In a fairly gutsy move, two songs into its set, Suicidal Tendencies performed its classic song, "Institutionalized," a tune of paranoia, societal oppression and mental illness. It was a different from the version on the album. The music was a little more jazzed up, and the lyrics were delivered in only a slightly different cadence to match the songs. With a rhythm section that includes Eric Moore on drums and the impressively skilled Tim Williams on bass, the pace and the dynamics seemed especially free-flowing. By playing its most iconic song early, Suicidal cracked that egg and got on with things.
The show got off the ground with the scathing anti-censorship song, "You Can't Bring Me Down." Right away, it was immediately apparent how well these guys play together and off one another. Sure, the punk and metal sounds and tightness were there, but the underlying sense that these guys jammed a lot together shined through.
Nico Santora kept the melody rhythm going, while Dean Pleasants ripped through leads that would make any guitar wizard proud, and even at one point, toward the end of "Possessed to Skate," he teased "Eruption" a bit as a solo, as well as a classical song or two. Frontman Mike Muir ran around the stage in typical fashion throughout the show as though he had a motor powering his palpable enthusiasm for the music.
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With a set list that drew from most of the band's recorded output, the group was clearly having fun, and the audience made no bones about its own enthusiasm for every song -- including cuts from the latest record, 13, with the particularly ferocious delivery of "Smash It!" and "Slam City."
One of the most interesting aspects of the show, though, was Muir's connective bits of rhetoric, poetry and spoken word performances that came between songs or at the beginning of songs. It was like he was a particularly poetic preacher and punk rock motivational speaker but filled with a moving sincerity.
Sure, he's said these words often in one form or another, but it still felt like it added another dimension to the show that transformed the meaning of the music from something that might be misinterpreted as nihilistic expressions of existential crisis into a distillation of life's bottom end intended as a signpost and an inspiration to alter one's perspective in a more productive direction.
The set ended with "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow," a song people had been clamoring for throughout the set. As that marked the thirteenth song in the set, it seemed unlikely that an encore would happen, but the band came back out and we were treated to what sounded like a moment of improv with Muir freestyling that had the feel of a well-executed, impromptu moment.
Keep reading for more on the opening acts, the setlist and a Critic's Notebook.
Earlier in the night, the show started with Wake the Dead, the new band from former Suicidal guitarist Mike Clark. It was pure southern California street punk/hardcore. Clark wore an outfit not unlike what he may have worn in his old band: a baseball cap with the brim up and a bandana on underneath. Clearly taking the name of the project from the Suicidal Tendencies song of the same name, the group performed that song, which Clark helped co-write, toward the end of the set with more than a few people in the audience singing along.
Madball proved to be vintage New York City hardcore circa the late 80s from which it originated. Freddy Cricien at some point in the show acknowledged bands like Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags and Sick of it All being pioneers of that era of hardcore without trying to include his own band as pioneers, and that was an interesting and classy distinction to make because probably most people into NYCHC would consider Madball one of the classic bands.
Cricien barked out clipped bursts of lyrics while the band backed him up on vocals during call and response sections of songs and played a hard-charging, aggressive, but syncopated music with a set that included "The Beast" and "Heavenhell." Cricien also had a handful of comic relief moments to cut the heaviness of some of the music:
First, during "The Beast," he got the band to start and stop suddenly mid-song and said, "This is as ignorant as it fucking gets." After a searing "Infiltrate The System," Cricien told us that bassist Hoya Roc, especially now being in Colorado, could outsmoke "Cypress Hill and any motherfucker."
Suicidal Tendencies Summit Music Hall - 4/14/13 Denver, CO
01. You Can't Bring Me Down 02. Institutionalized 03. Show Some Love...Tear It Down 04. War Inside My Head 05. Subliminal 06. Who's Afraid 07. Possessed to Skate 08. The Church of Suicidal 09. Slam City 10. Cyco Vision 11. I Saw Your Mommy 12. Smash It! 13. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow
14. Suicidal Tendencies closing jam
Personal Bias: I first became consciously aware of Suicidal Tendencies when the Resident Advisor in my dorm in 1988 played the Repo Man soundtrack regularly. I've been a fan ever since and haven't seen the band since September, 2000.
Random Detail: The pit was a mixture of old school hardcore getting your aggressions out and adventurists who seemed to think you're supposed to hurt other people or just be somewhat unmindful of others. Very strange.
By the Way: ST had a lot of options for shirts and other merch.
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