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WEEKEND REVIEWS | POP MUSIC REVIEW

Korn & Co. Know Value of Spectacle

October 12, 1998|SANDY MASUO | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Since Korn began its grinding climb to rock stardom four years ago, the members of the Bakersfield quintet have dreamed of putting together a tour to showcase their music and that of some kindred spirits.

And with the group riding its biggest wave of success yet (the band's latest album, "Follow the Leader," entered the national sales charts at No. 1), the dream has become reality.

Korn's Family Values Tour made its stop at the Great Western Forum on Friday, and the result was a spirited combination of intense music and full-throttle showmanship.

Besides Korn, the lineup included rapper Ice Cube, German rockers Rammstein, old friends from Korn frontman Jonathan Davis' glam rock past (Orgy) and comrades from the rap-metal realm (Limp Bizkit).

After a gutsy but tepidly received opening set by Orgy, Limp Bizkit performed on a stage that looked like a cross between "The War of the Worlds" and "Mars Attacks." After emerging from an alien spacecraft, the Florida quintet launched into its blend of crunching rap-strewn rock.

For all its fury, Limp Bizkit's songwriting isn't strong, but sheer volume and frenzied crowd response (plus a team of break-dancers that wowed the audience with acrobatic moves) helped mask any musical weaknesses.

By comparison, Ice Cube's set was stark--just Cube, his two-man posse and a giant statue labeled "Ice Cube the Great."

But his fiery raps stirred the crowd as Cube played a set that ranged from "F--- Tha Police," a number from his days with the seminal gangsta rap outfit N.W.A, to material from his upcoming album, "War and Peace, Vol. 1."

Cube may be spending as much time making movies as music these days, but his ominous, rumbling set showed that he still knows how to work a room.

Rammstein alternately stunned and stirred with a performance that sizzled and blazed. Literally. The Berlin sextet has generated quite a buzz with its over-the-top concerts, and on Friday it didn't pull any punches, opening with frontman Till Lindemann cloaked in flames, croaking the group's namesake song.

As Lindemann and company picked up momentum, so did the pyrotechnics: flash pots, plus an array of props (bows and arrows, shoes, drumsticks, microphone stands) emerging from flames and sparks. If all the flash of Rammstein's set overshadowed its music, it was no great loss, since the shtick was more substantive than the pedestrian, quasi-industrial rock hammered out.

Only the ringmasters of the Family Values rock 'n' roll circus could top the visual extravaganza of Rammstein, and that's what Korn did.

The group's live show has always been its biggest strength, compensating for any shortcomings in songwriting, and perpetual touring has honed the group's attack to a razor-sharp edge.

Over the years, Korn's harsher elements have become more biting, and the grooves underpinning all the angst more sinuous.

Though the Forum was far from filled, the fans on hand were fervent, transforming the arena's main floor into a bubbling sea of bobbing heads.

At the end of the night, Family Values might not have been the greatest show on earth in terms of music, but it certainly proved to be one of the top rock spectacles of the year.

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