Live Review: Epicenter (Tool, Linkin Park, Alice In Chains, Dead By Sunrise)
Sun, 23 Aug 2009 15:07:01
Alice in Chains Photos
Alice in Chains Videos
Rock n' roll was alive and kicking at Southern California's Epicenter.
Assembling a legendary lineup, the fest sent shockwaves through the Inland Empire all the way to L.A.
The Pomona Fairplex's massive crowd welcomed endless aftershocks from Tool, Linkin Park, Alice In Chains and a surprise appearance by Link Park vocalist Chester Bennington's latest project, Dead By Sunrise.
In some ways, Dead By Sunrise represented everything so refreshing about the festival. After playing an hour with Linkin Park, Chester addressed the crowd saying, "Hope you don't mind me bringing my new band, Dead By Sunrise out. We're going to play a few songs for you. Let us know what you think."
The crowd's response was beyond electric. Bennington immediately launched into, "Crawl Back In," the first single from Dead By Sunrise's forthcoming Warner Bros. debut, Out of Ashes [due out October 13]. "Crawl Back In" bled true hard rock swagger. Bennington's inimitable voice pulsated with power as he snaked across the stage in classic fashion. Ryan Shuck's riffs coupled with Amir Derakh's base forged a raw gutter rock backdrop for Bennington to slink through. "Crawl Back In" touted an anthemic refrain, and Dead By Sunrise completely hypnotized listeners. On "Fire," the band pulled back some of the intensity, paving the way for a sweeping chorus. Bennington never stopped moving though. His energy was palpable and the lyrics on "My Suffering" felt poetic. Dead By Sunrise played a personal and powerful set, perfectly prefacing their debut—which is bound to be one of the best rock records of the year.
Linkin Park stood out, equally rapturous. From the neck-snapping riff on "Given Up" to the syncopated stomp of "No More Sorrow," the SoCal sextet sounded fierce and fresh. Their set sizzled with an undeniable chemistry, bubbling over with explosive energy. On the more introspective fare like "Leave Out All the Rest" and "Somewhere Belong," Linkin Park were just as alive as they were on an atomic rendition of "Crawling." Mike Shinoda commanded his keyboard, and the combination of his voice and Chester's lifted Linkin Park to U2's level of pop rock mastery. Shinoda's ominous piano buildup channeled Nine Inch Nails, but with a futuristic bent. Brad Delson's apocalyptic riff crunch crushed during "Faint" and "One Step Closer," while Rob Bourdon pounded his kit to oblivion. Dave "Phoenix" Farrell lit up a fiery low-end, and Mr. Hahn's electronics gave "New Divide" life. Linkin Park performed a show to remember.
Speaking of unforgettable, Alice In Chains came to life on stage like never before. Jerry Cantrell's guitar sounded like it was resuscitating a monster, during classics like "Rain When I Die," "Them Bones" and "Damn That River." Mike Inez's bass and Sean Kinney's drums sounded sinisterly inviting during those epic cuts, and Alice In Chains entranced each and every concertgoer with an inimitable psychedelica all their own.
"Again" weaved with tight rhythms and even tighter fretwork. Vocalist William Duvall sounded just as tortured and tingling as Layne Stayley on "We Die Young." However, the new songs were their own living, breathing beasts. In fact, the crowd witnessed two new classic Alice In Chains songs from the new album Black Gives Way to Blue [due out September 29]. First single "Check My Brain" ignited a sing-a-long, while "A Looking In View" felt alluring and acidic. That's always been Alice In Chains' trademark though—the band rides the fine line between utter desolation and true beauty better than anyone else. Their new songs uphold that tradition proudly too. There's still nothing as spine-tingling as "Would?" though, and the band followed it with a powerful "Rooster." They left the stage victorious, and the new monster had claimed real estate in each and every witness's memory forever.
Then there was Tool. There's something undeniably majestic about seeing them. The music morphs, while melting into each and every listener's psyche. Due to an "unforeseen injury," vocalist Maynard James Keenan had been committed to crutches. However, they served as the perfect prop for him to writhe on top of while exorcising every emotion from unbridled angst to potent passion—sometimes all in one verse.
"Jambi" kicked things off with Adam Jones' torrential off-time guitar brilliance. Justin Chancellor's bass swept through the verse, as Maynard's inimitable voice grabbed the audience. He led everyone through hallways of distortion and Danny Carey's double bass opening the door way into true rock n' roll ecstasy. That was only the first song too. Tool kept space-truckin' with big string bends and improv on an incendiary "Stinkfist." Dark jamming drove the band deeper into "46&2," and Maynard's screams echoed through the night. Danny drummed faster on "Schism," making the song sharper. "Rosetta Stoned" reached almost ten minutes and gave Epicenter its emotional apex, as Keenan's vocals sped toward an immense release. "Flood" was the raw counterpart. That classic Tool sense of humor was alive and well when Keenan jested before his band's L.A. elegy, "AEnima," "It's nothing personal." "Lateralus" allowed for a cinematic laser show and the visuals on stage became brightest. Tool gave everyone the perfect trip from Epicenter into outer space.
After all of this one thing was clear, Epicenter's the best music festival that Southern California has seen, and it's bound to be an unforgettable tradition for years to come.