Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Exclusive Concert Review #1: Skillet/Flyleaf, 6/25 [snicker, snicker]

Okay, now far be it from me to have a laugh at the expense of my venerable spouse, Mr. Maise, but...BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Over the past few months, he has become an avid fan of Flyleaf, a quasi-gothy, quasi-metal band that is, I have to admit, more melodic than most metal bands he enjoys and rather angsty lyrically. The husband was particularly taken with lead singer Lacey Mosley's high, breathy and occasionally shouty vocal stylings. One evening when he had gotten a wee bit buzzed at Hala Kahiki, our local Polynesian dive bar, he waxed philosophic: "Her voice is like a siren. I would crash my boat into the rocks for it." Um, yeah. Whatever. I, on the other hand, feel that her voice careens on the edge of annoying, but I will admit that she is talented, and I really do appreciate Flyleaf's attempts to write metal songs with catchy hooks, that you might find yourself singing along with despite the fact that it's completely out of your vocal range. Besides, the man has gone halfway around the world to indulge my Nine Inch Nails obsession, so who am I to judge? When I learned that Flyleaf was coming to town, I readily agreed to accompany him. Fortunately our Ro came along as well.

The Flyleaf concert at the House of Blues was originally postponed due to the fact that Ms. Mosley had seriously strained her voice. Which I certainly don't doubt. It hurts my throat to just listen to her! But fortunately, the show was rescheduled and happened to coincide happily with one of Mr. Maise's irregular days off.

We missed the first opening act and had a nice dinner at the House of Blues restaurant. (Note to HOB concertgoers: if you buy an entree from their restaurant, you can get line-jumping privileges. Not that they were needed in this case. The show was well attended but not sold out.) So when we took our place in the upper balcony, Skillet was taking the stage. I don't have a ton to say about them. They're from Kenosha, Wisconsin; they're all relatively good-looking; they have a formidable-looking female drummer; they're REALLY LOUD; and while they aren't terribly offensive musically, it's obvious that Nickelback is a major influence for them. Meh. The husband bought their album because it was $10 and because he is amused by the name Skillet, as it reminds him of the chinchilla-esque character of the same name on "12 oz. Mouse." Interestingly enough, both Skillet and Flyleaf dedicated a portion of their setlist to telling us some pitiful tale of a "girl they know." In Skillet's case, she was a depressed cutter, so they dedicated a song to her and reminded us all that God loves her. Which is quite nice of them.

When Skillet departed, Flyleaf followed about half an hour later, as is customary. Lacey Mosley is a lot shorter than any of us were expecting. The band is quite energetic on stage, jumping off of amps, jumping up and down, etc. They played faithful renditions of the album tracks that, thanks to the spouse, I now know up and down. Lacey spends much of the concert with her arms stretched skyward or on her knees, which made me start to wonder...but more on that in a moment. Their tale of woe involved a young woman who had once been beautiful but was covered in burns and was a victim of domestic violence. Apparently in her despair this young woman set herself on fire but found faith in God because when the pain started to be too much, she went into a coma. Jesus, what a downer of a story! Anyway, a song was dedicated to that girl as well.

So around this time, and the fact that the snippets of lyrics I could discern could totally be about a person's relationship with God as opposed to another person, I leaned over to Ro and asked, "Um, is it just me or are these guys a Christian rock band?" After all, one of their songs, "Cassie" very obviously refers to the disputed story of Cassie Bernall, one of the Columbine victims, who was allegedly killed after replying "Yes" to the question, "Do you believe in God?" (The official investigation concluded that this exchange did not occur.) So, although the VERY IDEA of my completely areligious husband taking me to a Christian rock concert is HILARIOUS to me, I wasn't going to give him any shit about it or comment, but he did ask why Ro and I burst out laughing when Lacey dedicated the last song to Jesus Christ. He looked a little sheepish and said, "Her voice just draws me in," and of course, I totally respect that. [tee hee!]

Not that I have any problem with someone believing in God or expressing their faith. I mean, I am a card-carrying Episcopalian after all. But again, it's the juxtaposition of us being brought to this rather Jesus-y rock concert by a man who normally fervently eschews all of that (a big Marilyn Manson fan back in the day, no less!), that Ro and I found humorous.

Besides, Christian rock and this kind of Creed-influenced quasi-Christian rock is just...dorky. I don't know why that is. Elvis can sing gospel, and it's awesome. U2 can get away with being even more overtly Christian than Flyleaf, and it still rocks. What is it about Christian rock as a genre? Seriously...help me out here. (Oh, and both Flyleaf and Skillet are marketed as both mainstream and Christian artists, btw.) Although I'm sure that both bands are expressing themselves artistically in an authentic, heartfelt Nickleback-y way, Christian rock always leaves one with a sense of being conned...of being proselytized to in a way that they think you will find "cool." Being a veteran of Roman Catholic youth groups, I have been subjected to quite a bit of that "rad" message delivery. Also, Christian rock sets itself up as an alternative to mainstream GODLESS DEVIL MUSIC, in a way that U2 never did.

This HILAROUS and ABSURD snippet really says it all. From "Skillet's Answer to Marilyn Manson":

Marilyn Manson stood on stage, screaming something about Jesus. And it wasn't very nice. To Skillet's John Cooper, who was in the audience, it was downright offensive. "Man, you're just rippin' us off!" John said out loud at the Manson concert.

Since Skillet's music is often compared to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, John, Skillet's lead singer, decided to learn more about these groups. He found that the hype about Manson's message wasn't exaggerated; it was very anti-Christ.
As he watched the audience cheer at Manson's rants, he saw just how powerfully music can impact students—for good or for bad. John knew his band could have that kind of impact too, but with a message of hope.

His experience at that concert led to the song "Rippin' Me Off" on Skillet's recent album, Alien Youth.

I mean...Marilyn Manson????? They're STILL using Marilyn Manson as their boogeyman? PLEASE. He is beyond irrelevant and is more concerned about his girl problems and horror movies that go nowhere these days than with being the Antichrist Superstar. I mean, he's pushing 40! Marilyn Manson???!!!! Plus, it should be pointed out that Skillet sounds nothing like either Manson or NIN. Nothing.

The inability of Christian rockers and their fans to differentiate between a criticism of ORGANIZED RELIGION and God Him/Herself is just...a different topic for a different day. Mainly, Christian rock is dorked out because many Christians continue to believe that they and everything they stand for are constantly under siege and that they can't find messages of hope or love or peace in songs by NINE INCH NAILS (gasp!). There's nothing wrong with writing music with a positive message, but when you condemn angry music and dark music simply for being angry and dark, you're missing the point half the time.

I'm kind of digressing here. But I have to say, Flyleaf isn't particularly egregious in the preaching department. You can listen to their music for months and not realize that they're trying to be the next Creed, lyrically. As the husband apparently did. And as far as I'm concerned, they're a hell of a lot better than Creed. Not that that's saying all that much.

After the show, I asked the husband, "If you had a chance to HYPOTHETICALLY date Lacey, but you would have to regularly attend church, would you do it?" He looked a little torn. "What kind of church?" he asked. "Evangelical!" I gleefully answered. Now he looked really torn. "Well, is it a relationship as I would consider it to be a relationship?" "Yes, you would have sex with her," I replied, rolling my eyes. "Well, sure, I guess," he said.

Lacey and company? You've saved another soul.


Gabriel said...

The problem with Christian music is that they think everything must be positive, or praise worthy. To be honest, songs like NIN's "Terrible Lie", or "Sober" by Tool, are perhaps the most relevant type of religious songs today, because they are about the difficulty (seeming impossibility?) of aligning traditional religious views along with our modern world, which is one of science, and cruel humanity.

Questioning something is how you find meaning, and strength in it. Christian rock -- and many Christians in general -- are way too fucking scared to ever delve deep into these sorts of issues because they believe what they believe not because they've thought it out, but out of irrational fear and learned behavior. The person that can understand Marilyn Manson's point of view (you needn't like his music per se), and still consider themselves a Christian is the only type of Christian that I really have any interest in having a dialogue with.

Everything else is bullshit.

Christian music is bullshit.

And with song titles like "Rippin Me Off", I think it's pretty obvious that Skillet is bullshit.

maise said...

In general, I can't deal with people who feel that they have to segregate themselves from what other people listen to, read, watch, think.

And Gabe, I think your comment is 110% spot on.

Ro said...

I would agree with you as well, Gabriel. I think people that get all up in arms over someone like Marilyn Manson bashing Christianity are missing the point entirely. He's not bashing Christ, per se. He's bashing the Establishment, whether that be religious, corporate, conservative, etc. But it doesn't change the fact that his music currently sucks. And I never ever needed to see him fucking his tween girlfriend. That's just icky on so many different levels....

As for the Flyleaf concert, despite my general aversion to so-called "Christian" music, I thought it was a fun concert. (And you will here about my past experiences with such douchebaggery music in future posts, I promise.) There was an interesting mix of people, ranging from band members' middle-aged moms to the normal head banging teen set. I often found myself wondering if the tweens actually caught onto the Christian messages of the music because most seemed pretty oblivious. But it was a good time, all in all.

And Mr. Maise is SO getting a Creed CD for his birthday this year!


Iris said...

I agree with you, Gabriel, on NIN & Tool type songs and their relavance to questioning our religious faith when confronted with scientific theories, but cruelty to your fellow man has been going on forever. People just change the name of the God to justify their violence.

I think songs questioning faith go over better now because more people are open to asking themselves “Is there a God?” now than before because it feels safer. Governments were basically ruled, in some cases directly, by the church and therefore you wouldn’t want to openly question the popular God of the moment. I’m not saying religion doesn’t still have some control over our laws and whatnot but at least now it’s a bit more difficult for the church to raid your house and have you burned at the stake.

As a matter of fact it seems questioning faith has become more and more of a standard in growing up and “being cool”. There're still plenty of people out there who will blindly believe in thier diety without consideration of anything to contrary, but the number of bands who have succeeded in the music industry while singing their own "Terrible Lie" songs has increased as the demand for it has grown. That’s my inexpert $.02 on the music biz.

But hearing that Mr. Maise is into a Christian rock band is absolutely priceless. :)

maise said...
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maise said...

Well, Iris, the interesting thing about many (but not all) religious right Christians is that they seem to feel that because their religion is not ruling everyone the way that they let it rule themselves, that their religion is not considered a "state" religion, that they're somehow under threat. It's a perspective I don't think I'll ever understand because personally, although I believe in God and all that, I don't want my "five minutes of mandatory prayer" while waiting in line at the post office. Nor would I want my children being subjected to dogma at school. (I had quite enough of that myself, thank you, and have the mental scars to prove it.) I'd rather not have a judge whip out the Bible to make a ruling (as opposed to merely swearing on one) during any trial in which I'm participating. And I can go on and on and on. But get a certain type of "Christian" in front of a TV camera, and they'll tell you all about the so-called War on Christianity or War on Christmas and how they have to run for the hills, throwing rocks at the Pop Culture that pursues them relentlessly.

I'm sorry, reading about REAL religious persecution in other countries just fuels my disguest at those melodramatic whiners. If the government isn't burning down your church and stringing you up for being a Christian, then stop playing the role of martyr!

Anyhoo, I guess my point is that I don't object to anyone who wants to listen to Christian music or read religious-themed books, but it's highly annoying that they have to respond to the secular with such fear.

Oh, and I'll second Sam's opinion that it was a fun concert. And hilarious! You won't be beaten over the head with a Bible at a Flyleaf show, but you will ask yourself, "How did I wind up at an Evervesence show?"