Heavy metal favorites Disturbed and Korn packed thousands of die-hard fans into the Hammerstein Ballroom last night, delivering hours of crushing music for the sold-out crowd.
Despite brutal, freezing temperatures outside and a fairly expensive $75 ticket price, the Music as a Weapon 5 tour completely sold out in time for last night’s show, with fans lining up around the block as early as 6pm to await entry. Both of the co-headlining acts topped festival bills this past summer, with Korn playing the Mayhem Festival (my review here) and Disturbed wrapping up the Uproar Festival (my review here), and those appearances seemed to have only whetted New Yorkers’ appetite for the groups’ distinctive brands of heavy metal.
The show was opened by the female-fronted In This Moment, who put on an impressive, if short set. Busty singer Maria Brink was an energetic, sexy crowdpleaser, howling into her microphone as green and purple lighting cast an eerie, almost otherworldly aura on the stage, and buffered on either side by hair-whipping guitarists. The crowd was relatively small but enthusiastic, and rapidly growing as the set concluded.
The floor was fairly packed by the time Georgia veteran metallers Sevendust hit the stage, and frontman Lajon Witherspoon was his usual fierce self as the band ripped through a half dozen songs. A crushing bass tone shook the front rows of the crowd, already packed across most of the floor, and mosh pits began breaking out, especially when Witherspoon demanded circles right in front of him during Pieces. The dreadlock-whipping vocalist also seemed to break down when thanking the New York crowd, pointing out how New Jersey college radio station WSOU was responsible for giving Sevendust their initial radioplay. The crowd responded heartily, singing especially loudly during the more melodic Praise, and gamely moshing through the last song.
But while the opening acts were enjoyable and satisfying, it was Disturbed and Korn who drew in most of the night’s fans, and a significant change took hold of the Ballroom as Disturbed appeared on stage in front of a giant video screen, jamming out the instrumental introduction to new song Asylum. The band, now touring behind their 5th album, had a plethora of material to draw from, and did their best to represent all eras of their music.
Frontman David Draiman is always a melodramatic frontman, and Friday night’s show was no exception, as he addressed the crowd “my brothers, my sisters, my blood!” The band was tight and intense, blasting through old songs like The Game along with newer fare such as Inside the Fire and Another Way to Die. On stage, Draiman’s pacing and posing seemed a little too choreographed or stilted at times, but that was contrasted by the sheer anarchy at play out in the crowd.
Fans packed the entire floor of the venue shoulder to shoulder, with little room to stand, and the first several rows were virtually crushed up against the barriers. The mosh pits were especially brutal as fans savagely slammed into each other, cheered on by the two filled-up balconies of fans overlooking the stage and floor. Occasional casualties would stagger out of the crowd with bloody noses, helped by their friends or security, and their spot would be instantly taken by the person behind them. The giant video screen provided an impressive backdrop to the show’s violent energy as well, with larger-than-life video of explosions animating title track Indestructible and showing the roaring crowd during 10,000 Fists.
In the end though, every Disturbed concert comes down to one song, megahit Down With the Sickness, and last night’s was as brutal and crushing as any other. Fans jumped, stomped, and slammed around to the driving riff, and thousands of fans shared their mother issues during the song’s infamous “No, Mommy” breakdown. The co-headlining nature of the tour restricted Disturbed to only an hour overall, but they more than satisfied the New York fans last night with a professionally vicious performance.
The night was wrapped up by nu metal leaders Korn, now active for over fifteen years. In contrast to Disturbed’s clean, high tech show, Korn has kept their edge by staying mean, gritty, and downtuned, and their simple, all-black stage set reflected that attitude.
Opening with the incomparable Blind, Hammerstein was instantly turned into a madhouse, the crowd surging and fighting against the nonstop bass-beats and slamming guitar chords. Singer Jonathan Davis is, or at least portrays, a tortured, battered soul, and his wailing, screaming and singing created an unshakeable mood of violent desperation throughout the venue as he and his bandmates threw themselves around the stage, blasting through the tales of isolation, misery, and hate which form the core of Korn’s sound and message.
While Disturbed tried to pay homage to each record, Korn focused on simply playing fan favorites from their lengthy discography, and fans roared along on hits like Freak on a Leash and Got the Life. The bagpipe-led Shoots & Ladders especially riled up the crowd, and the song’s new ending, a bruising cover of the end of Metallica’s One, easily got the loudest and wildest response of the entire night.
With time at a premium, no band had time for the usual leave-the-stage-and-wait-to-return-for-an-encore-everyone-knows-is-coming-anyhow game, but Korn one-upped every other group by ending with a ten-minute medley of songs they simply couldn’t fit in otherwise, bouncing from Coming Undone to a cover of We Will Rock You to Twisted Transistor, Make Me Bad, Did My Time and several more, finally wrapping up the evening with the anthemic, profanity-laced Y’all Want a Single, fans screaming “f*ck that shi*t!” with enough energy that Tipper Gore woke up in a cold sweat (maybe).
From start to finish, Friday night’s show was a metal masterpiece, whether you showed up at 7pm or 10. All four bands put on tight, crushing shows, differing from each other just enough to provide variety while still maintaining an overall tone of heavy metal destruction and solidarity. The concert was especially enjoyable considering the lack of larger scale metal shows during the winter months, and proved to be a fond flashback to this past summer’s hot and sweaty summer festivals. With no further metal shows of this scale yet scheduled for 2011 (other than tonight’s Music as a Weapon date in New Jersey), Korn and Disturbed will likely prove to be one of the best shows of the year for months to come, and even once the summer tours get underway, odds are one or both of these groups will once again be headlining the heavy metal charge to amphitheater-wrecking music.
As always, stay tuned to the Hard Rock Examiner for further information on tickets and all local rock and heavy metal news by subscribing at the top of this page, or follow me at twitter.com/NYROCKEXAMINER.