Sunday, March 01, 2009

Satyricon, 2/27/09

Satyricon frontman Satyr remains one of the most perplexing old-school black-metal figures. This is mostly because lately he seems just so… normal. Honestly, a lot of this has to do with his new haircut (and the fact he’s, like, six-feet tall and wafer-thin). You have to admit, he looks a bit like the German guys in electro-gods Kraftwerk.

Is he a robot?

Throughout Satyricon’s performance at the Nokia Theater, a 50-minute slot sandwiched between Greek death-metal openers Septic Flesh and English boy-band Cradle of Filth, Satyr’s lanky, metrosexual visage made him stick out like a sore talon. Not that that’s a bad thing or even an unwelcome one; the black-metal community has been sorely missing some variety from the corpse-painted clichés that have been populating the scene. Just three years ago, I saw Satyricon play Norway’s Hole in the Sky festival, and Satyr seemed more like a rock star, with his long hair and cut-off shirt, holding out his fists in a way that made him look a bit like Danzig.

In great contrast, tonight at the Nokia he did a great job of visually contrasting the synchronized-headbanging champs playing in his band (including drummer Frost, who hasn’t toured the US previously due to legal snafus); whether it was Cradle’s crowd or simply a new audience interested in the band’s well-refined black-and-roll sound, he really connected with the audience. During songs, he even did the “yeah, yeah, yeah" thing where the concertgoers chanted along with him. It worked.

If anything, I think this is all part of some grand scheme Satyr has concocted so he can enjoy the best of both worlds. In a recent interview I did with him for Revolver, he said he had created a new routine for the road to keep the band from atrophying, literally and metaphorically. That means no alcohol in the dressing rooms and working out at the gym every day. Bands change their aesthetics all the time, to varying degrees of success (looking at you, Cryptopsy), but for Satyricon, it seems to have been working out for the better. Even his onstage banter was unusual for a black-metal band. In addition to saying how much he appreciated his fans (the usual), he said it was an “honor” to be playing New York City (most metal bands don’t care, unless they’re playing Madison Square Garden—or play it off as such). Satyr’s gregarious nature led to some of the best unplanned dialog of the night, though, was when he introduced the band’s drummer by saying, “From the mountainous cities of Norway… Frost!” Having been to Norway, I can assure you, New York has ’em beat for “mountainous” cities. (Maybe I’m just mincing words here.)

Playing the Nokia amplified these inconsistencies. The TV screens, which show the performers up-close to the fans too lazy or uninterested to stand in the pit, focused often on handheld cameras and phones snapping pics of the band. (No, none of mine made the big screen.) And after the band played “Mother North” (setlist at the bottom), the night’s most black-metal song, the big screen faded to a promo for an upcoming concert by “Red Red Wine” singers UB40.

Sometimes it’s painful to watch an artist you’ve followed for years (decades?) change so much. Satyr is not the same artist I saw in Norway at Hole in the Sky. But while I’m not totally used to his new look, I think it’s working out for Satyricon, the band. As a fan, I would have liked to hear (a lot) more old material but, honestly, I don’t have a problem passing the torch to a new set of fans either.

Behold, my trideent! Trident becomes fork
Kraftwerk robot dance
Frost is back there somewhere
Obligatory horns and clapping montage
Obligatory leaning and singing pose

Oh yeah, he jumped in the audience once. Don’t the kids just love it?

Obligatory jumping into the audience moment

Satyricon setlist:

1. Repined Bastard Nation
2. The Wolfpack
3. Now, Diabolical
4. Black Crow on a Tombstone
5. K.I.N.G.
6. Die by My Hand
7. The Pentagram Burns
8. Mother North

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