Pain Of Salvation w/ Port Noir at the Assembly Hall, Islington

For a band that seemed to veer slightly towards a more “popular” style of metal than Pain of Salvation do, Port Noir were admittedly a well-chosen warm up act for the tour. Perhaps they are not “favourite band” material, but they certainly seemed to have potential, with some clear progressive elements keeping the audience interested; indeed at least one audience member near us seemed to love them. However, I could not escape the fact that they were clearly playing to a backing track, as they had a synthesiser audibly playing with no synth player onstage. This detracted from some of the appeal of the show, and when Pain of Salvation used the same for their sampling later in the set – which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly necessary live despite their appearances on the studio recording – the show was detracted from just the same.

The headline act were slightly late taking the stage, from the advertised stage times, though the interval was a short one anyway so this did not bother me – especially as the bar queue was fairly long (and why on earth did they only have one member of staff running the bar anyway?) The audience began to sing along to every word of “Full Throttle Tribe”, which I considered odd as I was unaware the song was such a hit. This singing along to most every word continued throughout the show though, so evidently Pain of Salvation are a band that has managed to endear themselves greatly to their fans. As the impressive light show begins swirling and the band begin jumping around the stage manically for the end of the opening song, one would scarcely believe that a little over two years ago frontman-and-mastermind Daniel Gildenlow was lying on his deathbed fighting an illness that very nearly killed him; his recovery since then has truly been remarkable, especially to see the energy he manages to put into a live show.

The extended intro to “Linoleum” worked well to rile up the crowd, especially after the crowd pleaser that was “Meaningless”. “Reasons” seemed like a bit of an odd choice for the setlist though; if they wanted a short filler from the new album to segway after their opener, there were plenty of other songs to choose from, which to me seem to make more logical sense. The audience began annoying me by this point as well; the beauty of the juxtaposing styles of Pain of Salvation’s music is that they can meld alternating dynamics together as if it were nothing, and one really does need to appreciate the quieter delicate sections as well. Instead, every time the distortion was toned down and the drums stopped pounding loudly, the audience began to cheer and applaud too loudly to pay attention to the stage. Given how much the whole room seemed to love “Linoleum” though, it seemed as if the extended outro was wasted slightly; they could easily have dragged it out some more into another chorus, which would work quite well at a concert such as this.

The heavy focus on material from the new album, “In the Passing Light of Day” was inevitable, but even so I would have liked to hear a bit more from the “Road Salt” albums. Still, a trip back to “Remedy Lane” for the Blue Oyster Cult-esque “A Trace of Blood”, as well as the rather fantastic “Rope Ends” and “Beyond the Pale” went down well. The show seemed to be progressing awfully fast by this point though, halfway through the setlist at only six songs, which I suppose is a by-product of closing on two ten-minute-long pieces, with the fifteen-minute “In the Passing Light of Day” for an encore. To accommodate this, the band seemed to really overdo the “sudden starts” between songs, with very little audience interaction and barely any time devoted to introducing the songs or creating any kind of rapport with the crowd. Not that one would have noticed, by the way the crowd reacted, but it’s the small endearing things like this that, to me, really make a live concert worth going to.

“Bear with me,” Gildenlow quickly asks before “Silent Gold” brings our focus back to the new album, addressing a minor technical fault that I don’t believe anyone noticed until he brought attention to it just then. What I had not noticed before this song though, was that the drummer was also singing; a complicated feat, especially given the inherently difficult nature of Pain of Salvation’s compositions. Indeed, the whole band seems to be absolutely superb singers, filling in the more difficult elements of the backing vocals around the high parts with apparent ease. The figure that dominates the stage throughout the show though, especially when Gildenlow’s vocals temporarily give way to an instrumental break, is the wild, painted Icelander, Ragnar Zolberg, who never seems to stop moving unless he’s right up at the front of the stage encouraging the audience. One audience member, at the quiet part to “On a Tuesday”, loudly declared his love for Zolberg, which drew a huge cheer from those around him.

“The Physics of Gridlock” drew the concert to a close well, and was appreciated by me as a long-time lover of the “Road Salt” albums, as previously noted. The song that everyone seemed to walk away with a lasting impression of, though, was the epic encore choice of “In the Passing Light of Day”, dedicated to Gildenlow’s wife and her struggle through his near-fatal illness over the past few years. The emotionally charged delivery with which the band delivers the song would move the whole audience nearly to tears, though the extended repetition of the chorus on the album unfortunately gave way to a live ending that was a lot more abrupt.

Pain of Salvation Live Rating: 7/10