Review: Underoath goes out with a blast at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
Is Underoath the biggest band ever to come out of Tampa?
If there is a shortlist – and it would be a short list – they’d have to be on it. Two top-10 albums, more than a million records sold, a pair of Grammy nominations, multiple Warped Tours, gigs on six continents.
That said, Christian metalcore is still a niche market. No one would blame you for not knowing Underoath. Genre bands are like genre movies: Often beloved, but rarely respected by outsiders.
Besides, Underoath is a very different band than the one founded in 1997. By the time they announced last fall that they were breaking up, zero original members remained. The new Underoath was still popular around the world, but its members realized the band fans were coming to see in 2012 was not the same band they felt they now were.
“You have this name, this reputation, this stat page,” guitarist Tim McTague told Alternative Press. “You have accredited statuses, and whether you’re relevant or not, whether you believe in what you’re doing or not, whether you have the time to believe in what you’re doing or not, that name alone can fetch money. ... Which is very much something I hate, personally.”
That, McTague said, isn’t how any of them wanted to end things. So they decided to go out on their own terms: With one final farewell tour, capped with a hometown show at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg. Saturday’s concert became one of Tampa Bay’s hottest small-venue tickets in recent memory, selling out months in advance, with fans traveling from all over North America for an emotional goodbye.
The night had the feel of a lifetime achievement ceremony, with nearly all of the band’s family members, and many of their friends – including Tooth & Nail Records founder Brandon Ebel – in attendance. Cameras recorded the set for posterity, and each of the openers gave heartfelt tributes. “It is an honor to play their last show,” said As Cities Burns’ Cody Bonnette.
A dramatic post-rock prelude heightened the gravitas of the gig, as crew members hugged onstage and fans chanted for the band. But early in the set, singer Spencer Chamberlain told the crowd, “We’re not gonna make this a sad night. Tonight, we’re gonna celebrate 10-plus years of this band coming to this town.”
It looked all evening like Underoath still has plenty of gas in the tank. Chamberlain remains a dynamic, dread-whipping dervish, with McTague and bassist Grant Brandell matching him at every turn on newer tracks Illuminator and Unsound. Driftwood, with its atmospheric bells and jittery, vaguely electronic percussion, sounded more than a little like Radiohead.
The big news for Underoath fans was the return of founding drummer and vocalist Aaron Gillespie, who, with little fanfare from the stage, rejoined the band for two songs, including the fitting fan favorite Reinventing Your Exit.
As the night drew to a close, emotions ran higher and higher. Chamberlain found himself choking up at times, pausing between songs to thank all the band’s friends, family and fans. “This is the last set I’ll play with these guys, and it’s kind of freaking me out a little bit,” he said.
"We love what we do. We stand by every word we’ve ever written down – every guitar riff, every song, every decision we made. Everything we told you guys, we stand behind it 110 percent. And I think for me and my friends after 10-plus year run, we decided that it was time to close the chapter of Underoath and open up a new one.
"This band is a band that’s gone through a lot of changes and overcome a lot of things, and you guys have stood by our side through thick and thin, and we can’t thank you enough for that. All I can say is, we love you. All I can say is, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you so much for being here."
Fans went wild as Underoath closed with two powerful, pummeling tracks: The menacing, melodic A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White and closer Writing on the Walls, which exploded into all-out chaos as Chamberlain and McTague leaped into the crowd, and other members threw pieces of equipment – drums, keyboards, stands – into the pit. Keyboardist Chris Dudley seemed overcome by emotion, hurling his synths into the audience and hurling his arms around Chamberlain at center stage as they left.
After seeing bands like A Day To Remember and Rise Against reach new heights by playing the same style of melodic metalcore that Underoath helped popularize, it’s evident there’s still room for the band in today’s musical landscape. But that landscape no longer interests them. It's time for Underoath’s members to move on to their own new projects.
Who knows? Maybe one of them will even become the biggest band ever to come out of Tampa.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*