Coheed and Cambria + Protest the Hero + Crown Lands @ Olympia – September 21st 2018

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There’s been a lot of hype on the Canadian music scene surrounding Oshawa sludge rockers Crown Lands. I was anxious to get a taste of it first hand as they opened up the evening at the Olympia theater. As they hit the stage, I got a familiar feeling. It felt like seeing Wolfmother in their early days. The sound, the vibe, the stage presence, it all fits what was easily one of the best live rock act of the ‘oughts. I see big things coming for this Duo.

From up and comers we moved to Toronto veterans and math-metal wizzes Protest the Hero. Once one of the craziest live acts around, the band seems to have lost its way and zeal over the years. The first thing I look at is the setlist. They seem to have thrown their biggest songs by the wayside and challenged the audience with deeper tracks, an odd move for an opening act. The crowd sat almost motionless through Sex Tapes and Clarity, then blew up for their classics “Bloodmeat” and “Bone Marrow”. That two song couplet in the middle of the set was by far the highlight. Fans in the audience were left wondering where a lot of other fan favorites were though.

Vocalist Rody Walker’s vocals were also so low they challenged you to hear them. I listened to hear if the low volume was to mask something, but from what came through, the vocals seemed great. The band did do a great job of engaging the crowd though. They seem like a bunch of guys just there to hang out who happen to be really freakishly good at playing their instruments. It’s a juxtaposition of complete lack of ego in their onstage persona, but feeling like they don’t need to play their hits which is usually seen as an ego play.

Prog rockers and sci-fi mavens Coheed and Cambria were the main attraction on this night. From opener “The Dark Sentencer” it was clear the crowd was going to eat this up, chanting “hey, hey, hey” along with the band. A bond was immediately formed between artist and audience, fists raised in unison. This band may not have the largest following, but it is a devoted one. The room was at best three-quarters full, but there was enough noise you could’ve sworn it was a packed house.

This band delivers an eclectic mix of heavy, brooding riffs, dark lyrics and an almost mechanical rhythm with a touch of pop sensibility. They stretch from a powerhouse like “Here We Are Juggernaut” to a radio-friendly romp like “A Favor House Atlantic” without skipping a beat. It takes talent to pull of a switch like that without losing your crowd.

A big part of the performance though is their stage persona. They perform like an engine that’s firing on all pistons with great precision. It fits the cyber sci-fi theme that is the theme of all of their music. And well, it’s difficult not to get entranced by the mane that surrounds the head of singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez. It’s an attraction of its own.

After ripping through a fourteen song set, there was only one song left for the encore. If you’ve never seen a live performance of their magnum opus “Welcome Home,” you’re missing out. It’s a symphony inside a rock song. Everyone, and I mean everyone is headbanging in unison, fists in the air. They’re singing at the top of their lungs. This is how you end a show. This is how you leave a crowd wanting more.

Review – Richard Brunette

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