Legendary Napalm Death and Voivod took over Oakland Metro Operahouse on Feb 20th. The show was sold out in advance and as expected the venue has never been this full with more enthusiastic crowd. Napalm Death and Voivod have been touring North America with Exhumed, Iron Reagan, Black Crown Initiate and changing cast of other bands. The latest addition to the tour was California based grindcore group Phobia.
As expected the crowd was mixture of old time hard core and thrash fans and younger fans of the warmup acts. It was not surprising that the bands would energize the crowd and indeed it seemed that at times there were more potential stage divers on stage than musicians but nobody seemed to care as long as the kids got out of the stage and back into the arms of the audience.
Black Crown Initiate started the night and unfortunately they had to play to somewhat small audience as expected. Six bands of head banging and moshing is a long time so the crowd mostly took it easy for this set. The complexity and nuances of Black Crown Initiates’ music was partly lost because of the sound in Metro but the guys put on a good show, though they were a bit too occupied with the playing itself and there wasn’t so much showmanship in the performance.
Phobia put on a powerful show and obviously had bigger fanbase in the venue. The band has been around in different configurations since early ‘90s. It’s obvious that Shane “The Pain” McLachlan is the primus motor behind the band and the rest of the band is more in the background even on the stage. This didn’t slow them down a bit and the audience really got into the show during Phobias’ set.
If you look up Iron Reagan and see the bands the guys are or have been active with you understand why they are sometimes called Crossover Thrash Supergroup. With bands like Municipal Waste, Cannabis Corpse, Mammoth Grinder and more it’s easy to start looking for similarities but Iron Reagan is more than the sum of it’s parts. Their almost crysty sound and attitude on stage was perfect for the night and Iron Reagan definitely walked away from the night with new fans and respect.
Exhumed definitely had the home field advantage at Metro. The guys from San Jose always have a good following on bay area shows and this one was no different. The audience was maybe at their wildest at this point of the evening and the audience was very busy dealing with all the crowd surfers. The band also brought their old bassist Ross Sewage on stage for few songs. Exhumed pays old school death and was definitely a great segway to the headliners on the bill.
The two main acts on the tour seem to have very strong following and not a big overlap in the audience. There definitely were primarily Voivod fans and primarily Napalm Death Fans in the audience. Voivod has more dynamic approach to the show and their music more prone to the audience listening and watching where as Napalm Death has somewhat static show with singer, Mark “Barney” Greenway, doing most of the running around the stage even with his arm in a sling. Voivod has almost playful stage presence with Michel Langevins’ enthusiastic drumming, Daniel Mongrains’ non-stop movement with his guitar and Denis Bélanger singing with a smile on his face most of the time. Even the new guy, Dominique Laroche on the bass fit in very nicely though he kept to himself most of the show. The set had surprisingly laid back feel to it and it almost felt like a breather for the evening.
Finally Napalm Death took the stage and there was a definite movement in the audience and I felt myself being crushed against the stage. I could compare Napalm Deaths’ performance to one by Slayer. They both mostly stand still and CRUSH! Mark had his arm in a sling but that didn’t slow him down. Meanwhile Shane Embury on bass and stand in guitarist Erik Burke stood in their respective corners of the stage and let it rip. Napalm Death brought another local legend, Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys, on stage to do a cover of Dead Kennedys classic “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”.
It’s always hard to review the shows of the bands you really like. Keeping the fanboy out of the review process is difficult and at times it’s easier to be critical of the bands you don’t know or even don’t like. Having said that this evening was one to remember for me and for other concert goers. The previous time I had the chance to see Napalm Death was -96 and I still remember that show. I believe this memory will stay with me for another twenty or more years.