In 1994 Korn released their debut album. Last night, the Left Coast five-piece celebrated their self-titled LP’s 20th anniversary alongside avid fans with a much anticipated performance at Irving Plaza. The venue was packed with lifelong listeners , most who bore the headliner’s name across the front or backs of their t-shirts. Generations of Korn fans waited patiently as Victory Records’ Islander kicked things off with fittingly heavy riffs reminiscent of post-hardcore’s heydays. It was clear during their set that their time on stage was in a way somehow sacred, that they too harbored the same anticipation as their audience for Korn’s imminent performance. The silence that followed the impassioned applause brought on by their departure was quickly filled by classic nu metal anthems like Slipknot’s “Sic,” which incited an impromptu sing-along. Soon after, Suicide Silence took the stage. Within an instant, the deathcore outfit got the crowd moving, causing a small yet energetic mosh pit to form in the middle of the main floor. As if it were still ‘94, fans thrashed, kicked, and crashed into each other, many doing so with smiles plastered across their faces as Suicide Silence headbanged and punched the air. By the end of their set, Suicide Silence had successfully prepped the crowd for Korn, leaving their audience breathless from enjoyably brutal cuts like “Fuck Everything” from 2011’s Black Crown. Before exiting the stage, lead singer Hernan “Eddie” Hermida sincerely thanked the more than grateful crowd as applause erupted in waves.
As show-goers waited for the much anticipated headliner of the night, Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch and his band mates prepped for their set backstage. While making a pre-performance sandwich, the co-founding member and guitarist of Korn reflected on the band’s debut. “The energy of the songs [and] playing them live hasn’t really changed for me,” he tells the Voice. “I love the energy of how they make me feel. I love the breakdowns; I love the dynamics; like getting real soft and then —” He screams. “That stuff hasn’t changed. I think that when I listen to the record I feel a little bit dark, a little bit of a depression, but playing live is different.”
Welch’s connection to the album has remained a constant over the decades, although his connection to his fans has in many ways evolved due to his conversion to Christianity. “My main focus now is the people…I realize that everyone is at a different path, so I can’t make them want to start a relationship with Jesus, but it’s not about me,” he reflects. “Before it was like, ‘Oh, i want to make money, I want to be on TV, I want to be on the radio.’ And now it’s about sharing life.”
Whether “sharing life” through his music or one-on-one with fans, it is clear that Welch, much like his band mates, is still at his prime. As Korn’s set began, Irving Plaza seemed to shake with the reverberations of cheers and screams, with many members of the audience proclaiming, “This is epic!” Performing before a backdrop reminiscent of their music video for “Freak On A Leash,” the band’s mere presence sparked subsequent minutes of joyous applause. Beginning with “Blind,” Korn’s performance felt timeless, each song rounding out with a visceral weight and audible precision, proving to any skeptics that nu metal is an art form in its own right. As “Blind” led to latter tracks like “Need To” and the undeniably infectious “Clown,” the energy brewing between frontman Jonathan Davis and his fellow bandmates was tangible. The crowd seemed to hang on every movement of the set, their shouts and cheers rising in volume as Davis played the intro to “Divine” on bagpipes and rising again during the chorus of “Shoots and Ladders.” As countless generations of Korn fans moshed, thrashed, and threw their arms in the air, the band seamlessly played through one of the Nineties most memorable albums with an unwavering level of energy and finesse.
As if their performance of their debut was not enough, Korn returned to the stage after a momentary absence for a four song encore, which included the angst-filled, chathartic “Falling Away From Me.” As Davis sang into his microphone and gripped his Giger stand, Korn’s audience seemed to be in a state of sheer exhilaration, which only intensified during the band’s final song, “Freak On A Leash,” a suitable end to an unforgettable performance.