he and guitarist/co-vocalist Justin Hagberg stormed through a set of Dungeons & Dragons themed music, with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks. These guys definitely do not take themselves too seriously. As a matter of fact, when Cam screamed "gee-tar" mid-song, right before Hagberg launched into a solo, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or bang my head unmercifully.

3 Inches of Blood, who are rounded out by guitarist Shane Clark, bassist Steve Erickson and drummer Ash Pearson, are about the most fun you can have watching a metal band. When they announced "we've got one more for ya DC...this is your last chance...kick your buddy in the balls!”, I decided that laughing and banging my head simultaneously was a perfectly acceptable option.

Between the Buried and Me
Spaz-core juggernaut Between the Buried and Me were up next and I'll say up front that these guys were the surprise of the night for me. Like 3 Inches of Blood, I had seen Between the Buried and Me on the second stage of Ozzfest a few years ago and found their set to be annoying at best. In this setting, their complex sound was easier to discern and the results were astounding.

There's a lot going on here folks, this stuff is not easily digestible. But if you can learn to appreciate expand your musical palate so to speak, the end result is a truly remarkable experience. For lack of a better description, I'll say that Between the Buried and Me sound like a mash up of progressive metal and jazz. They sound like Meshuggah mixed with Rush with a sprinkle of John Coltrane. Interested yet?

The five piece from Raleigh, North Carolina sounded downright epic when they launched into "Selkies: The Endless Obsession". Tommy Rogers alternately sang/snarled over his etheral sounding keyboards, while guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring somehow managed to stay on track even though at times it seemed they were playing two completely different songs. I have to reiterate, this is some complicated shit! How bass player Dan Briggs and drummer Blake Richardson managed to keep up is beyond me.

It was evident that not everyone in the crowd "got it" though, as someone yelled "you suck!" at one point during a break in the action due to some technical difficulties. The always clever metal crowd was ready with an answer though, as another fan screamed "fight him with a battle axe!", to which Rogers answered "I would if I could see who said it"...ahh metal heads, gotta love em'.

By the end of the set, Between the Buried and Me had won over the majority of those in attendance. Rogers thanked the crowd for checking out his band and then went on to mention that he'd always wanted to play the "legendary 9:30 Club...I mean fucking Bad Brains played here...shit". When he announced "White Walls" as their last song of the evening, the crowd let out a collective moan of disappointment. The vocalist reassured them though, by reminding them that "it's a long one". And long it was as the band didn't actually finish their set for another 15 minutes. I have to say, I was sorry to see it end.

In Flames
Before headliners In Flames even made an appearance, you knew it was their show just by the shear amount of equipment packed onto the stage. The drum set perched high up on its riser, the walls of amplifiers and the impressive lighting rigs would have looked at home in an arena, much less a club. As the house lights dimmed, the legendary Gothenburg, Sweden five piece took the stage to a roar of approval from the D.C. crowd.

With founding guitar player Jesper Stromblad sidelined for this tour due to personal issues, the rest of In Flames, vocalist Anders Friden, guitarist Bjorn Gelotte, bassist Peter Iwers and drummer Daniel Svensson made it their goal of the night to initiate fill-in guitarist Niclas Engelin by hazing him constantly. During an early break in the action due to yet another technical difficulty (unfortunately involving Engelin's guitar), Anders looked across the stage at the new guy and jokingly said "you're this close to being fired". He then proceeded to make the poor guitarist do his best Scorpions pose, which Engelin pulled off perfectly, nearly doing the splits on stage...hilarious!

As for the music, In Flames seemed like they were out to prove something to their longtime fans. You see, this is a band who has taken a lot of heat recently for focusing their more recent live performances on newer material and neglecting to play songs from their older albums. That wasn't the case tonight, as the set list included songs that spanned the last seven albums of the In Flames catalog, going all the way back to 1997's "Whoracle" and including everything up to their most recent album, 2008's "A Sense of Purpose" (only their first two albums, "Lunar Strain" (1994) and "The Jester Race" (1995) were omitted).

Anders seemed in rare form tonight, going out of his way to make sure the crowd participated. At one point in the show he leaned down to the front row and actually handed the microphone to an unsuspecting fan, allowing him to handle the vocal duties. And then a few songs later, as if to outdo himself, Anders actually invited a fan onstage, gave the kid his microphone and then left him alone out there. The young fan stood there at first, a little dumbfounded as to what he should do next. But as the rest of In Flames tore into "Square Nothing", he realized what Anders was asking him to do and he laid down the vocals for the entire song, all the while banging his long-haired head and encouraging the rest of the crowd to sing along. During the guitar solo, Anders reappeared, handed the would-be singer a beer and then proceeded to leave the stage yet again. It was an unbelievable sight, watching this random kid take over vocals for one of the most influential melodic death metal bands of all time. When the song was finished, the new vocalist got a rousing ovation from the crowd and Anders bowed to him onstage, saying “maybe I should think about retiring”…very cool indeed.

Later during the show, Anders pulled yet another fan onstage, this time a girl who was shooting pictures of the band. He explained that she’d get a better angle from onstage and insisted that she share her videos with everyone else on YouTube. The girl seemed to have a blast dancing around, snapping pictures and taking video as the band played on. Before she left the stage, Anders gave the lucky fan a chance to say something to the crowd and the girl responded with her best attempt at a death metal growl, to which the vocalist replied “that was some real Arch Enemy shit right there”, referring to another Swedish band’s female vocalist Angela Gossow. This set was full of some truly clever and funny ad lib by Friden.

Unfortunately however, things weren't all smiles between the band and their audience. After jokingly asking the crowd "which side of the balcony is the old timers section?", a heckler fired something back that clearly struck a chord with the vocalist. Anders stopped the show long enough to address the culprit, even inviting him to come onstage and take over the mic if he thought he could do better. Once the short delay was over, In Flames wasted no time picking up right where they'd left off, but it was evident that the incident had gotten under Friden's skin as he continuously glared back up at the balcony throughout the rest of the show.

Whatever the complaint may have been, it was lost on me as I was in my own little heavy metal heaven watching In Flames tonight. When two of the 3 Inches of Blood guys came storming across the stage and dove head first into the crowd towards the end of the show, you couldn't help but throw the horns in the air. Anders mentioned that this would be the last time we'd be seeing In Flames for quite awhile since they'd be heading back to Sweden after this tour to record a new album. Let's just hope we don't have to wait too long.

Set List
Cloud Connected
Embody the Invisible
Pinball Map
Delight and Angers
Square Nothing
The Hive
Come Clarity
The Mirror's Truth
The Quiet Place
Take This Life
My Sweet Shadow