Best In Show: The Streaming Performances of 2021 that Stuck
Though live music made a glorious, sore-needed return in 2021, there is plenty of reason to believe that the streaming platform is here to stay.
While many artists initially found a creative pivot in being able to get in front of a camera and broadcast their performances, the elite saw the lane as a means to expand their arsenal of artistry - a way to elaborate on what the music video once was.
Investing in grand scale production, state of the art technology, and even creating dedicated thematic elements, the streaming performance has evolved from its initial in-lieu-of inception to another means of connecting with fans and exploring artistic terrain.
The following is a reference list of some of the standout streaming events that happened in 2021 - the productions that clearly spoke to the level of investment from the band to ensure that what came through the screen was the best representation of their art.
Nothing will ever replace the thrill of live music, but these streams sure did come close.
JINJER - Hellfest At Home
Filmed at the festival site in Clisson in France, this was a tour de force. The band sounded extraordinary. The visuals, particularly the swooping drone shots, were stunning. The sight of pyro erupting into the night sky in front of empty fields was a stark portrait of metal without its audience. As were the deafening silences between songs, except for the chirrup of the cicadas.
- Dan Franklin
UNDEROATH - Voyeurist: Digital Ghost
The boys in Underoath and their team were gracious enough to have me moderate a post-press preview Q&A for their December 2021 live streaming event, Voyeurist: Digital Ghost. Spencer Chamberlain said something simple but revelatory to me: watching football on TV doesn’t change the experience of seeing a game in person. Digital Ghost was more than a traditional performance and better than a music video. They played their entire new album, Voyeurist, live in the studio, chose the best takes, polished the audio just a bit, and built a whole narrative story around all of it which played throughout. Not only that, but it was an opportunity for fans to hear the new album month before its actual release. Digital Ghost was a forward-thinking bridge from the shutdown era to the resumption of touring, and how live streams might fit into the picture going forward.
- Ryan J. Downey
Knocked Loose - Live From the Blue Room
Arguably what makes a hardcore show such an experience is the exchange that happens between the band onstage and the fans on the floor. That dynamic is what made Knocked Loose's Blue Room session such an achievement. Roaring though tracks from their colossal A Different Shade of Blue album and revisiting essentials from their 2016 Laugh Tracks, the band proved just as relentless and rousing even without the charge of the crowd. Keeping the visuals sleek and subtle, with plenty of backlighting so the band was visible but the music and the energy were the focus, there was little spectacle needed to make this such a visual feast. Closing with "Mistakes Like Fractures" frontman Bryan Garris threw his fist in the air in front of a massive K N O C K E D L O O S E spanning the stage on a backing LED screen in a scene that summed up the band's 2021 - triumphant.
Behemoth - XXX Years Ov Blasphemy
Faced with the daunting task of having to top their stellar, sinister 2020 streaming production of In Absentia Dei, Behemoth celebrated three decades of metal extremity with one of the year's most ambitious streaming events in XXX Year Ov Blasphemy. Teaming with director Dariusz Szermanowicz of G13 Production House, the production included three separate sets from three different locations. The comprehensive collection of songs spanned ‘Pandemonic Incantations’, breakthrough albums with ‘The Apostasy’ and ‘Evangelion’, and culminated with the band’s most recent triumph in 2018’s ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’ in an event that followed through on the kind of immersive experience bands promise but rarely deliver. A masterful balance of artistry, atmosphere and aggression Behemoth set a standard in streaming that will be difficult, if not impossible to match.
Trivium - Live From The Hangar
At the very forefront of digital dominance, few artists, regardless of genre have the kind of online footprint that Trivium has. From frontman Matt Heafy's well-documented diligence on Twitch, to each of the band members' own online voice, the band's audience is indicative their work ethic. Being such a fixture online however means that when the band needs to go big - it has to be massive. Such was the case with their Live From the Hangar announcement which launched the band's former airplane hangar headquarters and marked the 10th anniversary of their seminal album, In Waves. Performing the album in its entirety, Trivium's ability to showcase power and precision was on full display in a set that underscored the band's shelf life. Taking on songs some 10 years deep, the music resonated as fiery and fresh as an album release show. Capturing the energy of the album and translating the kind of spectacle that transcends the screen, the Floridian juggernaut asserted that the future of metal is as promising as it is progressive, and Trivium is leading the charge.
Anthrax - 40th Anniversary Livestream
Culminating the thrash institution's celebration of their four-decade long, 11 album deep tenure, Anthrax marked the major milestone with a career-spanning performance that was a 22-song kick in the teeth. Interspersed with the likes of Rob Zombie, Henry Rollins and Slash among many others offering their collective congratulations, the set even saw Public Enemy lyrical legend Chuck D guest for a performance of the joint classic, “Bring the Noise”. Showcasing a unique endurance and continued relevance, the band's set evidenced how great songs will always stand the test of time.
KORN - Monumental: A Global Streaming Event
Korn’s massive streaming event featured the band performing a once-in-a-lifetime setlist of deep cuts and fan favorites with the darkened city of LA as a backdrop. In fact, Monumental showcased the band performing from the Strangers Things: The Drive-Into Experience. The attraction immersed guests in the world of the acclaimed Netflix series with sets and an array of audio and visual effects, making it a fitting spot for Korn – who have always drawn on the colorful horror elements of media – to tear through a set of classic hits, deep cuts, and selections from The Nothing that never got played for much of the world.
Few things can make you yearn harder for in-person concerts than something like this, even if the virtual most pit hurts a bit less than the real thing. Korn prove here to be masters of both.
- Nick Delgadillo
Puscifer - Billy D And The Hall Of Feathered Serpents featuring Money $hot
Visionary Maynard James Keenan celebrated his birthday with dazzling visual experience broadcast from the historic Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles. Revisiting the Luchador-aesthetic of Puscifier's 2016 album Money $hot, the performance included the album in full and an wildly trippy narrative of character Billy D's ascension into The Hall of Feathered Serpents. Complete with characters, dialogue, an inventive plot and footage shot in widescreeen for a truly cinematic feel, this was far from the standard stream. Even the band performance footage was done well, as Puscifer performed from inside a wrestling ring, dawning masks and washed in properly positioned lights. What was especially cool was that fans that purchased tickets for Puscifer - Billy D And The Hall Of Feathered Serpents featuring Money $hot, also go Puscifer's 2020 dance in the desert streaming spectacular in their Live At Arcosanti performance.
Cradle of Filth - Dracula Spectacular
The cinematic-scaled production proved to be a powerful assertion of Cradle of Filth's continued prowess as one of the genre's most enthralling collectives. New Noise Magazine called Cradle of Filth, "The house band of hell" and the assessment couldn't be more accurate when taking in this spectacle.
The multi-tier theater stage, backed by gorgeous gothic visuals and the occasional roast of flames surrounded the band who embraced a more traditional black metal motif for the set. RIngleader/mastermind Dani Filth showcased the kind of command that has propelled him to the height of the hierarchy of extreme metal while sharing the stage with the introduction of new keyboardist / vocalist Anabelle Iratni previously of Devilment. The sixteen-song set served well in framing the band's vast body of work, punctuated by a closing rendition of "From the Cradle to Enslave" that touted all the theatrics and dark revelry that has made the band so celebrated for so many years.
Gaerea - The Bronze Halls
Portuguese black metal practitioners Gaerea had a standout showing during the 2021 edition of Knotfest's own streaming festival Pulse of the Maggots. Their Bronze Hall production was a concise, compelling showing that featured selections from the band's acclaimed 2020 album, Limbo and evidenced just why the band has received the kind of hype they have. Gaerea's dynamic, robust approach to the genre's requisite brutality make for a live set that has a ritualistic, ceremonial quality. Beautifully filmed from an undisclosed museum, the opulent ambiance contrasted with the band's ominous sound make for a chilling visual experience - like something you shouldn't be watching but something you can't look away from just the same.
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