“Neurosis is the most important band in heavy music” stated Converge frontman Jacob Bannon late in the band’s set, professing once again his well known affinity for the experimental Oakland, CA sludge prog pioneers. In their headlining appearance on the last night of this tour, (Philly’s been getting a lot of that recently) they definitely lived up to Bannon’s assertion, a well oiled machine of trembling riff dominance, esoteric noise implementation and bone shattering trademark vocal dynamics between Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till. I had a Souls at Zero cassette back in the day, and I’ve dipped in and out of the Neurosis catalog since then, but this was, somewhat shamefully, my first time seeing the band live, and to say that I came away impressed and with a reinvigorated interest would be a gross understatement.
In the same doom laden mold was opener Amenra, a Belgian five piece with an eerie, more ethereal, daresay blackened take on the enigmatic post hardcore order of the day, no doubt helped along by the creepy visuals that accompanied their performance. When previously completely unfamiliar with an opening act, the greatest complement you can pay them is that you were in no rush for their set to end, and in fact would’ve loved to have heard another song or two. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from Amenra.
If Amenra and Neurosis were the only bands on the bill, it would’ve still been a great show, but I’m not going to lie, it was the almighty Converge that got my ass out on a school night, and I regret absolutely, positively nothing. Converge came back to Philly on the “Eve” (pun intended) of a reported new LP release this fall, armed with 3 new songs, the previously revealed “I Can Tell You About Pain” aforementioned “Eve” and brand new cut “Under Duress”. With a swaggering stomp and a more cleanly sung back up vocal from bassist Nate Newton, as opposed to his typically impressive, abrasive bark, it’ll be fascinating to hear how the studio version of this one shapes up.
The four individuals that make up Converge are always mesmerizing on stage, but this performance was definitely even more of a heartfelt, intense joy to behold than usual, lending credence to Bannon’s declaration that Philly in general, and Union Transfer in particular, was one of the band’s favorite places in the world to play. Seeing Bannon dart around stage, twirling his microphone cord in a furious blur, his voice a well honed deadly weapon, Kurt Ballou work his twisted feedback noise art magic, Newton unleash his ground pounding low end on top of his fire breathing backing vocal and of course, hardest working drummer in the game Ben Koller put everybody else behind a kit to shame in person is nothing short of a goddamned delight.
With that convincing of a stage presence the setlist almost becomes an afterthought, but that’s only because the band has such a deep bench of A+ material that it really doesn’t matter what they play. Never ones to rest on their laurels though, the setlist was meticulously crafted and beautifully sequenced for maximum effect, a bloodstained travelogue of the heaviest hitters of their post-Jane Doe material, ending with “Concubine” and the epic length “Jane Doe” title track itself. It hasn’t been very long that Converge has been working “Jane” into their regular setlists and to finally hear it for myself was an honor and a privilege. I may have just shed a tear or two during the outro.
Without getting too mushy or whiny, my wife and I (proprietors of this fine website) have been going through what most would categorize as “a lot of bullshit” this summer, with family, health, home, financial and job issues piling on top of us with seemingly no end in sight. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel now, but what better time for a new Converge record and tour? With everything we have going on I kind of had to fight through my depression and force myself out of the house to go to this show, and I’m really glad that I did. What better time for my favorite band to provide that sense of catharsis, of beautiful vulnerability and seething outrage that they always have to see me through the darkest chapters of my adult life. Thank you, Converge, for always being there for me.