The Devil Wears Prada
The Murat, Indianapolis, Indiana
21 February 2010
The old adage goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” That said, Killswitch Engage and almost, but not quite, even though it felt like it local boys The Devil Wears Prada invaded the Murat in Indianapolis on Sunday night. Upon entering the ornately decorated venue, fans were greeted with a plethora of signs stating “Just so you know, the touring vocalist for Killswitch Engage will be Phil Labonte of All That Remains.” And “There is to be no moshing or crowd surfing of any sorts under threat of ejection.” No moshing at a metal show? Yeah right. Let’s see how security tries to enforce that rule. The crowd was more or less divided into three parts: there were the tough guy metal heads, the parent / kid combos and the hardcore kids. All of this would make for an interesting mix later in the evening.
Tour openers Dark Tranquility were lukewarmly received by the notoriously fickle metal crowd. Combined with their visuals and the style of the animation on the projector behind them, they came off as awkward and Dethklok lite. Met with mostly blank stares, they were quickly relegated to “warm up band” position. Perhaps this was fitting as warm up bands are there to do one thing: warm up the crowd for the main act. It’s easy to say “oh, but the support bands are my favourites”, but this clearly wasn’t the case with Dark Tranquility. Unfortunately, they did nothing more than provide a noisy, irritating distraction to whatever conversation that you were having at the moment with your new BFF at the bar.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, The Devil Wears Prada “brought it with fury”. Truth be told, they could have come up ad played a bunch of nonsense and they still would have been the best set of the night up to that point. Surrounded by friends and family, they turned Indianapolis into the closest thing that they had to a hometown show on this tour. Mothers beamed and girlfriends cheered as the band tore through their set with a ferocity and tenacity not seen since their basement high school shows. Despite having just been tattooed and being somewhat under the weather, vocalist Mike Hranica held command of the stage with a maturity that belied his twenty odd years. With the amount of touring that these boys do, you would think that this would be old hat for them, however each song was approached as if it was the first time that they had ever played it live. Not much on conversation, the band blasted through a solid forty five minutes of material, taking the crowd on a wild up and down ride. The only downside to their set was the size of the stage, but that’s not exactly something that they are able to control.
It’s a fortunate thing that tDWP turned in such a solid set. The crowd remained charged throughout the set change and remained as such until the Killswitch Engage crew brought the house lights down. Killwsitch, or Philswitch Engage as they’ve been recently dubbed, appeared from out of the darkness rather unceremoniously. Everyone present knew that it was going to be different, but the question on the forefront of everyone’s minds was “How is this going to work?” Replacing lead singer Howard Jones, out on injury leave of sorts, is Phil Labonte or All That Remains. While it’s easy to say, “But Phil’s not Howard!” or “Phil does this or that or doesn’t do this or that” and “But Howard does it like this! Why doesn’t Phil do it like that?”, it’s necessary to take into consideration the circumstances by which he has joined this tour. When you do, it brings everything into perspective. Sure, the two men have polar opposite vocal styles. Where one has a weakness, the other excels. Parts of the show that have a tendency to be a little shaky were absolutely spot on, and vice versa. Phil knows where he’s weak and where he’s strong and he takes his weakness and lets the crowd walk side by side with him. For that, he should be applauded. With a temporary change in lineup, the aforementioned fickle crowd would have booed and hissed the band off stage. For once, this time, a room full of metal fans were polite and respectful. They sung louder and shrieked with more fervor. Perhaps, this was their unspoken way of telling both Phil and the band that they were there for them and that they were supporting them. It was absolutely a team effort and it was a beautiful thing to see, even if you weren’t a fan of Labonte or his band. The only downside of the set was the lack of banter. Adam D and Howard have such a finely tuned chemistry, built on years of friendship and hundreds of shows together. They know how to read each other and they play off of each other’s tics. This is something that Phil and Adam haven’t quite honed yet. Because of that, Adam’s comedic talent and acerbic wit wasn’t given an opportunity to properly shine. Then again, who goes to a metal show for a comedy routine unless you’re Brian Posehn of course.
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