Still Freaky: Korn Conquers the Capital Region

Capital Region concert goers were emphatically “ready” Sunday night, answering the question that started it all for enduring alt-metal icons Korn.  Turning out in droves to the newly anointed MVP Arena (formerly the Times Union Center), it had been several years since local Albany “freaks” had been able to see the Bakersfield, California metal mainstays in this type of setting. Fresh off the release of their 12th studio album Requiem, the pioneering titans silenced anyone who thought they may have gone soft, bludgeoning fans with a career-spanning selection of angsty anthems, radio hits, and OG favorites.  Still here, still volatile and still a draw, on this night Korn reminded everyone exactly why, at one point, they were considered the kings of the genre.

Trading in the JNCO’s for black leather trench coats and hitting the road for 19 dates with fellow hard rockers Chevelle and Code Orange, the two-time Grammy award winning band have an ambitious spring lined up.  Comprised of vocalist Jonathan Davis, guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch, bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, and drummer Ray Luzier, the sheer level of Korn’s reach over the years transcends accolades and platinum certifications. While it’s easy to make fun of their name and the nu-metal scene they largely helped bring to the masses, Korn has shown they are indeed ‘here to stay’ by continuing to push boundaries and finding ways to connect with a whole new generation. You see, in 2022 there is very little left for them to prove.  From conquering the ‘boy band’ craze of the late nineties to selling over 40 million albums, at their peak Korn was arguably the biggest band in the world.  Many will remember their star-making TRL and SNL appearances, their Family Values Tours and their infamous headlining scorcher during the first night of Woodstock ’99, before Rome went up in flames.  These days, however, you can almost count the number of “heavy bands” who survived that era on one hand. A testament to their longevity, on this night in Albany plenty of people still wanted to see Korn throw down.

They came dressed in black, some with tattoos and eye liner, some covered in body piercings, others with neon-colored hair and sexy go-go boots, and yes, a few “freaks” came swimming in their vintage wide-legged JNCO’s.  For the most part though, the fans who turned out were just your typical metalheads; the burly, bearded, beer-drinking guy-next-door type who likely has been “following the leader” for close to thirty years. After solid opening sets from Code Orange and Chevelle, it was finally time for what the Korn Kids came for.

As the lights suddenly went black, a brooding piece of orchestral music began piping into the MVP Arena. After a few moments, a large curtain with Korn’s logo became visible on stage, backlit to reveal silhouettes of the band members taking their signature power-stance positions. As the anticipation reached a fever pitch, the veil suddenly pulled away and fell to the floor as Korn launched into “Forgotten,” the first track off their new album.  Fans instantly locked into it, erupting in unison while pumping their fists to the songs heavy chugging riff. The band looking fresh and already feeding off the Albany energy, also bouncing to the groove in perfect syncopation, dreadlocks flying in all directions, bent over at the waists as their instruments  practically touch the stage; the thunderous and steady hands of drummer Ray Luzier’s anchoring it all down from his massive kit high above the stage.  Off to the races, Korn quickly followed that up with one of their biggest radio hits in “Got the Life” allowing fans to “get their boogie on” and show off their voices to the song’s sing-along chorus.

The thick and sludgy hit single “Here to Stay” came next, followed by a new and relatively untested song off their latest album called “Start the Healing.”   Front man Jonathan Davis, who admits he feels most at home when he’s hurting, was in fine form here. Sounding as good as he ever has and just as tormented. His unique, guttural, throaty screams filling the arena as he stalked back and forth across the stage like a starving lion that’s just been unleashed.  Closing his eyes and clutching onto The Bitch (his custom made H.R. Giger microphone stand), when watching Davis exercise his demons live, there is no denying his sincerity.  The unimaginable pain of his past is obviously still there and is still fueling an unbridled rage. Speculation of abuse aside, whatever happened to Mr. Davis in his younger years clearly had a lifelong impact. The type of torment very few overcome and very few can ever truly understand.

Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their Untouchables album, Korn would dust off a bit a rarity in the form of “No One’s There.” Davis would then pull out the bagpipes for the iconic intro of 1994’s demented nursery rhyme smash “Shoots of Ladders,” at one point even working in a tease of Metallica’s “One” before returning to its usual structure.  Sensing an opportunity to slip in another new tune, Korn upped the heavy with “Lost in the Grandeur,” which saw Brian “Head” Welch really getting into it. If dreadlocks could tell a story, Head’s could write novels. Inches longer than the last time we saw him, the man has become something of an inspiration for fans battling the hopelessness of addiction.   After stunning the metal world in 2005 by quitting the band and finding faith, it would be years before fans discovered the reality of the situation.  After kicking a life-threatening drug addiction and learning to better manage severe bouts of depression, Welch would rejoin his brothers in the band in 2012.  Seeing him look healthy, happily headbanging and throwing souvenir guitar picks at fans, you couldn’t help but respect the guy.   Let’s admit it, Korn just isn’t Korn without the chemistry between Head and guitarist James “Munkey” Shafer and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, by now this dynamic dreadlocked duo of 7-string ax slingers could have their own monument.  The signature sound they fathered was on full display for the next two songs, a pair of radio hits in “Ya’ll Want a Single” and “Falling Away From Me.”

There was a fun moment during “Coming Undone” when the band did a surprise segue into Queen’s classic arena rock anthem “We Will Rock You.” The  main portion of the set then concluded with perhaps Korn’s most well-known song “Freak on a Leash,” the breakdown giving bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu a prime opportunity in the spotlight to showcase his impressive musical chops, resulting in a raucous and sustained ovation from fans of all ages as the band exited the stage.

After a few minutes of soaking in the cheers, Korn happily returned to play a few more.  First was a medley of sorts consisting of the opening track 1998’s Follow the Leader, ‘It’s On!’ mashed up with the songs ‘Trash’ and ‘Did My Time.’   From there, one of the most unique and unimitatable songs in Korn’s discography, the Davis-led snarling beat box style scat-rap of ‘Twist’ which flowed directly into a song that’s been on the shelf in recent years, ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ The kinkier side of the Capital Region showing itself during the adolescent acronym hit when the entire arena sang together “I don’t know your fuckin’ name, so what? Let’s fuck!” and then simultaneously shouting out that “all day [they] dream about sex.” A truly memorable and somewhat hilarious moment.  After an impressive, yet obligatory drum solo from Luzier, Korn thanked fans for all the years of support, promised they’d be back soon, and then sent the crowd home happy with the song that put them on the map, a celebratory rendition of “Blind,” complete with a cannon blast of confetti and party streamers and a massive applause from the Albany Korn Kids who still deeply appreciate and respect this band. 

Like stepping back in time, this “freak show” felt like a nostalgic throwback to the glory days of the late 1990’s. Firing on all cylinders and going balls-to-the-wall the entire performance, Korn clearly still has “it” and are showing no signs of slowing down.  With their impressive and physically demanding stage presence, unmatched intensity, energy and rage, it was as if Korn found the fountain of youth on this evening in Albany.  Musical trends come and go, but this is still rock n’ roll and there will always be an audience hungry for this type of angry, defiant, and cathartic music.  On this memorable mid-March night, metal fans got exactly what they paid for.  

Korn | March 20, 2022 | Albany, NY | MVP Arena

Setlist: Forgotten, Got the Life, Here to Stay, Start the Healing, No One’s There, Shoots and Ladders, Lost in the Grandeur, Y’all Want a Single, Falling Away From Me, Worst Is on Its Way, Coming Undone Freak on a Leash

Encore: It’s On / Trash / Did My Time, Twish, A.D.I.D.A.S., Drum Solo, Blind 

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