Ten years ago, I interviewed Gojira's vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Duplantier in a tour bus parked in front of The Hangar. Since that time, the band has crossed over from metal nearing the mainstream, inviting in a wide array of listeners and fans that prompted Gojira to headline The Civic Theatre, which they easily sold out. Gojira has experienced rapid growth in the last couple of years, finally earning the recognition they deserve in and outside of metaldom.
The six smiling visages that line the storied Civic Theatre looked down upon the whirling dervish of bodies as the show began. Hailing all the way from New Zealand, Alien Weaponry slayed first with their brand of thrashy hardcore with some clean vocal melodic moments to it. All three members, including drummer Henry de Jong, took turn on vocals in between the moments that guitarist Lewis de Jong and bassist Turanga Morgan-Edmonds weren't jumping, running, and headbanging. And from all of the ladies in audience, thanks for not wearing shirts, guys!
Before Knocked Loose's set, dark blue lights came on and traditional Indian music played. It was very soothing. It belied the mayhem to come. The stage went dark and weird mechanical sounds and chants came from the stacks. Your eyeballs were then cruelly assaulted with strobe lights as Knocked Loose grinded out a sound that was like a carnival run by the criminally insane. It makes sense that their debut album was entitled Laugh Tracks. Bryan Garris shrieked as other bandmates growled below it. Bryan explained that his hardcore band loves playing breakdowns and planned to play a lot of them.
The very moment that Knocked Loose exited the stage, a white sheet dropped across the stage as it was being set up for Gojira, and visuals of smoke and earthy symbols from their album art faded in and out across it. After some time, a countdown from 180 seconds glowed upon it and made the crowd chant the band's name. The droning background music got louder.
Silhouettes of the band members rapid fire showed through the screen before it dramatically fell. Mario Duplantier and his drums were high on a riser in the middle of the stage. He was sitting atop the starship lights that lined the stage. There were no spotlights, only silhouettes that could hardly even be seen with the massive amount of fog rolling across the floors. Gojira leapt into one of the latest songs "Born For One Thing." A hoodie and empty cans and water bottles flew up and down in the pit, but most of the crowd was transfixed by the spectacle: the perfectly-timed lights, the oozing fog, the many fog cannons that spewed columns of smoke, and the shadowy figures churching out a sound never heard before.
From bright white to blood red to strange blue to transcendent rose, the lighting really told a story and enhanced the subject matter of the songs, especially since the members were mostly shrouded in darkness themselves. Only a few times did Joe Duplantier light up when he spoke between a few songs about his happiness to be back on stage performing for the insatiable fans or to announce the coming song. The crowd roared when he said that they were about to play "Flying Whales" from From Mars to Sirius.
The guys didn't explore the stage much as they did not want to make the show about them; they literally did not want to be in the spotlight. It was about atmosphere and ambiance. There were a few moments when Joe or guitarist Christian Andreu or bassist Jean-Michel Labadie would climb onto the riser where Mario was holding court and play next to him or hit his cymbals with the heads of their instruments. Mario was an impressive show of force: he was often the only member you could see from his backlighting. He bashed away and stood up to hit the cymbals with serious force.
Gojira seemed to come from "Another World" on their celestial craft, took us from this planet to the stars, showed us our blue marble from afar so that we could finally understand the importance of it and of all of its creatures, then gently placed us down again with far more knowledge of our surroundings than we previously had.