What for many people is closing their 2016 gig calendar promised to be the party of the year as soon as it was announced, with KORN bringing back the spirit of their Family Values tours to Wembley Arena with fellow nu metal icons LIMP BIZKIT in tow. These are two bands with a hell of a lot of history both with our shores and each other, and in an era when nu metal’s pioneers are treated more and more like respected veterans instead of affronts to everything metal subculture stands for and butts to every joke as they may have been once upon a time, now seems like an ideal time for such an event to happen.
First though, Wembley is treated to an even older band in the form of New York hardcore legends MADBALL. A support announcement which raised plenty of eyebrows, a band who have dedicated themselves to underground hardcore values opening for acts who at the height of their success positively indulged in stardom and excess seems bizarre. However much like when nu metal initially began to piece itself together long before achieving worldwide glory fusing rock and hip-hop sensibilities and cultural signifiers, we are living in an era in which boundaries are seeming to blur, and MADBALL silence any doubters with ease. While some bands have grown complicit with age, MADBALL are still hungry and full of life. Freddy Madball is a whirlwind of boundless energy, topping the thick foundations laid down by his bandmates with plenty of charisma and miraculously preventing them from being swallowed by the size of the venue. They’re well aware of the opportunity they have not just to promote themselves but their entire scene, and for that job there’s no better choice than MADBALL. There’s something beautiful about a band so passionately flying the flag for hardcore culture on this huge stage in front of an unfamiliar crowd, and having the answer be so positive. They may be seemingly worlds apart ideologically but musically the bounce and swagger of New York hardcore actually aligns itself rather well with nu metal, and the pits and crowdsurfers are visible proof that tonight hardcore chalked up a victory.
You’d be forgiven for worrying for LIMP BIZKIT on this tour. Their live reputation recently has been iffy to say the least, and if that LIMP BIZKIT was to turn up before the exuberant current incarnation of KORN it could be an embarrassment. Still, there’s enough red caps in the arena tonight to show the adoration and goodwill towards LIMP BIZKIT, and beautifully LIMP BIZKIT choose the best moment to reawaken the outrageous live band that exists within them. It’s not perfect but LIMP BIZKIT‘s emphatic explosions of fun and joyously bone-headed aggression are largely everything they should be in this setting. Bounding on-stage and kicking into the opener of one of the biggest selling rock albums of the 21st century is always going to make an impact, Fred Durst‘s empowered command of “Get the fuck up!” during Hot Dog being followed by the audience with every bit of enthusiasm and energy they have. Launching into Rollin’ immediately afterwards is even sillier, that fluid groove and inescapable chorus sending the place into overdrive.
LIMP BIZKIT have a property to them that quite simply ignites something in crowds; not a soul in Wembley tonight is sitting still. The hits in their arsenal from My Way to My Generation to their ballistic version of George Michael‘s Faith are undeniable, and the sea of people thrashing with glee in the fray seem to reach improbable heights in a very literal sense bouncing like their lives depend on it. On-stage Wes Borland looking as eye-catching as ever has a palpable enthusiasm only matched of course by Fred Durst, who whirling around in obscenely baggy trousers and huge gloves that make his limbs look like they take up 80% of his body looks like a literal clown in the way that has always suited LIMP BIZKIT‘s cartoonish buoyancy. Durst is of course not technically the greatest rapper but his knack for unforgettable refrains is unparalleled, and he is the ultimate hypeman this party needs. There is unfortunately more than a whiff of the timewasting antics the LIMP BIZKIT of the past few years have employed in their shows. Durst flopping around to Turn Down for What emerging from the PA is not something anyone needs, and jamming sections of Cowboys From Hell, …And Justice for All and Welcome to the Jungle when they could be airing Nookie or any number of their own great songs is inadvisable. Moving from one of these jams directly into the juggernaut two-note riff of Break Stuff though sends a jolt of excitement through the audience, and arguably nu metal’s definitive anthem with its frankly perfect build and end payoff inciting absolute bedlam is a joy to behold. A tad more discipline is needed but this is a very welcome reminder than when they put their minds to it LIMP BIZKIT are unstoppable. Hopefully they can finally apply that to a new album.
KORN in their first moments surprisingly initially struggle to quite follow that level of euphoric carnage. Right Now from one of their least loved albums opening does not totally capitalise on the room’s energy, and their low end rumble is so astonishingly deep that it almost threatens to blur together each individual blow. Then suddenly those first growling notes of Here to Stay appear and the place erupts. When KORN‘s undeniable grooves lock into place they’re practically peerless. They’ve ridden essentially the same sonic template for over twenty years and had it lifted and copied by every terrible and generic nu metal band that came in their wake, and yet when done by the masters it still feels vital and exciting. It still feels so good to see Head back on the other side of the stage to Munky, the two guitarists mirroring each other and intertwining their eerie lead parts before coming back in together for each monstrous riff. Ray Luzier is something of an unsung hero, helping inject life back into KORN when he joined seven years ago, and his showmanship behind the kit adds another visual point of interest. Moving from a flashy fill straight into the opening cymbal taps of Blind is another jolt of excitement to the system, and the ensuing build is of course magnificent, that iconic three word bellow as it reaches its apex roared from every throat in the building.
Jonathan Davis emerging with bagpipes for Shoots and Ladders is heartwarmingly familiar, the song’s nursery rhyme breakdown one of their most ridiculous but cathartic moments. The pinnacle comes as KORN close the main set by celebrating twenty years since the release of their second record Life is Peachy, the scat madness of Twist leading into a ravenous Good God which splits the arena down the middle for a gargantuan wall of death during its eye-boggling climax. The encore of Falling Away From Me and Freak on a Leash is just a victory lap, the latter not having lost any of its charm or power. KORN never hit the same insane individual heights as LIMP BIZKIT, but they are indeed more consistent all the way through, pumping out hit after hit of down-tuned crunch. It’s impossible to deny the reoccurring thought that KORN have maintained relevance in a way LIMP BIZKIT have not. BIZKIT may have caused pandemonium but all with songs dating back to 2000 or the previous century; KORN include cuts from all across their career and ROTTING IN VAIN off this year’s killer The Serenity of Suffering is magnificent. A tour of this nature could be viewed as a nostalgia trip, but one band is clearly operating off of it more than the other.
Check out our photo gallery of the night’s action in London from Black Lotus Photography here: