Our Vancouver correspondent Milton Stille recaps, in both words and photos, one of Vancouver’s heavy music highlights of the year:
Allow me to preface this review with the assertion that, for many of us that appreciate aggressive, abrasive music – and like to witness it performed in the flesh – this was easily one of the most highly anticipated shows of the year. While it was no doubt an absolute treat to see both Neurosis and Converge again so soon, it being Amenra’s first appearance in Vancouver cemented the fact that this was something not to be missed.
After a brooding, tension-building wait, Amenra kicked off the night with a performance nothing short of indescribable. While opinions from audience members seemed somewhat divided in opinion on the matter, I found the band’s approach to playing live an incredibly effective one: Vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout spends very little time facing the audience, choosing instead to release most of his blood-curdling, tortured screams facing the band’s drummer. A counterpoint to this that I found interesting however, is that the band employs visuals onstage, with their projector basically aimed straight at drummer Bjorn Lebon. This effectively locks the two in a state of isolation from the audience, to an extent making their interaction the only one apparent to the audience, who were in no way, at any point, acknowledged by the performers. Personally, I felt this lent itself well to their overall aesthetic, but I can see how someone expecting something else might have difficulty accepting it.
I am going to just go and flat-out say it: on a certain level, it felt strange to see Converge perform on the Commodore stage. Surreal almost, simply because in my mind, I didn’t think I’d ever see it happen. With that being said, it remains one of the most beautiful stages in the city, so that’s certainly not a complaint by any measure. Known for their energetic live presence, the band certainly did not disappoint on that front. While the set was definitely – and expectedly – heavier on the more recent material, it was nice to see some older staples thrown in for good measure. One thing I’ve noticed more and more with each time I see Converge is that while vocalist Jacob Bannon has the reputation he does as one of the most engaging frontmen in music for a reason, just how much of the vocal duties are handled by bassist Nate Newton often goes unrecognized. Also of note: the band played a far longer set than I was expecting, since the Commodore isn’t exactly known for letting shows go late. Full of fury to the moment they left the stage, Converge is always a pleasure, never a disappointment.
As one of the most influential, enduring acts in the realm of heavy music, it’s hard to not give Neurosis their due. It’s hard to find a single piece of music that exists in the realm of post-hardcore that doesn’t in some part pay tribute to the trail blazed by Oakland’s almighty. While their previous appearance in Vancouver was incredible in its own right, the venue they played at tends to get rather claustrophobia-inducing when the room approaches its capacity, so to catch them here was truly special. It shouldn’t be surprising that, given the overall pace of their music, Neurosis aren’t going to be noticed for the most movement on stage, but as a band they have an intensity of presence that’s second to none. Scott Kelly in particular commands attention simply by being there. I’m certain I’m not alone in saying that I appreciated being able to allow myself to just watch the band and become entranced by the power of their music. After their set, I emerged from the Commodore later than I ever have, with a shit-eating grin on my face. I wasn’t alone.