It was a hot night. Much warmer than I think anyone expected. Car after car pulled in their respective spots. As I walked towards USANA Amphitheatre, I passed rows after rows of cars. I feared for the end of the show when we all tried to head home. But I didn’t have time to think of that. The line to get into the venue was long. But from what I could tell, people were really patient and friendly, and I’m sure just excited to get inside. Nu Metal gods, Korn was just over an hour away from taking the stage. Nu Metal is not a genre I have covered much, but when it’s Korn and they’re joined by Staind, it seems like a show that needs to be checked out.
I made my way to the soundboard where I would be shooting the show. As I shared war stories with a number of other photographers, Staind walked on stage. It was immediately clear that there was a large number of people at the show who were just there to see Staind. They started things off with “Eyes Wide Open”, “Open Your Eyes” and “Not Again”. The Staind fans, particularly in the pit were instantly into the performance, while the rest of the attendees still cheered and showed their approval.
Staind frontman, Aaron Lewis stated, “It’s a pleasure to be playing for you tonight. I got nothing else to say that isn’t going to get me in trouble, so…” The band roared into the next song. This was a recurring message throughout the set. I’m sure the comments that Lewis was keeping under wraps were political in nature. Lewis donned an “Impeach Biden” hat and his shirt said, “Americans Before Illegals” black t-shirt. Whenever Aaron made this comment there was a cheer from the audience. My take was that they agreed with whatever he was being button-lipped about. I’m sure there are some issues I could speculate on, but if Lewis wanted to refrain from sharing them at the show, I don’t want to try and speak for him. Just like Lewis, I don’t want to get into trouble by saying something. I don’t want to assume anything.
Lewis sort of meandered around the stage when he wasn’t playing guitar. His restrained stage presence was made up for by his powerful voice. Aaron Lewis’ voice is his real money maker. His pipes obviously work well in the Hard Rock world. However, Aaron Lewis has a versatile voice. He can sing a variety of styles, including Country music. He even released a Country EP and full LP. His voice sounded in top form at this performance. I can recall several fans around me commenting on how good he still sounded after all these years.
It almost doesn’t matter that Aaron Lewis doesn’t do much on stage because the rest of the band was packed with so much energy they could have powered the lights for the show. Particularly guitarist Mike Mushok. I don’t know how that dude doesn’t have neck problems! He was headbanging and whipping his hair all over the place. It was awesome. He never stopped. He was so into these songs. After all these years of playing these songs, he still seemed to feed off of their energy and that of the crowd. Of course bassist Johnny April and drummer Sal Giancarelli were no slouches. Their combined forces mixed with the songs got the crowd going to the point where a couple mosh pits formed.
While Aaron Lewis said he wouldn’t say too much because he didn’t want to get in trouble, he did take moments to dedicate a song to the 13 soldiers who recently fell in Afghanistan. He told us that he “Loves this F*@king country. If that offends you, there’s the door.” And he once again mentioned that he hoped everyone was ok with him not saying too much because it gets him in trouble. He said, “I don’t think you came here to hear me talk.” In the midst of that, the crowd began to chant, “U.S.A.”. As the crowd chanted, Lewis lifted up his hat. Many in the audience cheered the message.
Lewis caught the crowd, including myself, off guard when he said, “We all got together last week and wrote a song. I hope you like it.” The audience seemed interested to hear some new music. But they were very excited when the song actually turned out to be, “It’s Been A While”. Arguably Staind’s biggest song. It was a clever way to lead into the song.
As Staind departed the stage to a now packed and applauding Amphitheater, Lewis said, “God bless you and your family. And God bless America!” The crowd erupted as the band made way for the crew to set up for Korn.
As I stated earlier, I’m not a Nu Metal expert But it doesn’t really take an expert to know that Korn are pioneers of the genre. I remember thinking right before the lights went out, ‘I can’t believe I’m actually seeing Korn.’. I never would have thought that the opportunity would have presented itself. But there I was. As I got my camera ready, I noticed a man who had been sitting a few rows ahead of me and was picking on a man significantly older than him was being escorted out of the venue. I looked the other direction and a woman with pink hair who had snuck into the row in front of me was being escorted from the venue.
And as the music started a man sprinted down the aisle, threw the usher to the ground, and dove into the General Admission Pit never to be seen again. All of this added up to one thing. We were in store for quite a show. Well, me, the guy who dove into the pit, and the 20,000 other people who didn’t get kicked out before their favorite band went on stage. Don’t get kicked out folks!
Korn opened things up with “Insane”. It’s the perfect song to open their show. Heavy guitar, cymbals ringing, and that classic Jonathan Davis growl. The crowd instantly went nuts! The band already seemed in mid-show form. I was looking through my viewfinder to capture the best shot, but I felt like so much was happening around me. I tried to stay focused on the task at hand but I kept noticing things in my peripheral. To my left were people with kids on their shoulders like we were watching KC and the Sunshine Band at the state fair. To my right, a couple was making out. Hard. Behind me, I could see the lawn, but instead, it just looked like a sea of arms and hands. And in front of me was Korn absolutely crushing.
Following “Insane”, Davis addressed the audience. “I know it may look a little different up here tonight. First off, I’m recovering from Covid. I’ve had it for a little while. I got over it and it F@#ked me up pretty bad. He then defiantly stated that he refused to let that get in the way of him entertaining his fans. He then moved past himself quickly to share with the audience that Korn guitarist James Shaffer, better known as “Munky” tested positive for Covid-19 the day before the concert. There was a disappointed and concerned tone to the audience. Which makes sense. Disappointed that they don’t get to see Munky, concerned for his health.
Jonathan Davis then introduced J.R. Bareis from the band Love and Death. Love and Death is a band Korn’s other guitarist Head is in. So he is quite familiar with Baries. J.R. has filled in with Korn a number of other times. I was impressed with how supportive the crowd was. They cheered him on and I thought he filled in really well. Davis then asked the audience to send some love to his ‘boy Munky. He needs it now.” The audience cheered for Munky and we all hope for a quick recovery. Davis acknowledged that the love that exist within the band and its fans are what makes it all worth it.
In some ways, I felt like I was a guest invited to a demented circus or a gathering of some dark cult. The master of ceremonies Korn frontman, Jonathan Davis was everything I thought and hoped he’d be. He sounded good, he looked just like you hope he will. Dark, brooding, and captivating. Davis was dressed in all black with the deepest of deep V- necks. He mean mugged the audience. It was perfect.
Korn then broke into “Falling Away From Me” and the show flew from there. Songs like “Here to Stay”, “Cold”, and “Clown” fired up the audience. There was a huge throne on stage. Davis would occasionally sit down perhaps to catch his breath or to regain some energy. He was clearly still feeling some of the effects of the virus. There may not have been the usual intensity and high energy that you might expect from the Korn frontman, but the throne brought a different element to the performance. There were times where Davis would sit back and sing. Then there were other times he’d lean forward and growl or slowly rise from his perch. It had a dramatic effect that I really enjoyed.
I didn’t think the place could get any louder or fiery until “Come Undone” started. It seemed like everyone inside USANA Amphitheatre knew every word. The rage and angst kept going with “Can You Hear Me?” followed by “Freak on a Leash”. The band was so good during this stretch of songs. I’m not sure if they felt the need to give it a little more due to Jonathan Davis’ health, or if that’s just how they always perform but it was impressive how much they put into the songs.
Korn ended the night with “Blind”. Davis stated that “It’s been a long ass time since we played this, yall”. Once again, the crowd was right in step with whatever Davis decided to do. They loved the closer and would have gladly taken another song. I could see alot of long-time Korn fans that were really excited for “Blind”. The opening song from Korn’s 1994 self-titled debut album totally builds. The almost one-minute intro hits its climax with a growling, “Are You Ready?”.
The song ended, the show was over, but everyone in the band stayed on the stage throwing out drumsticks and guitar picks. It was clear they appreciated being there and all those who came out. Davis’ last words to the audience were, “Do me a favor. Have a safe and incredible night!”
As if there was any doubt.