“Are you ready?”
A simple question, three simple words that introduced the band Korn to the world 21 years ago. On Tuesday, at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colo., it was again asked of the gathered masses by singer Jonathan Davis; with the answer proving to be a resounding “yes.”
Donning black t-shirts that perhaps fit a little more snug than they had in years past, fans filled the Fillmore. After sets from opening acts Islander and Suicide Silence, those that made the trek were quickly squired back to the year 1994, as Korn offered their self-titled debut effort in its entirety.
From the opening ride cymbal of their first single “Blind,” to the dark finale “Daddy,” the audience was quickly captivated and worked into a frenzy by the band; screaming, singing, moshing and dancing from the first note to the last.
Though it was filled with its fair share of nostalgia, the cuts from the album did not feel dated. The performance was energetic and raw, though perhaps not as much as it sounded on tape; likely due to the fact that the band had grown as musicians.
Now 44, Davis channeled the angst he felt as a 23-year-old; delivering an emotional performance. His voice was powerful at times, and vulnerable at others. Between songs, he often exited the stage to use an oxygen tank due to his asthma; making his performance on the mic in the Mile High City all that much more impressive.
Davis is also an expert at working a crowd, as he had the masses singing, jumping and going crazy on command. He has a presence that comes with years of experience and an intensity usually reserved for the youth. He even flexed a different kind of pipe on this occasion, bringing out bagpipes for the “Shoots and Ladders.”
Despite taking an eight-year hiatus from Korn (he returned in 2013), guitarist Brian “Head” Welch appeared as if he never missed a beat. With long, flowing dreadlocks, he has mastered the art of the windmill headbang almost as much as he has the setlist. He also showed his generous nature, sending more guitar picks into the audience than any musician this reporter has ever seen. Though he did not sing many backing vocals, those he did (such as the chorus on “Lies”) were delivered with emotion and power.
Head’s partner on stage right was bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu. His signature percussive playing style was on-point; as was his swagger. There are very few bass virtuoso’s in modern metal, but Fieldy effectively provided the signature groove that is at the heart of Korn’s sound; typified by a short solo before the song “Divine.”
Guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer stood alone on stage left. Though separated by their singer and bassist, his chemistry with Head was more than evident as they traded parts. The one thing that changed in the latter’s absence was Munky handling more of the backing vocals. Other than that, they picked up just where they left off.
For nostalgia’s sake, many fans undoubtedly thought the performance incomplete without original drummed David Silveria. That is perhaps the only defense that can be made however, as in addition to not having some of Silveria’s character flaws (i.e. suing his former bandmates), replacement Ray Luzier is simply a more talented drummer. His showmanship and stick skills are masterful; and his solo near the end of the set was something to behold.
Korn stayed loyal to their eponymous debut’s tracklisting, playing each in the order it appeared on the album. That being said, they did throw a few curveballs the audiences way from time to time. During “Ball Tongue” they briefly launched into a medley of “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock and Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” (two equally nostalgic songs). During “Need To” they played a snippet of “Alive;” which, while included on their 2003 album Take a Look in the Mirror, originally appeared on their 1993 demo Neidermayer’s Mind.
The band finished the album with the disturbing “Daddy,” which details abuse Davis suffered as a child. Perhaps in a sign of support, his bandmates moved closer to him as he made it through the undoubtedly difficult performance. His voice often trembling, he made it through the track, and also the album.
Not wanting to end the show on a somber note, Korn would re-emerge for a five-song encore after a brief intermission. Davis would bring out his H.R. Giger-designed microphone stand, which has been a fixture at Korn performances since 2002, but was absent from the main set. They would then launch into their hit “Falling Away From Me.” A befitting anthem considering their longevity, “Here to Stay” would come next. They would follow that with ”Coming Undone” (the only song they offered from the time Head was not in the band). “Spike in My Veins” would come next, the only cut from their most recent album The Paradigm Shift. They would close their set with their classic “Freak on a Leash,” and the masses would head to the exits satisfied.
The performance was raw, and wasn’t without mistakes. That being said, those were masked by the exuberance and passion of the crowd. The energy in the building only amplified the sound and the intensity of the band. A lot has changed for Korn since they released their debut album. Some members have gone sober, some have found Jesus, one has even been replaced; still, despite the changes, they haven’t lost the ability to connect with an audience and put on a good show. Above all else, the nu-metal pioneers proved that even after two decades they are not only still relevant in 2015, but are a force to be reckoned with.
- Ball Tongue (containing elements of “It Takes Two” originally by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, as well as “La Di Da Di” originally by Slick Rick).
- Need To (containing elements of “Alive”)
- Shoots and Ladders
- Helmet in the Bush
- Falling Away From Me
- Here to Stay
- Coming Undone
- Spike in My Veins
- Freak on a Leash