There are fewer things more thrilling as a dedicated music fan than seeing a band perform one of your favorite albums in its entirety. Earlier this year, Coheed and Cambria performed their breakthrough album Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV: Part One in its entirety, and its power was stronger than ever twelve years after initial release, underlying the potential for the longevity of a well-crafted album. It sends a powerful message: if an artist is able to craft a record that is artistically, emotionally, and technically fulfilling and it resonates with its audience, fans will come in droves a decade later to experience it in person.
It’s unlikely that former Coheed tourmates Between the Buried and Me needed convincing of this concept, as it would appear that their very own breakthrough Colors, released September 18, 2007 through Victory Records, had its own lasting power from the start. From the beginning, the band crafted the album as a response to the kind of shows they were being placed in, with short daytime sets on Ozzfest during the Alaska touring cycle being a catalyst that pushed the band to new artistic heights. The act flirted with longer songs in the past, but their overt goal was to make sure that it would be impossible to play a half-hour set in front of a couple of dozen people. That isn’t to say that Colors is intentionally padded or that the band wanted long songs for the sake of having them, but this midset is what lead to a 64 minute musical concept that was cohesive from beginning to end. The band yearned to make a statement, as evidenced by the now-infamous lyric, “This is all we have when we die… we will be remembered for this.” Whether intentional or not, this line proved to be self-referential to the band and Colors itself.
Ten years later, Colors holds up, and is widely considered the act’s best album and a modern progressive metal classic. Colors is one of our all-time favorite records around these parts, so there was no question that this tour couldn’t be missed. We were able to catch the trek, which also featured Toothgrinder, Polyphia, and The Contortionist, at its penultimate sold-out show at The Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was as glorious and powerful as expected.
Toothgrinder are the relative newcomers for the bill, and were therefore the act with which the crowd were the least familiar. As such, it took the crowd some convincing before there was any sort of movement beyond crossed arms and head-nodding approval. The band are keeping progressive metalcore alive and between the heavy riffing and the atmospheric and melodic sections, there was a good bit of diversity to the set. The charismatic delivery and stage presence of frontman Justin Matthews helped sell the band as well, who utilized the venue’s second level rail to flip into the crowd in the set’s later moments. Guitarist Johnuel Hasney was also a sight, who performed a number of dazzling solos throughout the set. Overall, it’s safe to say that Toothgrinder made a great first impression to a number of fans on this tour.
It’s easy to write off Polyphia as A E S T H E T I C M E M E B O I Z and not take them seriously as musicians; after all, a bust of the statue of David was emblazoned on the group’s drumhead. Admittedly, this writer has had limited experience with Polyphia beyond some online shitposting. It was pointed out by another concert-goer that every member of Polyphia looked like they should have been playing in different bands, and this provided enough amusement throughout the soundcheck, which was plagued by a technical difficulty wherein the guitarist Scott LePage could not hear himself in his monitor. The sound guy could be heard through the monitors saying, “I don’t know what to tell you, guys.”
Regardless, Polyphia performed flawlessly. If LePage guitarist could not hear himself on stage, you couldn’t tell. He performed a couple of solos throughout the set, and nothing seemed amiss. By the end of the first track, it was obvious that each member of Polyphia were virtuosic at their instruments in their own right, but the real show was lead guitarist Tim Henson. Not to discount the other members, but our eyes were glued to Tim, who fingerpicks exotic chords and weaves some seriously passionate sounding and playful leads, with crowd favorite “Euphoria” being a highlight of the night.
Some may find their online presence and art direction obnoxious, but their music certainly speaks for itself. Polyphia are a solid live act, to be sure.
The Contortionist dropped all pretense of being a metal band with their new album Clairvoyant, and as such, we were anxious to see a set leaning heavily on the new material. The group opened with single “Return to Earth” which is, incredibly, a bigger song when presented live. The act also employed the album’s title track as well as lead single “Reimagined,” which provided a much-needed meditative breaks between “Flourish” and both parts of “Language.” Seeing “Flourish” performed live is a damn-near spiritual experience, with the breakdown-heavy riffs commanding the crowd to frightening amounts of movement and the melodic progressive instrumental section bringing chills.
The crowd braced for impact before the final breakdown in “Flourish”, but it never came; the band lopped the outro off and tied the ambiance into “Clairvoyant,” which worked well to bring a sense of flow to the entire set, which was meticulously crafted. There was never a moment of silence to The Contortionist’s set, with keyboardist Eric Guenther and frontman Mike Lessard building ambiance between tracks. The Contortionist are impressive in this regard, utilizing their direct support position on this tour to deliver a cohesive and dynamic set, which is perfect for the album performance which was to follow.
Between The Buried and Me
It’s worth noting that I didn’t “get” Colors when I first heard it back in 2007. It was actually the following year’s Colors Live DVD that sold the record to me. Seeing these musicians perform this complicated, long, and dynamic record from beginning to end with no gaps between helped solidify in my mind this album as a masterpiece. I was also 17 and lived in the middle of nowhere, so I could never experience the album in full in person during the original album cycle. Surely there were many pre-Colors fans at this homecoming show, but it’s a safe bet than many folks in the crowd caught word of BTBAM following their post-Colors hype and breakthrough.
The tension and anxiety was palpable; this tour had many sold-out nights, and the album is considered a classic. The band have aged and changed considerably since 2007. Colors tracks have been live mainstays for years now, so there’s not so much question of whether or not the band could still perform the record, but if it would come across as passionate and energetic as it did a decade ago.
At the risk of sounding somewhat anticlimactic, a Colors set in 2017 went about as well as you’d expect. To the band’s credit, performing Colors in and of itself is a technical and artistic feat worthy of praise. Between the Buried and Me are also not necessarily known for being a wholly engaging live act given the band’s focus on performing the technically demanding and dense material, despite their propensity towards faithful representation of the album experience. That being said, compared to where we are now in the band’s discography with Coma Ecliptic, it gave frontman Tommy Rogers, donning an unironic(?) Purple Rain shirt, an opportunity to step out from behind the keyboard to the stagefront to don a larger stage presence, which was immense in terms of crowd response.
The album’s big moments were smash hits. Without delay, the shifts in dynamic from the band were met in the crowd’s movement and energy. The crowd’s singing drowned out Rogers’ opening “The Backtrack” with an immediate display of passion, with the following flurry of blastbeats and breakdowns that transition into “The Decade of Statues” opening up the crowd to movement. The crowd rushed to the front to greet Tommy’s chants of “I’ll just keep waiting / You’ll just keep waiting” in ways that I’ve only ever seen during a Dillinger Escape Plan set.
This continued throughout the set. Colors is the perfect live album in that it has built-in moments of rest between bouts of intense momentum and emotional release. The crowd rose and fell to Colors on cue, with the band commanding the crowd with ease. The crowd swayed with melancholy to the chorus of “Informal Gluttony.” Crowd-surfers were guided to the stage during “Sun of Nothing.” “Ants of The Sky” continued to be a crowd-pleaser, with the bluegrass section bringing fans to ecstatic jumping and dancing. The climax to “Prequel to the Sequel” was much more frightening than anticipated as well, offering another moment for fans to pile in front of the stage echoing Tommy’s cries of “Comfort! Comfort! Comfort!“
Seeing “Viridian” performed live is a much more emotional experience than one would expect, with Dan Briggs’ melodic basslines easing the crowd into the ambiance while building the tension into “White Walls.” Briggs surely has the liberty to improvise new solos for “Viridian” on this tour, but decided to stick with a note-for-note recreation of the album track, which is somehow more impressive. The most surprising thing about this night’s performance however is that no matter how many times the band has performed “White Walls” over the years, it never fails to be a devastating track. The climax — “This is all we have when we die!” — tore through the throats of every person in the building, and many of us lost our voices at least twenty minutes ago. The following breakdown was naturally the most movement the crowd had exhibited all night, which is a feat considering the fatigue of the two hours of music endured up to that point.
The album’s performance ended in a surprising fashion: As “White Walls” came to its dramatic close, the band droned the final chord out through tremolos and sweeps for some time in order to rouse the crowd while drummer Blake Richardson raised a mallet in the air in preparation to bang a gong behind the drumset. Richardson seized the moment, left the stage twice, and egged on the crowd into yelling louder for what felt like several minutes while the band dissolved into laughter, still droning through it all. A perfect representation of the band and their attitude if there ever was one; ending an ambitious and career-defining record with a prank.
Chants of “B/T/BAM!” followed as the band left the stage and continued for several minutes while the band’s technician climbed onto the stage and hammered out a beat on Tommy’s keyboard using the crowd as a rhythmic backdrop. Soon, Blake returned to the stage to join the tech in a jam. The rest of the band followed shortly after, and Paul thanked the crowd for such a successful homecoming show, reminiscing about how much the band has grown since Colors first released, noting how he never thought they’d be selling out venues as headliners. Paul teased the new album for next year, and the band ended the night with longtime classic and certified banger, “Mordecai,” from 2003’s The Silent Circus.
Admittedly, the band weren’t as pitch perfect as they were on the Colors Live album, but they represented Colors faithfully to a sold-out crowd of fans who have been clamoring for the experience long before the tour was even announced. It was a night of pure catharsis, and an intensely gratifying show, particularly for those who weren’t around to experience it in-person the first time. Personally, I can’t wait for the “Printing Money 2027: Colors 20th Anniversary Tour”. I’ll be sure to bring my kids along with me.