WILKES-BARRE, Pennsylvania Korn don’t know when enough is enough.
The opening night of the band’s Tour With No Name found the assaulting quintet continuing to push the limits of their monstrous rock. At the First Union Arena Thursday, they energized songs already furiously bursting at the seams on record with frenzied improvisation and dramatic sustains, then proceeded to beat the stuffing out of them.
“A.D.I.D.A.S.,” as heard on 1996′s Life Is Peachy, for example, snakes around wiry guitar riffs while the bass unsteadily propels the song, but live the guitars forwent their creepiness for a coiled rage that turned kinetic at the chorus. Bassist Fieldy, meanwhile, further rattled the shaky rhythm until it became a frantic blur. “Dead Bodies Everywhere,” off 1998′s Follow the Leader, was a maelstrom of crisscrossing riffs, punctuated by jarring vocal spurts. Where there’s room for just one more beat, another slice of redlining feedback or the addition of a wicked lick, Korn manage to elbow it in somehow.
As the band took a catwalk up to the stage, occupied by a huge cylindrical projection screen that lifted to reveal a bare-chested David Silveria presiding over his impressive drum kit, the atmosphere was charged with energy. Diehard Kornies consider themselves members of the same dysfunctional family, and it’s been quite a while since Daddy came home, so a hero’s welcome was in order.
Korn cut right to the chase, unloading new single “Here to Stay” from their latest album, Untouchables, with rafter-shaking bombast. Singer Jonathan Davis forfeited his black kilt (that was so last tour) in favor of a full-length gray skirt, which, with a black shirt and his stringy hair, gave him the appearance of a creature from the “Hellraiser” films. His demonic image was complete when he strolled up the curved ramp that partially encircled Silveria, to stand above the stage and look out over his minions.
Down-tuned guitar duo Head and Munky flanked the stage, with Fieldy positioned near the center but roaming freely and slapping his bass with similar unrestraint. You’d swear the gravity onstage was twice that of its surroundings, given the way Korn’s three string-slamming musicians carried themselves, hardly ever walking erect for any length of time. Doubled over and bobbing was the preferred method of delivery for songs this weighty.
Behind them the hovering projection screen spliced snippets of Korn videos and nightmarish scenes from B-horror movies with live footage of the band, which fostered an ominous, specter-like presence overlooking the chaos below. That Davis rarely exchanged words with the crowd took the theatrical display even further.
Near the end of the set, “Make Me Bad,” also rendered more barbarous than what’s found on 1999′s Issues, lapsed into a bit of Metallica’s “One,” the part when it speeds up and James Hetfield sings, “Darkness, imprisoning me…” Davis barked the familiar lines as though it weren’t a landmine that made him lose touch with the world, as was the case for the subject in Metallica’s version. Rather, just living in a godforsaken place drove him to such helpless frustration.
Prompted by a sea of lighters and incessant stomping, Davis re-emerged strapped with his bagpipes and wearing the trademark kilt for an encore of “Shoots and Ladders,” with its sinisterly sung nursery rhymes, and “Got the Life,” whose dance-friendly beat makes it Korn’s most accessible song. Strobe lights fired on all cylinders for the latter, and all that seemed missing was a disco ball. No matter, as the effect was achieved with a shower of glimmering confetti that fell at the song’s close — appropriate fanfare for a show that was cause for celebration among Korn fans.
The sound of rolling thunder welcomed openers Puddle of Mudd to the stage, and from first shot “Out of My Head” through the rest of the 30-minute set taken from their debut, Come Clean, the rumble never rested.
Backward-capped and six-string-strapped, Wes Scantlin had total command of his songs, easing up on the reins for a bemoaned “Drift & Die” and completely letting go of them for “Nobody Told Me” and “Bring Me Down.” Through almost constant roadwork, he’s tempered his tunes to the fullest, and with help from bassist Doug Ardito and guitarist Paul Phillips, they spit them out effortlessly, like the picks they flicked off into the crowd.
“Blurry” was an obvious sing-along, complete with united fist-pumping for emphasis on the “You shoved it in my face” line, but the floor really heaved like it hadn’t before with the LP’s first single, “Control.” Midway through, the band slid into Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” sending the Ozzy-adoring crowd into a frenzy. Just when the audience enthusiasm was beginning to match that of the band, Puddle of Mudd departed, comfortable knowing they left the crowd wanting more.
Where Puddle of Mudd seemed content with the naked approach — the massive stage was completely barren save for two mic stands during their set — futuristic goths Deadsy pranced around on props that looked lifted from a school play. The bandmembers took turns posing atop a glowing cube, and with a smoke machine billowing plumes behind them, the image had all the trappings of a glossy magazine photo, except no one was taking pictures.
Somebody needs to get P. Exeter Blue I a mic stand. The son of Gregg Allman and Cher, also known as Elijah Blue, moped around the stage using a headset mic, his head constantly lowered. So casual was his presence that it clouded the fact he was the frontman. And with his bandmates flopping about with seemingly equal disinterest, the group often looked out of synch.
The band’s music, meanwhile, oozed like heavy sludge, suffocating the arena with its overwhelming weight. Dr. Nner’s synth wails added a touch of sparkle to otherwise dull drones, but its treble was no match for Deadsy’s wall of drowned-out melodies. A shallow cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” found on their new LP, Commencement, got some heads banging, but even the single “The Key to Gramercy Park” failed to rouse the crowd still filtering in and anxious for the headliner.
For a full-length feature on Korn, check out “Korn: The Untouchables.”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the world, check out MTV News Tour Reports.