The Dillinger Escape Plan
Night #1: The Bald Faced Stag, Sydney 18/10/17
Night #2: Metro Theatre, Sydney 21/10/17
It's been a fair while since The Dillinger Escape Plan were a "small venue" band, but for the first of two final ever Sydney shows, the New Jersian mathcore legends stepped back to their roots with a pub-set fiasco as grimy as it was glorious. The Bald Faced Stag was quite clearly oversold, with troves of ardent metalheads cramped well up to the venue's entrance. But despite it being uncomfortably squishy, the crowd seeped pure elation and indulged every fleeting opportunity to thrash like maniacs. Such concentrated energy fuelled the band as well, frontman Greg Puciato meeting every pounding fist with an aching roar, and axe icon Ben Weinman feeding on the fear of front row punters that at any moment, his oft-airbourne ESP could spell the end of their jaws.
The intimacy added an extra level of intensity to some of the broader and more sonically ambitious corners of Dillinger's recent work – Dissociation cuts "Surrogate" and "Nothing To Forget" felt especially epic with every razor-sharp crash and rattling pulse bounding off the walls no more than a metre from their assailants. With little room for his main focus to be on movement, Weinman riffed with unfathomable precision; whether a djenty clobber of stray chords or a jazzy solo, every attack on his fretboard was crystal clean and devoid of hiccup.
Rhythm shredder Kevin Antreassian rounded out the band's sound with crippling indignation, but often perched in a corner and playing by the numbers, was a tad off his commonly jaw-dropping mark. The same can be said for bassist Liam Wilson, who was visibly overshadowed by the one-two punch of Puciato and Weinman.
Recent years have seen Dillinger evolve their performance alongside their surroundings – which have ballooned from holes-in-the-wall to veritable arenas – and their lack of space tonight meant a constricted version of a show that was designed for the latter more than the former. They made the most of what they had, of course, bursting at the seams with the savage energy now synonymous with The Dillinger Escape Plan. But two nights later at the Metro Theatre, with towering stacks of amps and risers just begging for Puciato's heels, the stage became a playground for a band as passionate about parkour as music. There were no seams for the band to burst at: from the first acidic crunches of opener "Limerent Death", all four standing members whipped into a blur of murderous ardour.
Thus led to a more engaging and devoted performance as well – the fan-favourite "Milk Lizard" flooded the Metro with a punky acuteness that simply wasn't present at the Stag; closing number "Prancer" felt just a little more turbulent, and the added pit room gave the title track to 2013's One Of Us Is The Killer the passionate, grandiose mosh it always deserves. Where almost every element of their musicality blended to form a singular, homogenous atmosphere in a pub setting, the sheer scope of the Metro meant that Dillinger's most angular moments made a seismic impact on the crowd, while some of the more cerebral and melodic chunks of their catalogue provided respite.
Wilson and Antreassian both shined with a wider mix for them to flourish, Wilson in particular with his harsh, rumbling tones. Even when songs amassed pure noise with their constant, violent breakdowns, Antreassian's playing was distinct enough to gel beautifully with Weinman's. And really, that's most the reason Dillinger have lasted this long: at their core, they're just f***ing great musicians.
Usually a chance for the crowd to wind down and the band to start formulating their exit, the last quarter of their Metro set was when Dillinger truly reached peak insanity. Still never missing a beat on the fret, Weinman made a personal goal out of cannonballing into the crowd as many times as physically possible. Locking eyes on Puciato was a mission, the frontman sprinting, climbing and leaping from the stage with blinding enthusiasm and, at one point, literally swinging from the rafters (before diving off, headfirst, into the pit). As if to symbolise the destruction of the band itself, Puciato wrapped Dillinger's final ever Sydney jaunt up by pelting road cases and cymbals into the crowd, while Weinman used his guitar like a bat to dismantle the rest of Billy Rymer's drum kit.
The setlist between both shows were almost identical. It would have been cool to see some older, more rugged and perhaps forgotten deep cuts at the Stag show – the band's insistence on adapting their theatre show to a smaller setting didn't pan out too well. As has been the trend as of late, both sets ended on the bittersweet note of a fierce, heaving circle pit to the scorcher that started it all: "43% Burnt" (or, as their setlists more accurately noted it, "43% Turnt"). The band stunned us at the Metro with their first performance of "Sandbox Magician" in 12 years – as it should surprise nobody, the jam stands just as strong today as it did in Dillinger's infancy.
There’s no debate: longtime fans may have frothed at the gums for a chance to see Dillinger in a pub again, but there’s a reason they outgrew them. The Dillinger Escape Plan are a ‘performance’ band through and through, and the open space of a theatre allowed their gory explosiveness to really blossom. Even on their deathbed, Dillinger are hellbent on pushing boundaries and reaching vicious new peaks with their calculated intensity. The floodgates were opened, and Sydney (very happily) bore the brunt of their unhinged chaos.
Catch our full gallery from The Dillinger Escape Plan in Sydney after the jump!