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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Korn's Davis plows new field

The band's frontman brings his 'Alone I Play' solo tour to the Orpheum Theatre, throne and all.

December 07, 2007|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Rock fans have learned to be wary whenever the singer of a favorite band embarks on a solo project, which is often the first step toward a breakup.

Not so for Korn's Jonathan Davis, whose first solo tour landed at the Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday and came off not as restless ego but as a chance to stretch out musically for an intimate crowd of fans and friends.

Korn is very much alive and already planning its next album, Davis has said in recent interviews. But his current "Alone I Play" tour has been a worthwhile side trip, as this modern metal frontman leads an evening heavy on brooding acoustic rhythm guitars, performing dramatically rearranged Korn songs, favorite cover tunes from Davis' adolescence and his soundtrack work on 2002's "Queen of the Damned."

Davis left many of his Korn trademarks at home Tuesday. There was no track-suit or black kilt. Gone were the bagpipes and the gleaming microphone stand in the shape of a female alien. There was definitely no mosh pit.

Instead, Davis emerged onstage in a pinstriped gangster suit and spent most of the next 100 minutes sitting on an elegant throne, rarely rising to his feet. He began with the agonized "System" (from the "Queen" soundtrack), stamping the floor and shaking his head maniacally, wailing, "Feeling the sickness inside . . . why won't you die?"

Songs from that film (written with collaborator Richard Gibbs) told of death and vampires who make music -- not exactly a stretch, but a fitting subject matter for this distinctive hard-rock singer. The same material often led Tuesday to wild instrumental excursions for his virtuosic five-man band, as Davis, who also plays tonight at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana, would slap at a hand-drum or pick up a violin to pluck and saw a grim melody and sing ominously of "the ancient ones."

For Neil Diamond's "Love on the Rocks" -- a song Davis first covered on the soundtrack album for 2003's "Wonderland" -- the singer removed his crimson tie as the band recast it as a stark funk lament, working well with Davis' haunted werewolf growl. And Duran Duran's "The Chauffeur" was translated from '80s New Romantic pop to something dark and theatrical.

Late in the nearly two-hour set, bassist Miles Mosley and guitarist Shane Gibson took turns soloing, firing crazy sounds across the stage as Davis watched happily from his throne. The riffs and melodies were intricate and complex, suggesting a broader musical landscape for Davis, and another sidestep beyond arena-size metal.

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Jonathan Davis

Where: Galaxy Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana

When: 8 tonight

Price: $50

Contact: (714) 957-0600

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