Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Returning to the UK for their first headlining tour, in fact their first headlining tour in Europe, Starset have previously graced our shores supporting Breaking Benjamin & In This Moment but have lacked the opportunity to really show off what they can deliver. A support slot always leaves the audience wanting more from a good band and when a great band comes along, well the problem just exacerbates itself.
The small UK tour, taking in just 4 dates, with London being the second still leaves us with a dilemma. Starset offer ‘cinematic rock’ experiences. Think Secret Cinema but apply the experience to gigs. In the US a Starset show will get a crowd large enough to allow them to play bigger venues that the Academy and as such the stage show, the whole experience is more. Lead singer and band founder Dustin Bates even eludes during the bands set that they will return if the fans spread the word “just tell people we didn’t suck”. He can rest assured, they didn’t.
Support came in the form of a DJ set from ‘Diskord’ who, fair play to him, tried to get the crowd going before the main attraction. Somewhere in between Fat Boy Slim and DubStep it was a room filling sound for sure that saw a handful of people nodding along and other just looking plain bemused as they searched the stage for the guitars and drums. “Who’s here for Starset?” got the biggest cheers during the set and when his set came to a close Diskord did, to be fair, get a solid round of applause for his efforts that saw him soaked in sweat from mixing the music we were listening to live on stage. It’s harder than it looks, it’s not just dropping the needle and playing ‘someone else’s music’ so kudos for the solid skills.
When the stage was cleared and the lights dimmed, a tonne of fog descended into the Academy as Starset arrived on stage. As ever, Ron DeChant on bass, Brock Richards on guitar and drummer Adam Gilbert all sported the requisite space man look complete with glowing helmets and chest plates that added a bucket load of atmosphere to the show.
The band have a huge backstory to supplement the experience, with Marvel even producing a graphic novel that explains how a mysterious signal emanating from a star within the Ophiuchus Constellation was discovered by a radio telescope team looking for extra terrestrial sources. The signal was deemed to be of human origin and contained a message foretelling the demise of humanity. The Starset Society commissioned a group of musicians and scientists to assist them in spreading the knowledge to a broader audience. This group became known simply as Starset.”
Taking that concept, we have the band in character, Dustin dressed as a scientist and a violinist and cellist (Siobhán Cronin & Mariko M I believe) both wearing led \ neon light visors performing cinematic rock tracks that sit somewhere in between a movie soundtrack, progressive rock and nu metal. It’s a great mix, a fascinating crossover and no surprise therefore that the band was playing to a sold out Academy.
With just two albums to their name, the band got to play all of the singles released to date and they naturally resulted in the biggest cheers during the show. Everything from Carnivore, Ricochet, Point of No Return and of course the huge My Demons all sounded immense. The atmospherics created with the lights and band visuals all adding to the mix to present a true experience. The only gripe…. a show tends to need to focus on the vocalist and Dustin suffers the most from the subdued lighting required to make the other look so good.
Sporting the scientific short, glasses and bow-tie look, Dustin adds the icing to the classic cinematic cake, perfectly resembling the scientists that were seen in Invaders from Mars, It Came From Outer Space, Earth vs The Flying Saucers and more. All classic Sci-Fi B Movies of yesteryear. If only we could see him then. If he wasn’t in dark shadows, he was hidden by the fog of the dry ice machines across the front of the stage when he should have had some white light on just him, tracking him as he moved around the stage. Perhaps the bigger shows and better lighting setups afford them this luxury but a white spot, front and centre would have been all it took to make this a show to tell your grandchildren about. Some might say it’s a minor complaint but it’s one small thing that would make the show amazing.
At the end of the day, the show is still a spectacle, it has to be seen live because the albums, graphic novels, Starset Society online updates only supplement the live experience. Starset are the perfect combination of studio, live, audio, visual, print and more. I don’t think another band since KISS have manipulated media in such a smart way. I hope it works out for them as I really want to see them play bigger shows.
For the record, they most certainly did not suck!!
Gravity of You
Last to Fall
Die for You
Point of No Return
It Has Begun
Down With the Fallen
Bringing It Down