Dark Tranquillity / Sentenced @ The Rave, Milwaukee

September 24th, 2002

The last time I was at The Rave/Eagle’s Ballrom was for the Metalfest in ’98, and it was a lot better-looking than I remembered. Unfortunately, I thought the sound was quite poor. Very echo-y, so it was almost impossible to make out vocals or hear guitar lines. Everything would get jumbled together. Maybe it was just me, although my brother felt the same way. We were right in the middle, about 8-10 rows back, although I moved up right near the front during “Punish My Heaven” and it sounded even worse.

I love Sentenced (all eras), but after seeing them twice now (first at Gods of Metal in Italy), I think their stuff just doesn’t translate that well live. I mean, I still really enjoyed their set, but not as much I normally would for a band I like so much. Ville doesn’t sound quite as good live as on record, Tenkula could have been standing offstage for all the action he showed, and the atmosphere just doesn’t seem to come through like it does on record. I don’t want to make it sound like they suck, since I’d still definitely go see them if they came around again, but I guess they just haven’t lived up to my expectations yet. Here was the setlist:

Konevitsan Kirkonkellot (tape intro)
Cross My Heart And Hope To Die
Sun Won’t Shine
Brief is the Light
The Suicider (first half, into…)
Excuse Me While I Kill Myself

Next, Dark Tranquility. I saw them at Gods of Metal a few years ago (coincidentally, they played right after Sentenced then as well). So I knew they kicked ass live. But it was so much better to see them close up.

Mikael Stanne is one of the best front men ever, just a skinny, happy ball of energy and charisma. It’s too bad he didn’t sing much clean stuff, because I love that. They played one song off Projector, but it’s the one without any clean vocals that just sounds like their new stuff anyway, so that was a little pointless. He sounded just fine doing the “heaven and heeee—eee—-eeeeelllllllll!!!” stuff in “Punish My Heaven”, so he doesn’t seem to lack the ability to do it live or anything.

But there’s a lot more to the band than Stanne…it’s a very well-balanced band. Not only do all the guys get in on the writing, they all get in on the performance too. I read that at some of the shows, Sentenced was following DT, but it was probably a good idea to change it around, because no matter how much you like Sentenced, it has to be hard to follow up a set like DT’s.

Again, the only problem I really had was the sound. When they were just laying down some of the heavy grooves of the new stuff, it was fine, but it’s almost useless to play something from The Gallery with sound like that.

Here was their set:

The Wonders at Your Feet
Treason Wall
White Noise/Black Silence
Punish My Heaven
Monochromatic Stains
The Sun Fired Blanks
Zodijackyl Light
Final Resistance

Made a quick exit back to Chicago after that. Wasn’t really interested in Killswitch Engage, and although In Flames would have been ok, I’ve seen ’em 4 or 5 times already, and they were playing basically the exact same setlist (except adding the new album and completely removing The Jester Race), so that wasn’t enough to keep us there on a Sunday night.

Brave / Aboliser @ Rube’s

September 24th, 2002

Friday night, went to see Brave at Rube’s in Harvey, IL, which is a restaurant/bar where they have a separate room cleared out in which bands can play. 4-inch high stage, dropped ceiling, and it kinda felt like you were seeing a band playing in someone’s basement at a college house party. So nothing fancy, but it was good enough to get the job done.

The opener was the local band Abolisher, who I really wanted to see after downloading some of their songs in preparation for the show. The band’s name doesn’t really fit their sound, IMO. I guess they’d probably be classified as “power metal”, but of the American variety like Iced Earth, Jag Panzer, or Nevermore, rather than the European variety. Meaning that much of the sound is based in their melodic, galloping riffs, and they aren’t happy-sounding at all. Unlike the aforementioned bands, they don’t have an operatic singer; the vocals are more of a somewhat rough thrash style. Not a lot of range, but effective, and the lead guitarist and bass player contributed some additional styles of vocal delivery from time to time. What makes them really cool are both the frequent, good-quality head-bangable riffs, and also their epic tendancies. They write some long songs, have some very good extended solos, and mix in some keyboard parts that bring to mind a band like Savatage. Unfortunately, the keyboard (apparently handled by the bass player) was in the shop, so they weren’t able to play what probably would have been some of their best songs. Still, the stuff they did play was great. I picked up a 4-track, 31 minute CD for $5, and am really enjoying it. Go to their website and download the 13-minute “A Stolen Season”, and you’ll understand why I was so interested in seeing these guys.

Then after a pretty good wait, Brave came on. Everything was pretty similar to the show in July, but since that show was excellent, that was perfectly fine with me. The setlist was pretty much the same as far as I could tell, except that they played “Bluer Skies” (which was cool because I really like that one) and did an encore of “Spirit” (from the EP) as a request from the crowd. Although the “stage” was low, it was big and wide, so the band had a lot more room to move around and were more animated this time (particularly in the singer and bass player positions). The violinist even walked out into the “crowd” for a solo. There were 50-60 people watching them, so that doubled or tripled the turnout at their last show here. I finally picked up the EP to round out my collection, and it’s really good; I can understand why it’s the only thing some people really like from them. I don’t agree, but it’s definitely different.


September 11th, 2002

Concertgoing is no longer what it used to be.

Not that I’d really know myself; I attended my first live rock concert in 1994 (Dream Theater), and although there are a lot more metal bands to see these days, the types of bands and the venues are pretty much the same. I’m certainly satisfied with the current state of affairs (and I think things have been on the upswing for the last several years), but I can recall some of the “old-timers” around here spinning their tales, telling of a day when things were different. A day when you could go out every weekend and see a good live band (that wasn’t just playing covers). When an unsigned local band could get a good following, and bands and fans would mix to create an integrated scene. When people would go out to see some bands they had never heard before, because it was a fun night out AND a good way to discover something new.

I think scenes like this started to decay as people became more averse to risk. This includes the club owners, booking agents, and the bands themselves. But most importantly, it includes the fans, the customers who drove the whole system. People became less willing to come out and spend money to see a band they’d never heard before, and then predictably, clubs became less willing to book bands that wouldn’t bring out the people. I imagine a combination of factors contributed to this decline in risk-tolerance, from a perceived decline in the quality of the acts, to a shift of interest to styles of music that don’t benefit from a live performance, and finally to an entertainment explosion that created all sorts of alternatives in the fight to win the consumer’s time and money. And once people stopped taking chances and stopped going out to see shows, the whole thing started to fall apart.

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