@ Brixton Academy London
With support by Rolo Tomassi and Dead Label
30th June 2019
Review and Photography by Jo Moolenschot
Whenever I find out Gojira have tour dates scheduled for London I buy tickets without hesitation. Ever since I developed a love affair with their fifth masterful album “L’Enfant Sauvage” (2012) I’ve been a dedicated listener and supporter, attending every performance I possibly can, especially since I first saw them play London Koko several years ago and was completely bowled over by their performance. So on a hot June evening, I make my way to a sold out Brixton Academy London to see Gojira play live for my sixth time anticipating another outstanding show from the French death metal giants.
First support act, Dead Label from Ireland are on stage promptly to blast the audience with some pleasingly heavy riffs and huge energy. They deliver straight up heavy metal featuring fast and fat riffs, some groove laden bass lines and death metal style vocals. They’re all in from the very beginning and their style and strength is a perfect opener for Gojira. It’s a confident and tight performance, more than enough to whet the appetite of a hungry and already large audience still flooding into the venue. The crowd respond really well to them from the get go and I’m hugely impressed that towards the end of their set they manage to inspire the audience straight into a sizeable Wall of Death. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an opening band pull that off in London before. Having really enjoyed their material and strength of performance I mentally add them to my list of bands to keep an eye on in the future.
Anybody who has kept their eyes and ears on the mathcore scene would already know of Rolo Tomassi. As second support they arrive on stage to a warm welcome even before they play their first note having developed a decent sized following with their chaotic and compelling performances over the years. Consistent as ever they deliver a feisty and electric show featuring crazy time signatures, progressive melodies and constantly changing vocal styles which swap repeatedly between clean and scream. They manage to create space for haunting, almost dreamy, atmospheric phrases before turning around to hit you in the face with thrashing drums, hardcore screams and immense tension. I especially enjoy the texture and energy provided in the moments when both vocalists are performing together and Eva Spence’s expressive dancing punctuating the changeable nature of their material. If you have yet to come face to face with the formidable craziness of Rolo Tomassi then make sure you check out their upcoming tour dates around the UK and Europe through July and into August this year.
There’s nothing like the atmosphere of a packed and sweltering hot Brixton Academy as the anticipation of the crowd builds and builds just before the main act is about to come on stage.
The roar filling the venue as Gojira appear is absolutely deafening. The audience instantly loses it’s collective mind as the band open with “Oroborus”, a satisfyingly chuggy number from 2008’s “The Way Of All Flesh”. I am immediately struck by how much Gojira have levelled up their stage show. There is a raised illuminated platform spanning the whole width and back half of the stage, projector screen displaying visuals and additional stage lighting. If that wasn’t enough they’ve brought with them a full pyrotechnic set up which, to my knowledge, they have not yet used on a solo tour in the UK. I am surprised in a sense because to me, the band doesn’t need anything additional to make them any more thrilling to watch than they already are but nevertheless, it certainly adds even more power to an already phenomenal act.
The upgraded effect is instant. As I race into the photographer’s pit to attempt to capture the beginning of this intense and electrifying performance I’m smacked with an enormous adrenaline rush. With shaking hands I snap away just as the pyrotechnics activate, a wall of flame and fireballs erupt two arm lengths away from me, a wave of heat fills the venue and I wonder if my camera will melt or if I still have my eyebrows. There’s a wall of security personnel directly behind me already tackling a large wave of crowdsurfers tumbling into the pit and it takes some careful dancing around fellow photographers and frantic staff while shooting in a tight space to attempt to record how huge this all feels.
Just as I think it couldn’t get any more intense Gojira surge into “Backbone”; a stomping, ground-shaking number powerful enough to rearrange your insides. The fireballs erupt again and again and a crowdsurfer accidentally clips my head with his shoe, a standard occurrence shooting gigs this big. This all continues straight into the more recent number “Stranded” and I still can’t get over how big this whole performance is compared to previous ones. Even though I hasten to add, I never felt like those shows were anything less than exceptional. Joe Duplantier checks in with the audience, “Is that enough fire for you?!” to which they roar with approval while I try to catch my breath.
On top of a substantially upgraded stage show, Gojira have also switched up their setlist in a big way. In previous years, they’ve slightly favoured the tracks of one or two albums but tonight it is a devastating mix of powerful tracks acknowledging each and every album they’ve released to date. Which means new listeners, as well as their loyal fans from day one, will be overjoyed. Fan favourite “Flying Whales” is accompanied by streams of fog rocketing from the front of the stage, the whole venue is jumping and upon leaving the photographers pit I join my friends in the audience in time to relish in the older track “Love”. Everything about the show is astounding: the sound is excellent, the band are tight, the fire and smoke are spectacular and the energy is through the roof. Jean-Michel Labadie and Christian Andreu keep moving between the front of the stage and playing high up on the platform seemingly never stopping to catch a breath.
The band frequently get the crowd even more energised, challenging them to show the band how they can step up and match their energy. The challenge is accepted and the whole venue engages with arms in the air, heads banging and roaring cheers. Everyone is absolutely buzzing. One of my personal favourites “The Cell” has the whole venue of people banging their heads with it’s galloping rhythm and epic drops. “Terra Inc” marks the middle of the set and followed by the brilliant “Silvera” I hear the crowd sing along with gusto. “When you change yourself you change the world” they scream with horn-shaped hands thrust into the air. “L’Enfant Sauvage” is always a huge highlight for me and another example of the empowering themes at the heart the band’s material. The lyrics “I’ve run away from institutions, I owe myself life” followed from some brutal blast beats by the phenomenon that is Mario Duplantier is designed to remind you to never lose your inner wildness and individuality.
“The Shooting Star” and “Blow Me Away You (Niverse)” is followed by a quick word from Joe Duplantier to explain that due to some beer spillage over their lighting desk some of their backlights have stopped working. He sounds disappointed but I don’t think the audience felt short-changed in the slightest because Gojira have had them in the palm of their hand from the first note. Mario Duplantier returns to the stage to do his traditional drum solo from high up on the platform much to everyone’s delight and it sounds absolutely amazing. Onwards through older gems such as “Clone” and the ever meaty “Vacuity” before Joe Duplantier takes a moment to give very sincere thanks to everyone present for what has been for them an exceptional evening. Their enthusiasm for touring the UK is clearly demonstrated by how they generously give their all to fans time and time again. They finish with the excellent “Gift of Guilt” and each member gives their heartfelt thanks to the audiences before eventually waving goodbye to an ecstatic 5000 sweaty fans who depart feeling happily blown away from another truly incredible show.
It dawned on me, in a bittersweet moment, that the next logical step for Gojira with their growing fanbase and devastating performances will be playing larger venues such as arenas. Although not as fun as a more intimate gig it would be a completely deserved chapter of success in their story. Consider it a prediction.
It’s difficult to describe how engaging and phenomenal Gojira really are not only on record but in performance too. It has to be experienced. With or without pyrotechnics and insane light shows. It’s all about their music and execution. One of the reasons why I am such a huge Gojira fan is the intoxicating combination of the themes in their music expressed through powerful lyrics (personal journey, truth, environment, empowerment, individuality, etc.) with exceptional writing, tight playing as well as unfathomably high energy. To me personally, their music and their message is empowering and uplifting; I always leave their gigs walking on air and feeling very much alive. To me they are truly a one of a kind metal band. I urge everyone to dive deep into their full discography and see them perform live whenever possible. It will leave you changed. Merci beaucoup, Gojira. Tu m’inspire à chaque fois.
The Shooting Star
Blow Me Away You(niverse)
The Gift of Guilt