Live Review: TESSERACT, PLINI, and ASTRONOID Take Berkeley
I arrived just before doors to a modest line in front of the University Theatre in Berkeley. The wait wasn’t too long before the show kicked off and the modest line had become a modest puddle for Astronoid. I was there FOR Astronoid (their debut album was my favorite of 2016), but I still felt like those coming late were fucking up.
It’s three bands, why not check them all out? Anyway, their six song was presented with the band almost entirely in silhouette, and other than feeling short to this fanboy, it was perfect. Chunks of the record Air were delivered in two three-song suites that included “Up and Atom,” “Obsolete,” and the titular “Air.” I had fucked up putting off seeing them, but I will never miss them again. At the conclusion of their time, the audience had grew considerably as did the volume of the audience. Astronoid were a success.
Up next was the guitar virtuoso Plini and his band. A performance on a techy instrumental outfit can be boring, but this Australian outfit didn’t need a voice to front them. The only issue the crowd seemed to have with the band was the fact that they are Australian, which was shitty. It was as if part of the audience were unable to stop themselves from yelling Australian stereotypes and cliches at the band. Of course the guitar work of Plini is godlike and you cannot be a slouch in his band, however the star of the set over and over again was the bassist Simon Grove. Good, golly, gosh damn than man can play bass, I literally saw jaws drop when he took his solos. There was maybe one song that I didn’t fully enjoy, but the performance was generally hard to be mad at when it was book-ended by “Salt + Charcoal” and “Electric Sunrise.”
After what felt like an eternity of droning in between band “music,” The TesseracT lads took the stage and pulled no punches by opening with the fairly fresh “Luminary” from Sonder. That is a great way to open set of TesseracT’s now pretty deep well of material, and the folks in the room seemed to agree. The evening was a really well balanced offering of material from every album the band has. I haven’t seen the band play since Dan Tompkins returned, and was pretty surprised to see the album he wasn’t a part of, Altered State, represented as much as their new record Sonder. They, of course, had to play some of the almost decade old “Concealing Fate” sections for longtime fans and those songs felt especially rowdy in the audience. "Deception" will never not get people going.
I have seen the band a couple time before, and I’ve have seen them headline before, so I knew what I was in for. However, a beef with them now is that their set took too many similar songs from their albums and put them in a row. A pattern in song structure and tone of their music CAN have become all too apparent with certain songs. Deeper cuts on their albums can showcase a different side of the band, and that was lacking. My only other criticism might be with some of the backtracked vocals. I’m aware that’s it’s not lip-syncing, nor do I even see it like that. I also absolutely do not look down on the band for refusing to take certain harmonies out of a live setting. If no one else on stage can hit those melodies, it’s what you have to do to recreate the magic. My issue is that some of the more interesting or technical vocal performances were pre-recorded, making it painfully obvious when Dan was taking the easier direction. This choice might be just a matter of the live mix being off coupled with him prolonging his voice by skipping harder parts. Still, I know that Dan is one of the best vocalists in modern metal, and it just didn’t make him look good when he was so great the rest of the set.
I left the performance happy and in a bit of a trance. TesseracT are a band of melody, but the thump they bring is hypnotic. This tour had a bit of everything for fans of melodic progressive metal, and I would recommend going. I would especially recommend going early for Astronoid, but if you’re strictly there for TesseracT, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.