Hottest Ticket in Any Town: Pledge of Allegiance Tour Rouses St Louis
By
J. Gordon
7/16/2002 11:09:48 AM

"The music? We can’t remember. It was all about the show."

Officially announced a couple months prior to terrorist actions and America’s subsequent new patriotism, the Pledge of Allegiance Tour took on special meaning, feeling like a good, retaliatory gesture with thousands of like-minded Saint Louisians hungry for some angry, thrashing rock.

Mudvayne, who dropped off the tour (they’ll be on the road with Ozzy again this winter) were sorely missed but replaced with the quite capable band No One who opened the festivities, followed by American Head Charge (who were originally only on for a few dates but later committed to the whole deal).

Some bands are more show than music: American Head Charge and Rammstein definitely fall into this category. AHC put on the most entertaining spectacle, hands-down. Their singer Martin Cock donned ski goggles (why, we’ll never know), ran rabid like a pitbull on speed, and hyped the crowd into insanity. Meanwhile, one of their two keyboardists practiced spitting into the air and trying to catch it again with his mouth. Most times he failed, with a wad of phlegm landing fashionably in his eye. The other keyboardist regularly moved jerkily across the stage when he wasn’t playing on his knees like some psycho dwarf. The music? We can’t remember. It was all about the show.

Rammstein were similar. Tons of fire and flash bangs blinded you to whatever else they did onstage. In fact, every song seemed to be backed (and fronted) with the visual of fire. The two guitarists wore masks that blew flames out of their mouthes for what looked like miles, ultimately connecting in flame across the stage. Meanwhile, the keyboardist, dressed as a mad scientist, danced insanely and pelted the audience with a water gun. The lead singer wore a bulky, hard-to-move in suit for the controlled fire he wore like a feather boa. Other times he zapped the audience with a laser eye as he sang their former radio hit, “Du hast.”

Co-Headliners System of a Down and Slipknot clearly owned the show, although SOAD was the band we were there to see. Touring to promote their amazing new album, Toxicity [American], this band needs no introduction and the first three bands felt like mere foreplay before the climax. Lead guitarist Daron Malakian began the show in a feathery pimp suit, singing the high parts on “Prison Song” as he whirled and beat his guitar with arms as loose as a jellyfish. Seizures appear to be Daron's natural physical state. Lead singer Serj Tankian was in strong voice, despite so many consecutive nights of performance. He displayed his versatility in whispers, chants, wild screams and melodic middle-eastern wailing, backed by a huge video screen displaying their videos and potent images. SOAD skillfully, sometimes seamlessly, transitioned from song to song on Toxicity, occasionally dipping into their eponymous first album, with tunes like “Suite Pee” and, “Sugar”-- the high-point of the entire show, when the audience melded into a flailing and thrashing appendage of the band, becoming a physical part of the music. Well, that was until Daron dropped his pants, giving the audience a gander at his goods (front and back).

It was hard to which of the nine members of Slipknot to pay attention to. They were all doing freakishly weird things, usually at the same time, dressed in their garish, surreal masks and geeky numbered jumpsuits (#s 0-8 ). With three drummers, the band made great use of the stage with Motley Crue-style hydraulics that picked up, spun around, tilted and moved the percussionists, culminating in a bird’s eye view of the drummer, Joey, who was strapped in and playing totally sideways as his vicious beats fought against the hold of gravity. Musically, Slipknot live is more of a noise-fest. To get the best feel for their music, you’ll need to check out their CD. Slipknot’s live show--or rather, what they look like-- is what made them famous. There’s good reason for that.

Slipknot's lead singer didn't get all heavy about the war and terrorism crisis, but he did remind us all that hate crimes are going up and we've got to cut that crap out and watch each other's backs. It wasn't so much a pro-American speech as a pro-caring speech. Something anyone can pledge to.

 

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