One of these days, I will crack the code needed to enjoy a show without a single hiccup at the Vogue Theatre. Last Saturday was not that day. Wait – don’t get me wrong – this was a truly great show. But I’ll get to that.
Beyond the “no ins and outs” rule which never ceases to chafe my happy, I figured out long ago that once the Vogue fills up, the estimated wait time to get from the back of the beer line to the bar is approximately 24 minutes and 11 seconds. Solution? Buy as many Pabst as you can carry as soon as you enter. Problem solved. Ah, but there’s a whole other problem – the coat check line. (“Well, that’s easily fixed – don’t bring a coat next time, or better yet, don’t check it, you big @#$%&.”) Yeah, thanks, now I know. After nearly a 30-minute wait to check my stuff, I was regrettably informed – just as I arrived at the coat check window – that coat check was full. Oh good. Personally, I think there was enough room left in there to store Peewee’s ball of foil, but I’m no expert. Anyway, I missed a couple Townsend tunes, but soon got over it, threw my stupid coat somewhere, and began my thorough enjoyment of the evening.
I must say, I got a kick out of the young, excited metal pups waiting in the coat line with me saying, “Yeah, I definitely wanna see Townsend, he’s awesome.” This, as Townsend cranked out the mountain-high “Kingdom” (“Stay with me, Lord! Play with me!”), well out of view but well within earshot. “Well, you better get over there because he’s on right now, buddy.” I laughed a smug laugh and shook my head in playful condescension as the young’uns scurried quickly toward the metal, until I realized how much of a schmuck I was myself for still being in a (soon to be pointless) coat check line while Grampa Townsend was preaching the gospel.
Townsend called it early on, noting how the crowd was going to “beat the shit out of each other, I can just smell it tonight.” Being the musical magician and crowd manipulator par excellence that he is, Townsend somehow managed to get the majority of us big tough metalheads (even the guy in the Vital Remains shirt) to do “jazz hands” during all of “Lucky Animals”. The man’s clearly got a firm grasp on his fan base, and the affection is clearly mutual.
“Here’s a little song about… probably my mother…” he said, prefacing “Juular”. Somehow, Devin Townsend has succeeded in meshing self-deprecating humour, hippie dippie love, and heavy freaking metal into just the right mix. He’ll crack you up, blast your face off with riffs, then tell you he loves you, give you a big hug and kiss and send you on your merry metal way. It’s baffling. But it’s a hell of a good time. If there was ever a high note to end on, epic set closer “Grace” was it. “Laugh! Love! Live! Learn!” “Never fear love!” “Love, love, love, love, love…” “We all fall down if we fear love.” The man’s metal pendulum has clearly swung to the other extreme, 180o and a million miles away from the seething, hate-fueled vitriol of Strapping Young Lad. It is a testament to both his incredible talent and personal commitment to happiness (his and yours) that he’s been able to continue pushing forward his career while simultaneously heading in an entirely different direction.
Then came the pummelling beast that is Gojira.
I asked young metal fan Dale Chang who he was here to see, and why: “Gojira! ‘Cause their new album is fuckin’ awesome… and they’re French! French people are cool, right?!” This kid was pumped, and absolutely correct – French people are damn cool. Ahem.
Gojira blew the roof off the Vogue from the first song on. “Explosia” (off last year’s L’Enfant Sauvage) is an excellent example of the band’s strengths all jammed into one wicked package – dirty, face-smashing intro; quick shift to razor-sharp, post-industri/metal pounding spiked with throat-peeling vocals; all eventually, somehow, morphing into a hypnotic chug-mantra laced with interstellar ringing guitar notes. C’est féroce!
The band were clearly having a great time on stage, which came across in their constant crowd interaction and ear-to-ear grins, not to mention the many stage dives (by the band, note) at the end of the show. The boys from Bayonne, France churned out what they’ve become known for over the last decade or so, and that is metal that is as inventive and progressive as it is brutal. Be it the huge “Flying Whales”, the frantic pile of angry red ants of “L’Enfant Sauvage”, fan favourite “Oroborus”, or the bone-crunching, boot-stomping death-march that is “Vacuity”, Gojira left their marks all over their adoring horde at the Vogue on Saturday. I have a feeling most of those marks have already begun to turn into proudly worn scars.
À la prochaine, Gojira. Et, encore une fois – merci!