“There’s going to be moshing tonight.” Such was the warning I received from a fellow concertgoer as I stood before the stage while people filed into The Observatory for my second KMFDM show ever. With a bad back and blown knees, I aged out of mosh pits several presidential administrations ago. So this little reminder was appreciated.
The Observatory is one of my preferred places to see a show in San Diego; there isn’t a bad view in the place whether on the floor or the balcony. And there’s plenty of distraction to found all along University Avenue even before you go inside, including the sushi spot across the street where I ran into Chant’s Bradley Bills. He warned me that his voice may not be everything he hoped for on this night but I remained optimistic.
By showtime, the venue was nearly full. Chant came on and started strong with the firm intention of getting the crowd’s blood flowing. To say this Austin, Texas act quickly made a strong impression would be an understatement.
I’ve seen other acts that have featured the drums as the lead instrument before, and it would have fallen flat in the hands of lesser musicians. Instead, the duo of Bills and Alvin Melivin wowed the audience in a way that could best be described as high-concept; especially when Melivin began to throw down on the cello. Between the theatricality (including a mock gunshot onstage) and the musicianship, Chant created a full experience that fully immersed the viewer. And Bradley Bills’ voice held up just fine.
As a drummer myself, I appreciated the performance for its intricacy and intensity. I have always felt that live drums should play a bigger role in industrial music. Fans of the first two Killing Joke albums know what I’m talking about; tribal drumming is both powerful and hypnotic.
New fans hooted and hollered over their discovery. One young man commented that he’s ready to forgo his guitar lessons in favor of buying a drumkit.
The set wrapped with Bills offering his sincere thanks to the audience and pointing out that this would be the 99th time that Chant and KMFDM have shared a stage.
After intermission, KMFDM came out to do their thing. There was only one guitarist this time, which differed from the dual guitar assault I witnessed the last time I saw them live. Nonetheless, the band came on loaded for bear. They wasted no time taking the already amped-up crowd to the next level. Showmanship was a constant throughout the night.
Only stopping once to say hello to the crowd, the show ran with little to no space between songs. Which makes sense; they played a LOT of songs this night. The anticipated set ran over the band’s decades-long history with later and newer songs mixed with favorite crowd pleasers. The forewarned mosh pit didn’t break out until they went into Drug Against War. Strong stage presence and a dazzling (almost blinding) light show kept a lot of folks transfixed with the stage. It’s not every band out there that are keeping it this real after four decades. And while I was hoping to hear Lucia Cifarelli bust out with Professional Killer, alas, no such luck this time.
By this point, I was dancing like a fool. But then, so was everyone around me. A sense of cameraderie permeated the crowd with everyone on their best behavior and projecting good vibes.
The encore included the gems Godlike and Paradise and the show closed with a looped outro and clever lighting.
This particular tour is a very short one, only five cities. Those of us in the Southwest were fortunate to catch a visit from a still rock solid staple industrial band and an exceptional act whose star is still on the rise.