Sepultura @ Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, May 31, 2011

Live review by Kyle Harcott, concert photography by Ted Reckoning

“It is the tale, not he who tells it.”
-Stephen King, ‘The Breathing Method’

I’m one of the few people who didn’t immediately abandon Sepultura after the exit of Max Cavalera. Naysayers aplenty, when I told them of the band’s imminent and long overdue arrival on our shores, bleated on about “It ain’t Sepultura without the Cavaleras”, or “Pfffft… who wants to go see a Sepultura tribute band?” In my eyes, Sepultura have continued to put out solid records since 1996, and I will always check out every one of their new albums – I can’t say the same for Soulfly or Cavalera Conspiracy. I’ve been an ardent Sepultura fan since Arise (in fact, they’re probably my favorite band of the 1990s), yet somehow I’ve never seen them live. Of course, the last time they played Vancouver was 1999, and I didn’t yet live here then.

So when word of the Vancouver date reached my ears a few months back, you would not believe how excited I was. I had to get an interview. Had to. The label set it all up. Cool. Of course, I didn’t factor in the possibility of a raging case of last-day-of-tour-itis in the Sepultura camp, and alas, the interview was kyboshed after 90 patient minutes of your humble Hellbound scribe waiting around the venue’s grotty back alley. Disheartening, sure, but there was consolation: being guestlisted for the show, and meeting three-quarters of Sepultura (Andreas gave me a pick! My inner 15-year-old self was freaking out!) definitely soothed the sting. But the whole debacle contributed to me arriving too late to catch the openers’ sets.

I walked in the venue and was beelining it for the merch table when I heard that first, very familiar drum break. I checked my watch. 9:45? Sepultura can’t be on alrea…HOLY SHIT THEY’RE OPENING WITH ‘INTRO’! Needless to say, I bolted for the front of the room. Immediately after came the strains of ‘Arise’ – once I heard that opening sample, the hairs on the back of my neck went up and stayed up, and I couldn’t stop grinning –for the rest of the set- like a jackass. I wasn’t alone either: everywhere I looked, headbangers of a certain age bracket all had a smile on their lips and a nostalgic gleam in their eyes. The songs sounded as immense, immediate, and heart-pounding as they did when Arise first introduced me to death metal at the age of fifteen. The hits kept coming: ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’, ‘Choke’, even a bit of a jam on Sabbath’s ‘Cornucopia’ before segueing into ‘What I Do!’. Then it was a couple of new ones and then, right back into the vault. ‘Desperate Cry’ unexpectedly came next (it wasn’t on any of the current-tour setlists I previewed the night before), so when it did, a huge war whoop went up from the room; another whoop went up for the songs from Schizophrenia.

Sepultura, celebrating their 27th year as a band in 2011, are still in fine, fine form. Derrick Green is an engaging frontman, bantering with the crowd between every song, and absolutely tearing the place up vocally. Drummer Jean Dolabella is a powerhouse, and the best compliment I can give him is that all of the classic Sepultura songs (let’s face it, the drums were always Sepultura’s signature) sounded exactly the way they were supposed to. Paulo, Jr? Well, Paulo’s bottom-end keeps it all in place – he doesn’t move around or interact with the crowd so much, but as the oldest-serving member of Sepultura at this point, he doesn’t have to. And Andreas’ guitar riffs were monstrous and legendary, he too kept the crowd engaged and roaring. The night’s encore was particularly memorable, when Green emerged from backstage clad in Canucks blue-and-green (with members of the three opening bands in tow), to perform an extended tribal jam of ‘Kaiowas’ (again, not played on any other of the tour’s dates) before closing down the night with a raucous ‘Roots Bloody Roots’.

What a surprise then, that the Vogue was only two-thirds full. For a show from such a classic metal band, especially one that hadn’t been here since 1999, I expected the place to be packed. At any rate, those of us who were there were treated to a killer show of classic songs, old and new alike. Sepultura, as an institution, are doing just fine on their own – absolutely no reunion with the Cavaleras is necessary. This night proved that beyond a doubt to anyone watching.

Sepultura setlist:
1. Intro / Arise
2. Refuse/Resist
3. Dead Embryonic Cells
4. Convicted in Life
5. Choke
6. Cornucopia (Sabbath intro) / What I Do!
7. The Treatment
8. Kairos
9. Troops of Doom
10. Desperate Cry
11. Septic Schizo / Escape to the Void
12. Meaningless Movements
13. Seethe
14. Biotech Is Godzilla
15. Territory
16. Policia (Titãs cover)
17. Inner Self

Encore:
18. Kaiowas (tribal jam with opening bands)
19. Roots Bloody Roots

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.