Sunday, February 19, 2006
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
This bill was initially scheduled to have five bands on it but due to immigration issues, Social Burn and One did not make the trip north of the 49th. With Sevendust headlining and Nonpoint in the middle slot, Wicked Wisdom, featuring actress Jada Pinkett-Smith on vocals, brought their much hyped show to Vancouver. Sevendust split with long-time label TVT Records last year and guitarist Clint Lowery, a major songwriting force within the band, was replaced by former Snot axeman, Sonny Mayo, to record 2005’s NEXT. Nonpoint, a band still firmly entrenched in the rap-metal scene, drew a solid response from the crowd but the curiosity level was highest for Wicked Wisdom. The metal market is a tough one to crack on a good day but fans seemed to have it out for Wicked Wisdom right from the get-go. The closed-minded derision launched at the band on last summer’s Ozzfest was ridiculous and even moreso due to the fact that no one had even heard a note of what the band’s music sounded like (their self-titled debut was just released February 21st). The contempt seemed to be focused solely on Pinkett-Smith. The fact that she is an actress, and apparently not allowed to extend outside of those walls by many, left me scratching my head. Besides, having sat through movies like Scream 2, Woo and The Matrix sequels, how much worse could this be? Once Ozzfest did hit Seattle (read review here), I was disappointed that Wicked Wisdom wasn’t playing, so when they were announced as the openers for the Sevendust tour, I had to be there!
An extremely sparse crowd made their way to the front of the stage at 8:00 when Wicked Wisdom appeared. The band’s downtuned chugging riffs and angst-filled growled vocals are akin to Otep and Pinkett-Smith can certainly belt out the venom. The band is still getting their “stage legs” as witnessed by the collision between bassist Rio Lawrence and lead guitarist Pocket Honore and with an album of songs yet to hit the streets, the crowd was a bit lukewarm at first but eventually warmed up during the band’s half-hour set. A keyboard intro played by rhythm guitarist Cameron Graves set the stage for a broiler of a set featuring the angry “Yesterday Don’t Mean,” the killer grooves of “Cruel Intentions” and what I can only assume is a new song entitled “Suffering.” For “Something Inside of Me,” Pinkett-Smith rode the shoulders of a beefy roadie partway into the crowd before being lifted back on stage. Overall, six of the ten tracks from the new album were played, so fans were given a fairly accurate representation of what to expect. The drawing power is Pinkett-Smith without question and somehow she is able to pull these horrendously vicious vocals out of her tiny, but incredibly fit body (she stands on a step stool at the front of the stage so those further back than the first two rows can see her). Her harsh vocals are akin to those of Otep, while her clean vocals (they still need some work) are not unlike those of Vancouver’s own Bif Naked. Lawrence is a real fireball personality on stage and Honore’s solos satisfy, but I expected a little more out of ex-Fishbone drummer, Philip Fisher based mainly on his history in heavy music. From what I witnessed, Wicked Wisdom is not a novelty act and while hardly original or ground-breaking, their set seemed to win enough people over that the meet-and-greet afterwards brought about 100 or so people by the merch table to get photos and autographs. In a classy move, the line formed to the right but Pinkett-Smith was at the far left so anyone wanting to meet her had to go through the rest of the band, as well. This treat for fans was supposed to last for five minutes but the band was still shaking hands and signing promo photos a half hour afterwards. Maybe I had lowered expectations for Wicked Wisdom, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. In short, don’t believe the armchair critics. Go out and witness the band for yourself before making any snap judgments because if nothing else, Wicked Wisdom has plenty of charisma.
WICKED WISDOM SETLIST
Yesterday Don’t Mean
Don’t Hate Me
Something Inside of Me
(NOTE: Photo approval was not granted for Nonpoint.)
Somebody must have forgotten to tell Florida’s Nonpoint that rap-metal is dead because they flew on stage and for forty-five minutes, rapped, chugged and postured like it was 1999. Supporting their fourth release, 2005’s TO THE PAIN, Nonpoint exuded boundless energy and what I initially considered to be a throwaway act seemed to be a big crowd draw. The odd stage set-up—drummer Robb Rivera is turned to the side while guitarist Andy Goldman faces him—left plenty of room for bassist KB and vocalist Elias Soriano to chew up the scenery. Soriano’s stage rap was pretty clichéd (“Sitting down at a rock show is gayer than eight guys blowing nine guys”) but the guy does know how to swirl his dreadlocks a la Shadows Fall’s Brian Fair and appears to be a mutated cross between Fair and P.O.D.’s Sonny Sandoval. Goldman’s background vocals beefed up the choruses and Rivera is, without question, one of the hardest-hitting drummers I have ever seen on stage. The older, nu-metal-flavored tracks like “What A Day” and “Victim” are as dated as A Flock of Seagulls greatest hits album but the tracks taken from TO THE POINT fare much better. “Wreckoning” is brutally heavy, and “Bullet With A Name” and the title track are solid metal, so hopefully Nonpoint has ditched the sound of old and are finally striding into the latter half of this decade.
To The Pain
What A Day
Alive and Kicking
Bullet With A Name
The last time Sevendust played Vancouver was back in 2001 in support of the ANIMOSITY record and that show was a blistering hour of mayhem. Being a fan of the band since their self-titled 1997 debut, I was eager to see them again, five years later, and just how the group dynamic has changed with guitarist Clint Lowery now out of the picture. Lowery’s harmony vocals and songwriting were an integral component of the Sevendust sound and while the band appears to have been left relatively unscarred by his absence on the new album, NEXT, the live setting is an entirely different beast. On stage, bassist Vince Hornsby and guitarist John Connelly have picked up the slack vocally (“Silence” was a real showcase) and ex-Snot guitarist, Sonny Mayo, has filled the six-string void more than capably. The surprisingly elaborate (for a club show), arena-rock-inspired stage consisted of two ramps that came together behind Morgan Rose’s gargantuan drum kit and the lighting was also quite flashy, especially when taken into account that NEXT is a self-financed, independent release and most, if not all, of the money to buy these things would have come from sponsors and the band themselves. The melodies of familiar tracks like “Denial,” “Trust,” “Enemy” and “Pieces” were instantly recognizable and personal favourites “Black” and “Crucified” were also definite highlights. I was disappointed that “Bitch” (on the printed setlist but not played), “Home” and “Terminator” were not brought out, but the 75-minute setlist was well-thought-out and comprehensive. No one can surpass vocalist Lajon Witherspoon at sounding angry behind the mike and on tracks like “Black,” “Wired” and “Assdrop,” his venomous delivery is a significant part of what makes them so effective. Morgan Rose’s vocals are another story. The guy knows his way around a set of drums but I have always found his forced, shouted vocal style to be quite annoying. It almost seemed as if many of his live vocals were pre-recorded and I can almost guarantee that he was lip-synching during “Praise.” I would expect this at a Britney Spears show but this is rock-and-rapin’ roll, man, and singers should damn well sing! Mayo’s ninja guitar moves are also a sight to behold!
Assdrop (AKA “Rumblefish”)
T.O.A.B. (**on printed setlist but not played)
Face To Face
Bitch (**on printed setlist but not played)
With no information found on One (try typing that into your favourite search engine!) and Social Burn’s modern rock a bit of an outcast among the rest of the bands, I wasn’t really sorry the two bands didn’t play and Nonpoint just didn’t do it for me, either. Wicked Wisdom did however dispel any myths that they lacked credibility because despite some rookie jitters, they certainly surprised me. Sevendust has overcome a loss of a key member and a record label to still crank out an energetic and enjoyable set that showcases nearly ten years of great music. For a Sunday night, this was a good turnout and everyone on hand was treated to an excellent show.
***One observation: why was there not any merch available from any of the bands on the bill???
**Thanks to Jenny at House of Blues for the ticket and photo pass.
Wicked Wisdom official site