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Heavy metal fails to shine in Irvine

The Changing, Trivium and Hellyeah excite the crowd, but much of the lineup is lightweight.

September 04, 2007|Greg Burk | Special to The Times

When Korn launched the first Family Values Tour in 1998, the title was a slap at a culture that Jonathan Davis, the Bakersfield band's singer, perceived as mired in child abuse.

But at the final show of this year's tour Sunday at Irvine's Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, a more literal connotation prevailed. A toddler ran around in a gangsta head scarf. A pair of brothers casually competed in a Guitar Hero video game contest. A father instructed his son in the art of spotting pectoral augmentations.

And despite the usual gush of rock obscenities issuing from the Verizon's two stages, the lineup tilted toward the lighter side of heavy metal.

One of the fest's best blasts hit midafternoon, on the main stage with the Changing. Fronted by platinum-tressed Korn backup singer Kalen Chase, the L.A. group pumped out Metallica/Megadeth-influenced rough rock inflated by Branden Krull's orchestral keyboards. But there was a lot of not-much. Through You -- fratty and simple-minded. Neurosonic -- annoying peanut-vendor lead vocals and Beatles harmonies over industrial slog (good moves and clothes from guitarist Troy Healy, though). Liverpool's Twin Method -- more thought put into hair extravagances than into their double-kicked shout-and-whine. Invitro -- generic thrash. Five Finger Death Punch's headlong drums, undercut by mopey New/Old Romantic vocals, inspired a pit circle resembling an elfin prance.

The highly anticipated Droid, despite an occasional arpeggio or tangled low-end riff, underleveraged its fierce drive with insufficient dynamics. Third-billed festival fave Atreyu thwacked colorless white-collar melodi-metal lowlighted by one of the feeblest (yet most self-confident) guitar solos on record.

The serious metal fans came out for Trivium, whose highly technical twin-guitar carvings and earthquake drums didn't attract the amphitheater's $10 bleeder reaches. Hellyeah, a semi-supergroup assembled around Pantera/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul, flattened forests with an unsophisticated eruption of Skynyrd-tinged Southern woof-metal.

A little Celtic, a little psychedelic, fest pick-to-click Flyleaf had young women waving hands and undulating with the emotional melodies and abandoned spins of waifish singer Lacey Mosely, yet the Texans actually rocked thanks to James Culpepper's heavy drums and Sameer Bhattacharya's versatile guitar.

Flyleaf was packaged to complement second-billed Evanescence, whose singer, Amy Lee, emerged from the stage smoke to widespread cheers and screams.

While fans swooned for both newer songs ("Weight of the World") and almost-old ("Bring Me to Life"), Lee's tone remained too consistent, leaving her piano ballads hardly distinguishable from her dramatic pounders, and her cover of the Doors' "People Are Strange" was awkward. Still, Evanescence made an impact, even if its set was derived from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."

The place went krazy for Korn -- throngs shouting along with the singsong tunes, kids on the upper lawn leaping like demons over improvised bonfires. Through personnel changes, the band has kept to a head-battering formula of sprung rap rhythms, edgy chords and tweaky effects. T-shirts for the band's new single dotted the grounds, and the crowd roared for every hit, from "Blind" to "Freak on a Leash," and remained stoked enough to join in on a chorus of Pink Floyd's "The Wall." Davis is a true American star, apparently ordinary yet grinningly intense -- the kind of hero any kicked-around slob can embrace.

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