I went to see multi-national bill of Dimmu Borgir, Nevermore, Children of Bodom, and Hypocrisy on Sunday at the House of Blues. It must be difficult for some to see that four mighty Swedes have to play first, ahead of some Finnish children, some fat Americans, and worst of all, a gang of ugly Norwegians! But overall it was quite an evenly matched show.
My warmup for the show was going to see Ween play for nearly three hours the night before at a sold-out show being filmed for their DVD. Luckily Ween shows are pretty tame, so I didn’t get too worn out there.
I figured the Dimmu show would sell out too (it did), so I bought my ticket a couple days in advance, to be picked up at the will call window. Doors were set to open at 5:45, with the show beginning at 6:15, so I went inside the venue to pick up my ticket a little before 6:00. However, I still had to go back OUTside, to get in the entry line. And this was a LINE. It literally stretched around the building, south down Dearborn, and completely across the Chicago River. At least it’s a pretty cool place to stand in line, looking down the river from the bridge at portions of the lit-up skyline. At one point a couple of kayakers passed beneath us, quite an unexpected sight on a dark evening with temperatures in the 30s. Of course they received their fair share of cheers and jeers.
It seemed like the doors opened about on time, and the HoB staff was operating efficiently, but it simply takes more than half an hour to get 1000 people into the venue. So by the time I got in, the place was nearly full, and Hypocrisy was playing their second to last song. Which kinda sucked, but at least their last song was “Roswell 47”, which of course is the song to see if you’re just going to see one. The crowd was pretty tame, but a “Hypocrisy!” chant did go up when they finished, so maybe they weren’t too old-school for all the kiddies on hand as I thought they’d be.
While the curtain was closed when Children of Bodom was setting up, someone played a couple of keyboard sounds to make sure it was plugged in. And a huge cheer went up. What a sad state the metal world has fallen to, when everyone gets excited by gay-ass keyboards! And this is an “extreme” metal show too! Anyway, they got going in short order. Yep, Alexi does look like Avril Lavigne. The keyboard player did something I’m surprised I’ve never seen some prog-metal keyboard-wanker-showoff do: he had his whole keyboard tipped downwards, facing the audience, so we could all see what an ivory-tickling badass he was. Ooh! At first I thought he was a new keyboard player, since he wasn’t the little kid that was playing with them when I saw them at the Milwaukee Metalfest in 2000. But I guess he just grew up. I had been standing about in the middle of the floor, but as soon as CoB started, the crowd surged forward, and I was pretty much right in the middle of the crush, about six rows back, for the rest of the night. CoB played about half an hour (like Hypocrisy), and gay as they are, they’re a fun band. Excellent sound too.
When Nevermore started up, the crowd was fairly motionless for “Narcosynthesis”. But then as Warrel Dane always does, he encouraged the pit to start up again for “Seven Tongues of God”, and it basically didn’t stop after that for the rest of the night. I was pretty well-isolated from it though, since there were still a couple more rows of the crush squeezing me in from behind. Nevermore seemed to focus on mostly more brutal stuff; I dunno if they were trying to compete with the other bands there, but that was kinda unnecessary since they would have been the heaviest band no matter what they played. And a bit more melody would have satisfied the CoB-fanboys more anyway. Their churning-thrash sound was a lot more muddled than CoB, but about normal for Nevermore. I’d say the Warrel Drunk-o-Meter was only at about 3 or so, and while his vocals weren’t the greatest, at least they weren’t embarrassing either. Looking at him I was reminded that he ain’t no spring-chicken anymore. They played about 35 minutes.
While waiting for Dimmu, the crowd was still surging around all over the place; I even heard a girl near me mention that she was getting seasick. Finally, Dimmu’s light show intro began, with a bunch of swirling backlights that were actually pretty cool, mostly because they managed to keep from blinding the crowd as such lights usually do. With the drums and keyboards being set up on opposite sides of the stage, there was a sort of pyramid of lights in the middle. Sometimes they’d light up Galder’s bald head, and the light would shine through his ears, making them bright red while the rest of his head kept the white-corpsepaint look. Quite stylish! Costco must have had a deal on knee-high spiked boots, because all four guys up front were wearing identical pairs. And perhaps they had a “Buy four, get a free codpiece!” promotion too, and Shagrath got to wear that. About halfway through he stripped off his leather jacket, and then for the encore he was bare-chested, presumably so he could show off the tattoo across his stomach, much like Tupac’s “Thug Life” tattoo. Except Shagrath’s said “Shagrath”. Ha! I guess it’s so he never forgets. Oh, and the music? It was excellent as usual. Dimmu Borgir really has to be one of the best “metal” bands out there, they’re heavy, intense, melodic, complex, rocking, epic, and fun to watch. Pretty much the whole package. They played about 90 minutes. Though if they didn’t have to hurry to come back and finish up their encore before curfew, I’m not sure if they would have come back, since the crowd was really pretty quiet (as it had been the whole night). Everyone was certainly into it, and there were plenty of people, so maybe it’s just part of the extreme-metal ethic or something to not make too much noise. Anyway, it was still a great show all around.