Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Epic Kings & Idols Tour

You'd really think there'd be more hype around this show. You have three legendary metal acts performing together (Devin Townsend Project, Katatonia, and Paradise Lost), and all three are touring on what many fans consider to be the best albums in recent times.  Then you have Stolen Babies, an awesome new gothic metal band featuring a cute female lead singer and accordionist.  

And then you have InsideOut managers going around complaining about how this tour has been a big failure and financial loss.

What gives?

Shows aren't really cheap, and few people are going to them. Also, progressive music and doom metal aren't exactly the big sellers in the United States these days. Dream Theater, the biggest dog in the progressive metal yard, play to mostly half-filled concert halls when they're stateside. And most metal bands seem to have given up headlining US tours altogether; they bundle festival-like shows with other bands, or don't play at all. 

The results for us fans are mixed. On one hand, we get lots of epic nights offered by tour packages like "Epic Kings and Idols". On the other, fans of what particular act-- but not necessarily the entire scene-- can feel a bit slighted. 

That's how a fan of Devin Townsend Project might feel after seeing the Epic Kings & Idols show. In my case, I love Devin Townsend. I like Katatonia lots, especially the new Dead End Kings record, but I've never been a huge fan. And I like Paradise Lost too; I just haven't heard much of their music. 

For me, Epic Kings & Idols was give-and-take. Devin Townsend was absolutely awesome. But I was hoping to see more than 70 minutes of his music, and was disappointed when two of my favorite albums, Terria and Ghost (as well as Ziltoid) were not represented at all. Even Epicloud, the (literally) stellar new album, was underrepresented, though Devin's spirited performance of  "Grace" was by far the highlight of the evening. 

But because Devin's time was limited, Katatonia, Paradise Lost, and Stolen Babies had a chance to blow me away: and they did. Especially Katatonia. I'd heard mixed reviews of Katatonia's live performance, especially regarding lead singer Jonas Renske's voice. But Katatonia could not have been better live, and nor could have Jonas. Having heard only a few Katatonia albums, I was stunned by how competent Jonas was at delivering the lyrics (many of which I was hearing for the first time) in a digestible and effective way. I don't think any live metal band has ever managed to do that, to make me feel the emotional content of a song I'm hearing for the first time during a live performance.

I guess the point of Epic Kings & Idols tour is to help artists cross into different markets. Devin Townsends bizzaro metal might not appeal to Katatonia or Paradise Lost fans, and I heard more than one Katatonia fan in the audience smugly dismiss Devy as a "goofball". But, on the flip side, Devin's musical range might leave fans feeling like there's no other metal bands out there worth listening to-- like Devin does it all. And, thanks to the Epic Kings & Idols show, this Devin Townsend fan was convinced that there's plenty of reason to listen to Katatonia sometimes, too. 

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