A Live Review of Leprous and Haken

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How much do you enjoy consuming music in the live setting? I’m a huge fan, and some shows are just too cool NOT to write about on a music blog. Well I had the pleasure of seeing two prog-rock bands which I’ve been enjoying greatly over the past five years when Leprous and Haken played at Delmar Hall this week. Here’s how it went:


Leprous

Arriving five minutes after Leprous’ scheduled start time of 7:45PM, I fumble around my phone for the ticket barcode and then rush through the door of the 750-capacity venue to hear them playing the first notes of an obvious intro-like song. I didn’t have to sit through an opening band, there was just enough time to make my way to the pit area, and I don’t know if I mentioned this yet but there was no opening band (cancelled due to weather)! Two feet were planted on a small plot of land discovered reasonably close to the stage, maybe 20 feet back and with no tall people blocking my view… this was perfect! Mere moments after getting comfortable the aforementioned segue-like track morphs into the first real song of the night, The First Single From Their Newest Album. I’ll admit that Malina didn’t do much for me, as evidenced by a Mini Review I did for it upon its release but I had heard nothing but great things about their live shows and simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them. The song was catchy and had some good headbanging section to it and I knew that it was going to be over in about six minutes so I contained my excitement for whatever was coming next, surely they are gonna dig a little deeper on the next song! I thought. This also provided a window of time for a few quick pictures. You know how much I hate having cameras out at shows, but this was for the purpose of journalism:

…the song ends, the friendly fellas in Leprous express their gratitude for having them play in our awe-inspiring and culture-rich city, and then they waste no time jumping right into The Second Single From Malina. It’s not the most exciting song on the planet, but it really does have a beautiful, soaring chorus in it (though that’s kinda true about every song on the album). Regardless of my opinion of the new songs, these clean-cut Norwegians are KILLING IT in the live setting! The sound: every instrument mixed to perfection. Trippy multi-colored lights drenched in fog: presented with aplomb. The band members’ collective presence: like that of seasoned veterans. The handsome fellas of Leprous are incredible rock stars up there on the stage, they own it. And it’s difficult to express the magnitude of how well their vocalist performs live. With all these great attributes going for them, surely they’re going to play my all-time favorite Leprous song That Ten Minute Prog-Rock Epic From Their Second Album.

No, instead they go for One of the Shorter Songs From Two Albums Ago. This song ain’t bad by any means but it just doesn’t contain anything unpredictable or well, really progressive. But once again – it’s a thrill hearing Einar belt out some of those gloriously high-pitched hooks. And after that it was The Single From Two Albums Ago. Followed by Another Straightforward Rocker From Their Later Career. I had come to accept defeat that I wasn’t going to hear The Really Long One With A Killer Guitar Solo In the Middle 🙁 Still had fun, they are amazing performers, but I was hoping to hear some of the wackier material. Oh well, Haken is coming up next and they’re probably not going to make that mistake! I’ll give Leprous in the live setting a two-and-a-half out of five of these bad bois:


Haken

When the lights came on between bands I could then locate my friends and we had some time to gather at the bar for drinks and discussion. We met some prog nerds outside at the smoker’s lounge. Checked out merchandise. Talked about life. Then headed back in for the show, once again scoring some wonderful real estate, not too close but not too far from the stage. Working to our advantage, the venue wasn’t so packed as to prevent moving around, and also prog nerds leave LOTS of space between fellow concert-goers (for squeezing one’s way towards the front).

These English gentlemen kicked off their headlining set with Two Pretty Cool Songs From The New Album, songs that were proggy enough, both running around seven minutes in length (enough time for some wicked solos and wacky turns-of-events). These are the kind of songs which put a gigantic grin on my face and cause unstoppable headbanging from those ample grooves; they’re what prog rock is all about! Then comes start with A Really Long One From The Mountain and the crowd goes nuts! This one’s a good 15-minute number including multiple solos and a doom-inspired break in the middle, all solidified with a gorgeous, soaring hook that’s repeated at strategic intervals. This is exemplary Haken right here, and I couldn’t be happier for those 15 minutes.

And how could they possibly top that last song, that impeccable performance? With the best song from their retro-infused album Affinity, The Song So Egregiously 80’s That It Borders On Parody! The guys of Haken are having so much fun, engaging in this lengthy, meandering opus with copious amounts of joy and tongues planted firmly in cheek:

After about 30 minutes of bombastic prog rock heaven, they did throw in A Few of the Shorter Songs From The New Album, and might have even played the whole thing by the end (only heard it twice so not sure). I would have been a happy camper after about an hour of delicious tunes, but to absolutely nobody’s surprise they came out and performed an encore for their adoring fans. I expected The Single That Really Broke Them Onto the Scene, but they did something totally unexpected and played The 20 Freakin’ Minute Song From That One EP!!! A terrific night had just transformed into an unforgettable one with that one last choice of song. Hats off to you, Haken, and you can collect your award right here:

I’d recommend the experience of seeing these bands to anyone who is even mildly interested in hard rock or heavy metal. Looking through the crowd I estimate that about 30% of them were metalheads, 69% looked just like normal 30-something singles, and about 1% turned out to be people I knew from around town. Leprous more than likely obtained a few new fans that night, perhaps people who typically don’t listen to this kind of music. I do believe that their current style has the potential to attract larger crowds of fans, and they seem to have been embracing it for the last few releases. And it’s for that reason that I am happy to present the band Leprous to the hard rock world. The once mind-bending prog outfit has graced our community with two-and-a-half albums of overindulgent and wacky tunes; and have moved on to something catchier and more easily consumed. But it was Haken who provided a show that was as good as some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, including Lazer/Wulf, Local H, and Sacred Leather. Here’s one more pic just for fun:

To the boys in Leprous: it’s been a blast but I know you’ll have a bright and prosperous career with the hard rock crowd. I still have those old albums to listen to on my own time and will probably pass the next time they are in town, but there’s no way I’ll miss another Haken show.

(And many thanks to a kind concert-goer who purchased a Haken shirt for me, after I decided against paying the high asking price for one myself. <3 )

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