Review / photos: Underoath reforms, regroups and rocks the Ritz Ybor in Tampa
Like a snowball growing while rolling down a mountain, Tampa metalcore band Underoath continues to evolve.
The only original band member from the band’s 1997 inception, drummer/vocalist Aaron Gellispie, has moved on. What effect will new drummer Daniel Davison have on the writing process? What effect will Davison have on the live performances? And will the original fans still have the same love for this current lineup and Underoath’s newest CD, Ø (Disambiguation)?
On Friday night, I walked into The Ritz in Ybor City and saw a crowd that was mixed in age and gender. I honestly expected a younger crowd, leaving the bartenders disappointed with alcohol sales, but then I remembered that even the original 15-year-olds who were listening to Underoath in the ’90s are now of legal drinking age ... and then I felt old. Yes, it has been 11 years since their first CD, and in that time, Underoath has made many changes.
Three bands were to go on stage before Underoath; Marksmen, Oceana, and The Word Alive. I’ve seen Marksmen live two times, and if you have not caught their show yet, please go see these guys. The energy they produce is outstanding, and their music is powerful and original. It’s a show that you could take your parents to, and bash some heads in at the same time. This performance by Marksmen was no different. They just powered through their material and, as usual, left a lasting impression with audible applause from the crowd.
Oceana was next up with their own unique performance, with instruments that brought out the ’70s in us all. Using a natural wood-grain organ and a single standing bass drum to emphasize their melodic grooves, they put on a good, mellow show.
Next, The Word Alive. Heavy, very tight, and overall, an awesome band that seemed to say, “If you can handle us, then you can handle the new Underoath.” I’ll give The Word Alive the award for “Heaviest Band of the Night,” and move on to what we all came to hear: the newly reformed Underoath
Most in the audience in attendance had probably grown used to Underoath’s seemingly ever-changing lineup, but I’ve never heard much inner fan squabbling until Gillispie was officially “replaced.” It was the David Lee Roth/Sammy Hagar debacle all over again. There seems to be an Underoath Civil War amongst fans (with a side debate on whether or not Underoath is still considered a faith-based religious group). In case you lost track, the current Underoath line up is Spencer Chamberlin (vocals/guitar), Timothy McTague (guitar/vocals), Grant Brandell (bass), James Smith (guitar), Christopher Dudley (keyboards), and Daniel Davison (drums).
The band opened their set with Illuminator, which showcases Spencer Chamberlin pounding out aggressive vocals from the very first beat. It steeled the audience for more to follow and served as an intruduction to the new material from Ø (Disambiguation). To show they could still do the older material, Underoath’s next song was 2006’s In Regards To Myself, which was originally performed and recorded with Gillespie’s influence and clean vocals. Chamberlin’s vocal range is wide, and his performance on this and other songs that originally featured Gillespie were right on key.
Overall, the new CD features deeper, more aggressive “death metal” vocals from Chamberlin. Maybe the influence of touring with heavier bands on the Mayhem Tour had a lasting impression on Underoath. And as for the religious connotations within their show, I did not see enough for me to label them a “Christian” band, but rather Christian band members within a metalcore group. During an interlude Chamberlin made one announcement about Jesus Christ, but also stated he was “not there to force anyone into a belief, just to believe in something which makes you wholesome.”
There was little mention of the new drummer, Davison. He was quickly introduced toward the middle of the set, and Chamberlin moved onto the next song. I’m not even sure the audience had a chance to grunt or cheer, and I think Underoath preferred it that way. It was a safe way to keep the audience focused on the music at hand. Not to worry though, the drums were tight and heavy.
Musically, Underoath is indeed a much different band from the days of Dallas Taylor and Aaron Gillispie. When Chamerblin joined the band in 2003, changing the name of the band was a serious consideration. Maybe this should have been done just to quell the inner angst that some of the fan base still has.
On this evening, the bottom line was, did the audience get their money’s worth? Indeed. The show was spectacular. The lighting was very creative — I should have worn sunglasses. Bar-shaped LED lights wrapped the back of the stage and seemed to make the stage come alive. And Dudley is the most energetic keyboardist I’ve ever seen. For a minute there I thought I was watching Chris Farley doing a Saturday Night Live skit. Dudley is just that into his music.
Chamberlin made the night very personal, and thanked his fans several times for coming out to support the tour. (My only complaint of the entire show? Chamberlin spit on my camera ... and that is just not cool.) If you missed this show you missed a great time. The packed Ritz was proof that this band will survive.
Review / photos by Andrew Carlton, tbt*