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HURT, Smile Empty Soul, Black Oxygen; November 22nd, 2012, Omaha, Nebraska

Smile Empty Soul
Black Oxygen

The Waiting Room
Omaha Nebraska
November 20th, 2012
Doors at 7

It’s always great to see a show at th enewly remodeled Waiting Room in Omaha. The only down side is the extreme lack of parking. Regardless, the fans started lining up outside a few hours before the 7 o’clock doors and the turnout was great for a Tuesday night.
Opening the show was Black Oxygen. A band that no very few people knew about and with good reason. They sounded off during their entire set. A lot of reverb off the vocals. I’ve never heard that much at this venue. From the looks of their website photo, there are 4 guys in the band. On the stage however someone is missing. David Lyle, lead vocalist and guitarist, had a decent enough stage presence but I couldn’t shake the surfer douche bag vibe I was getting off of him. Their music was comprised of at least one guitar solo during each song and I was skepticel that Lyle was even really singing live. The band forced prefabricated rock on the crowd for about half an hour longer than anyone should have to endure. Their music was nothing special and nothing unique. At the beginning of their set, maybe 20 people had found themselves on the floor in front of the stage. No one knew the words to any of their songs and no one seemed overly excited by their sound. Whispers from those attending were that Black Oxygen are a spoiled rich kids who’d bought their way onto this tour. That’s too bad. Smile Empty Soul and Hurt both deserve a better, more worthy opening band.
Black Oxygen wasted no time after their set packing up their merch and exiting the venue. The only attention they got as they waited outside were from a handful of cougars. Maybe they’ll have better luck next time.
There’s a stage curtain at the venue now, which was drawn so Smile Empty Soul could set up. It’s been almost ten years since I’ve seen Smile Empty Soul live. The first time was back in 2003 when they opened for Seether. It also happened to be the band’s first national tour.
As the stage curtains were pulled opened, The Waiting Room was filled with an odor that made the entire venue smell like a head shop. The band was burning incense on stage.

Lead vocalist and guitarist, Sean Danielson sounds on point tonight but there was only minimal crowd interaction during their set. This isn’t the first time the band has played in Omaha and the floor is packed with screaming fans. Their set is full of more mellow instrumental tracks that bleed into the band’s heavier songs. The entire night is full of aural peaks and valleys. Dummer Jake Kilmer and bassit Ryan Martin used their time to clam the crowd with soft beats and them burst into a heavy track. While no moshing took place, the crowd looked like they were on the verge during their entire set.
At this point, I happen to look out the venues’ front window and saw that Black Oxygen didn’t wait around for very long after their set. Black Oxygen’s bus took off halfway through Smile Empty Soul’s set. I always find it rude when a band’s don’t stick around for the entire show.
Smile Empty Soul’s sound is more refined now then when I saw them back in 2003. Years of constant touring and hard work are paying off for the trio. While plenty of fans were singing along during their lesser known songs, of course the crowd explodes when the band smashes in Bottom of a Bottle. The crowd was screaming every word.
Before their last song, Danielson did thank the crowd for listening and hoped they enjoyed their set. The band stuck around and signed for the fans afterwards. Each member seemed very grateful to have a devoted following.

The curtains closed once again as HURT were setting up. Nine Inch Nails’ Into The Void, Where Is Everybody and The Big Come Down were played over the house speakers during the set up time. J. Loren has been a fan of Nine Inch Nails for years now, since first hearing The Fragile back in 1999. I made a point to tell him after their set that he picked the perfect combination of NIN tracks to be played. “Of course they were,” he told me, that smirk ever present on his face. “I named my band before ever hearing of Nine Inch Nails, but The Fragile is my favorite album of their’s.”

The quiet mood of the crowd was broken as soon as the stage curtain’s parted. The Waiting Room’s main floor was packed with anxious bodies. The band took the stage to the screams and cheers of fans. To match the attitude of the band’s music, the guys looked pretty bad-ass tonight. J started off their set wearing a faded leather jacket, sunglasses and his old Capitol Records belt buckle his former label had given him for Christmas several years ago. Bassist Rek Mohr was supporting their touring mates by wearing a Smile Empty Soul t-shirt. Lead guitarist Michael Roberts, whom used to be apart of the band Leo with Mohr, rocked stage left in a black leather jacket. The guys were all dressed casual, but that was a far cry from the mood of the fans.
For the first time in many years, Hurt opened their set with Rapture, the first single of of the band’s debut release, Volume 1. No matter which direction I looked, fans were singing along with every word. Founder and lead vocalist, J Loren, reached into the crowd, shaking hands of eager fans. Hurt continued there aural assault on the fans with Unkind, one of my favorites off of the Volume 1 release. Tonight marked my 22nd time seeing Hurt live, but this was only the second time I’ve seen the band with their current line-up. The addition of Victor Ribas on drums has really rounded out the band. As hard as it was for the fans when original touring drummer Evan Johns departed, Ribas has been welcomed with open arms and does an amazing job behind his drum kit. A chilling rendition of Eden followed and the I could hear every girl in the crowd gasp when they heard the opening chords of Links and Waves. Tonight’s setlist is different from previous shows on the tour. I like to think that it’s because Omaha loves the band so much and they like to treat us to something special while they pass through town.
The style of music on Vol 1 and Vol 2 have a more dirty rock feeling than those found on Good-bye to the Machine and The Crux, but the more recently released tracks like When It’s Cold and How We End Up Alone mix perfectly with tracks recorded eight years ago. The crowd’s reaction to songs both old and new was amazing. I remember seeing Hurt open for Staind and Three Days Grace, and being one of only a few people in the crowd who knew the band’s music. Such was not the case tonight. The fans voices were untied as one and made the perfect vocal backdrop. J took the several moments during their set to interact with the crowd; thanking us for joining them, telling us stories. “On a lonely road,” he half sang. “I think that song was inspired by you guys right?” The crowd cheered. “Just east of Omaha, right?” He went of to tell us that the next song, How We End Up Alone was inspired by Bob Seger’s classic Turn the Page. “It’s hard to write a song inspired by another artist’s song without plagiarizing that artist.” Hurt’s set was flawless. Well, nearly flawless. During How We End Up Alone, Ribas’ snare drum came loose. “You don’t need that to play,” J joked, “do you?”
J picked up the violin for Fighting Tao, and there were a few whispered questions from the crowd. I heard one say, “Should we slow dance?” But Fighting Tao is an incredibly heavy song and the crowd is on the verge of moshing. The track Better followed. It was great to hear the crowd screaming back to J “you know it gets better right before it gets worse.” During the guitar and bass solos, J took the time to introduce the band. For the first time during a tour, J’s not playing guitar tonight. “I don’t need too,” he told the crowd, “when I’ve got an animal like Michael Roberts.”
The violin was brought back out for Danse Russe. A slightly slower track, the crowd began swaying back and forth to the melodic screeches J pulled and plucked out of the instrument. The tensions of Danse Russe were kept high as J sang, “If I don’t get outta here, I’m gonna kill someone.” From the reaction of the crowd, Got Jealous was another fan favorite. During the song’s first chorus and second verse, J grabbed one lucky fan’s camera and started recording the band and crowd from the stage. After handing back the camera, J made his way to the other side of the stage and climbed on top of the crowd, singing the final verse and chorus while the fans supported his weight. It was amazing to see everyone rush forward, dozens of hands grabbing onto J’s free hand and both of his feet and lifting him above the crowd. The band took it down a notch for Sally Slips and let the crowd catch their breath before hammering back into them with Wars. The crowd was swaying to the bass, bouncing with every word J sang.
Nearly every fan in the venue has sung every word of every song tonight but Hurt wasn’t done with us just yet. “Oh yeah,” J chuckled, seeing the fans obviously wanted more. “I think we’re forgetting something.” One excited fan screamed “TEN TON BRICK,” which, from the look on his face, took J by surprise. Finding one last burst of energy, the crowd finally erupted into a fit of moshing as the band finished their set with Ten Ton Brick.
As the band wrapped up their set, J announced that “In 10 minutes, we’ll be over there” pointing to the merch table, “signing and saying hi to all of you.” The final track of the night had barely ended before the crowd began chanting “ONE MORE SONG” but no encore followed. I can’t blame the band. From seeing previous setlists from this tour, they played two extra tracks for us and tonight’s show was one of the best Hurt concert’s I’ve ever witnessed. It goes without saying, if you get the chance to see Hurt, don’t miss the opportunity.

Links and Waves
When It’s Cold
How We End Up Alone
Fighting Tao
Danse Russe
Got Jealous
Sally Slips
Ten Ton Brick

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