LIVE: Korn @ O2 Academy, Brixton

By Rob Barbour

Three US Presidents. Four¬†British Prime Ministers. 9/11, 7/7 and the frankly inexplicable rebranding of Opal Fruits as Starburst. A lot has happened to the world since the release of KoRn’s self-titled d√©but album in 1994,¬†but you wouldn’t know that to¬†glance around Brixton’s palatial O2 Academy this evening. Hell, the posters inside¬†are even advertising an upcoming show by Limp Bizkit – a band who¬†owe their career at least in part to Fred Durst’s¬†messed-up attempt at tattooing KoRn guitarist¬†Brian ‘Head’ Welch.

The air is thick with a combination of anticipation and nostalgia, ably assisted by the rave reviews the band received on a recent UK jaunt supporting Slipknot; the genius behind that particular tour being proven when the¬†latter band’s ‘Duality’ plays over the venue’s PA and an aural wave sweeps over the crowd,¬†singing in unison of pushing their fingers into their EEEEEEEEEEEYEEEES. There’s a huge cheer as an oversized banner of KoRn’s monumentally creepy cover art is raised over the stage. After a false start, with the house lights being dimmed and then unceremoniously brought back up because of reasons, the lights die for realsies and almost immediately THAT cymbal intro starts up.

Ignoring the band’s apparent attempt to build dramatic tension, perennial attention-seeker Fieldy ¬†– these days cutting a remarkably lean figure, ¬†although reassuringly still¬†dressed like a meth-dealing pirate who’s come straight from his third job as a P.E.¬†teacher – wanders nonchalantly onto the stage holding a bass with neon green strings. Within seconds, Davis Munky and Head have appeared and five thousand people are screaming ‘AAAAARE YOOOUUUU REEEAAAADY’. Which we all unequivocally are.

Over the next ninety minutes, KoRn batter the crowd with¬†note perfect renditions of classics like ‘Blind’, ‘Faget’ and ‘Shoots and Ladders’, all displaying an energy and passion which entirely belie their advancing ages. Indeed, Davis and Fieldy in particular have never looked better and the entire band still full-body headbang in unison to such an extent that somewhere in Bakersfield, California, there must be several physiotherapists currently shopping for fancy new German cars.

Sure, the music hasn’t aged well (and neither have much of the crowd, your shiny-headed reviewer included) and subjected to a minute’s analysis there’s something deeply unsettling about a 44-year-old man in a tracksuit screaming ‘Knick Knack Paddywhack GIVE THE DOG A BONE’ but tonight isn’t meant for reflection or introspection; it’s meant for Friday morning bangovers and primal connections to the angst-ridden teen at the root of every single crowd member’s psyche.

At one point the band stop dead and hold a classic nu-metal gangster pose, arms folded, faces silently daring the crowd to doubt them. It feels like a full minute of silence passes as the band bullet-time their way to a spontaneous ovation before cracking on with the set – this crowd came to shake off the Thursday blues and KoRn are more than giving them their money’s worth. It’s just a shame the show had to take place in a venue with a tendency to make any band heavier than, say, The Postal Service sound like a freak accident in a barrel factory.

And yes, of course bagpipes – the nu-metal of wind instruments – make an appearance, Davis¬†raising his fist into the air as he recreates the sound of a thousand dying mosquitoes to a disproportionately favourable response. By the time the band leave the stage, they’re leaving a sweaty, exhilerated, excorcised, sweaty, enthused and above all sweaty crowd baying for more.

It was really, really sweaty. One dude patted us on the back for letting him through the crowd and it was like being¬†suckerpunched¬†by a waterfall. But of course, there’s always room for The Hits. And therein lies the problem.

When KoRn reappear to take a victory lap by playing a triple-whammy of ‘Falling Away From Me’, ‘Here To Stay’ and of course the timeless ‘Freak On A Leash’ it only serves to highlight just how much better their later material is. KoRn is something of a one-note album and the band’s subsequent evolution is arguably much more worthy of celebration. But as thousands of Adidas-clad fans troop out of the Academy,¬†black tracks of eyeliner and guyliner staining their faces, there are no complaints. This was an anniversary, not a wake, and as the band’s recent Rihanna remix shows there’s still life in the old dog yet. It’s probably time to get rid of the dreadlocks, mind.