Artist: Dillinger Escape Plan
Venue: Camden Barfly, London
Note: The following review is from the evening show. Photos were taken at the matinee show.
Dillinger Escape Plan are one of the best bands in the world right now. Anyone who guffaws at such a claim clearly wasn’t in the tight confines of the Camden Barfly, Friday the 12th of February. Like generals preparing for war, Dillinger Escape Plan had set a strategy for this, their only UK show on a criminally short European run. The battleground (and it is no exaggeration to call it that tonight) is a space no larger than your average living room; the soldiers are plenty, with tickets selling out within moments of release; and the munitions are the devastating songs that DEP have got in their arsenal. Was someone looking for WMD’s a few years ago? Found ‘em.
Tonight’s set spans almost all of DEP’s entire 13 year career, with the minor exception of any material from debut EP ‘Under the Running Board’. Except for that, literally no stone is left unturned in the chronicles of DEP. Moments before the band squeeze on stage, there’s a scent of apprehension in the air. It seems people are just beginning to realise that they are about to see one of the most unpredictable groups in modern music play a venue they could have sold out three, four, maybe five times over. Is that Death in the shadowy corner over there?
Any anxiety vanishes within seconds of the band launching into ‘Panasonic Youth’, and over the next hour and a half band and audience become one, in the most awe-inspiring display of harmony I have ever witnessed at a gig. Frontman Greg Puciato could strike fear into the hearts of serial killers, with arms the size of tree trunks and a vocal performance that would strip the bark off them. But tonight he almost becomes part of the crowd, throwing himself into the sea of people with reckless abandon and total trust.
He’s not the only one. Guitarist Jeff Tuttle stands with his eyes glaring out at this crowd of eager fans, as his fingers somehow trace the patterns of riffs written by a past member. When he does enter the fracas beneath him, it is remarkably never at the expense of the music. And that is true for the whole band tonight. Despite all the chaos going on around them and because of them, tonight’s set is absolutely spot on.
Tracks from Calculating Infinity are met with a rapturous roar from those who were there at the beginning. ‘43% Burnt’ cuts through the air and ‘Weekend Sex Change’ is as unrelenting live as it is on record. However, there are a few Dillinger Escape Plan ‘fans’ that will tell you not to bother with the band post-‘Calculating Infinity’. Tonight proves that to be wholly incorrect because it’s when they showcase the material from ‘Miss Machine’ and ‘Ire Works’ that things really begin to feel special.
The sidestep to big choruses was always a controversial choice for the band. But here it pays off by the bucketload: both ‘Milk Lizard’ and ‘Black Bubblegum’ have their stirring refrains hurled back at the band by the crowd, fists in the air and unprecedented venom in the words. And when the band wheel out the keyboard for the spectacular ‘Mouth Of Ghosts’ everyone here tonight becomes entirely speechless, proving that DEP’s risky manoeuvres have paid off more than re-recording ‘Calculating Infinity’ ad infinitum ever could have.
Then there’s the completely fresh material being showcased from soon to be released ‘Option Paralysis’. Of these, tonight’s highlight is the blistering ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’, an evolution of ‘Ire Works’ patterns: a caustic, claustrophobic opening that leads to an enrapturing final chorus that everyone here already knows every word to. This then leads to the conclusion of tonight’s intensity, a thrilling, destructive run through of ‘Sunshine the Werewolf’, with its lyrics seeming more than apt for the incoming celebration of that most depressing of celebrations, Valentine’s Day: “See how this love kills,” screams Puciato and everyone else here tonight, clearly showing little affection for cutesy cards and mysterious roses.
This is a band that over the past ten years have had their constituent parts crippled or removed to the extent that only one original member remains. They should be nothing but a placebo, a diluted homeopathic cure for people who need mathcore in their bloodstream. But, like it or not, tonight Dillinger Escape Plan are at their most potent; a concentrated force of anger, muscle and above all else: unity. Dillinger Escape Plan are one of the best bands in the world right now.