25 May 2018

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Gig Review: Stone Sour with City of Souls @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 23/08/2017

24 Aug 2017 // A review by butch181

Looking around the venue and it is apparent that the stage has been brought forward. So Spark Arena (formerly known as Vector Arena) has a much smaller capacity compared to when Corey Taylor last performed with his other project, Slipknot. The crowds have packed the floor area and seating, and the smaller capacity does give the venue a fuller feel, which lends itself to a better gig atmosphere. The only opening act for the night is City of Souls, and the drummer Corey Friedlander, comes out on stage first to start the opening track Ferryman. The track has a slightly lengthened intro to allow time for the rest of the band to trickle out on stage. This is City of Souls first time performing on stage at Spark Arena, and they were determined to leave a lasting impression on the crowd with a great performance. It wasn't long before differences in vocals between prior gigs became apparent. It was initially unclear whether these were official changes made to the tracks (as the band are currently in the recording process for their debut album), or whether something else was affecting this performance.

It was later announced that vocalist Richie Simpson had been struck by the flu, so guitarist Trajan Schwencke’s role as backing vocals had been given more significance to allow him to reduce the strain on Richie's voice. Originally, it did come across as a very different sound by those that are familiar with and love Richie's long and deep abrasive vocals; any shortening and reduction of his parts has a large effect on the power of the song. After a couple songs, however, the additional harmonies provided a great balance and added extra vocal layers to the songs by the band that loves to add layers to their music.  A regular part of their set list is their cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, and was very well received by the crowd receiving a thunderous cheer. This was followed by Shimmer, at which point the toll on Richie's voice was becoming more noticeable, with more of his parts getting reduced or omitted entirely, leaving Trajan to step up and fill the void. For a vocalist to continue performing through a flu bout, it takes a lot of power and strength, and Richie managed to maintain a stable vocal performance throughout. With guitarist Marcus Powell out of the country, City of Souls enlisted the help of Set On End guitarist Matt Borsos (who almost looked like bassist Dan Insley’s doppelganger), and did a near faultless set, despite only a weeks notice. The band dedicated one of their softer crescending tracks White Ghost, to a recent loss in the NZ music scene, Kitty Taylor, with a message to not be afraid to ask for help if you feel bad. Their set consisted of several brand new songs that have only been performed live a couple times, as well as common live hits, and ending with popular singles, Water and Long Gone. Surprising crowd favourites were the Joy Division cover, and their newer track, Cruelty, which garnered a lot of crowd movement during the heavy choruses.

Starting their set with the introductory phrase on their Hydrograd album “Hello, you bastards”, Stone Sour took to the stage. The stage has been set with three large steps at the front, which will allow the crowd better visibility, though, throughout the performance, vocalist Corey Taylor is the only person to really make use of them. Opening with one of the new singles Taipei Person/Allah Tea makes for an interesting choice; as it is the least well known of the three singles released from the latest album, which itself was released only four weeks ago. If there was any question as to what sort of performance to expect, it was answered with Corey Taylor emerged from the side of the stage (not even halfway through the first song at this point) with a confetti cannon and starts firing confetti and streamers into the crowd. The love and admiration that the NZ fans have for Corey Taylor is so strong that he doesn’t have to do anything; Simply being in the country and standing on stage is enough to garner an extensive round of applause and cheers that require him to motion for the audience to quieten down so the band can perform. He does revel in the attention and knows how to get the crowd riled up, at one point commenting how he is aware that many bands will choose not to include New Zealand in their tour schedules, saying New Zealand has “some of the most passionate goddam music fans I’ve met” and pledging to tell bands to stop making excuses and to come perform here.

As far as the set list goes, it is odd to have a concert based around an album launch that includes so little of the album. Of the 17 songs involved in the set list, nearly half of the tracks originate from the debut self-titled album Stone Sour, and the follow-up sophomore album Come What(ever) May, with only 3 tracks coming from the latest release Hydrograd. This being said, it works out to their advantage, as the crowd is much more familiar with the older material, and in the cases of Bother and Through Glass, would often out-sing Corey. Auckland did receive a treat when Stone Sour performed a track live for the first time; needless to say, many phones were in the air recording Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I). The mixing at the sound desk was a little bit off throughout the night, with inconsistent sounds around the arena; those near the stage were unable to properly hear the vocals, while from the stands, the bass guitar overpowered the two or three guitars on many occasions. This combined with some inconsistent levels on the drum kit was the only real negative part of the night’s performance, but Corey Taylor’s showmanship more than made up for it. His ability to move about the whole stage, climb up on steps and ledges, and go down to interact with the front row of the crowd, all while still performing with passion and energy, fed the crowd with energy. No inconsistencies in sound could take away from the performance. The crowd were keen to sing along at every opportunity, and it made very obvious as to which tracks the crowd were more familiar with; it wasn’t until Reborn that the crowd really started to mosh, and the first of many circle pits began to form.

The vocals of the performance were on point, despite Corey Taylor recovering from a sinus infection; there were differences between the studio recordings, such as many of the harsh growling vocals being reduced, or omitted, or letting the crowd sing them. This is, however, a common occurrence when translating studio recordings to live performances. Regardless, of whether Corey Taylor’s vocals carried the correct level of coarseness to it, he hit the correct notes at the right times, with a vigour that continued to rile up the audience throughout their 90-minute set. I couldn’t find fault in the guitars and drums, apart from the volume during some songs; the guitars interacted less with the crowds, but the drummer Roy Mayorga was a thrill to watch, with such variety in styles and actions. The stand-out tracks of the performance came during the encore, with Sovereign/Absolute Zero, with the largest circle pit of the night, coordinated fist pumping, loud crowd chanting, and even more confetti cannons. The final track of the night brought in some back-up dancers for Fabuless, in the form of five wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tubemen. An unexpected end to the show, that brought a hit of comedy to the end of the performance

About City of Souls


It is a word that Auckland six piece City of Souls were bound to deal with from their inception. Boasting members from bands that have etched their mark on the local and international hard rock and metal scene such as Blindspott, Blacklistt, 8 Foot Sativa, New Way Home, Cold By Winter, In Dread Response and Solstate, City of Souls was set to stir some interest, and stir they have.

Too often when something is hyped it is followed with disappointment, yet the first City Of Souls single Sleep arrives unashamedly explosive, touting emotive energy juxtaposed with a certain calm which will become this band’s signature. Recorded between Dreadstorm Media Auckland and Roundhead Studios, it was mixed by legendary engineer Clint Murphy, and mastered at Sterling Sound in New York.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for City of Souls


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