Concert Review: The Ocean and Leprous, 3.23.2022

The pandemic had robbed us of the joys of going to a concert, but with some regulations in force — such as masking and providing proof of vaccination — tours have finally resumed. When I heard that The Ocean was coming into town as support for Leprous on their North American tour, I decided to go, everything else be damned. Given that these bands had both placed high in my EOY lists over the last few years, I was excited (if not a little anxious) to go and see them. I had high expectations for a great show, and — spoiler alert! — they delivered.

Before I dive into The Ocean’s performance proper, I want to mention what happened prior to the show. As more and more people came in and the crew was finishing setting up, it was pointed out that Loïc Rossetti, The Ocean’s vocalist, was in a wheelchair. Given the brief glimpse I had from where I was standing (I couldn’t see him until he actually came out) I did see that he was wheeled out by one of the crew members. Apparently, he had broken both of his legs sometime prior to that night’s show, sustaining four fractures. Despite this handicap and being in severe pain, he still performed and took time after the show to speak to fans. After this show, he headed back to Switzerland, with the band opting to play Phanerozoic II in its entirety for the rest of the tour, running his vocals as backing tracks. I will talk about The Ocean’s performance in more detail shortly, but I was impressed that Loïc had opted to continue. He showed no signs of being in pain. If anything, he was incredibly animated, and I was grateful that he radiated this intense energy to the crowd, with the crowd reflecting it back.

I also want to mention the venue, the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, was packed on a Wednesday, the middle of a work week. I was elated to see that so many people came to see both bands, especially as Los Angeles was slowly awakening its nightlife scene. It felt strange being around people again, especially after being in isolation for so long, but my anxiety about being back in the open was eased. Everyone who attended was jovial and excited to see what was promised as an experience. I parked myself near the front of the stage and hoped that, despite my height and my vantage point, I would be able to get shots and enjoy myself for the first time in a long time.

The night kicked off immediately with The Ocean playing one of my favorite tracks off Phanerozoic II, “Triassic”. The soft introduction slowly began to gain movement until the immense wall of sound kicked in, and it felt like the band swallowed the venue whole. The lighting used throughout the set, with its stark hues and color combinations, only added to the intensity of the band’s sound. For example, during the quieter moments, such as the instrumental “Oligocene” and parts of “Permian: The Great Dying”, the lights would dim or completely shut off, silhouetting the band in backlight for an impressive stage effect. The band themselves were also constantly moving, whether in place or to different parts of the stage (with the exception of Loïc), getting lost in the atmosphere of the music. When the music kicked into gear and the lights exploded with it, the band’s energy also burst out, energizing the crowd who sang the lyrics back to them. Throughout the set, Loïc still managed to showcase this intensity, even though all he could do was move his upper body from one side to the other.

The crowd — myself included — danced, sang, cheered, and headbanged throughout the set, enthusiastic and energized as the set ended with the massive “Jurassic | Cretaceous”. Although I wished The Ocean had played for a little longer, I still felt elated for their sheer intensity and energy; the whole set had been incredibly cathartic, leaving the crowd ready for Leprous.

It would be fair to think that, after The Ocean’s performance, Leprous may not measure up, since they are distinct bands with different intensities. However, the minute “Out of There” started playing, the energy that The Ocean had left behind was immediately taken by Leprous as their own, and they sounded incredible. The first law of the conservation of energy was abound, and the crowd loved them for it. Not only did they play songs from both Aphelion and Pitfalls, the albums I am most familiar with, but they also played songs from past albums, such as “The Flood” from The Congregation and “From The Flame” from Malina.

What helped elevate the experience was touring cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, whose expert musicianship gave Leprous’ backing music an intimate feel and made for a fascinating watch onstage. When he wasn’t playing the cello, he accompanied on keyboards, switching back to the cello when needed. As for the band themselves, they were just as energized as The Ocean, moving from one part of the stage to another. When multiple members came together in one corner of the stage to play, they all shared the space, showing just how cohesive they are as a unit. Vocalist Einar Solberg, whose voice I am coming to love, offered banter, talking between songs and hyping the crowd. His charming presence, combined with his voice, easily captivated the audience.

As the night carried on, and the music flowed from song to song, I began to forget that there were people around me. While I took pictures, I also managed to sing and dance to my heart’s content; hell, I even swayed during the quieter and the more emotive parts, allowing myself to enjoy the moment. One of the most poignant moments of the show was prior to the band playing “Castaway Angels.” Einar dedicated the song to his partner and to the people of Ukraine, and once the song started everyone in the crowd sang along. In a way, it created a sense of unity and camaraderie built through the shared experience of tragic events and a long period of isolation. At the encore, the band played three songs: “Below”, “The Price”, and “The Sky is Red”, ending the show on a high note as the crowd cheered and sang along.

In short, the show was fantastic and cathartic. It showed me that, despite the pandemic and its inherent tragedies, we can all have a sense of normalcy. I expected both bands to deliver top-notch performances, and they both exceeded my expectations. I came in as someone who had appreciated their sound and music, and am now ready to see what I have missed in their back catalogue.

I am so happy concerts are back — keep them coming!

Hasta la proxima!

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