– Words and Photos by James Villa –
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like every time you turn around, Korn is making another tour stop in the Lone Star State. Don’t get me wrong, this pioneering nu metal band is still at the top of their game. I do suspect, however, that the return of guitarist Brian Welch – after a seven-year absence – has a lot to do with the group’s seemingly constant presence on concert stages across America.
Whatever the reason, Korn was the headlining attraction at this year’s KEGL annual Freaker’s Ball held at the Verizon Wireless Theater. The event featured a nice variety of rock acts including a local super group thrown into the mix. Arriving early, it’s always hard to put these shows into perspective especially when another all-day rock festival is taking place literally across the street in a minor league baseball park.
First up in the 4:30 opening slot was the Dallas super group, Even the Dead Love a Parade. The band performed before a rather small, yet very vocal audience. It’s unfortunate this group of superb musicians wasn’t able to play in front of a larger audience, but it really didn’t matter. They performed as though they were playing in front of a packed house leaving a definite impression on all those smart enough to get to the venue early to check out the band. Definitely a band local rock fans need to check out in the future!
A steady stream of people started entering the theater as Even the Dead Love a Parade finished their set. They were soon greeted by sounds of Brian Welch’s side project, Love and Death. This Christian rock band featured 17-year old wunderkind JB Bareis on guitar. The presence of this phenomenal player allowed the born-again Welch to concentrate most his energies on singing, which he did quite admirably. It was certainly a contrast for this musician who two hours later would be tearing up the stage with his own guitar prowess in a completely different setting.
Gemini Syndrome hit the stage next. This band has been hitting it hard since early 2010 when they came together in Los Angeles. Their constant touring and strong stage presence has enabled them to develop an avid following. Comprised of vocalist Aaron Nordstrom (former guitarist for OTEP), guitarists Rich Juzwick and Mike Salerno, bassist Alessandro Paveri, and drummer Brian Steele Medina (former TOIZ member with singer Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch) the group established a strong foothold in the L.A. hard rock scene before making steady advances this past year on the rest of the country. Their set list contained several songs off their new record, Lux. Afterwards, the band spent a considerable amount of time signing autographs and taking pictures in the theater’s foyer. Kudos!
The only disappointment of the evening came with Beware of Darkness, and it wasn’t that the group couldn’t play. They just seemed a little bit out of place with the rest of the band assembled to perform this night. Texas rock fans can be a brutal bunch, and the smattering of boos coming from the crowd didn’t affect this group as they soldiered on with their songs undeterred.
Asking Alexandria is coming off the successful release of their latest album From Death to Destiny. Singer Danny Worsnop’s vocals have completely healed and the group did an admirable job the short time they were on stage. Expect some big things out of this band in 2014.
By the time Five Finger Death Punch took the stage, the crowd in the pit was sufficiently primed to finally participate. Ivan Moody was the only band member who got into the spirit of the Freaker’s Ball by adding face paint to his appearance. The singer offered up his usual brand of aggressive, high velocity vocals. He even exerted his own brand of crowd control by telling the audience security was not the enemy. Moody even congratulated the few fortunate crowd surfers that actually made up to him by shaking their hands. And, to prove he even had a gentle side to his gruff appearance, Moody brought out his young daughter mid-set to introduce the tune “Bum MF”, a track from the group’s latest release. Fan favorites this evening included “No One Gets Left Behind”, “Burn It Down”, an excellent remake of the Bad Company classic, “Bad Company” plus a special acoustic version of “Far From Home”.
Korn was definitely ‘in the moment’ from the second they stepped on stage. All were dressed in their Halloween best. Jonathan Davis did his best Rick James, while double-duty Brian Welch appeared as Swiss Miss. When Davis asked the near capacity crowd “are you ready?”, the thunderous positive reply set the band in motion.
This is the third time I’ve seen the band in concert this year. The group was made whole when Welch made his peace with Davis and James Shafer. The moment he stepped back into his familiar role of the ‘Munkey’ and ‘Head’ twin guitar attack, Korn became a renewed band once again. Korn tore into their signature track, “Blind”, and were off to the races after that.
Hot off the heal of their latest release, The Paradigm Shift, this group has elevated itself back to the élite status many had thought it had lost over the years. Throughout the evening, Davis addressed the crowd keeping an open line of communication with the audience that had often been missing in years past.
As the night wore on, band members slowly shed their Halloween garb. Again, having seen the band several times the past three years, I can tell you now that Korn’s set list at the Freaker’s Ball was the strongest of them all. They pummeled the senses of this overexcited crowd with a series of head banging classics that included “Shoots and Ladders“, “Falling Away From Me”, “Coming Undone” and what appeared to be the new crowd favorite, “Never Never”. Korn left the stage to a thunderous ovation.
After catching their breath, the members returned to further exhaust the ‘children of the Korn’ with “Get Up!”, “Got the Life” and “Freak on a Leash”. As Munky, Head, Fieldy, Davis and drummer Ray Luzier took their final triumphant bow, I was wondering if there were any more trick or treats up the band’s sleeve before they bid adieu to 2013. And wouldn’t you know it, there is.
Korn will be appearing with Rob Zombie on Nov. 15 in Oklahoma City at the Chesapeake Energy Center.