Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Thunderstorms, high winds, and lightning win the first couple hours of Chicago Open Air Day One, delaying the opening time from 2:30pm until approximately 4:30 pm, and delaying fans from entering Seatgeek Stadium to start the show.
The first three opening acts got knocked off the bill: Code Orange, Knocked Loose, and Vein. Leaving four remaining once the storms cleared: System of a Down, Ghost, Meshuggah, and Beartooth.
System of a Down were the usual volatile and relentless self. A long set with plenty of piss and vinegar, and the crowd eating it up and wanting more. Unfortunately there were no photos for this performance, just the quick review, and the fact that System of a Down, even though playing just a few festival dates, still brandish a mighty wallop.
Before System of a Down: Cardinal Copia and the Ghouls of Ghost. This version of Ghost front and center- showmanship. Lots and lots of showmanship, a stage dressed up with steps like a mantel to a cathedral. Heavy on backlit murals that looked like stained glass windows of sophisticated dark imagery. Musically, these guys are spot on with Cardinal Copia who lashed out vigorously from the first song "Rats" by hanging on to the last vowels with the "T" to no end, sending chills down your spine. Cardinal Copia worked the stage left and right, preaching to the masses all things dark and sinister. And so it goes with the said showmanship, with all the Ghouls making their mark with heavy guitars and drums and bass and keyboards. Nasty and oh so polished - that's Ghost.
How about Meshuggah and their version of extreme and mathematical metal? Still as fiendish and unrelenting as ever. No one comes close in the onslaught of all things Meshuggah, with Tomas Haake heavy on the backbeat and percussion, one song blasting into the next, with Jens Kidman front and center with the howl of deep throated vocals, and never losing his range or his might in song after song. The mindbending guitars of Marten Hagstrom and Fredrik Thordendal, still wildly inventive and tight as ever. Vicious- these two, both in improvisation, and physical might of said song, with Dick Lovgren holding down the fort in all things low end and complicated bass.
Openers Beartooth provide wicked party time, with the rain soaked crowd in attendance bursting forth with mosh pits after mosh pits.
As for the four bands on Day One of Chicago Open Air: It is what it is.
That said- you can never go wrong with Meshuggah and Ghost.
Might mighty fine players, these dudes.