Kerrang Relentless! Tour

support Mindless Self Indulgence + Dir En Grey + Bring Me The Horizon + Black Tide + In Case Of Fire
author AP date 18/01/09 venue Guildhall, Southampton, UK

I'm developing a habit out of last-minute gigs at the Guildhall in Southampton. Maybe it's that the venue is hardly suitable for rock concerts, what with its disappointing acoustics and fancy carpet floor; maybe it's that no concert there has ever had me particularly intrigued, either because it's some cash-grabbing corporate rock band and buying a ticket would require a week's worth of fasting, or simply because it's a band I've never heard, heard of, or paid particular attention to; or maybe it's superstition - because the gigs I see there have a habit of being excellent. Maybe buying a ticket in advance would have me expect the unexpected rather than experience it. I wouldn't want to jinx it.

That rant aside, the decision to head over to the Guildhall to see the 2009 Kerrang Relentless! Tour can barely be described as last-minute: it's beyond last-minute. I arrive at the venue just in time to catch Black Tide rounding off their set with a song that has me cursing for not having arrived earlier. Young as they may be, these dudes are tight as fuck with their metal-infused rock n' roll. If this one song is anything to judge by, the past thirty minutes would have been a party. Unfortunately it appears as though it's the wrong crowd, because apart from the party of the few up front, the response is appalling (for no fathomable reason, I might add). Black Tide take what they can though, never losing their enthusiasm or surrendering their pride at being one of the opening acts (the other being In Case Of Fire, whom I also missed) on a rather high-profile tour for their standards, I'm sure.

Bring Me The Horizon

Until Oli Sykes et al take the stage amid some confusion on my part, I've been under the impression that Dir En Grey would be the third act of the night, with Bring Me The Horizon taking the more respectable, co-headlining slot. I know not to expect much of Sykes' vocal delivery in a live setting, but tonight it probably couldn't be much worse. The fact that no effort seems to have been focused on the quality of sound (not that that's entirely their own fault) does nothing to help, either, as most of the show is a blurry mess of drum and bass; and ironically most of the more interesting drumming bits come from samples rather than the trigger pads I know Matt has. An interesting effect that the band is playing with tonight is the mortifying bass punch (also from samples) that occasionally strikes out to imbalance our heart rates. These serve as cues during the band's violent breakdowns to get the pit going or to at least punish the person closest to you with a black eye or two.

Again, it's no fault of their own that their set is too short to make an impression, but having seen what Black Tide were just able to do before, it makes me wonder why no time has been spent orchestrating the visual side of things. I appreciate unpredictability in shows, but the "lights on, let's get on stage and just play our shit"-attitude of Bring Me The Horizon paints a miserably amateurish image for them. Even bands like the infamous The Dillinger Escape Plan, who pride themselves on the unpredictability of their shows, make clever use of visuals, even if it's just a combination of smoke and rear lights for the silhouette effect, or strobe lights to accentuate the psychotic nature of some song. There's nothing to catch the eye here. Of course, the scenesters are having a ball in the pits as always, not that the show on stage or the music itself is of much importance to them. This band has miles to go if they wish to recreate live what they can do on record and put on a show to remember.


Dir En Grey

Now, Dir En Grey, on the other hand, have heeded all of the lessons outlined above and put on one of the most visually stimulating shows I've seen since Tool. Making clever use of stage setup (the drum kit is placed on the right side of the stage, rather than in the centre and contains some rather unusual elements) and lighting, and their esoteric, progressive sound, Dir En Grey appear and sound like exactly what they are: foreign, and I'm even tempted to use the word exotic here. There's something hypnotic and mysterious about the band's demeanor, and the absence of any spoken word or interaction with the crowd wraps an air of far east mystique around the band.

When Kyo opens his treasure chest of vocals, I'm amused and intrigued all the same, at the apparent ease with which he transforms his voice from pig squeals to growling, to screaming and, occasionally, to sound like the Japanese equivalent of an Italian tenor in a lengthy solo, a single spotlight focused on him while his band stands dead still on stage in darkness. Very cool. During some more rhythmic disco passages, Kyo and bassist Toshiya slither around the stage in odd dances that, in contrast to some grindcore here and there, work to emphasize the eclectic nature of the band. No one genre is enough for these fellows, and I'm frequently amazed by how natural even the most outrageous transitions in their songs sound. Not to mention how good those songs actually are. The world needs more bands like this.

Mindless Self Indulgence

Mindless Self Indulgence is the main event for most people today, it's easy to see from the sheer number of guys wearing girls' underwear over their skinny black jeans. This is also the look that Jimmy Urine himself, notorious for projecting the image of a homosexual while not being one, has chosen for the occasion. The band's delivery is equally captivating, if far more straightforward than Dir En Grey's, but then again, the image of Mindless Self Indulgence is that of obnoxious, raging dickheads; an image which Jimmy carefully cultivates and maintains over the course of the show with offensive, bigoted comments, calls to engage in fellatio on the floor, and a personality that's generally just unpleasant. Done with the right amount of self-irony, it works to the band's benefit. Interaction with the crowd seems to be one of the band's priorities, as Jimmy pauses to address, or more often insult the crowd after each song, even pulling the photographers up front on stage with him to satisfy his attention-whoring (citing his own words), and later a group of guys and gals to do back-up vocals in place of Steve Righ. The music itself, as mentioned, loses its novelty once it becomes apparent that the band's best and only weapon is the dance-beat that dominates their unique form of punk. It gets the crowd going though, with multiple pits operating in the venue and, save for the few chaperons lining the walls, people dancing, if even just a little. An excellent show, if slightly short of Dir En Grey's grandeur.


Photos courtesy of Benji Walker

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