Friday, February 27, 2015

Helmet @ The Visulite

Unbelievably it has been over 20 years since I last saw Helmet (they opened and blaster the Beastie Boys off the stage).  I couldn't believe they were playing the Visulite - just down the road.  Mike and I were psyched to pretend to be in our early 20's again and listen to a band that, as far as I'm concerned, were an under-rated force in a time of grunge.

After a quick bite at the Peruvian chicken shop next door, we headed into the Visulite and got a great spot by the lighting person.  A perfect line of site to the stage in this oddly shaped theater.  (Really - tables and chairs - it Helmet for Christ's sake).  And tonight I every so gladly remembered earplugs.  I know my ears are probably shot by now, but I knew this would be louder than I needed for the naked ear.  

A little after 9pm the band emerged and with little fuss and just plowed into their 1994 record Betty, from whoa to go.   From the very first notes of Wilma's Rainbow I knew this would be a great show.  Even though guitarist/singer Paige Hamilton is the only original member, Helmet are tight and loud and crunchy and powerful.  Just like I remembered them.  The Betty album is not my favorite of theirs, but in honor of the 20th anniversary of its release, Helmet were going to do that album and then a set of everything else.  Biscuits For Smut and Milquetoast were fantastic.

After Betty was done, Hamilton finally spoke to the crowd.  Band introductions, and a couple of stories about what the rest of the show would be like and their last performance in Charlotte, incidentally at the Visulite.  Just as they were about to begin the 2nd set, Hamilton realized they had last night's set list.  He wanted to make sure each night was different so decided they would wing it for the rest of the show.  This meant every 3 songs the crowd was given a small relief from the onslaught of music while they sorted out what was to be played next.  Ironhead, Unsung, Give It, FBLA II were so good to hear again.   After an hour and a half, Helmet left the stage to thunderous applause, only to come out for a 4 song encore.  The band high-fived and briefly spoke with those up front before finishing off the night in a fury.  The last 2 songs were my 2 favorite Helmet songs.  Just Another Victim from the Judgement Night soundtrack (minus the House Of Pain rap) and the ever brutal In The Meantime.  That cacophony of guitars at the start of the song is so distinct, for it come to a crescendo and then a great riff just thump you in the face and Hamilton's deep, screaming vocals.  I actually took the earplugs out for that song (I just had to hear it au natural).  Man, I was blown away!  No way will I wait another 20 years for my 4th Helmet show.

Setlist
Betty Set: Wilma's Rainbow / I Know /Biscuits For Smut / Milquetoast / Tic / Rollo / Street Crab / Clean / Vaccination / Beautiful Love / Speechless / The Silver Hawaiian / Overrated / Sam Hell
2nd Set: So Long / Crashing Foreign Cars / Birth Defect / You Borrowed / Welcome To Algiers / (High) Visibility / Unsung / On Your Way Down / Diet Aftertaste / Give It
Encore: Ironhead / Just Another Victim / In The Meantime

The Crap Facts:
This is my 385th concert.
This is my 6th concert at The Visulite.
This is my 31st concert in Charlotte.
This is my 33rd concert in North Carolina.
This is my 192nd concert in the USA.
This is the 3rd time I've seen Helmet.