Prepare for Hell Tour: Slipknot

On Monday night, the outfit of choice for most concert-goers in the Denver Coliseum was a black t-shirt, worn under 1-3 layers (depending on one’s tolerance for the 10 degree weather outside). Most of the shirts were for one of the two bands performing — Korn or Slipknot — with concertgoers wearing their own versions of Slipknot’s infamous prisoner’s outfits, or those simply sporting kevlar vests, stood out among their black-shirted rock brethren.

The night’s line-up was one for the ages, at least for fans of mainstream rock from the early ’00s and late ’90s.

Korn, now reunited with the famously-Christian Brian “Head” Welch, delivered a set that no-doubt satisfied the slews of Denver devoted, each of which exchanged loads of drunken, aggressive high-fives during the intros of Korn classics “Coming Undone” and “Got the Life”.

It’s hard to properly appreciate the legacy of a group like Korn, who’s genre-defying, aggressive music coined the term “nu-metal”. Their constant presence on MTV during the Carson-Daily-TRL years certainly shouldn’t be understated, as it delivered them into living rooms nation-wide on a nearly constant basis. Korn, difficult as it is to remember now, were a pop-culture staple for nearly a decade, with old episodes of Cribs and guest appearances on South Park pointing to the group’s considerable cultural footprint.

Each member of Korn wore their 20-ish years of music industry experience on their sleeves whilst performing an undeniably impressive set (and not just because they’re all over 40).

The breakdown on Korn classic “Good God”, anxiously anticipated for the full length of the track by Korn faithful, was an absolute highlight, sending the thousands standing on the arena’s floor into a furious, fist-pumping spectacle. Another set highlight? Davis’ emergence with bagpipes after 10-ish minutes of silence, the possible result of technical difficulties. Or maybe they just needed a rest?

“Freak on a Leash”, one of the set’s last songs, wasn’t necessarily delivered upon fully thanks to a missed cue from the aforementioned Brian “Head” Welch, who was dedicated to handing dozens of picks out to audience members during the songs opening riffs. One song later, their performance would be over, with Davis walking to each end of the stage kissing both of his hands and waving to the audience, Pavaratti style.

In contrast, headliners Slipknot, seem to occupy an appropriate place wthin most music fans psyche. The 9-piece heavy-metal outfit famously from Des Moines, Iowa have become infamous over the course of their two-decade long career, and not just for their ambitious, sinister aesthetic (aka their spooky masks).

The Slipknot of 2014 is markedly different from Slipknots of the past (and not just because frontman Corey Taylor’s new mask resembles the Chik-Fil-A guy). The 2010 death of original bass player Paul Gray would catalyze a systemic change in the group, with original drummer Joey Jordinson being asked to leave soon thereafter (for reasons still unknown to the public).

“Walk with me,” the first track of their new record “.5: The Gray Chapter” opened Slipknot’s performance, played with the curtain raised as an apparent tribute to the departed Gray.

Then, the giant curtain dropped, and the Denver Coliseum’s audience was exposed to all of the sheep-headed, pyrotechnic glory that is a Slipknot show.

“Denver,” frontman Crey Taylor addressed the crowd, 10-20 percent of which had already left following Korn’s set. “It’s been far too long, my friends.”

Taylor (or, possibly, Ross Perot) was sporting the two-paneled mask he recently showed off on Larry King, flanked by psuedo-jesters Shawn “Clown” Crahan (the groups visual designer) and the phallic-nosed Chris Fehn.

“I lived in Lakewood for a while,” Taylor would continue a few songs later. “I had some of the best times of my life in here. It’s always nice to come back to my second family in Denver, Colorado.”

This would send the thousands of so-called “knot-heads,” or “maggots,” into a bit of a tizzy, one which would continue to escalate over the course of the multi-hour long set.

It’s worth noting that the members of Slipknot, for all their regalia and passion, are all over 40 now, and most of them have kids. To be blunt, this means the members of Slipknot move around slower than they used to — they don’t light themselves on fire like they used to, and Sid Wilson (aka #0, aka DJ Starscream) doesn’t drop 30 feet off the stage into the moshpit anymore. Clown, who looked particularly lost for most of the show, would eventually bring two of his kids with him to the side of the stage, just before his on-stage assistant handed him a metal bat to smash into the side of the beer kegs mounted on the side on his raised, spinning drum platform (all of this is real by the way).

The apparently maskless replacement drummer (who hasn’t yet been officially welcomed to the group) gave an absolutely valiant performance, as did the iconic, statuesque guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thomson.

This was a Slipknot show — a spectacle, and not just for Slipknot fans, though their audience is undeniably narrower than in the past (this didn’t prevent both of their last two records from debuting at No. 1, however).

Near the end of the show, Slipknot reached deep into their own catalogue, playing a handful of songs from their first record “Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat”. “We’re going to take all of you back to 1995,” said Taylor a statement which threw the hair jelled masses into another inebriated high-fiving fury. It’s all part and parcel for the new flag-bearers of hard rock, who treated their fans to an extended encore before throwing most of their sticks/picks into the crowd. At closing, (just before playing “People = Shit”, a personal favorite) Taylor would say what most everyone on any stage has ever said, though it’s hard to think of an instance where-in the sentiment was more genuine: “Thank you, Denver, for keeping the dream alive. We’ll be back soon.”

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