LOS ANGELES — Powerman 5000 singer Spider has said that being a rock star is the closest one can come to being a superhero.
He’s not that far off, judging by his flamboyant onstage persona Wednesday night at the Palace Theatre.
It was the fourth date of Powerman 5000’s “Rockets & Robots” tour. Spider, sporting a gray get-up, ski goggles and his fluorescent yellow hair, looked like some kind of futuristic firefighter when he and his electro-metal band emerged for their hour-long set of sci-fi-themed songs.
From the opening number, “Supernova Goes Pop,” the singer growled in a tyrannical voice and displayed robot-boxer dance moves. Meanwhile, the five-piece group’s ambitious, larger-than-life sound — powered by the aggressive interplay of guitarists Adam 12 and M.33 and bassist Dorian — packed an arena-sized punch.
The sold-out house, which contained a handful of preteen boys with Spider-inspired hairstyles, ate it up. Also in attendance were shock-rocker Rob Zombie — who happens to be Spider’s brother — and members of Coal Chamber.
Feeling At Home
“We started this band outside Boston, but we live in Los Angeles now, and you’re making us feel like we’re at home,” Spider (born Mike Cummings) told the crowd early in the show. “We’ve sold more CDs in this city than any other city in the world.”
The fans thundered in response.
“It’s the kind of crowd that shows how big they are,” said Fear Factory frontman Burton C. Bell, who joined Static-X — one of the opening acts — during their set for a cover of Ministry’s “Burning Inside.”
While slipping in such older songs as “Car Crash,” Powerman 5000 leaned heavily on material from their breakthrough album, Tonight the Stars Revolt! (1999). Though the band has had a strong cult following since the mid-’90s, it didn’t attain large-scale success until the LP’s first single, “When Worlds Collide” (RealAudio excerpt), struck a chord with radio and MTV last fall. The disc’s next single, “Nobody’s Real,” seems to be following in its footsteps.
The two songs served as back-to-back set-enders, before the band returned for an encore. “When Worlds Collide” received a straightforward delivery, as if to downplay its significance for the band. But the group elaborated on the studio version of “Nobody’s Real” (RealAudio excerpt), which began with a slow, chanted intro as Spider shined a hand-held red spotlight over the crowd.
The encore brought four more songs, culminating with Tonight’s “System 11:11″ — during which Spider sang part of Radiohead’s “Creep” — and “They Know Who You Are.”
The show kicked off with powerful sets by tech-metal bands Static-X and Dope. “We thought we’d put together a tour with a few bands that we think are going to take over the world soon,” Spider said.
Static-X frontman Wayne Static didn’t let the comment go to his head, although at a party held after the show he and his bandmates celebrated the newly achieved gold status (500,000 albums shipped) of their album Wisconsin Death Trip (1999). “We’re just doing the same thing we always did,” he said. “[A gold record] just means that I can call up Gibson and say, ’Hey, we have a gold record,’ so they’ll give me free guitars.”
Static also proved a dramatic frontman during his band’s set, which included the singles “Push It” (RealAudio excerpt) and “Bled for Days.” With his black hair sticking straight up in its usual style, Static contorted his face and bulged out his eyes as he sang, while a floor-level spotlight illuminated him.
“We’re only four dates in, and I can feel it’s going to be a good tour,” Static said.
New York rockers Dope, who performed before Static-X, capped their well-received set with their new single “Everything Sucks” (RealAudio excerpt), off Felons and Revolutionaries (1999), and a cover of N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police.”
“This is a cool tour, because you have three bands that sound distinctly different, yet we all bring this thing to the table that kids are diggin’ on,” singer Edsel Dope said after the show.
“We’re all heavy bands, but we each have our own thing going. Static-X has got their evil disco, Powerman’s got their rockets-and-robots groove, and we’re the guys with the dreadlocks who smoke dope.”