Des Moines gets the Slipknot homecoming it waited for
A full-fledged metal assault in the form of homegrown legends Slipknot took over Wells Fargo Arena on Friday night.
Provocative, passionate and full of pride, the Des Moines-born nontet delivered 90 minutes of nonstop brutality on those who dared enter the downtown arena. Taking the form of more than a band performing songs on a stage, the nature of a Slipknot show resembles that of a roller coaster: You find within yourself the chaos that drove you to the show, latch on to it and let the ride take control.
It’s a chaos the band orchestrated Friday night in a near-perfect manner. Frontman and lead conductor Corey Taylor addressed his and his band mates’ homecoming to the enthused onlookers early in the set.
“There is nothing, I mean nothing, like (an) Iowa crowd,” Taylor said to the crowd before the band dived into the 2001 song “The Heretic Anthem.”
“We were all raised here. We still live here. Iowa is not something you move away from, it’s a state of mind. It’s in your heart, it’s in your soul. We have taken this state around the ... world with us.”
Songs from all five studio records made the set list, putting the band’s nearly two-decade career on display as members ran frantically from side to side onstage. Tracks like the seminal hit “Wait and Bleed” filled in the back end of the set, while smashing new singles like “The Negative One” filled out the earlier portion of the performance.
With musicianship and showmanship appearing at their highest forms during the set (notably in the precision from guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson), a Slipknot show carries a crowd visually as strongly as it does aurally. The stage setup, with percussionists M. Shawn Crahan and Chris Fehn towering over it, projects numerous shades of lights and graphics to keep the eyes thoroughly occupied. Yes, it’s metal. The band performs heavy, aggressive music. But, when absorbing the entire show, it feels like a form of art as much as it does a musical production.
Nearly two years removed from the No. 1 Billboard-charting record ".5: The Gray Chapter," the evening marked the band’s first hometown performance — organizers estimated it would draw 10,000 to the arena — in nearly eight years. It also comes after Taylor underwent neck surgery two months ago, causing the band to reschedule a portion of the tour for later in August. His mobility limited, his overall delivery didn’t waver.
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He addressed this early in the show.
“Really quick, let’s get this right out of the way,” Taylor said. “I did have spinal surgery two months ago, but that wasn’t going to ... stop us from coming home.”
An eclectic mixture from Iowa and beyond dove into the realm of Slipknot’s world for the Friday night performance. Fans like Randi Samberg, 18, of Burlington, Iowa, and her grandmother, Kelly Samberg, 56, have attended more than 300 shows together, they said. They sport matching treble clef tattoos and have seen the group together before.
For others, like Chase Bailey, 13, of Iowa Falls, it’s a first-time concert experience. A second-generation “maggot” (the nickname for Slipknot fandom), Chase caught Slipknot’s homecoming by way of his father, Aaron Bailey, 30, who caught the band on its last stop at Wells Fargo Arena, in 2009.
“I wanted to bring him to his first concert, and what better one to bring him to?” Aaron Bailey said. “Slipknot, man. They’re from here. Pretty rockin’.”
Fans didn’t just trek from down-the-road cities like Iowa Falls. No. One 19-year-old maggot, Ethan Bentley, said he traveled from Falkirk, Scotland, to see the Iowa-born group in the city it calls home. Another set of fans, Ryan Reese and Kyle Strehle, both 22, drove 20-plus hours from Prescott, Ariz., to experience a hometown Slipknot performance.
Reese said you get a better sense of the music when you come to see it in its place of origin, and he considered the show a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For Bentley, he said it’s just something "that’s gotta be done."
“I’ve traveled to other countries before to see them, but to come see them in their home city, it’s as good of an excuse as any to come to Iowa,” Bentley said.
Main support on the bill came from American metal outfit Of Mice & Men and long-standing alternative icon Marilyn Manson.
Manson’s set proved to be more or less what one would expect from the pop culture underworld icon: weird, ghastly and not without its charm. The singer waltzed, flailed, shouted, danced and moved his way through an hourlong, 11-song set featuring some of his biggest and more poignant numbers (cue the “Sweet Dreams” cover, “The Dope Show” and “The Beautiful People”).
Considering his publicized bout of illness and a spill off the stage during earlier date of the tour, the set came off energetic and crowd-pleasing. At one point in the performance, he called Des Moines the loudest crowd of the tour, a notion that was greeted with enthusiastic swaying and pushing from the arena’s packed floor.
“Des Moines, I love you,” he said after the set’s opening track. “You guys are a lot louder than I imagined, but as much as I hoped for, so thank you.”
Slipknot closed the show with an encore consisting of “Surfacing,” “Duality,” and “Spit It Out,” and Taylor took to thanking Iowa one last time. Removing his neck brace, embracing band mates and giving one last bow to the crowd, he addressed the hometown crowd a final time.
“We ... love you,” he bellowed. “Take care of yourself. Take care of each other.”
Be proud, Des Moines. One of the best metal shows on the planet performed at your arena Friday night. And it calls your city home.
Matthew Leimkuehler reports on music for The Des Moines Register, Datebook and Juice. He's a self-proclaimed maggot who first heard "Iowa" in middle school. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, via Twitter @mattleimkuehler or by phone at 515-284-8358.