Helmet came, we saw, they conquered

***** (5 stars out of 6); March 24 at Lille Vega

“We’re gonna play one more song and then Helmet are gonna come and f*cking destroy you,” foreshadowed the leader singer of warm-up band, Fighting With Wire. How right he was.

As Helmet prepared to take the stage, slowly but surely, the crowd grew to double – if not triple – in size, making Lille Vega feel truly intimate. From the balcony, I watched eagerly. I thought about Helmet’s long road and nostalgia set in. It was like a reunion of old friends, united by their love of not only Helmet but also alternative music from the ‘90s.

From where I stood, the crowd looked like sardines in a can, ready to honour Helmet the best they knew how – by rocking out hard. Their enthusiasm was visible and contagious, as they chanted to get the band to come out. I may have come to the concert solo but I was definitely not alone.

Helmet finally showed up and suddenly nothing else mattered. ‘It’s Easy to Get Bored’, from their 1997 album Aftertaste was the first song of the evening and the venue was cooking. By the third song, there was crowd-surfing – a beautiful sight – symbolising what everyone was feeling: the kind of adrenaline rush that only a good live performance can provide.

Lead singer Page Hamilton was in a fantastic mood, introducing the band twice throughout the evening and joking with the crowd. The energy was intense and escalated, as the band performed song after song from their album Meantime, released twenty years ago. Their delivery was passionate and natural, the band’s chemistry being the kind that can’t be bought or faked, only channeled.

The heavy riffs flowed, levitating the crowd to a place of pure frenzy. I envied those standing in front of the stage, crowd-surfing and jumping to the sound of punk-metal freedom and rebellion. Previous experience has taught me that my 1.68m frame is not a good fit for moshing but no such rules apply to head-banging. As I opened my eyes, I saw the entire venue head-banging with me. A truly powerful moment.

‘Unsung’, ‘FBLA II’ and ‘In the Meantime’ were incendiary, the riffs and breaks amazingly tight, releasing a primal energy verging on temporary insanity.

And just like that, the first set was over and Helmet left the stage. However, they quickly returned to the stage to play another four or five songs, including ‘Wilma’s Rainbow’ from their 1994 album Betty, my personal favourite of the evening. Not one but two encores later, the band left the stage for good and the concert was but a beautiful memory.

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