Thursday, 9 April 2009

Concert Review: Lamb of God at the UBC Thunderbird Arena, Vancouver

On Wednesday night, Britney Spears performed at GM Place in downtown Vancouver, but serious music fans were over at UBC's Thunderbird Arena, where Lamb of God and friends conducted rigorous tests of the building's earthquake readiness.

Taking the stage around 10:15 pm and going full-throttle for 75 minutes, Lamb of God raised the roof, shook the walls, and vibrated the foundations of the building and all its occupants -- about 5,000 fans strong. Vocalist Randy Blythe produced a superhuman performance of boundless energy and loud growling, and somehow matched the sound assault of drummer Chris Adler, bassist John Campbell and guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton. Together they created a stunningly thick wall of sound that seemed to take on a powerful life of its own, and left the enthusiastic crowd physically exhausted and drained yet craving more.

The band sounded clean, tight, and sharp, as they performed about 13 songs, half from new album Wrath, and the rest a selection of favourites from Sacrament, Ashes of the Wake, and As The Palaces Burn. The highlights were many, and included Walk With Me in Hell and the massive Hourglass. Redneck confirmed that the building meets the highest seismic standards. Lamb of God closed the night with Black Label from New American Gospel, and the mosh pit needed little prompting to create the famed wall of death.

The main supporting act was Children of Bodom, performing for about 40 minutes with highlights including Living Dead Beat, In Your Face and Downfall. Guitarist Alexi Laiho appeared sober and in relative control, but Bodom just do not sound too good live. They appear to have trouble keeping to the rhythm of their songs (they seem to perform faster than needed), and they generally play close approximations of the necessary notes. Keyboardist Janne Wirman did not help matters by appearing generally disinterested and repeatedly wandering off the stage mid-song between the keyboard passages.

On Wednesday Bodom were not helped by a sound system clearly not set up for them, which resulted in the drums and bass dominating the band's sound. Still, the crowd responded well and appreciated Laiho's guitar wizardry.

Laiho turned 30 on Wednesday, and Blythe appeared on stage while Bodom was performing to lead the crowd in singing Happy Birthday.

Earlier, As I Lay Dying of San Diego and God Forbid of New Jersey warmed up the crowd with enthusiastic 30 minute sets, but neither band could hide the overall lack of elite level talent, and they were both also hampered by a small stage and no sound test time. But special mention to Byron Davis, lead vocalist of God Forbid, for good and entertaining crowd engagement. Municipal Waste from Richmond, Virginia actually opened the concert at 7 pm, but I did not arrive that early.

The change-over between bands was handled briskly and maintained the momentum of the concert, keeping the mostly well-behaved fans in the groove.

Overall a good night of top quality heavy metal in Vancouver.

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