It has been almost 15 years now since The Dillinger Escape Plan dropped their genre-defining full-length debut, Calculating Infinity, but as we close in on that anniversary, it has become increasingly difficult to define exactly what that genre is. Initially labeled as math-metal, the band has since taken their sound in so many tangential directions that it seems pointless to try to explain exactly what they sound like these days. Rest assured, the one thing that remains is that they still play loud, fast, seemingly impossible music.
While all that sounds incredible enough on record, the Dillinger legend has been cemented on the stage. Over the years (and despite several line-up changes) they honed their show until it became what it is today: a beast of unstoppable momentum and a nightly challenge for its performers to prove that theirs is the best live band on the planet.
So it was at the House Of Blues on Saturday night after a long day of bands touring under the banner of the Summer Slaughter tour. Where so much metal music feels conservative in its approach to its dynamics, here is a band that does not so much tear up the rule book as refuse to accept that one existed in the first place.
The detonation opener of “Prancer” would be, for most bands, a hell of a way to start the show, but for Dillinger it felt like a loosener. It was the explosive “Farewell Mona Lisa” (for my money the best song the band has ever written) that signaled what was to follow for the next hour: a combination of wild unpredictability and consummate professionalism. A signal of how far they have come was the fact that “43% Burnt,” as sure a set closer as you could imagine and one of the most devastating heavy songs ever written, was dropped into the first 15 minutes of the set. The band is now so confident in the range of material and the back catalogue they have compiled that they can afford to do this.
As usual, the members of Dillinger (in particular guitarist Ben Weinman and the spectacular frontman Greg Puciato) literally threw themselves into the show as if it were the last one they would ever play. Between Puciato leaping from a 20 foot speaker stack to Weinman crowd surfing on his knees without missing a note, the band was a visual marvel. The fact that they play such technically dazzling music with such panache is frankly embarrassing to some of their much lazier peers. The contrast between the ferocity of something like “Panasonic Youth” and the title track off their new album (in which Puciato switched into a quite lovely falsetto) felt like the aural equivalent of a chest-beating victory lap.
By the time Dillinger reached its new standard set closer, the punishing “Sunshine The Werewolf,” the audience had become an exhausted, thrilled, and sweaty mess, having turned most of the House Of Blues floor into a non-stop circle pit for over an hour. Puciato took the opportunity to once again disappear into the crowd and join in on the mutual worship. It was the end of another sensational performance, in the truest sense of the word. For showmanship, audience connection, and sheer volcanic power, there isn’t another band that can match them, nor is there another act whose live show can make this relatively jaded thirty-something writer revert to that sense of being an awestruck teenager.
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