The Dillinger Escape Plan

support Town Portal
author AP date 09/02/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

The long, snaking queue which greets me upon arrival is, for once, a welcome sight — Copenhageners (and, by the sounds of it, some Malmönians) have turned up in strength to wave goodbye to possibly the most innovative and notorious metal band of the past two decades. With the Dillinger Escape Plan, it has always been hard to predict the degree of destruction they are in the mood for, but the vibe in the crowd tells me that plenty of people are prepared to instigate the kind of mayhem that Dillinger’ likes to feed off. Myself included, everyone seems determined to make this evening a farewell to remember.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Town Portal

Because of the queue outside, my impression of the opening act is limited to the second half of their performance, though my photographer assures me that the first half played out in much the same manner. Town Portal, a trio based here in Copenhagen, refuse to self-define, but while my familiarity with the band is virtually nonexistent, the music seems easy to pigeonhole as instrumental math-rock. In the live setting it is served with a powerful punch, courtesy of bassist Morten Ogstrup Nielsen’s heavy presence in the mix, making the songs apt for headbopping even when Christian Ankerstjerne’s guitar licks grow particularly acerbic and Malik Breuer Bistrup’s drumming particularly jagged.

The three musicians have an effective symbiosis, looking lost in the sound but not so much as to remove the physical component from their overall aesthetic. But honestly, the songs themselves have trouble etching any sort of lasting impression into my memory. The stuff is intriguing on the spot, but if you asked me to differentiate between one song and another, you would be met with a look of puzzlement. It seems to me that Town Portal’s forte is jamming out complex arrangements that tug at the musical nerd in me, but one would wish the band focused a fragment of that talent into introducing the hooks needed to make their songs stick.

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The Dillinger Escape Plan

To reiterate what was said in my review of the Dillinger Escape Plan’s farewell album, “Dissociation”: to a certain extent, it is a relief that the band is being retired at the apex of its career — and not in its dying embers. It means that rather than having to face the sad realities of indifferent song writing, dwindling showmanship and so forth, the people gathered here have the chance to receive one last punch to the gut. And while it is true that most of the madness now occurs on stage, that is exactly what TDEP delivers: an explosive, unadulterated lesson in conjuring chaos. From the outset of “Limerent Death”, the frontmost third of the audience (yours truly included, proud to say!) seems to condense into a unified, convulsing mass pressed up against the stage, eager to prove to vocalist Greg Puciato how diligently each of us has studied his lyrics. He is happy to oblige — many a fan gets to go home with a story of having shared the microphone with this unparalleled frontman.

The actual goings-on of the moshpit are difficult to discern even for those us right in the middle of it. This is because the Dillinger’ boys have opted to shun all lighting except for a pair of scrappy strobe towers flickering behind them, and honestly, a photographer’s nightmare though it may be, the effect is phenomenal. With bodies twitching and flying across the floor in stop-motion, you feel completely engrossed by the chaos — and it is the same story on stage. During odes to discord like “Panasonic Youth” or “Sugar Coated Sour”, Ben Weinman wields his six-string like a battle axe, swinging and thrashing it with so much violence that it is miracle one of us does not have our skull split open — especially when he catapults himself into the audience and takes the grand tour on top of our heads multiple times. As ever, he and Puciato shoulder most of the weight in terms of the craziest antics, making sure that the proceedings remain up close and personal throughout. The other musicians — bassist Liam Wilson, rhythm guitarist Kevin Antreassian & drummer Billy Rymer — have an intensity about their performance as well, but it is the more typical, ‘means business’ -kind of intensity that is nowhere near as eye-catching as their two colleagues.

Of course, a Dillinger Escape Plan concert typically bodes more than sheer pandemonium, and in this regard, the showing tonight does not disappoint, either. Given the amount of energy being expended on and off stage, breathers like “Black Bubblegum” and “Milk Lizard” are welcome additions and, correct me if I am mistaken, generate the most resounding sing-songs ever heard at a Danish Dillinger’ gig — I cannot be the only one with a hoarse voice at work the day after. The positioning of these tracks before and after some of the least forgiving cuts from the band’s repertoire is a testimony to how, despite the unpredictable nature of their show, there is never a moment when TDEP is not control. Just look at Weinman: the man noodles his way through complex, high-velocity scales mid-air and makes it look easy.

One could always complain about certain tracks not being present on the setlist, but even that grievance is made redundant by the inclusion of “Wanting Not So Much As To” (played only for the third time ever) and the lounge-jazzy “Mouth of Ghosts” (in the encore), before the ultra-acerbic pairing of “Sunshine the Werewolf” and “43% Burnt” — the band’s own literal symphonies of destruction — conclude an evening which, for my sake, could continue for another hour at least. Whether it has the desired characteristics of a farewell concert, however, depends heavily on the underlying expectations. Having witnessed the band live countless times since 2008, including this mayhem which Weinman recalls as one of his ten craziest gigs, tonight’s proceedings are, for me, extreme but not legendary.

For novices, or those who have had fewer opportunities to watch TDEP live, the concert is likely exactly what they had envisioned: punishing, intense and violent. The five musicians are in giving mood, tapping into every reservoir of energy available and wasting no opportunities to dive into the audience, rock the suspended speaker towers, climb the various fixtures of the venue, and generally behave like a band of raving lunatics. No one could be disappointed, but rather than setting a new standard for performing art, the antics merely mimic what hardened Dillinger’-fans have grown to expect and love. And let us be honest: no other band, bar perhaps The Chariot, could possibly supersede the ferocity, and erraticism seen here.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Limerent Death
  • 02. Panasonic Youth
  • 03. Symptom of Terminal Illness
  • 04. When I Lost My Bet
  • 05. Sugar Coated Sour
  • 06. Black Bubblegum
  • 07. Surrogate
  • 08. Wanting Not So Much As To
  • 09. Milk Lizard
  • 10. Low Feels Blvd
  • 11. One of Us is the Killer
  • 12. Nothing to Forget
  • 13. Farewell, Mona Lisa
  • 14. Prancer

— Encore —

  • 15. Mouth of Ghosts
  • 16. Sunshine the Werewolf
  • 17. 43% Burnt

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