Lacuna Coil, Starset, and Incura
Saturday, September 27th, 2014
at Crocks, Thunder Bay, ON
It’s 2014, but apparently bands’ buses are still breaking down and leaving musicians stranded on the side of the highway. Hence why I’ve got nothing to say here about The Devil You Know (otherwise known as that band that former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones is in). Maybe next time!
I arrived at the venue about halfway through Incura’s set. Incura hail from Vancouver, and they’ve been plugging away at their craft since 2003. For a band that’s been around as long as them, they could’ve fooled me into thinking they were complete newcomers hungry for any exposure they could get. Vocalist Kyle Gruninger has a high-end, almost androgynous voice that suits the frenetic and progressive style of the band. If they were disappointed at the almost non-existent crowd that greeted them, they didn’t show it. Instead, they were well into an energetic performance by the time I showed up and started snapping photos. I’m not familiar with their music, but a few people up front did know the songs and weren’t afraid to let the band know it.
Before Starset started to come on stage, I knew nothing about the Columbus, Ohio-based group. Their genre is described as “cinematic rock,” and it’s reflected in their stage set-up. This night there were two backdrops with cascading blue LED lights, a drum set with an illuminated bass drum, and a very conspicuous Macbook. At the front of the stage was a synthesizer that resembled a Star Trek-style touch panel. Then the Inception-style drones started up. As the sound rumbled through the venue, the drummer and guitar players arrived on stage wearing matching Lost In Space-remake style jumpsuits and helmets lit up with more blue LED lights. Lead vocalist and frontman Dustin Bates (apparently of Downplay fame) showed up last, helmetless. He quickly shed his SF style jacket, performing mostly in jeans and a white shirt complete with bow tie (an odd contrast to the elaborate stage around him).
Starset’s performance was a busy one, with four members navigating a stage that was already crowded with props. Despite the lack of space, the three helmeted members managed to get in a sizeable amount of synchronized head bobbing as Bates maneuvered his way around them. The science fiction façade was essentially just window-dressing for the band, balanced out by Bates’ cheery, down-to-earth stage-banter (at one point told the crowd that he loved Canada because “we” made Trailer Park Boys, his favourite show). Starset’s willingness to dress up their atmospheric yet radio-friendly heavy rock made me think about all the potential younger fans that wouldn’t be seeing the band at this 19+ event. Their standout songs were “Rise and Fall” and “My Demons” (a ready-made hit, it would seem).
To my knowledge there was no official announcement that The Devil You Know wouldn’t be making it to the gig. Instead, once Starset had taken down their props, up went Lacuna Coil’s backdrop. After the overcrowded spectacle that was Starset’s stage, Lacuna Coil’s bare stage (featuring only small backdrops and a drum kit) was all the more noticeable. The band was on on stage by 9:50 PM, and I can only wonder if some people showed up later only to find they’d missed half the show.
Lacuna Coil opened with “Tripping The Darkness” from 2012’s Dark Adrenaline and then proceeded to charge through renditions of “Spellbound” and “Intoxicated.” One half of the vocals team, Andrea Ferro, was in top form from the start. He sang his parts with a strength and gusto that impressed me given that I’ve not always fully appreciated his voice on the band’s records in the past (though between the new record and this performance, I think I finally get his style). Cristina Scabbia‘s voice was lost in the mix for the first few songs, however. From my vantage point right up front, she was clearly giving it her all even with no amplified sound to show for it (there was certainly no evidence that a lingering throat infection was keeping her down). Fortunately for everyone the mixing did get better as the show went on, but between that, frequent feedback from the mikes, and at times piercing, hearing-destroying volume (even with ear plugs), it was not the best night for sound quality in the venue.
If Lacuna Coil noticed these issues, however, they didn’t allow themselves to be distracted by them. I was struck by the sheer enthusiasm and utter lack of cynicism the band brought to the gig. Their energy was great, and Scabbia and Ferro frequently interacted with front row fans, even going so far as to bend down and sing with their faces just inches from thrilled fans. This was their first time playing in Thunder Bay and they made sure that the small but enthusiastic crowd felt appreciated. Scabbia and Ferro heaped on the praise, expressing excitement that people “around the world” knew the words to the old and new songs. After ripping through such choice songs as “Heaven’s A Lie,” “I Survive,” and “To The Edge,” Scabbia emphasized the crowd-pleasing “outsider” status that metal fans love so much, proclaiming that “We’re all brothers and sisters in music […] we’re completely different from everyone else out there – fuck everyone else!”. Her sentiment was then captured by their performance of “Zombies,” easily one of the best tracks from this year’s Broken Crown Halo. The band ended their main set with “Enjoy The Silence,” a cover that they’ve made their own over the years. The show ended with an encore that consisted of “Nothing Stands In Our Way” (also from the new album) and Lacuna Coil-staple “Our Truth.” Notably absent were more cuts from 2002’s Comalies, but my missing those songs is probably a sign of how long I’ve been listening to this stuff.
Here’s hoping that Lacuna Coil will stop in Thunder Bay the next time they’re moving through Canada. After all, it is a long drive from Winnipeg to southern Ontario!
For a local touch, I was able to snap a photo of Hellbound contributer (and local radio station manager) Jason Wellwood presenting Andrea Ferro with a copy of Nowadays, a graphic novel that tells an unorthodox zombie story set in a fictional version of Thunder Bay. Also, it turns out that Cristina Scabbia often produces a unique piece of art for shows (this one was done with coffee and nail polish).