May 15th, 2017
I Prevail, Starset, Vamps
I didn’t know what I was walking into as I crossed the threshold of Sokol Auditorium, but I had high expectations. Since the first Northern Invasion of 2015, I’ve made it a habit to see at least one of the festival’s bands either prior to or after the festival. Having seen Starset and I Prevail less than 48 hours before, this year I was making the Omaha stop of the Lifelines Tour my extension of Northern Invasion.
Because of travel time, I had missed the opening band, but was able to catch the last half of VAMPS’ set. I was unfamiliar with the Japanese rock band, but most of the crowd were not. As the band thrashed about the stage, several hundred fans sung along with vocalist Hideto “Hyde” Takarai in both English and Japanese. The crowd’s reaction to VAMPS was amazing. Tonight was the first time VAMPS played Omaha, and I would be shocked if this was their last.
Having seen Starset the day before at Northern Invasion, and this being my 10th time seeing the band live, I had an expectations for how tonight’s performance would go. Over the past 4 years, I’ve seen Starset perform opening slots, co-headlines and headline tours. No matter which slot they play, whether it’s in front of 50k fans at a festival, or fifteen hundred fans like tonight’s show, Starset bring a stellar show.
Starset were the band I was most excited to see tonight, and, judging by the crowd’s reaction when the house lights went out, I wasn’t the only one. The opening chords of Into The Unknown heralded the return of Starset to Omaha.
The band’s visuals had changed since their last Omaha appearance. Bassist Ron DeChant, guitarist Brock Richards, and drummer Adam “Drumabuse” Gilbert had retired their black and dark blue space suites in favor of white and gray. While the style remains the same, the color change helped to greatly enhance the interstellar light show of Startset’s current Demonstrations. Dustin Bates, founder and vocalist, is still wearing his bowtie and thick rimmed glasses though and walked on stage looking like a stressed out scientist.
Several years ago, I was lucky enough to have been to a Demonstration which featured cellist Mariko M. Adding cellist Jonathan Kampfe, and violinist Siobhán Cronin added a cosmic layer to Starset’s already interstellar sound. The live cellist and violinist also says something about how dedicated the band are to making music. It would have been cheaper and easier to just have the strings tracks played pre-recorded. Bates is a perfectionist though, and it shows by having a Kampfe and Cronin touring with the band.
As the strobe lights burst, and the spotlight danced across Sokol Auditorium, brilliant patterns of light flashed to life across the plexiglass cube that surrounded Gilbert’s drumkit. The LCD screens on either side of the stage, behind Richards and DeChant, swirled and shifted with cosmic images and scenes from several of the band’s official music videos.
Starset’s 9 song set, encompassing nearly an hour of stage time, focused heavily on the band’s sophomore release Vessels. Technical or electric issues during Satellite, the set’s 4th track, caused the track to be cut during it’s 1st chorus, and found gasps risen among the crowd. It was like someone flipped a light switch. All of the sudden the stage lights went out and the music stopped. Not missing a beat though, Bates addressed the crowd and requested we sing along to their next song. Kampfe and Cronin’s introduction to My Demons was more than enough to bring our focus back to the stage.
Given the complexity of Starset’s shows, we can easily forgive the band for a simple error.
Getting to hear Bringing It Down, my favorite track off of Vessels, and witnessing several hundred fans bouncing around was an exhilarating experience to witness.
With the Linfelines tour encompassing mostly festival dates, tonight’s show was also one of the few times the band would be performing an extended set and added Telepathic to the setlist. The band’s latest single was very welcomed to hear!
For Starset’s music to come alive during Demonstration, the music is shifted and altered. As heavy as the tracks are on the band’s releases, they are even heavier when played on tour. Frequency is one of the most brutal live tracks I’ve heard. Bates’ vocals transition between gutteral growls and harmonic soothing levels. While the music was meticulously crafted in the studio, Starset’s music is truly meant to be enjoyed in a live atmosphere. Do yourselves a favor, catch one of the band’s Demonstrations.
Michigan’s I Prevail, touring as a quartet in support of their debut release, Lifelines, took the stage to thunderous applauds and cheers. While Starset’s fan were a mixture of female and male fans, the loudest majority of I Prevail fans were female. The band, having gained youtube fame in 2014 with their cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, crafted their set from their debut EP and full length album.
This being my 3rd time seeing the band live, my second just a few days prior at Northern Invasion, I had somewhat of an idea what to expect for the mid-west metalcore rockers. A constant touring schedule since their debut EP’s release has given the band a chance to hone their live show. The band’s high energy set focused heavily on their Lifelines release, which the tour is named after, but also included a cover medley and Swift’s Blank Space.
A co-headling tour gave I Prevail and Starset’s fans the opportunity to enjoy full production shows. While Starset’s set was much more visually enticing that I Prevail’s, each band did a fantastic job using the crowd’s energy to their advantage. It’s always a pleasure to see members of the band on stage enjoying the performance as much as I do.