Tuesday, February 06, 2007

We Cannot Hide Ourselves

Isis – Live at the Metro, Sydney, February 3rd

Considering all the crazy shit that happened after this concert I was almost surprised to remember when I woke up the next morning that, on top of almost being arrested, I'd also just seen yet another amazing concert, just a week after Tool and Muse!

Like Mogwai and Satyricon this show was at the Metro, which is quite a nice venue. Very similar to the St. James in Auckland. It was an unusual crowd in attendance, with most of the punters being weird amalgams of the glasses and cardigan set that came to see Mogwai and the beer chugging munters that were at Satyricon. Surprisingly the theatre was completely packed; Mogwai wasn't full, and Satyricon's show was almost empty. I would have thought that either of those bands would be more popular than Isis.


The opening act were Laura, who were fairly good and played to a very receptive crowd. Other than when My Disco opened for Mogwai I don't think I've ever seen another opening act be so warmly appreciated. Their sound can pretty much be described as by the numbers post rock. Most of their songs sounded very much like their obvious antecedents, Mogwai, Sigur Ros and Isis, which I guess made them a good choice for an opener.

Laura again

These Arms Are Snakes followed. I was looking forward to seeing them, even though I knew nothing about them except that they had a cool name. They started out very promisingly, with lots of crazy feedback and delay drenched screaming from the singer, but it didn't last. The singer's rock star preening and posturing was delivered with total confidence but that lame indie faux-cock rock shit just annoys me. Their music, a heavy variety of indie rock, didn't impress me much either. Mind you I did like their guitarist. He had a bit of a crazy Mars Volta thing going on.

These Arms Are Snakes

I found a good spot close to the front for Isis. Unfortunately I was sandwiched amongst a bunch of big, drunk, sweaty guys, but they turned out to be friendly enough (you just have to remember when amongst metallers that when they say “Don't fuck with me, I'll kick all your fucking asses! Give me my beer back, cunt!” in metallish it translates to “Hey bro nice to meet you” in English).

It was kind of weird that Isis didn't have roadies to set their instruments up for them. They came on stage, fiddled around with their equipment for twenty minutes, walked off for five and then returned to enormous applause.


The sound wasn't nearly as good as Tool. The vocals were definitely too quiet, and some of the heavier parts lost all definition and just became a big blur of noise because the gear apparently couldn't quite handle it. The band themselves were very quiet and unassuming, not really saying much between songs except for 'thanks', and giving polite waves on the way on and off the stage.

The setlist is easy to remember because it was basically the new album played from beginning to end with a couple of omissions and old songs inserted here and there:

Wrists of Kings

It's always great going to the concert of a band with about Isis' level of popularity. There are lots of people but not so many that it's too crowded, and absolutely everyone is there for the music, rather than to be able to say they've seen Bono close up or to get sweaty and gross while shoving around strangers. It was really cool to see so many people enjoying the long moody and mellow intro to this song, when most metal bands would be being told to play the hard shit or go home.

Not in Rivers, But in Drops

This one was a stunner. When these guys dropped into the heavy section at the end I felt it in my gut, and not just from sheer volume but because the music itself is powerful in a way that just reaches in and forces you to respond from the inside out. No other band I've seen live has blown me away quite like that. Not even Tool.

A little digression. Tool's music is very cerebral compared to Isis'. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it explains why they stand there so formally on stage, while Isis are big fans of a bit of the old jumping around, and why it's better in some ways to watch Tool from the seats, which would be unthinkable for Isis...

False Light

The only track from Oceanic. There wasn't much old stuff (nothing off Celestial or anything older) played tonight... hopefully they'll come back again before they make another album and do a bit more of a retro set.

Isis rock so hard that you get that shaky camera effect like in nu-metal music videos, even with a still photo


Slightly disappointing as this track is a standout on the album, but that monster of an outro wasn't done justice by the sound setup.

Syndic Calls

Every track from Panopticon was greeted with cheers and applause as soon as the first phrase registered with the audience. Good to see that I'm not the only one who think this album is beyond awesome!

1000 Shards

They had to stop and retune their guitars between every song. That's what you get for playing in drop B!

Wills Dissolve

Contrasting Isis with Tool again, Tool were very polished and played their instruments (almost) to technical perfection. Isis were a bit sloppier, I heard a couple of genuine stuff ups but I was impressed by the way that they always recovered immediately, even if they hiccuped on one of their complicated rhythms.

Holy Tears

On the album this song is good but not a highlight. On the other hand at the concert it was a genuine holy shit moment. That heavy being-pulverised-by-an-ocean-of-noise-(in-a-good-way) feeling I mentioned above was at its strongest at the end of this song. Just amazing.

Funny comment feature is currently unavailable, due to incredible awesomeness

And then they walked off stage! Maybe I was spoiled by Tool's two hour set but I was expecting a bit more. The encore was paltry in length too, only one song but they made it count:

In Fiction

I just don't have the words to describe how much I loved hearing this. This is a genuine contender for my personal favourite song ever and it would be fair to say that I was close to wetting myself with excitement when they played the first few notes. They drew this song's dark, moody intro out nice and long and the audience dug it which was great. Often audiences aren't interested in the quiet introspective parts of songs and this in turn affects the band's performance, so it was most impressive that they played this part with the same passion and emotional intensity as the heavier parts. And as for the heavy parts, as I said, I don't have the words. Just wow.

You can't really tell from this photo, but this is some heavy fucking shit

And then they walked off for good. I was hoping for more but what we got was still amazing. I honestly couldn't tell you whether I preferred them to Tool. Both bands have similarities but are quite different live acts, but both were among the best concerts I've seen. It's kind of weird... I'm getting to see a lot of good bands over the next few months: Suffocation, Deftones, Mastodon, Converge and Lamb of God (again), plus Nine Inch Nails just announced an Australian tour in May, but I'm not getting all that excited about any of them. I simply don't think any of those bands could be as good as Isis or Tool, but hey, you never know...

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