November 20, 2011
The Palladium Ballroom
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Vincent Gomez
Photos by Brandon Ramsey
Korn - The Path of Totality Tour
Don’t get me wrong, I love Korn, I really do. The four albums they released in the '90s are permanently etched in my brain. But here’s the thing. This experiment they’re undertaking with their music to incorporate elements of Dubstep into the sound has me worried. I know some people are going to call me old and disgruntled after reading that statement. However, after seeing the group’s disjointed appearance at the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas, all I can say is this. I long for the '90s when Korn knew exactly what they were doing with their music.
Old school Korn fans - and the majority of this crowd was just that - knew something was askew the moment the opening act, Dope D.O.D., hit the stage. This hardcore English hip-hop trio may have gotten the young kids up front all excited, but it sent a lot of Korn’s fan base into the Jack Daniel’s restaurant adjacent to the venue for a drink. The hard-rocking bar band inside provided more entertainment than the rapping English lads. In fact, they were more exciting to watch than the electro house artists Downlink and Datsik who followed D.O.D. on stage.
I want to get something straight about 'dubstep’. It’s one thing for a rock band to look at different styles of music to see what elements of the music they can reinterpret into their own sound. It gets a little dangerous when you actually start working the creators of that music into your songs. The lines get blurred and what seems exciting is suddenly lost in translation. More importantly, the fans sense it as well. Tonight’s exercise in sound would go a long way in defining a simple concept that often gets lost with bands. What seems exciting on the inside doesn’t necessarily mean it will be accepted by those on the outside if you aren’t careful in the way you present it.
Tonight’s showing by the Bakersfield, California band was literally divided into a four-part play. The first act contained tunes you wouldn’t expect to hear from Korn, including the first two songs, "Predictable" and "Lies" from the 1994 debut album. As Munky and Fieldy launched into the Grammy nominated "No Place to Hide" from '98s Life is Peachy, it breathed some life into the crowd. They followed that with "Proud" from the motion picture soundtrack, I Know What You Did Last Summer. Then, for some unknown reason, they reversed course.
As the second act of Korn’s play kicked into gear, the band decided to totally shift gears and clobber this near capacity crowd over the head with their grand musical experiment, The Path of Totality. The band played five consecutive songs from their yet unreleased album that will be released worldwide the first week of December. It was evident by the movement at the front of the stage that the young rockers were getting into the electronic elements Jonathan Davis & Co. had fused into their traditional sound. The mature stalks of Korn faithful in the back, however, wanted their money back.
Now, before I get blasted for being too critical of this show, take this odd incident into account. At one point, Fieldy was spending so much of time passing out glow sticks, that he was caught off guard as the band started a song without him. And yes, you read that correctly. Korn’s consummate bassist was passing out glow sticks at his own show. Seriously, at this point, I felt like the band had actually invited tonight’s audience to a 'rave’ and the glow sticks were serving as ecstacy.
After the five bathroom break songs ended, Korn finally got back on track with "Here to Stay," "Freak on a Leash" and "Falling Away From Me." And then the unexpected happened. Instead of finishing of this section of great Korn classics with let’s say the brilliant composition, "Make Me Bad," these guys decided that Pink Floyd’s "Another Brick in the Wall" was the perfect piece of music to end the evening on. Huh?! I’ll tell you, when the band left the stage, I felt like doing my own encore of Pink Floyd, 'run like hell.’ But, there was an outside chance I’d still get my money’s worth, so I stayed.
After some loud coaxing from the crowd up front, Davis, Fieldy, Munky and drummer Ray Luzier came back on stage to perform "Shoots and Ladders", "Got the Life" and "Blind." In the background lurking in the shadows, was another guitarist that was either a hired gun for the tour, or someone being punished for hating the new stuff and banished from the spotlight. Regardless, when the lights came on and the stage cleared, I looked at my watch. It said 10:30. I was at a loss for words.
The fact Korn ended this show without playing their concert staple, "Somebody Someone," was just plain rude. Deeming a 30-year old Pink Floyd song more important than there own musical creations like "Did My Time", "A.D.I.D.A.S." and the aforementioned "Make Me Bad" was borderline ridiculous. Playing any of these tunes would have gone a long way in satisfying this restless crowd, yet the powers that be felt it necessary for the crowd to endure five new songs from an unreleased album. It was a final act of defiance on the band’s part, and a thumb in the face to the fiercely loyal Korn crowd that had followed this band for nearly two decades.
I’m not quite sure what to make out of the images and sounds I saw of this show as I was leaving the building. Jonathan Davis is ultra thin these days. Watching him walk over to the drum kit in-between songs to put a mask to his face in order to get a hit of oxygen was definitely surreal. Ozzy I could understand, but the 40-year old Davis? It made the Gatorade he consumed throughout the evening an appropriate exclamation point to an already bizarre night.
Sadly, the Korn I grew up admiring for years was M.I.A. this particular evening. Am I old school, yes! Do I miss the greatness Korn displayed throughout the '90s, absolutely! Was change necessary for the band? It depends upon your definition of the word. There’s a difference between change and growth. If the past decade of music proved a disappointment to the members of Korn, I have no problem overhauling your signature sound. The thing is, you need to gradually introduce those changes rather than hit your fans over the head with it.
In the end, Korn’s new direction may be the kick in the ass the musicians have been looking for. Tonight, however, there was too much of the new sound and not enough of the vaunted past. By punting on some of their well-known hits in favor of the unknown, the band not only insulted their glorious work of yesterday, they laid the groundwork for an uncertain future. Make me bad - NO! Make me sad - yes!
No Place to Hide
Kill Mercy Within
Way Too Far
Here to Stay
Freak on a Leash
Falling Away from Me
Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd cover)
Shoots and Ladders
Got the Life