As I promised when I posted about this tour back in January and saw Norma Jean play at the Nile Theater live on March Second for their Explosions II tour, here’s a review of the gig.

Just as expected, Norma Jean did not disappoint. Their set was pure energy with every member playing their heart out, lead by their very passionate front man Cory Putman.  I’m going to try to piece together the show as best as I remember it. I won’t have you believe this is exactly how their set list was played. I’m too active a concert-goer to take notes. I headbang, I jump, and I scream every lyric I know when I’m at a small-venue concert.

I saw Norma Jean play with  The Chariot and Arsonists Gets All The Girls back in 2009 for their first Explosions Tour, and like a great sequel, Norma Jean seemed to pick up right where they left off. They opened with “Leaderless and Self-Entitled“, track one from Meridional. This instantly got everyone at the show involved with the front crowd jumping, pushing, and throwing elbows shoulder to shoulder, all the while screaming lyrics. This raw energy combined with the intimacy of being 3 to 6 feet away from the band is what defines a show at a small venue.

Next they played “Dilemmachine: Coalition, Hoax” from O God The Aftermath followed by “Face:Face” from Bless The Martyr Kiss The Child which really kept the roudiness going. Cory then announced that they recently shot a video for the next song “Bastardizer.” This had the entire crowd pushing forward and screaming “I found a better way!” by the end of the song.  The following song had a similar effect as they played “A Grand Scene For A Color Film” from Redeemer. Cory then changed things up as he asked for a circle pit for the most aggressive song on Meridional, “The Anthem of The Angry Brides.” I personally found myself springing up and down with all kinds of adrenaline for this song, and screaming those beautiful lyrics with the crowd “you’re not getting under my skin!” at the end.

They then touched Redeemer again, this time playing “A Small Spark Vs A Great Forest.” This song had me screaming more than those shoulder to shoulder with me as its a personal favorite for the lyrical meaning. Cory then said they were going to slow things down, and then it’d be back to “Mountain Dew Extreme Sports.” They played one of their tamer tracks “Falling From The Sky – Day Seven” from Meridional. The crowd and my-self used this opportunity to take a few good breaths from all the previous movement. Cory then said that they were going to play one they hadn’t since 2005, “Murderotica” from O God The Aftermath. All the energy and intensity of the show was instantly revived, with the front crowd pushing and jumping.

And if you’re a Norma Jean fan and have read this far you know what they decided to close with: “Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste” from Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child. The energy and passion they play this song with will generally get any fans at their show to go apeshit- and this was no exception. The whole front crowd became one big mosh pit with everyone crashing into everyone. I found myself jumping and throwing my elbows left and right to maintain my position and hold my ground, all the while enjoying the song. We then begged for “One More Song!” and luckily we got an encore of “Vipers, Snakes, and Actors” from Norma Jean Vs The Antimother. Cory reached the mic out to me to sing the closing lyrics “nothing will be the outcome!” That’s another perk of a show at a small venue; if you know the lyrics you can expect to get the mic at least once if you’re in the front going crazy with everyone near the vocalist.

Of the opening acts, local christian hardcore band Overcome and Of Legends were fun to watch. The most exciting thing about Impending Doom was a fight that broke out. If you go to a show with breakdowns in Arizona, this is practically a guarantee.  The hardcore scene here is violent, with some of these kids deliberately flailing their feet and hands into audience members. For this reason, and others, I found myself lucky that Stick To Your Guns didn’t play that night.

As I said, Norma Jean delivered on every level at this show. Their stage performance and vehement intensity is the reason I love going to shows. If you get a chance to see this tour do so, as Norma Jean as the headliner is worth the cost of the ticket price alone.

– PC

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