Meshuggah at HoB Chicago
I very much revere Meshuggah. I’m not alone in that opinion. If you are a fan of metal you will know that, love them or not, they are the best at what they do, period. Virtuosic performance dresses a primal foundation. Fans are just as likely to count out polyrhythmic elements as they are to headbang when listening to their music.
I had the opportunity to see them one other time to date. It was in 2002 and the band was opening for Tool. The arena in Madison, WI sat about 8,000. It was big enough to ruin the performance with ambiance. When you play as fast and as tight as they, reverb and reflection are not your friends. I was thrilled then, to know that I was going to see them in Chicago’s House of Blues.
I sat down for an interview with guitarist Mårten Hagström and vocalist Jens Kidman prior to the show. It was interesting to learn that, for as loud as they are in concert, there is almost no stage volume. The guitars and bass are all handled by Fractal Audio boxes, leaving the drums and Jens’s vocals the only real volume on stage. You would only know this from standing on the side of the stage though. From out front, you needed earplugs…as much as I didn’t want them. Shure’s part in the story? Drums. Vocals. In-ears. Mårten and Jens both professed to be fans of the SM7B. Mårten used his in pre-production and demoing. Jens hand-held his mic as he laid down vocal tracks for the record. Playing live, his weapon of choice is the Beta 58A on a UHF-R wireless. The band use PSM®900 with SE425-CL earphones, excepting drummer Tomas Haake, who uses the PSM 600 hardwired body pack.
For showtime I was set up with a P9R body pack receiver in CueMode with every mix programmed in to it. I mostly watched at the side of the stage where I was able to select each band member’s personal mix at a whim. Just for fun (and to take the opportunity to go listen from the house) I went strolling out to the main room with my earphones in and the pack on. I stopped behind the FOH board for a quick listen without the earphones, then continued on through the venue. I had a few RF dropouts in the very back of the venue and in some of the concrete stairwells backstage – six in total. It was amazing considering the band was using a directional paddle antenna which only had the stage in its line of sight. Those few hits aside, I could hear their mixes everywhere in the venue through the pack.
The only place I didn’t dare go to test was in the middle of the floor. Our gear can take some abuse, but the energy coming from the stage was driving the most prime real estate of the room in to a frenzied pit. Cathartic it may have been, but I value my earphones enough to not have them ripped from my head and stomped to pieces.
Jens, Fredrik Thordendal, Mårten, and bassist Dick Lövgren delivered their punishing set from the very front of the stage, as if to drive home the listening experience through their physical presence. From the back Tomas played faster and with more precision than one would suspect is humanly possible. The set started with “Demiurge” from their new album, Koloss. Throughout the set were more from the album, along with fan-favorites like “Future Breed Machine” and “Combustion”. As they launched in to one of their most ambitious and well-known tracks, “Bleed” (obZen, 2008), I dialed in Tomas’s mix. If you’re a drummer, you might know what that means.
If you are a fan of metal, put this band on your bucket list.