Currently on his “Black Labyrinth Tour”, Jonathan Davis, well-known as the lead singer of Korn, graced Pittsburgh with his solo act last night at Mr. Smalls in Millvale (Pittsburgh). The show is basically a culmination of an 11-year odyssey of writing on his own during his rare free time between Korn tours and recording sessions.
Even though this is solo material, it never really strays too far from his signature timber in Korn, but rather opens up different possibilities which he gave a bit of a clue of back when he wrote material for the movie Queen of the Damned. Lyrically-speaking, Davis sticks to his well-known formula of embracing his inner torment and follows it up with an exaltation of pissed off. And this past year he has incurred quite a bit to be tormented and pissed off about, most significantly the accidental overdose death of his estranged wife.
Davis opened with “Underneath My Skin”, a percussion focused tune, expertly played by Korn’s and Pittsburgh’s own Ray Luzier. Exploring familiar grounds with lyrics, “Locked in my head while my sins are on display Every time that I atone, they come back attacking me”. Following was “Everyone”, a bit more reminiscent of a Korn type structure, with some of those deep dark ringing chords and machine gun lyrics. The Pittsburgh crowd was intense from the get-go, especially with the warmups coming from Birthday Massacre and Julien-K. Many fans sang along with Jonathan on every word and drank in his easy demeanor and familiar way of moving his hands paired with the head rocking full force, hung low and hair flying.
Other highlights from the evening included the Queen of the Damned soundtrack song, “Slept So Long”, a fan favorite. The vampire inspired lyrics, “I’ve slept so long without you It’s tearing me apart too How did you get this far Playing games with this old heart
I’ve killed a million petty souls But I couldn’t kill you I’ve slept so long without you” fit perfectly into the storyline without feeling too forced. Jonathan’s voice was on point, though at times the sound mix was quite muffled. Davis has an excellent range and his play off of his guitarist and (upright) bassist is spot on. Jonathan also sang “System” off of the Queen of the Damn Soundtrack, the vocals being done originally by the late Chester Bennington.
For his last song, Davis and Co. harkened back to some classic Neil Diamond with a killer rendition of “Love On The Rocks”. Leaving the fans wanted more Davis did an encore that included “What It Is” and “Happiness”.
Openers Julien-K are no strangers to Pittsburgh, but probably more so in their original break out 90’s band, Orgy. In fact, Ryan Shuck has known Jonathan Davis well before Korn when they had a band known as Sexart. Shuck described Davis as his longest standing, loyal friend and was responsible for giving Orgy their record deal with Korn’s own label, Elementree, which produced a big hit with the cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. Amir Derakh (guitar) Ryan Shuck have been musical partners for 15+ years. During their time together they have weaved in and out of mainstream music like a constantly evolving musical fashion house. In the late 90’s they were responsible for massive radio and sales hits such as “Blind” (Korn), “Blue Monday,” ” Stitches,” and “Fiction” (Orgy), and recently “Crawl Back In” and “Let Down” (Dead By Sunrise, with their pal the late Chester Bennington).
Julien-K played an outstanding set when they opened the Revolution 3 Tour (Bush, STP, and The Cult) this past summer in Pittsburgh at the Key Bank Pavillion. Last night was no exception, in fact, it was much better due to the intimate atmosphere of Mr. Smalls. Julien-K sounds more at home with the likes of modern acts such as M83, The Kills, LCD Soundsystem, The Naked And Famous, and Empire Of The Sun. It may come as no surprise that the jam-packed crowd knew quite a few of the words and were truly enthusiastic, enough to actually take Shuck aback with how into the music they truly were. For people who have not heard the band, they are worth checking out and absolutely stunning live and not to be dismissive of their earlier accomplishments but, Julien-K is a more complete and cohesive band than Orgy ever was.
Being the workaholics that they are, Ryan, Amir and Fu are also already working on a new album, Harmonic Disruptor (this time with the addition of new collaborators Bidi Cobra and Alex Gonzales), that will see the band go back to their roots, while including some new aural surprises at the same time.
All photos ©2018 AWeldingphoto