GIG REVIEW: NAPALM DEATH & MELVINS Live at Majestic Theater, Detroit, MI
The Savage Imperial Death March tour brought together some of the most influential extreme music bands to Detroit for an evening of sonic joy.
Kicking the evening off was Melt-Banana, consisting of Yasuko Onuki (vocals/loops) and Ichirou Agata (guitar/effects/insanity). It was amazing how much sound these two people produced. Yasuko alternated between screeches and screams while tapping a hand console to engage a drum-and-bass pattern.
Sailing into this roiling sea of sound, Ichirou commanded a starship console of pedals and buttons, which transformed his guitar into a laser cannon, a cyclotron, and a musical machine gun. To say this band’s music was intense is an understatement. Their music imbued a groove that instilled a sense of frenzied fun.
The Who and Motorhead would have been impressed with the aural force delivered by the Melvins to their fans at the Majestic. They were loud and proud, jamming “Eye Flys”, “National Hamster”, and “The Bloated Pope” to the crowd’s moshing delight. Steve McDonald (bass), sporting a black t-shirt with “Steve” in glittering sequins, animatedly engaged the crowd with high kicks and rock-star poses, all while nailing the groove like a carpenter with a hot caulk gun.
King Buzzo, dressed in a flaming eye muumuu, stalked the stage, growled into the microphone, and blistered the fretboard with sizzling licks dripping with sex. Keeping the Melvin’s freight train on track was drummer Dale Crover. His performance was inspiring as his agile hands and feet milked his drum kit for all it was worth. Dale closed out the set with an a cappella rendition of “Take Me Out To the Ballgame”.
Napalm Death calmly took the stage, and then, all hell broke loose. The legendary grindcore pioneers were invigorating and delightful in their ability to create musical chaos with a calm matter-of-fact demeanor between each bone-jarring tune. Their set consisted of a dose of songs from the new ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ album, like the title track, “Smash a Single Digit”, “Metaphorically Screw You”, and “Cesspits”. The new music had the crushing potential of a jackhammer and was played with zeal. Napalm Death also played some crowd favorites and classics including “Scum” and a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. Each song set off stage-divers who emerged from the frothing mosh pit to launch themselves back into the fray.
Much of the avalanche of sound was due to the impeccable performance of Shane Embury (bass) and Danny Herrera (drums). Shane’s bludgeoning bass lines were thick and tireless as they matched up with Danny’s double-bass thunder. Each song came alive with the savage riff mastery of John Cooke, who was filling in for Mitch Harris on the tour. Barney busted John’s balls a bit by mentioning that his dreads made him look a bit like a Juggalo and pointing out the bottle of Faygo that was on top of John’s amp.
Speaking of Barney, the Napalm Death frontman and vocalist transformed from a man possessed while barking out lyrics to a congenial host when speaking with the crowd between songs. He clearly was not a Donald Trump fan, referring to Trump as a “wanker” for his lack of respect to others. This drew a chorus of enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.
After a little over an hour of steady musical mayhem, Napalm Death ended their set with Barney wishing everyone well and promising to be back for another visit soon. Barney then took time to shake hands and chat with fans at the front of stage. This capped a night full of music played by musicians who eschew the rock star motif. Instead, these fine people embraced their fans in the shared experience of life through the celebration of music.