UNDEROATH Rise Again on Their “Rebirth” Tour in 2016
Underoath‘s aptly named “Rebirth” tour, their comeback trek after a few years of what was originally intended to be a permanent hiatus, came through Kansas City’s Midland Theatre on Monday, April 4th. Performing their two most popular albums, They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line in their entirety, the show proved Underoath have not only lost nothing, they may be at their best right now.
Underoath‘s support for the evening was instrumental post-rock group Caspian. The difference in styles was very striking, and the crowd seemed split evenly on whether the show was amazing or incredibly boring. Still, I imagine Caspian will take all the new fans they can get, and I’m one of them. While several of the songs seemed to meander a little – they all averaged in the 6-8 minute range – the layering in these songs was hypnotic. I rarely see the point in having a third guitarist, but for Caspian having three guitars all able to paint different soundscapes is absolutely vital, as they often stack the elements one at a time until the song is ready to burst. While very few moments during their set were -heavy-, their music is certainly dark and often foreboding. Even the prettiest, softest moments carried an edge. If you can get into music without vocals, Caspian is an amazing starting place.
The crowd was visibly anxious leading up to the start of Underoath‘s first set. When the lights went down there was an audible hush before the usual cheering. There was a sense of this being monumental: a band who helped create and shape an entire genre, performing again after a rocky breakup. For many, myself included, it was the first opportunity to see Underoath, something assumed lost when the band originally split.
About 30 seconds into their first song, “Young and Aspiring,” it was very apparent Underoath were going to match that level of hype. Frontman Spencer Chamberlain was an absolute maniac, dashing around the entire stage – and I do mean entire: Underoath set their drum kit and amps up as far back on the stage as possible to give the most room to perform. Guitarists Timothy McTague and James Smith stayed to their respective sides of the stage, but they leapt front and center when the time came for their riffs, while bassist Grant Brandell and keyboardist Christopher Dudley were both extremely active, spinning and jumping their way through the marathon set. Only drummer Aaron Gillespie seemed to drag a little. He looked pale, and his mic was turned way too low and made him hard to hear, so it’s very possible he was just sick.
The crowd went crazy for long-time live favorites like “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” and “Writing On The Walls,” as well as songs that had never been performed live before this tour, like “Down, Set, Go” in equal measure. I cannot stress how phenomenal Spencer Chamberlain sounded: not only have I never heard a vocal performance mixed properly at the Midland before Underoath, it would have been impressive to sound that good anywhere, let alone a venue with notoriously bad acoustics. Not only did he put on a showcase for aspiring vocalists, he did it while never once standing still for more than a second or two. Having seen him twice before with his post-Underoath project Sleepwave, I expected his vocals to be a little shaky, but there was no trace of that at all. This genuinely might have been the best set of unclean vocals I have ever witnessed live.
The crowd energy kept building over the night, only coming to a peak when closer “To Whom It May Concern” began. The wave of crowd-surfers and people pushing their way forward that began with the first note was impressive. Had this been a show without a barrier, I have no doubt there would have been a constant stream of stage-divers until the band’s last note.
I have to admit: I got into Underoath a bit late. I didn’t really start appreciating them until after the breakup, and even after falling in love with their work, I’m not nearly as big of a diehard fan as most of the people who attended. I say this to emphasize how incredible Underoath were. I’m a newbie to the fold and I was absolutely floored. If I were a long-time fan, I might have been moved to tears. If there are tickets left for a show on their tour near you, go buy one. You won’t regret it.