Monday, May 11, 2015
Kamelot with Dragonforce [Worcester Palladium, 5/1/2015]
Through a nefarious combination of work/on-call, study commitment, and slowly but surely turning into this dude, I had not really been to a show in a while, though not quite as long as it looks on here -- I was at Onslaught in November and Dark Tranquillity back in January, but both of those got boxed out as a result of delays around a writeup of Argentina/Uruguay that ended up not getting posted because I didn't do anything especially adventurous in the week I was there. I do go to shows now and again, or at least try to, and I'm not completely retired yet; this show though, in all honesty, does have kind of a refamiliarization-tutorial feel about it.
After slinging my work stuff in the trunk and heading straight out on the Pike, I got in (modulo the usual weekend traffic) right about doors, to boggle at a line-up that ran all the way down the block and around the club the next street over from the Centrum. These are kind of mass bands, and this gig was booked into the much larger downstairs, and on a Friday at that, but despite this it's still weird to come in from the outside (or up from the underground, whichever), and see how popular this kind of music remains. Yes, there were a lot of kids there, but the Palladium doesn't do concessions pricing; someone, at least, put up thirty bucks a head, minimum, to get them through the door.
Popular as it was, though, this wasn't a sellout, and I was easily able to buy in at the window and get through security with a minimum of hassle as the line of prepaids inched along the far side of the building. Once inside, I nabbed a beer with ease and went down a couple levels to wait out the lack of local openers. I can see the argument that most of the audience would not have been interested, and cynically must note that this tour was popular enough to reliably meet guarantees and other operating costs without resorting to p2p bullshit, but $30 and go up on day-of is a pretty big ticket, and there was easily enough latency for a single 30-minute set without disturbing either set times or prep times for the touring bands.
They acknowledged, midway through the set, that this building was the site of their first US gig (Metalfest 2006), and while it's certainly possible (and, indeed, wicked easy) to look at how little they've changed since then, it's also valid to acknowledge what has changed. Though the crowd here skewed younger, there were fewer prop weapons than you'd get on an average "pagan metal" gig these days, and also the persistent sense that these are all metal fans -- yes, young, green, and power-metal-liking metal fans, but metal fans nonetheless. The emos and posers who were into Dragonforce ironically ten years ago are no longer into Dragonforce ironically, and they're no longer prominent enough to profit from current waves of unserious pisstakers: against all indications from their early days, Dragonforce has become a for-serious actual metal band, playing metal for metal fans. Yes, it is frequently silly metal, and they're obviously having fun with it and not afraid to take the piss out of themselves, but it's done with professionalism and at a high execution level. There's not a whole lot of difference between Dragonforce on record in 2000 and in 2014, but Dragonforce playing live in 2015 is a hell of a lot more able to actually execute that material live than they were in, say, 2005, with a vocalist who can hit all his marks live and roadies who can keep Sam's guitars in tune for more than a song at a time. This was a fun set from a talented bunch of guys, and if you had to laugh at a couple points, at least you weren't wincing.
In the break I put down for the new record and some gear for overseas use, then got my order misheard at the bar and ended up with a much better Gansett at a negligible premium:
The basic pisslager from this brewery is pricing in at six bucks for a pint can here now, which is verging on outright robbery when they have the seasonals/collabs in stock for six-and-six-bits in the same size. Probably the best kept secret in New England beer is "Narragansett specials are actually worth the money you pay for them"; normal Gansett lager remains a perfectly functional Saufenbier, but at this long since the brewery revived and started putting out excellent limited variations, you've got to suspect that people are deliberately not informing others about it in order to hog more for themselves.
I've seen this band a couple times in the past, but never been terribly impressed or convinced; this was a better performance and a bigger set than any of those, but it still doesn't really turn the corner for me. I feel this way about Dream Theater and to a sightly lesser extent Symphony X as well; self-consciously progressive bands in this vein for whatever reason just don't hit the right notes, despite my well-documented insatiable appetite for any kind of brain-bent noise that comes with a blastbeat and gurgling vocals. This was a well-done and enjoyable, high-production values performance; those who came for Kamelot definitely got their money's worth, and those who were still in the building because hell, they paid already, why not got another set of proggy power metal that truthfully didn't lose a whole lot to the openers in the process of staying completely serious all the way through.
After a single encore, the lights went up on schedule (sure, it's a weekend night, but that doesn't change the audience's transportation-access options any...), and with a modest push I was able to get back home shortly after midnight. Work and other stuff will make the next six weeks a little complicated, but I should be able to skim the time for Saxon, if not Cryptopsy as well, before I have to go back on call again.