While most Americans were nestled in front of the tube, watching Hollywood's annual self-aggrandizing love-fest, Philadelphia area metalheads welcomed a truly international event, Swedes in Chinatown, aka DARK TRANQUILLITY at the Troc. Nearly four years to the day, witnessed the Dark ones during a hellacious winter storm (nearly two feet of snow!), forced to spend the night at one of Atlantic City's casino hotels. While it was only raining, in anticipation of the year's 14th measurable snowfall, seems Philly metal fans are constantly traipsing through snow and battling icy roads throughout the 2013-2014 concert season.
March 2nd was the last stop of the tour, a trek that's seen them performed without a bassist! Although they were scheduled for a plane ride home tomorrow, DARK TRANQUILLITY didn't phone in the show. The setlist was well established, although they didn't play the "We'll disappear off-stage. You guys scream & we'll come back for an encore" bit. Going back almost 20 years, to 'Punish My Heaven' off '95's The Gallery, the setlist was also highlighted by a video screen behind the band, offering visual accompaniment (and in some cases, a virtual lyric videos) for every track. Been a while, but still can't get over guitarist Martin Henriksson without those spindly dreds, although frontman Mikael Stanne still sports the ginger curls, once also favored by Robert Plant and Nick Holmes (PARADISE LOST).
With a 70s oversized, metallic RUSH logo belt buckle, onstage Stanne really is the focal point, moving around the stage, grimacing, tongue wagging and interacting with the audience. For 'White Noise/Black Silence' he joked, "Or course you ran out and bought (Construct) album the first day it was released and listened to it every day since." 'Monochromatic Stains' was up early, while peach lit 'Zero Distance' saw the background screen featuring live footage of the band as well as cryptic black-on-white Japanese masks (similar to Japanese Noh theater, or the one utilized by ubiquitous black metal drummer Hellhammer). Paradoxically, 'The Wonders At Your Feet' sees the affable singer on his knees, leaning on the stage-front monitors, upon which he often stands.
'The Mundane And The Magic' slows things down, complete with piped in female voiced chorus. On the opposite end of the musical spectrum, a staccato 'Punish My Heaven' stirs up the pit activity. Behind them, their original logo and an elaborate painting of an ornate staircase added 3-D depth to the stage. The difference of the Construct material is easily discernible, especially when juxtaposed to classic material: witness 'Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)' vs. 'State Of Trust' or the concluding pair: 'Endtime Hearts' (really out of place in the "encore" slot) and 'Misery's Crown' finale. Perhaps the perceived need for the visual back-up. The aforementioned staccato 'Terminus' saw hyper speed traffic and fluorescent human brain images onscreen, while 'State Of Trust' was greeted by hypnotic, rotating Escher inspired pen drawings. 'Therein' saw solitary words flashed onscreen, like solid, everchanging and different. Stanne got the crowd to sing along as a jagged oscilloscope reading bounced overhead.
'Final Resistance' saw the people on the floor wildly throwing themselves at each other. Newbie 'Endtime Hearts', with ticking clock visual, did little, especially since it was already announced there'd be just two more songs (inclusive). A crushing 'Misery's Crown' closed out the show and the tour. Although fans called for a final track, the band was already upstairs, in the dressing room, as the house lights came on. Can't wait for the promised return!