Half God Half Devil Tour 04/11/2017

Half God Half Devil Tour
April 11th, 2017
Sokol Auditorium
In This Moment
Motionless In White
Gemini Syndrome

A mild spring night in Omaha, Nebraska was perfect for the fourth stop of the Half God Half Devil tour. Tonight’s show had sold out weeks before, meaning Sokol Auditorium would be packed with close to two thousand screaming fans who were ready to become the show.
In This Moment were returning to Omaha and they were bringing their friends; Gemini Syndrome, who had sold out their previous stop in Omaha last January, Avatar, who’ve not played Omaha since September of 2016, and Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Motionless In White, who’ve been absent from Omaha since their 2013 Hellpop Tour performance.
Gemini Syndrome opened tonight’s concert with a powerful 6 song set featuring tracks from their debut and sophomore releases. While not as theatrically visual as the rest of their tour mates, Gemini Syndrome rocked the crowd for a solid half hour. The band’s founder an vocalist, Aaron Nordstrom, with his stark white dreads, shined earie shades of red, green and blue in the pulsating stage lights. This being the band’s sixth show in Omaha, since their first live performance in 2013 opening for David “Disturbed” Draiman’s Device, meant that tonight’s crowd was full of their fans. It was an honor to hear so many people singing along throughout their set.
Swedish rockers Avatar would be taking the stage next. For those of you who’ve not seeing Avatar live, you’re missing out. The band is often classified as Melodic-Death-Metal, but I think they’re more Swedish Heavy-Metal-Cabaret. The band utilization of intense drum beats and thrashing guitars, coupled with vocalist Johannes Eckerström’s guttural growls, high pitched screams and perfect clean vocals means that Avatar can switch from a slow tempo rock beat to a shredding Death-Metal roar in the span of a verse and chorus.
Tonight’s performance would mark my 3rd time seeing the band live since their Omaha debut in 2015. Each show is a spectacle. Every note is meticulously played. Every head-bang is perfectly timed. These guys have had over 15 years to perfect their live show, and, despite the clown make-up and circus ringmaster style uniforms, Avatar are meant to be taken seriously. Omaha welcomed Avatar with open arms, in return the band welcomed us to Avatar Nation. We were part of the Freak Show and ready for the next time they pass through town.
With Avatar’s departure from the stage, Motionless In White’s crew began their setup. For the next 45 minutes, Sokol Auditorium would be turned into a Tim Burton-eqsue decorated graveyard. Twisted picket fences and grinning demonic jack-o-lanterns lined the back of the stage. Partially melted faux candles burned on every ledge and flat surface. Halloween had come early to Sokol.
As the auditorium went dark, illuminated faintly by the faux candles, the band walked on stage. Bassist Devin “Ghost” Sola, who’s stage outfits change with every tour, took on the visual persona of Stephen King’s classic horror queen Carrie. Ricky “Horror” Olson and Ryan Sitkowski, dressed in business casual and covered in grease paint, flanked either side of the stage.
Motionless In White’s 45 minute set started out a bit rocky. I don’t know if it was technical issues, audio troubles, or just that the crowd wasn’t as into the show as they should be, but the band looked pissed throughout the first half of A-M-E-R-I-C-A. It took vocalist and founder Chris “Motionless” Cerulli a few minutes to entice the crowd into a better reaction. By the time Cerulli introduced the band’s second song and latest single, Loud (Fuck It), the band had thoroughly grabbed the crowd’s attention.
The crowd’s excitement continued as the band pushed through Devil’s Night and Unstoppable, and continued to peak as the opening chords of Death March were played and a woman dressed as a twisted cupidoll walked on stage waving a giant flag. For those unfamiliar with Motionless In White’s music, the band’s cover of System of a Down’s Chop Suey gave everyone the chance to sing along. As much as I would have preferred to hear 570 in the setlist, it’s always a treat to hear the band’s cover songs.
The moshing continued through Dead as Fuck and into Eternally Yours, another of the tracks from the band’s forthcoming release, Graveyard Shift. Closing with Reincarnate was the perfect end to the band’s set.
Motionless In White have been one of my favorite bands since first seeing them on the original Hellpop Tour back in 2013. Hearing how well the new music synced with their older tracks gives me encouragement that Graveyard Shift will be just as brutal as their Infamous and Reincarnate releases. Hopefully the band won’t wait another 4 years to pass through Omaha.
The time that it took to dress the stage for In This Moment, hidden behind the stage’s curtain, gave me the chance to mingle with the crowd, and talk to the other fans in attendance. I only found a few people who were seeing In This Moment for the first time tonight. The vast majority were on their 2nd or 3rd concert, and more than a few had seen the band live half a dozen times. One fan I spoke with had even seen the band’s 2007 Omaha debut when the band toured with Kittie and the Funeral For Yesterday tour. That show was also my first time seeing the band live.
I try my best to be objective when reviewing live shows, but that’s hard to do when you’re covering your favorite bands. Tonight’s show would mark almost 10 years to the day the first time that I photographed In This Moment. Back then I had no idea who they were other than that band with the chick screamer who opened for Kittie. While the band’s line-up has changed, and their music has evolved, the band’s message has remained the same. Now 10 years and 15 shows later, I’m even more of a fan.
Being the 4th show of the tour, I still wasn’t sure what to expect for the Half God Half Devil Tour. In This Moment’s live show changes with every show, and I’d avoided the “spoilers” as much as I could over the past week. I wanted the theatrics of tonight’s show to be fresh.
The auditorium lights went out just as the intro music began. I don’t know the name of the song, but it’s an oratorio sung in Latin. After opening chords of Blood and the curtain dropped, it made sense why the band picked that particular track for their opening music.
Vocalist Maria Brink stood center stage, wearing a white mitre with lace covering her eyes, and floor length papal vestments. Tonight, Brink was our heavy metal Pope. Blood Girls, dressed as ersatz nuns with emotionless white masks emblazoned with inverted black crosses, flanked with side of Brink. Bassist Travis “The Faceless Freak” Johnson, and Guitarist Randy “The War Machine” Weitzel, stage right and left respectively, were dressed in black papal robes and the same masks as the Blood Girls, ominously stared down the crowd. Co-founder and guitarist, Chris Howorth, hung close to the back of stage right, while current drummer Kent Diimmel remained in the back shadows of stage left.
Towards the end of Blood, Brink took off the Papal robe, revealing a floor length beaded white gown, and the Blood Girls positioned themselves directly behind her. The choreography that followed, the Blood Girls arms shifting behind Brink, resulted in Brink gaining the appearance of the multi-armed Hindu Goddess Dakshina Kali. There’s a reason In This Moment are known worldwide for their dramatic live performances. The band have devoted themselves to giving the fans the perfect visual performance to heighten their live music.
Black Widow followed and once again found the Blood Girls positioned directly behind Brink. This time though, as what’s become a staple of the track, Brink and the Blood Girls each held exaggerated crutches which, when moved as precisely as they do, gives Brink the appearance of the song’s namesake.
River of Fire, one of the sets two new tracks, followed. Brink introduced the song as being much more stripped down, and showing a different side of the band. The track, even though known by no one in the crowd, still resulted in thunderous applauds.
The band shifted back into high gear with Adrenalize before Brink exited the stage and returned in her solid red body suit with gossamer red wings for fan favorite track Burn. The effect of Brink waving the sheer wings about as the fans positioned around her stage give the effect of a butterfly maintaining it’s strength while flying through a hurricane.
The fifth costume change of the evening occurred as the stage crew placed the single white chair on the stage. It’s always a pleasure to hear Brink perform The Fighter, starting off acapella, then with minimal instruments backing her before the full band kicks in, heightening the sense of urgency of the song.
Brink introduced the band and gave the boys a chance to shine as they performed a highly accurate jam sessions featuring some of their favorite guitar covers, finishing with a lengthy drum solo.
Brink’s cage was then placed on stage, and the Blood Girls, now wearing wolf masked, stalked around the stage. Big Bad Wolf is one of the songs the fans hope will be played. Brink thrashing about the cage as the wolves attempt to subdue her, coupled with the pulsating lights gives a deeper sense of urgency to the track before the song ends and the stage lights dim.
Oh Lord, originally thought to be titled I’ve Been Lying With the Devil, followed. Brink and the Blood Girls, each dressed in a sheer white gown with exaggerated length sleeves, slowly lifted and raised giant white glowing globes as the stage was bathed in soft blue and purple lights. The choreography gave the impression of an ancient ritual performed by witches hidden in the Salem countryside. The two news songs, while not as heavy as the tracks off of Blood and Black Widow, were no the less intense and meshed perfectly with the band’s older material.
The Infection heralded the end of the band’s main set was coming just before the crowd was shredded with the heaviest rendition of Sick Like Me that I’ve ever heard the band play. Brink thanked the Omaha fans for their support and graciously bowed before exiting the stage.
Those of us who’ve been to an In This Moment concert before knew that the band wasn’t done with us yet. At least we hoped they weren’t.
The stage remained dark as the room burst with chants of “MARIA”. The moment the stage hand’s flashlight turned on, telling us there would soon be movement on stage, the fans screamed with gusto.
A single light shined down on center stage as the Blood Girls walked back to stage. Each of them still wearing the emotionless white mask, but this time they were draped in a sheer white cloth. Brink them entered the stage with regal grace. She wore a floor length black gown, the gown’s full length cape fixed to the ends of its sleeves. She also wore a massive crystal crown shaped like an interstellar sunburst that caught and reflected the minimal stage lights. The current of air from the stage’s fans caused her dress to dance as she slowly swayed. Regardless, I was not ready for what came next.
I’m not a big fan of cover songs being played at concerts. I don’t care if its Marilyn Manson’s Sweet Dreams, Korn’s Word Up, Shiny Toy Guns’ Stripped, or any other number of cover songs, I would rather hear one of the band’s original tracks. That being said, In This Moment performed the most heart wrenching rendition of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight. I’d forgotten how eviscerating Collins’ lyrics are, and hearing them sung by Brink gave the track an exceptionally haunting tone. I don’t think any of us were prepared for how devastatingly beautiful In This Moment could make this song. Brink twisting and turning like a broken marionette throughout the song, and the Blood Girls remaining motionless at the her throughout the performance made it all the more emotional. If you doubt me, look up the song’s lyrics.
It’s because of performances like these that In This Moment have received rapturous praise for their live shows. Whether it’s either of the Hellpop tours, the Blood tour or even the band’s opening slot of Korn and Rob Zombie’s Return of the Dreads tour, The band have one of the most unique, diverse and theatrical live performances you will see. And that’s not just in the rock and metal music scenes. In This Moment are an all-encompassing artist experience. No matter what size venue they play in, whether it’s the 2,000 people packed into Sokol Auditorium tonight, or the 250,000 people at 2015’s Northern Invasion, the band are a musical force of nature that will take you on a sonic journey through an apocalyptic landscape and make sure you safely arrive at your destination.
For the final song of the evening, Brink’s pink podium, emblazoned with what I assume will be their next album cycle’s logo, was placed center stage. Flanked on either side one last time by the Blood Girls, with Howorth joining Weitzel and Johnson at the front of the stage, Brink emerged wearing the whore’s dunce cap and wielding a yard stick and the introduction to Natural Born Sinner played. The band’s final song is one of empowerment and unity.
“If I can bring you all together, united as a family,” she told the seething crowd, “if just for one night, then I will be your whore.”
As the band thrashed about the stage, Brink, atop her podium, used Whore to scold the righteous who’ve condemned so many of us. Large pink and black balloons were released into the crowd, lending to the song’s tongue-in-cheek tone.
Before exiting the stage for their final time, the band and crew came forward as group, arms interlocked, thanking the crowd, and graciously bowing. A few lucky fans, me included, got a guitar pick, high five or handshake from various band members.
The bands each succeeded in uniting a few thousand strangers for a few hours on a brisk April night. That’s the effect music should have on each of us. For a brief time tonight I wasn’t thinking about how I had to work at 7am the next morning, or that our current President could be leading us to a nuclear war with North Korea, or that hard work really happens after the show when I have to edit thousands of photos. Myself and thousands of others were living in the moment and enjoying a spectacular rock show.
Music saves lives, and makes live worth living.