Alesana

support Fall From Grace
author TL date 21/05/09 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Before coming to the show at Lille Vega tonight, I was never really that much of an Alesana fan. The band exploded into the awareness of the emo scene at one of its most obnoxious moments and immediately gathered hype by the bucketload for having the exact kind of cheeky melodies and pretentious screamo breakdowns that the trend prescribed. For those two ingredients alone (and the eyeliner most likely) retards flocked to the bandwagon like flies to a fresh pile of horse shit. Effectively those people put most of the more critical music fans off from checking out Alesana for fear of getting pigeonholed up with any of the nasty stereotypes. That's how I felt at least, but since then I've learnt to recognize that Alesana do in fact have more to offer than what their fanbase would imply, and hence I was looking forward to seeing to which extent the band could pull off their technical stop/start emo/screamo-madness in a live setting. Before we talk about that though, there's the small matter of the support band for Alesana's European tour, namely the for me previously unknown Fall From Grace:

Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace doesn't make it far into their first song before I'm already starting to run out of rock'n'roll clichés to attach to them. By the end of it, they've already dished out simultaneous stage jumps, guitar spins and formulaic song structure enough to last other bands an entire set. And not only that, the guys look like some freakish ensemble of clones too. In singer Tryg Littlefield we've got ourselves a Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) plus 20 pounds or so, in drummer Kenny Bates we've got Travis Barker's (Blink-182) long lost twin, and in lead guitarist Brian Olson we've got ourselves... Mikey Way (My Chemical Romance) + some 20 years and minus a whole lot of hair? Regardless, as I've already implied, FFG seem to be the kind of band who believes that any lacking originality can be made up for in sheer enthusiasm, and surely, nobody in the venue can be left doubting that these guys live, breathe and believe in rock and roll. The guitar spins and the jumping and the comments-with-an-attitude just keep coming in song after song after song, and it's fair to say that in my busy years of reviewing I have seldom seen a band work as hard for their crowd as FFG do. This is only problematic though, because it means that it's harder to fault the fact that their music is stupendously fucking boring throughout. Clearly inspired by bands like The Misfits and Samhain, FFG's songs of punk-rock-made-accessible are all completely the same in structure and expression, and soundwise, the show only really has two different varieties in tempo. So if I was to grade it exclusively for the sonic impression I supposed we'd be landing on a 3, but then given that the visual performance was definitely worthy of 8, I guess I'll have to go in between and give them a nice flat:

5

Alesana

As I already mentioned in the introduction, Alesana's fame exploded some three years ago with the release of their debut album, and it seems that just like emo is on the decline, so is the band's favour with the fans, who are currently busy coming up with new names for their scenes and styles to avoid being labeled emo, and effectively they're not admitting that they like Alesana either. Such pretense is at least the only reason I can think of when I ask a couple of girls I know what they felt about the show after it's over, and an obnoxious friend of theirs starts telling me how she felt it was a great disappointment and how they didn't really put anything into it. Did she not just witness the display of excess I am about to tell you about?

Rewinding to something like an hour earlier and samples are sounding from the speakers as Alesana's six members walk on stage and kick into "Alchemy Sounded Good At The Time". From the get go, the song sounds heavier than its ever been heard and the band display just what kind of energy they're going for as they all simultaneously leave the ground and deliver a breakdown of weight and pretense that will put most deathcore bands out of business. If Fall From Grace seemed like they were giving their everything, Alesana seem like they're on performance enhancing drugs. Guitars are spinning and being thrown around and singer Dennis Lee is prowling the stage and screaming like a banshee, even more deranged than on record.

Meanwhile, main man Shawn Milke (on guitar and clean vox) have united with bassist Shane Crump in attempt to bring glam back in fashion. Both wearing outrageous makeup, Crump stares threateningly at the crowd like a man possessed, while Milke is giving everyone and everything, regardless of sex or age a flirtatious look that can't be mistaken. Between them and the two other guitarists, it seems they're doing the only sensible thing with their live show, namely taking it even further over the top than their music is on record. It seems that at any given moment there are at least two spectacles to witness on stage, either of sheer vulgarity (like when Lee squeezes his tshirt for sweat and water over the heads of the first row) or of cheeky gender-bending attitude (like when Milke shakes his hips like few men dare during one of the band's many danceable mini-parts). The brilliance of it is that it all seems to detract very little from the sonic expression. One of the good things about having three guitarists is that there always seem to be someone playing the myriads of miniature riff-based oddities of Alesana just right, and even if Milke decides to scream rather than sing a couple of his very highest notes, I'm willing to forgive that considering how much energy he is pouring into his performance otherwise.

What astounds me the most though, is how the band is able to keep it up and remain entertaining for song after song, constantly pulling out another gimmick from their sleeves with which they can keep our eyes occupied. Every time you think you've heard enough, Lee brings another smile to your face with his continued musings about which of the band's songs that do and don't start with the letter S. Every time you think you've seen it all, someone does another retarded stunt to catch the audiences attention. Lee visits the crowd more than once, throwing himself onto the front row, and the same goes for Milke. However they're both beaten when Crump throws down his bass during one song to climb an amp, leap up and grab the back lighting rig, swing his way up to the front one, hang himself from his legs and then later throw himself out into the audience, barely missing the ground for a few inches of air and some helping hands.

And did I mention that the listening experience was still intense? By making their heavy parts heavier, Alesana just sounds a whole other kind of awesome when you feel those blast beats pummel you during the breakdowns that would feel lame if it were any other band playing them. For the whole entire show I find my jaw glued to the floor, and I'm just wishing I could film it all or somehow make it possible for everyone I know who aren't present to witness every single second of this spectacle. And I didn't even drink more than a single pint to raise my spirits before hand? Nor did I enter the mosh for more than two songs? I simply stood there by the side and was amazed by a show the rock'n'roll level of which I haven't seen matched outside of a Dillinger Escape Plan show. Sure some people where moaning afterwards that Shawn Milke was acting a bit too gay to be charming, but isn't that exactly the kind of polarizing factor a rock band is supposed to have? In any case, you can't fault Alesana for not trying, because while I've seen over 200 bands live, I don't remember seeing any perform quite the way they do. Save for a revolving vertical drum kit and some retardedly large flamethrowers, I can't imagine what could've made this band's show any better - except for a full venue and a dedicated crowd maybe.

Setlist:

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