Jonathan Davis, the long-tenured frontman of nu-metal elder statesfreaks Korn, took the stage at Crystal Ballroom on April 6 with a smile and a bounce in his step. Though he ditched the Adidas tracksuit for an expensive-looking black V-neck sweater, Davis otherwise looked almost exactly like the unlikely rock star that he did in the late '90s.
For the past decade, Davis has been compiling a catalog of material for his upcoming solo debut, Black Labyrinth, much of which he premiered in Portland on his tour opener. It sounds like the music sexy vampires listen to—polished goth rock awash in string arrangements, moody synths and lightly chugging guitars, all kept together with a swaying, vaguely Eastern ambience. Davis ran through the new material at a modest clip, the audience enthusiastic but unsure of what they were listening to, or what they were supposed to do while listening to it.
Those familiar with Korn's golden-age output in the mid- to late '90s know the band's music was unfairly maligned by critics. In truth, Life Is Peachy is the catchiest noise-rock album ever written, swathed in an intensely personal darkness that would make Swans' Michael Gira wince. Davis has said his solo material is intended as a softer, more uplifting counterpart to his work with Korn, and as such, none of that material made its way into the set. Nevertheless, a mellow rendition of "Swallow" or "Falling Away From Me" would've worked wonders here.
All photos by Henry Cromett.