It sure does feel good to be here again! For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on what caused my extended departure from the concert world, but having just eclipsed the two year mark since my last show, the time finally came. Truthfully, it would be hard to pick a better situation for such a return. After Phanerozoic I and Phanerozoic II both topped my lists in their respective release years, it is just too perfect that the first live performance I’ve caught in what feels like an eon was, in fact, The Ocean. And yes, that geologic time scale reference was intentional. Better still, this date at the Brighton Music Hall was headlined by Leprous, who finally got their hooks in me after an absolutely mesmerizing performance. Let’s dive into the festivities.
For a bit of a buildup, it’s worth sharing the events that preceded the show. Some of you may have caught it, but The Ocean put a call out on their socials for consumption contributions throughout their tour. Being as proud of my New Hampshire beer scene as I am, I was more than happy to be of service. In trade, I was among a few who were lucky enough to catch the soundcheck and chat with the band in the hours leading up to the show. These moments are a huge part of why I’ve missed the concert scene so much. It could not have been a better experience. The sense of appreciation in both fan and artist made it worth it ten times over. Worth noting, this night’s soundcheck also included my favorite track on either Phanerozoic record in “Pleistocene”, something that wasn’t part of the expected setlist (yes, I cheated… I couldn’t help myself). That was just the icing on the cake.
Anyway, let’s talk about the actual show. Before getting into the set details, I need to point out how well Boston showed up this evening. The Brighton Music Hall was absolutely packed wall to wall, front to back. It had been awhile since I’ve stood in that room, and perhaps some of the positive vibes coming from space originated from a point of nostalgia and extended separation, but everything about the venue felt a little better than I remember it. More organized, more friendly, better acoustics, everything. Sure, the full crowd was a little bit of social shock coming out of a pandemic, but those feelings were mostly hidden behind the celebration of live music that was apparent in every corner of the venue this evening. If I had been a late arriver, and didn’t have photo pit access, it would have been incredibly difficult to carve out a good vantage point of the stage in that crowd. Not a bad thing, all things considered.
I noted above just how highly I thought of the Phanerozoic collection, so I was thrilled that tonight’s set was curated entirely from that double album. Seeing the tracks performed live, with the impressive sound quality that the Brighton Music Hall provided, only increased my appreciation for them that much more. Bookended by “Triassic” and “Jurassic | Cretaceous”, The Ocean managed to cover a number of highlights from the last two releases, including the mammoth “Permian: The Great Dying” and the instrumental “Oligocene”, which offered a perfectly executed respite in what was an incredibly heavy, high-energy set. The lighting, something I didn’t pay much mind to until more recent years, really helped drive the energy home as well. Backlighting created some awesome shadow effects throughout the stage and the interplay with complete darkness made an already massive set feel that much more powerful and jarring. As my time in the photo pit wrapped up, I was (kind of) able to take in the remaining tracks throughout the venue. Like I said, the place was packed, and it was almost impossible to carve out a spot. Regardless, moving backward and seeing the entirety of the stage from distance offers a completely different experience, including the increased impact of the always energizing Loïc Rossetti stage dives.
In short, this set was everything I could have hoped for and more. My expectations were high. This was my first real show in over two years, featuring my favorite band performing my favorite albums. Yet still, it delivered. The entire experience did.
Full disclosure before getting into the headlining Leprous set: I listed The Ocean first in this post’s header for a couple reasons. For one, while I wouldn’t say I attended this show “for” The Ocean (because I just don’t think that’s a good perspective to have), there’s no doubt that my familiarity and appreciation for The Ocean is second to basically none these days. I like Leprous a lot. I think they bring something truly unique and immensely captivating, and I love some of the others projects Einar Solberg has been involved in as well, including with Ihsahn. I’m just not as familiar with their albums or songs. Secondly, being a weeknight with over an hour drive ahead of me, I knew I was going to need to duck out a couple minutes before things wrapped up. Unfortunate, but that’s always been part of the deal for me with these destination shows.
All that said, holy shit did Leprous sound incredible. I went into this show curious about how the two acts would complement each other, and it turns out they mesh together wonderfully. Substituting out some obvious weight for ambiance, without really departing from the previously established emotional energy, made this set a perfect follow-up. As usual, after departing the photo pit, I cruised around the room to other viewing points, and the tension wonderfully created from The Ocean’s performance was noticeably lifted. In its wake was this sense of newly created atmospheric harmony. Again, the delivery was just forceful enough, and the overall sound quality in the Music Hall that night really allowed the intricacies and creativity of Leprous’ music to present itself. I don’t have much more to add than that, but I can sum it all up by saying that I went into this show generally enjoying what Leprous have been doing, but I emerged as a fan.
There are still some dates left on this tour, so if the opportunity presents itself you absolutely have to get to one of these shows. Here’s the full calendar if you need it. And if you’re interested in a larger sample of photos from this show, they’re up on my Instagram here. Concerts are back, let’s celebrate that in all the ways we can.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”