Return of the Dreads proves rock is ALIVE
Jonathan Davis, lead singer of the metal band Korn, tosses his heavy dreadlocks to the left as he approaches the mic, surveying the massive crowd before him. “Syracuse, look around you” he cries, mischievously shifting in his long black kilt. “Who says you can’t sell out a metal show?” The crowd erupts with excitement, validating his statement. Sell out they nearly did, an impressive feat for the high capacity venue Lakeview Amphitheater which can hold upwards of 17,000. Then again, this isn’t your average metal show. This is the Return of the Dreads tour which features veteran rockers Korn, Rob Zombie and In This Moment, and this crew came ready to rock.
The first band to hit the stage was In This Moment, a group that has been expertly cultivating their craft for over 10 years now. They played several songs from their 5th and most current record, “Black Widow” including the hard hitting head banger “Sick Like Me.” They proceeded to play a roster of their hits such as “Adrenalize,” “Burn” and of course, the crowd favorite “Blood.” The men of ITM were appropriately outfitted in their uniform masks and war paint, while lead singer Maria Brink and her “blood girls” underwent a costume change following each track. The result was a spectacular spectacle that managed to mesmerize viewers, even the naysayers that have been critical that the shows have become too focused on theatrics. Fully aware of this, Maria plays perfectly into that public perception, particularly during songs like “Sex Metal Barbie” in which she stands authoritatively at a powder pink podium waving a doppelganger mannequin head at the crowd as she sings. Likewise during the song “Whore,” Maria dons a dunce cap and waves a ruler around, scolding her haters with the lyrics “I am the dirt you created…” but assuring them that “you love me for everything you hate me for.” And she’s right. Love her or hate her Maria knows what skeptics are saying about her and the band. However, rather than letting it defeat her she’s building her kingdom on the stones being thrown at her, and the result is really something to see.
Next up was Rob Zombie, who is well known for his energetic stage presence, large scale monitors and animatronics. Rob and the gang kicked things off with “Dead City Radio,” followed by a mixture of songs that spanned his 20+ year rock career. There were plenty of wacky moments, including an enormous dancing robot, alien blow up doll crowd surfing, and plenty of spooky slides and videos that added to the ambience of songs such as “Living Dead Girl” and “House of 1000 Corpses.” Not to be outdone by props, Rob gave it his all, jumping, jiving and even hopping offstage to energize the audience in the lawn seats. During his escapades guitar god John 5 kept the music going by performing breathtaking solos including the Star Spangled Banner before launching into “American Band.” When asked what he thought of Zombie’s set, 41 year old Tim Butler replied “It blew my mind. I grew up as a giant fan, but unfortunately never got the opportunity to see him play. Now here I am 20 years later and it’s even better than I thought it would be. He really delivered.”
Just when everyone was beginning to think the show couldn’t possibly get any better, Korn came marching in with bagpipes a blazin.’ Unlike the previous two bands, Korn had little fanfare, save for the large light boxes that flooded the venue in vivid neon colors. The energy was electric though, and surprisingly intimate for a crowd that size and magnitude, which really speaks to Korn’s ability to entertain. Much like Zombie, the band performed a wide range of both old and new songs, including “Right Now,” “Blind” and “Make Me Bad.” They even threw in a cover of Metallica’s “One,” much to the delight and surprise of the crowd. Furthermore, they sounded better than ever both vocally and instrumentally. The group closed the show with outcast anthem “Freak on a Leash,” a song about feeling rejected for being different.
Since that song was written in 1998 a lot has changed, but one thing has remained constant: Metal fans have continued to show their allegiance to a genre that is often ignored, but cannot be denied. The biggest take away from the Return of the Dreads tour is not necessarily the music or the stage shows (though they were undoubtedly phenomenal), but the impact that it’s clearly had on the young, the old and everyone in between. Many who were teenagers when Zombie and Korn first burst on the scene are now bringing their own kids to the shows, introducing a whole new generation to a genre that is speeding up, not slowing down. Therefore, it’s not only the bands that are making the Return of the Dreads tour a massive success. It’s the excitement and energy of the fans that put the cherry on top of this rock and roll sundae. Additionally, it’s the bands’ refusal to compromise and produce radio friendly fluff simply for the sake of popularity that endears them to fans. This sentiment was echoed loudly during Korn’s performance of “Ya’ll Want a Single,” a song in which they boldly reject their label’s request for a softer, more mainstream sound. “If ya’ll want a single say ‘f@#k that’!” they command, to which the audience gleefully replies “F@#k that shit!” We don’t want a single. We want our rock stars authentic, bold and brash. That’s what these dearly beloved dread heads are serving up, and because of it we are already eagerly awaiting their next return.
In This Moment
Kelly Mason / The Fuze Magazine
Joshua Davis / Davis Imaging
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