Review: Korn at the Fillmore Auditorium, 2/28/12

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The most distracting element of any modern Korn concert is not the spectacle. It's not Fieldy's glow-in-the-dark bass or Jonathan Davis' epileptic writhing or the fact that, completely confident and decked in all black, the nu metal foursome looks like a pack of reggae mermaids. It's not the size of the turnout, which, if not sold out, must have been pretty damn close. It's not the dubstep pretensions breaking into and winking through half the songs on the setlist. No, the single most upsetting and validating aspect of the entire show is the oxygen tank Davis has smuggled in, stowed next to the drumset and continues to fervently inhale from.

Because as much as you want your rockstars infallible, you want even more to emulate them -- and at last night's fist-pumping, ear-ravaging Korn circus at the Fillmore, it was hard to breathe. Other than Davis himself, those of us who were struggling came from two distinct camps of Korndom: Die-hard lifers (easily distinguished by the lighters they packed for the encore and their massive merch collections, which they modeled in their entirety) and the dupstep drones (distinguishable by their lack of tattoos and their guttural groans when opener Kill the Noise had the audacity to cover a Skrillex song).

The mix is an impressive if loaded mouthful when applied to Korn's legacy, particularly when you consider why it's so easy for the guys to disappoint in 2012. Because it is. When Davis and company took to the stage, it was on-time and without pretension, a decision in direct contrast to most of the segues between songs, when the band had to be coaxed by applause between mysterious chords indistinguishable as either intros or outros. Davis and crew, dressed like either lovable pirates or mall-shopping Korn fans, wasted little time addressing the audience before launching into a setlist obviously organized to both sate appetites and fill seats.

After traveling through lesser-loved tracks such as "Lies" and "No Place to Hide," they barreled through the five requisite tracks from their December album, The Path of Totality. (Of the entire catalog, the night's most popular lyric had to be "Get Up!"'s "Shut the fuck up, get up!" For best results, drench yourself in sweat, lurk uncomfortably close to a crowd of strangers, and repeat ad nauseum.) "Chaos Lives In Everything," with its overwhelming nod to the genre Korn now insists it created, cued such bittersweet and sour overtones that one man, seated in a wheelchair in the balcony for most of the show, briefly stood up to freak out.

But it was at this point of the show, ten songs in, that roughly 80 percent of the crowd first heard any of the songs that they came for. Without the blinders of uberfandom, the setlist made sense: As Davis slithered across the stage and shouted new lyrics into his silver mike, decorated with a naked woman so that it looks like the world's largest and most PG-13 Oscar statue, the tension he emoted grew distinctly seductive.

Even as we waited to start caring, Davis covered the stage like a skinnier Axl Rose in baggier pants. Although it was unclear how much effort new drummer Ray Luzier put in across the band's hour-and-a-half set, his efforts were raised -- and dramatic -- on a platform over the stage. Just in case we neglected to mention it, Fieldy's bass strings glow, and they are played with the level of schizophrenic proficiency that is rabidly technical.

But after waiting through Kill the Noise, a cheesy if dedicated wubstepper who worked with Korn on Totality, the mystique of live Korn crumbled early, replaced instead by the realizations that only roughly half of this still works. While Davis' thrash vocals still cut the crap and the soundsphere with all the visceral alarm that they have always invoked, for example, his real singing voice is more settled-down than unsettling, a friendly knock-off distilled into crowd banter like "We want you to have an incredible fucking (cue thrash voice) NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHTT."

But because "Korn has been a band eighteen motherfucking years," and because they remind you of it by referring to themselves in the third person, and because both halves of the audience heard at least four songs that they wanted to, the show still ended as a dialed down-success. But the ridiculous nature of the affair, the mistake in melding two worlds, was clearest at the close. After navigating through a murky Pink Floyd cover ("Another Brick in the Wall"), Davis introduced the bagpipes for encore opener "Shoots and Ladders."

With lighters overhead, bagpipes in the air, textbook creepy light show up front, every last drop of beer was flung, spilled or chugged the second Davis shrieked "Are you ready?" When Korn ended the show, one song over a decent fifteen, the overall effect was that the guys had done what we paid them to. Because in the past few years, they've done what they wanted to -- claiming dubstep, reinventing it, embracing alter egos, repackaging their back catalog into a four-chapter concert textbook. In 2012, maybe the best way to see Korn is just to listen to the lyrics and "Shut the fuck up, get up!"

Before the main acts of the evening took the stage at the Fillmore, locals No 1 Left Standing started things off for an eager crowd of diehard Korn fans that had started lining up as early as 9 a.m., a queue that grew over the course of the day and stretched from the front gates of the Fillmore all the way down to 17th Avenue by the time doors opened at 6:30 p.m.

No 1 Left Standing took the stage not to long after doors just before 7:30 to a pre-recorded intro that played for a few minutes before the sextet broke into its first song. With only a twenty minutes, the band delivered a high energy set that whipped the by now almost full house into a frenzy. The already rowdy crowd was sent over the top by a tight rendition of "Bulls On Parade" by Rage Against the Machine, which stoked a swirling mosh pit in the center of the crowd, energy which would be tempered by what happened next.

Just when the crowd was ready for more, Belarde deceivingly told them that they had time for one more song. "One for all the haters out there," he declared. "Who hates someone really bad?" he asked. The crowd braced themselves to be taken to yet to another level and responded with a deafening roar. Then in one of the best ploys in recent memory, he informed the crowd, "We're not going to play that song. Come to the Summit Saturday Night, and we'll play it." And with that, the house lights came on. -- EG


Personal Bias: There was a period of the show last night at which I remembered P.O.D. existed. I'm convinced this cannot be a good thing.

By the Way: During Davis's jaunts for oxygen, he passed by a substantial mass of kids sequestered backstage. Does that make them Children of the Korn?

Random Detail: In Russian, the backwards R character is a "ya." This meant that during a trip to Siberia last year, new friends frequently asked me if I am a "Koyan" fan. Two weeks in, I finally got it.


Korn Fillmore Auditorium - 2/28/12 Denver, CO

01. "Predictable" 02. "Lies" 03. "No Place to Hide" 04. "Helmet in the Bush" 05. "Narcissistic Cannibal" 06. "Chaos Lives in Everything" 07. "My Wall" 08. "Get Up!" 09. "Way Too Far" 10. "Here To Stay" 11. "Freak On a Leash" 12. "Falling Away From Me" 13. "Another Brick in the Wall" (Pink Floyd cover)


14. "Shoots and Ladders" 15. "One" 16. "Blind"

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