June 7, 2011
It's not often that an old school industrial band comes through town and plays a venue that isn't a sports bar or some shady, swinger-filled fetish club, but Front Line Assembly did just that and rocked the house at the Nile Theater -- even if they didn't draw as large a crowd as I'd expected.
Although there probably weren't many more than a hundred people at the show, the sound was incredible and it almost seemed like the band was going extra hard on the people who did show up in order to make up for those who didn't. FLA's floor-shaking rhythms and crisp, expertly shredded guitar riffs on standout tracks like "Mindphaser," "Iceolate," and "Plasticity" were turned up to 11, and those in attendance likely still have ringing ears to prove it.
While the band sounded great and the brick walls of the Nile proved yet again that the venue is perfect for industrial, frontman Bill Leeb's backing musicians seemed tired and bored, or simply disappointed in the attendance. The keyboardist was nodding off (not nodding to the beat), and the guitarist had about as much stage presence as a stoned teenager playing Rock Band in his parents' basement.
At times, even Leeb seemed like he was just going through the paces, closing his eyes so often and for so long that it looked like he was visualizing a larger crowd or wishing he were somewhere else. The fact that he scoffed after saying he hoped everyone had fun did little to sell the audience on his enthusiasm, so it came as no surprise when two middle-aged guys with glasses and beer bellies were the only ones who half-heartedly complied with Leeb's mumbled request for a mosh pit.
Although Leeb's bandmates are half his age and obviously just there to play music they didn't write, collect a check and (from the looks of their smooth, childlike faces) go back to the hotel room to watch the Oprah channel, they did excel at their core responsibility: playing their instruments.
The guitarist was particularly proficient, and despite his apparent boredom, did a great job pushing already aggressive electronic music over the edge and into a sonic realm so bad ass that it conjured visions of wrecking balls, exploding school buses, and tanks crushing all that is righteous.
One thing that really would have helped the band's stage presence is if they put some thought into the stuff they projected behind them during the show. Backing videos are pretty easy to put together. If bands like Depeche Mode can use them to tug at audiences' heart strings, and others like Skinny Puppy can compile clips that truly terrify, surely Front Line Assembly could put together something better than meaningless squiggles and an endless loop of variations on its logo.
In the end, although the band has a great catalogue and all the necessary components in place to put on an amazing show and rise above the low turnout of a Tuesday night, it was clear their hearts just weren't in it.
Last Night: Front Line Assembly at the Nile Theater
The Crowd: The largely 30-something core of Arizona's industrial scene. Shout out to Tucson's DJ Black Flagg from Club Sanctuary and the now-defunct Asylum.
Overheard In The Crowd: "This just confirms my belief that there's no point to seeing industrial bands live, except that it's louder and you get to see your friends."
Personal Bias: Front Line Assembly is one of the bands I've waited longest to see live, so maybe my expectations were too high, since I expected them to at least try to seem interested in their own music.
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