Jesterheads from Charlotte and the surrounding areas converged on the Fillmore for a night of sweet Swedish metal as the legendary melodic death metal pioneers In Flames passed through the city. The band who is currently touring North America in support of their newest record, ‘I, The Mask’, brought a few of their friends along for the ride to deliver a night that fans soon wouldn’t forget.
The first band to take the stage on this chilly February night was California’s, All Hail The Yeti. This is a band I had never really heard of and with a name like theirs, I truly did not know what to expect. As I entered the photo pit to prepare for a night of metal, I noticed the band’s stage set up, which was very intriguing to me. The riser was decorated in the fashion of a dark altar, with incense burning, small lights creating a firelike glow on the stage and smack dead in the center a deer skull for good measure. When the lights dropped and the band took the stage I was blown away by the energy that this mostly unknown band had. Frontman Connor Garritty had a way of demanding the crowd’s attention but also played to the cameras in the pit as he gave us a few great shots of him. For me, the highlight of the band was the person that many tend to forget about, the drummer Ryan Kittlitz. Ryan just had this amazing stage energy about his as he flailed his arms around his kit like a wild animal, not missing a single step.
Once the Yeti had be praised for their performance, it was time for metal legends All That Remains to hit the stage. I have seen this band multiple times of the past few years and being a fan of their older music I always enjoy seeing them live, but this time it was weird. Seeing the band take the stage without late guitarist Oli Herbert was emotional for me, since the last time I saw the guys on their tour with Alterbridge I had interviewed him on the band’s tour bus. Fans in the crowd chanted “Oli, Oli” when Frontman Phil Labonte took a moment to talk about the beloved guitarist on stage. It was a very emotional moment for all of the fans in attendance and for the band on the stage. He announced the addition of Jason Richardson from Chelsea Grin and Born of Osiris as a permanent fixture in the band, stating “There is no one in the world that Oli would have wanted to fill that spot on the stage other than Jason.” The band delivered a short setlist composed of some of the band’s biggest song over the past 2 decades, giving everyone in attendance exactly what they could have asked for from the band.
Once the dust settled it was finally time for the main event of the night, In Flames. Now I have been a massive, massive fan of this band since about 2010 when I was introduced to ‘Come Clarity’ by a friend of mine. It wasn’t until after I went through the band’ earlier works, ‘Clayman’, ‘The Jester Race’ and ‘Colony’, that it truly fell in love with the hard hitting fast paced guitars and Anders’ unique screams. I’ll admit it, I have photographed many shows over the years and I think this is the first one that I slightly fangirled over. Due to hospitalization, guitarist Niclas Engelin had to drop out of the tour a few days before the kickoff, but the band called in some favors and with a bit of luck they were able to bring out former Megadeth shredder, Chris Broderick to fill the spot. Even though one of the band’s current key members was missing, In Flames delivered one of the best shows that I have seen over the years. Even after touring and performing for nearly 3 decades Anders and Bjorn still enjoy performing for their fans, smiling the entire time on the stage. The band’s setlist was, however, a bit lacking in places missing some of my personal favorites, but overall the set felt good, solid and a perfect mix of older and newer music from the band’s massive discography. It was during the band’s third song, ‘Pinball Map’ that Anders stopped in the middle of the guitar solo while on the riser to laugh at me as I was screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs, absolutely zero shame here!
Overall, this is one of those tours that you have to go see, with 2 legendary bands on the bill, the ticket is more than work the cost of admission. You will be in for a night of huge hits and plenty of headbanging. The ‘I, The Mask’ Tour runs through runs through March 19th in the US, before jumping across the pond for a few select dates in the UK. ‘I, The Mask’ will be available worldwide on March 1st across all digital streaming sites and hard copies for purchase at all major music retailers, if you can still find one.
All Photos by James Geiser