Monday, October 22, 2012

Helmet at the Belly Up

It is difficult for me to believe that it has almost been twenty years since I first saw Helmet as they opened for Ministry with support from Sepultura at the then Universal Amphitheater in 1992. It was one of the first five concerts I attended and has left an indelible mark on my memory.

My first brush with Helmet was seeing their video for "Unsung" on Headbanger's Ball on MTV. It was heavy and fast. Page Hamilton immediately became a guitar hero of mine with his drop-d tuned ESP magenta Horizon guitar. Every time Helmet comes to town, I am sure to be there.

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Ume by the way Austin immediately fired up the audience. Sporting a small army of Fender guitars, Lauren Larson was a fireball of energy crushing either her Fender Telecaster Deluxe or a Fender Mustang. Complementing her ferocious guitar lines was the crisp bass lines of her husband Eric Larson on a Fender Precision bass.

They made the most of their opening slot working through a number of songs from their debut album Phantoms. Ume is currently finishing up their tour opening for Helmet and the Toadies and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance their next album. They supported my theory of always showing up early for the opening bands.

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There is no such thing as a bad Helmet show. This show would be my fifteenth time documenting their live exploits and it delivered just like all the times before. Having spent a good portion of the year touring across the east coast, Helmet were in top form and sounded razor sharp.

"Sinatra" was an intense option to start their set with its detuned crunch. Page Hamilton sounded just as vicious as that classic 1990 album Strap It On. Dave Case did a phenomenal job of dialing in his G&L bass into that characteristic Helmet thump.

Joining Hamilton on guitars is the reliable Dan Beeman who was thrashing on his Gibson Les Paul played through a Fryette amplifier. Kyle Wilkerson is now one of the longer standing members of Helmet mastering the rolling snare snaps and providing background vocals.

The setlist was quite varied touching on a lot of newer material from Seeing Eye Dog. The surprise of the night was hearing the rarely played "Speechless" from the Betty album. Other welcome songs were "FBLA II", "Tic" and "Birth Defect".

It was one of those shows that I found myself just enjoying the music and being lost in the waves of distortion and feedback. Helmet will continue to destroy towns into November. Make sure to catch them at House of Blues Sunset on Tuesday 10/22 and House of Blues Anaheim on Wednesday 10/23.

Helmet Setlist for the Belly Up (10/21/12)
"So Long"
"Exactly What You Wanted"
"Welcome To Algiers"
"White City"
"Bad Mood"
"Wilma's Rainbow"
"In Person"
"Birth Defect"