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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Korn's Jonathan Davis wakes up his hate.

Back 2 the Future

Korn and limpbizkit hit on the past while pushing toward the future on the Xbox Back 2 Basics tour

By Sarah Quelland

"Without Korn, there would not be a limpbizkit," Fred Durst informed the Warfield crowd last Wednesday (Nov. 12). Dedicating "Break Stuff" to the band that "changed metal," he alluded to the late-'90s proliferation of rap/rock bands, cracking "It's their fault, you know."

Korn and limpbizkit joined forces to coheadline the Xbox-sponsored Back 2 Basics tour. These two bands have toured together on and off since 1995 when Durst met Korn in Florida while Korn was touring behind its groundbreaking 1994 self-titled debut (Immortal/Epic). Back then, Live, Collective Soul, Candlebox, Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls and Bush were popular rock bands. Korn emerged as the antithesis of all that with a raw, ugly and brutal sound that ultimately redirected rock & roll.

Korn and limpbizkit haven't toured together since 1999's Family Values tour. For the Back 2 Basics outing, the two multiplatinum bands stripped away the big arena centerpieces of the past--props like the Korn Kage and limpbizkit's giant toilet--in favor of simplicity. The whole concert in this smallish venue had a casual and informal club vibe.

Some might argue that limpbizkit has become little more than a curiosity at this point; that Durst has worn out his welcome by behaving bizarrely and throwing tantrums. But Durst's combustive ego didn't make an appearance on Wednesday. The band had fans inside the Warfield so dedicated they already had songs off its new album, Results May Vary, memorized.

limpbizkit opened with "Re-Entry," the intro and first song off Results May Vary, from behind the curtain and it wasn't until second song "My Generation" that the curtain came down--apparently a deliberate, if debatably effective strategy designed to increase anticipation.

Durst appeared with a close-cropped platinum Mohawk, wearing baggy pants and a black T-shirt that read "Whiteboy." When he wasn't jumping around the stage, he was crouched over the barrier, screaming into the mic and being grabbed by his fans.

Midway through the show he paused and asked if anyone was from Fremont. "I used to live in Fremont," he said, adding that he caught Danzig, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden at the Warfield in 1989.

With a mix of old material ("Take a Look Around," "My Way," "Nookie") and new material ("Gimme the Mic," "Eat You Alive," "Almost Over"), perhaps the one real surprise in limpbizkit's set was a cover of Nirvana's posthumous release, "You Know You're Right."

"Fuckin' Nirvana's the shit!" Durst declared at the end of the song.

Strangely, Durst's heartfelt new cover of the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" was backed solely by DJ Lethal without so much as an acoustic guitar to be seen. The group closed with yet another cover, the song that got the ball rolling for limpbizkit, George Michael's '80s pop hit "Faith," which Durst sent out to the cheesiest person in the house.

During the intermission between bands, Korn frontman Jonathan Davis sat in an easy chair onstage facing off against a female opponent playing a video game in the Xbox challenge. Following that, two guys were brought up from the audience for the Korn karaoke battle with an Xbox going home with the winner. They stumbled through Korn's "Freak on a Leash" so badly the audience wasn't keen on either of them taking home the prize.

Korn has always been a fan-friendly band and before the Back 2 Basics tour launch, the group invited fans to vote for the setlist on its website. Naturally, the never-performed "Daddy" was a top request and, understandably, the band had to deny it. While "Blind" (off Korn's 1994 debut) was the single that finally got Korn on the radio, "Daddy" (the last track on that debut) was the song that captured Korn at its most frail and most terrifying. Davis' pain spilled unbidden through speakers as he portrayed the emotional devastation of a child molestation victim with an anguish so severe it reduced him to a weeping, heaving mess. So intense is this song that sensitive types can't bear to hear it and will race to cut off the album before it starts. Addressing fan requests, Korn's website explained, "'Daddy' is a very personal song and [Davis] can't dilute it by playing it every night onstage."

Even without "Daddy," fan picks were evident ("Ball Tongue," "Helmet in the Bush," "My Gift to You"), but the set still played fairly straightforward and incorporated several new songs from its forthcoming release, Take a Look in the Mirror.

Korn's set began with sinister music playing over a slideshow of photos of Korn fans fading in and out of a leafy wrought iron gate. The band emerged with the new hate-filled "Right Now" and followed up immediately with the bludgeoning new "Break Some Off, before getting into more familiar stuff with Follow the Leader's nü-metal dance hit "Got the Life."

Not only has Korn's sound evolved, but its live identity has changed over time as well. No longer do Davis' bandmates seem terrified by what he might do or how the audience might react. The confidence of success has replaced the trepidation of uncertainty. Wednesday night, the band members kept to themselves, intent only on playing hard, with the exception of guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer, who seemed really tuned in to the audience. Looking as though he'd been moonlighting in Rob Zombie's band, he made eye contact and funny faces, smiled and waved, and raised his metal horns repeatedly.

With their new album filled with weapons-grade rage, the band was frequently doused in red light representing danger and anger. Korn blasted through its set--which included "Here to Stay," "It's On," "No Place to Hide," "Did My Time" and "Falling Away From Me"--without any small talk and, after more than 10 career-spanning songs, "Blind" got the biggest response of the night.

For the encore, Davis returned to the stage with bagpipes, a Korn specialty, and stomped his foot heavily against the stage, demanding a reaction. The crowd, in turn, stomped the Warfield floor until it shook. The song he was about to begin wasn't "Shoots and Ladders," as one might expect though. It was the new bagpipe song, "Let's Do This Now," included on Take a Look in the Mirror. The twisted, murderous fantasy "My Gift to You" and a much better version of "Freak on a Leash" than heard earlier concluded the show.

The Back 2 Basics tour was not a return to the past. If anything, it signaled that neither Korn nor limpbizkit feel like they're done yet. It would seem the crowd there to see them agreed.

Korn Photo Gallery
Photographs by George Sakkestad

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Robbed Zombie: Korn guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer tries on the living dead look.

Head's Up: Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welch takes a turn at the mic.

Hold Up: Korn bassist Fieldy takes a righteous stance.

Jonathan Davis
Throw Down: Davis gets his dreads overhead.

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