The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA – 05/16/2014
For the past 18 years, VNV Nation has engaged the world with its live performances. This year, the progenitors of futurepop and legends of electronic music completed yet another tour, supporting its most recent album, Transnational. As with the Automatic tour, the proceedings came to a close at the legendary Masquerade in Atlanta, GA, a longtime hub for the electronic/industrial genre.
The night began with electro/house act WhiteQube energizing the crowd with heavy dance beats. WhiteQube is a very different act from VNV Nation and stands out among previous acts that the band has toured with, favoring a DJ route over the traditional band setup and industrial sound. Augmenting the music is WhiteQube’s visual show – a combination of beat-matched video and synced imagery broadcast on his chest-mounted white LED screen. The audience loved WhiteQube; from the launch of “R U Ready” to the end of “Revolution Riot,” he kept the crowd moving throughout his set with little-to-no pause in the music and prompts for action the whole way. While his set was very brief, it set the energy level for the room perfectly.
After a short reprieve, VNV stepped to the stage. Following a brief greeting to the audience, the band launched into “Retaliate” from Transnational
, followed almost immediately by “Sentinel” from Of Faith, Power, and Glory
, and the ever present “Chrome” from Matter + Form
. Songs from the past six albums filled the repertoire, with pieces from Empires
(“Standing,” “Darkangel”), Futureperfect
(“Carbon”), and Judgement (“The Farthest Star,” “Illusion”) balancing against the newer tracks of Automatic
(such as “Space and Time”) and Transnational
(“Primary,” “Everything”). This night felt different than previous shows, which had usually been a barrage of hits with occasional pauses for conversation; there was an air of familiarity between the band and the crowd, allowing for less performance and more casual moments. Ronan Harris’ jokes with the fans were more frequent and directly engaging of various audience members, giving a feeling of personal connection from the stage to the pit (particularly his jabs at the gathering of Juggalos that had accumulated downstairs). Gifts were given to Harris between songs from the crowd, and later in the night, gifts were given to the crowd in the form of prizes for answering trivia questions about the band’s history; prizes included spare keyboards and a cowbell.
After a very moving motivational speech, in which Harris encouraged the crowd to use tonight as a way to leave their problems at the door and escape for a while, the band closed out with “Resolution” – with an added bit of Journey’s classic “Don’t Stop Believin'” worked in – and exited the stage, only to be demanded back for more. VNV happily obliged with “Further,” “Joy,” and “Control,” exiting once more only to be demanded back yet again. Harris chatted with the audience a bit, discussing everything from his taste in comics (Marvel or Dark Horse) to his fond memories of tours past (the balloon-maker who crafted him a double-helix in the middle of the show), as well as giving away more trivia prizes. With a fond thank you and farewell to the crowd, VNV rounded out its night with performances of “Nova” and its trademarked ending of “Perpetual,” during which Harris substituted the word “cowbell” in for many lyrics (to prompt the audience member who had received the cowbell and banged the thing as though he were part of the band) and led the whole crowd in an a cappella wrap up of the “never-ending light” refrain, with a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to tie it all together.
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of VNV Nation’s first album; the year after will be the 20th anniversary of VNV’s first live performance (as the duo of Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson). VNV Nation has, beyond a shadow of a doubt, cemented its place at the top of the genre over these past two decades, and its ever growing audience will have much to look forward to in the years to come.
Zak Vaudo (Chaostar)
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