The 69 Eyes @ The Forge, Joliet (US)

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THE 69 EYES / MXMS / THE NOCTURNAL AFFAIR

Date: 18th April, 2019
Venue: The Forge
Ticket: $18/€16
Promoter: n/a


Ten years is a long time and when this considers touring, then it feels even longer. That was exactly the case for the Helsinki Vampires who have not crossed the Atlantic for nearly a decade. Therefore it was no a brainer getting to see THE 69 EYES ripping it up on the stage and hearing a couple of songs from the albums released during their US absence.

The Forge was nicely filled with people from a wider spectrum of music fans; there were the casual metalheads (long hair, patches, t-shirts), the normal ones (without any defining clothing) and last – but definitely not least – those who had a Gothic vibe. Even though THE 69 EYES does not quite fall into the Gothic genre, there is some undeniable connection. Seeing this diverse crowd made me feel even more excited for the show because it is a solid proof of how powerful is the music being able to attract people from all the different musical genres. Because there are many instances that music would appeal to more people if there was no predisposition of how one should be to listen to a particular band. Keeping the taste for music inside boxes will never be a good idea.

We entered the venue when THE NOCTURNAL AFFAIR were onstage and even though this was their first tour, they had the right amount of confidence and attitude to get the crowd going. Yeah, their DOMMIN / TYPE O heavier and up-tempo music delivered with a mix of clean and almost growling vocals sounded perfect to get into the appropriate mood. Although that mood was soon to be recalibrated because the next band was nothing I have never seen live before. Well, the reason for being new to MXMS (otherwise known as “ME AND MY SHADOW”) was simple; I was never exposed to this Funeral Pop type of music and the times I had, should not be considered as successful. Anyways, I always find it entertaining and challenging to check a band onstage having zero knowledge of the music.

MXMS (that hit the stage a few minutes after 9pm) features one singer, a drummer and a keyboards / effects / guitar player Jeremy Dawson, with the latter two positioned at stage right and left respectively. Aside from having THE 69 EYES drum kit on the back, this configuration maintained the symmetry of MXMS on stage that had on the center singer Ariel. The lights were kept artistically minimal with one weak spotlight pointed at the her face, two filming-looking spotlights on the back and four LED columns that seemed to be in perfect sync with the music. Apparently, this band has a unique way presenting the music with a mix of visuals and sudden bursts of lights that broke the overall darkness covering the stage. Of course, it was an ISO-challenging situation when taking pics but I have to admit this set-up created a strange and kind of cool atmosphere. Considering how the audience reacted when the band stepped on stage, made me realize that I was among the few who had no idea of what MXMS were all about. However, the mellow “The Run” that opened the set was not appropriate to maintain the concert momentum THE NOCTURNAL AFFAIR had gathered half an hour ago. Still, people seemed to be enjoying the onstage happenings and, to be honest, the dim-lit stage with Ariel being barely visible had something special but I definitely needed time to process this. “Thank you, Joliet. This is our first time here”, said Ariel before letting new track “Paris” taking us into another new-to-my-untrained-ears musical path. What I found more appealing to this new type of sound was MXMS’ ability to combine Ariel’s Lana Del Ray-like vocals with some haunting SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES / COCTEAU TWINS-inspired tunes, and the result leads into this cinematic yet powerful Funeral Pop darkness that seemed to win over quite quickly the younger part of the audience.

Towards the end of the set, MXMS did a NIRVANA cover and since I am a sucker for covers, (I think) I enjoyed how they delivered “Something In The Way”. To my mind, taking a song and filtering it through a band’s spectrum is always interesting, and when the new version is gravely different from the original, the experience becomes even better. In this case, this cover belongs to the latter category, so I feel I have to tip my hat to MXMS. Considering how the setlist closer was accepted, made it clear that “Gravedigger” was one of the band’s well-know hits and this was the perfect reason to get some action. After all, we were soon to welcome some Vampires on the stage, so we should have the blood moving faster, right?

MXMS setlist:

01. The Run
02. Paris
03. Salvation Hurts
04. The Enemy
05. Time Bomb
06. Something In The Way (NIRVANA cover)
07. Gravedigger

MXMS

MXMS @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) MXMS @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) MXMS @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) MXMS @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) MXMS @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


With the stage finally all-cleared (there was a 40-minute gap between the MXMS set and the headliners’), it was time to increase the heart rate, and this is exactly what happened 15 minutes past 10pm. The lights went out and the short intro “Cry Little Sister” from the “The Lost Boys” movie brought THE 69 EYES onstage with clear intentions to floor the gas pedal from the get-go. Without saying something fancy, “Devils” kicked off the set with Jyrki69 being the tip of the spear busting all his characteristic moves hitting Elvis, Glenn (there is only one Glenn) and everything in between. The audience did not seem to need more than this and got into the show right away with some loud cheering and fist-pumping. Yeah, the keyboards-driven “Don't Turn Your Back On Fear” got everyone going and hearing the Peter Steele-low singing sent massive shivers down my spine. I cannot but use the cliché and say that Jyrki’s voice is like old wine and has gotten better with time. Seeing this 30-year old band performing in this level is an amazing experience but at the same time can bring a bitter taste in one’s mouth. You see, the younger bands look pale in comparison with these old-timers who seem to know exactly what performing in front of your fans means; putting your best foot forward and supporting the music from all sides. Yes, THE 69 EYES have the attitude, the looks and most importantly the performing confidence to deliver this Gothic-meets-Rockabilly-meets-Glam Rock in its best form.

“Thank you, it’s great to be back! In case anyone wonders, we are THE 69 EYES, the Helsinki Vampires, were the words Jyrki chose to break his speaking silence but it was only for a bit because “Betty Blue” kept the dancing / cheering-mood on. I just love how the moodiness of this song works on a concert setting; it is a bit sad but at the same time is perfect to let all your troubles get washed away from the high volume, the lights and the intensity of the band’s performance. Damn, Timo-Timo with his wide-legged stance, the sunglasses and the scarf on his back-pocket looked like he’d just stepped out from a time-machine when Rock ‘n Roll was on its best. I don’t think there are lots of bands out there who can support this outfit and really own it. Even if it had been ten years since THE 69 EYES went over the big pond, their following does not seem that it had weakened. Yes, seeing fans in the front rows singing every single line was a solid proof that the Vampires have a strong clan here, and I can use the rhythmic clapping-along during “Dance d' Amour” as one of the many pieces of evidence.

The atmosphere inside The Forge had just turned into a killer mid ‘80s club the kind you see in movies and you find it hard to believe that they actually existed. What I am trying to say is THE 69 EYES reminded the old and taught the young of how a genuine Hard Rock show should go down. “This is for the ladies who only dressed in black” said Jyrki before “Christina Death” with the awesome SISTERS OF MERCY-meets-TYPE O NEGATIVE vibe that simply works every time. It was great to experience such a concert flow from THE 69 EYES. Yes, the in between songs breaks were kept short, with the focus being on the music and on the performance. “We are a 30 years old band from Helsinki”, said Jyrki but to be honest this started to feel like a statement of “how good we are still are and how better we have become, so come join us”. “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” and “Wasting The Dawn” were the perfect back-to-back follow-up to that statement (I am sure he did this on purpose) and then raised the heat a bit more with the groovier and more recent “Dolce Vita” (can’t help it but I’m a sucker for the Jim Jarmusch reference on the lyrics of this one).

On and off stage there was no slowing down. On the contrary, we were led towards a powerful ending with the hard-hitting “Feel Berlin”, the mood(ier) Brandon Lee and the dancing-your-arse-off “Never Say Die”. And that marked the only moment in the set that the energy died-down a bit, simply because the band went off-stage to get prepared for the traditional encore but everyone knew there would be more. A member of the stage-crew got on the mic and started teasing everyone whether we’d like more… Yeah, right… The loud cheer and THE 69 EYES chanting were more than enough to welcome the Helsinki Vampires back onstage. The encore featured the oldies-but-goodies triplet “Framed In Blood”, “Gothic Girl” and (of course) the up-tempo “Lost Boys” that dropped the curtain in front of super-happy and in some case sweaty faces. Getting THE 69 EYES back on the States seems only the logical thing to happen after this “refresher” ‘Back From The Grave’ tour, and this will happen with a brand new LP. You wanna rock?

"You wanna rock
Nothing's gonna make you stop
And nothing's gonna break you up
Everybody knows you're lost

in the night time, honey
Lost boys"

THE 69 EYES setlist:

01. "Devils"
02. "Don't Turn Your Back On Fear"
03. "Perfect Skin"
04. "Betty Blue"
05. "Sleeping With Lions"
06. "Dead Girls Are Easy"
07. "Dance d' Amour"
08. "Christina Death"
09. "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams"
10. "Wasting The Dawn"
11. "Dolce Vita"
12. "The Chair"
13. "Feel Berlin"
14. "Brandon Lee"
15. "Never Say Die"
16. "Framed In Blood"
17. "Gothic Girl"
18. "Lost Boys"

THE 69 EYES

The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) The 69 Eyes @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)