What’s left for you to accomplish when you’re a band like Korn? Where is there left for you to go? The groundbreaking pioneers of alternative metal blew grunge out of the water in the 90s, channeling a rawer and more feral sense of angst, anger and hurt that captured the devotion of millions of misunderstood freaks for whom Nirvana just wasn’t heavy enough.
After a decade spent conquering the world with multi-platinum records, massive, infamously insane concerts, and leaving an indelible impact not just on music but culture as a whole, Korn went through the usual throes of superstardom: Personal drama, lineup changes and various forays into experimentation with their sound and songwriting coalesced with changing times, a different music industry going through growing pains, and waning interest in the kind of concentrated pain and vitriol that the band always provided.
But what’s old is new again in today’s world, and legacy acts like Korn have been experiencing a renewed kind of love and respect in the age of nostalgia. But nostalgia alone can’t fully explain the band’s newfound resurgence and success; pining for the good ol’ days doesn’t necessarily translate to ticket sales, and Korn themselves haven’t seemed too interested in rewinding the clock back and pandering to that as far as their music goes. The fact of the matter is that Korn simply never stopped going. There’s never been a real hiatus for the band, not even when behind the scenes drama threatened to tear it apart. New Korn albums have never stopped coming, with no more than three years ever passing between each one. Nor has there ever been any shortage of Korn tours to go get crazy and weird at. At least, not until the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on live music.
Touring plans for the band’s arguably heaviest record both musically and emotionally, 2019’s The Nothing, were cut short. Even when the band was finally able to embark on an amphitheater tour in the U.S. last year, the virus took down not just one, not just two, but three members of the quintet at separate times - including frontman Jonathan Davis, who was hit hard by it and forced to perform sitting down once he returned to the stage.
It’s a new era once again for the band, and for those lucky enough to be in attendance at Korn’s recent show at the sprawling Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina (one of the largest arenas in the world), there was zero indication that this was a band coming out of an awkward hiccup. In fact, it hardly seemed like Korn had even aged much at all, much less grappled with a deadly and debilitating virus mere months ago. Or perhaps they’ve only gotten better with age and adversity.
The energy radiating from the place could be felt for miles. Founding trio Brian “Head” Welch, James “Munky” Shaffer and Davis (no longer needing to remain seated) grooved, jumped and headbanged as if they never left the Woodstock ‘99 stage. Ray Luzier, who has now been a part of the group for about as long as original drummer David Silveria, punished his extravagant kit like a man possessed while adding an innumerable amount of flair to each song. Bassist Ra Díaz, currently filling in for Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, bounced around and hyped up the front rows of the crowd throughout the night.
On the other side of the barricade? Pandemonium. Fans threw themselves and others around, a large mosh pit in the center of the floor ebbed and flowed but never once let up, a barrage of crowd surfers continuously spilled over the railings all night, and even those far off and up in the nosebleed sections of the arena could be heard screaming every word. It was the kind of raucous party one might expect from a hot young band on the circuit, not one that’s been chugging along for around 30 years at this point.
But Korn have never seemed to lose that grandiose power they’ve always brought to the stage their entire career; the weight behind every deep, distorted riff, the brutality of Davis’ distinct, guttural belches and death metal growls, and the tight swagger that the group have always possessed hasn’t gone anywhere. Even so, their ability to get the party started and bodies moving seemed especially potent that evening in Greensboro. “Listen to all you crazy motherfuckers!!’ Davis yelled out in his unique cadence to the sweaty mass in front of him. “I’m so fucking happy live music is back! We need this shit, y’all, you can’t take that shit away from us! It’s very important."
The band seems to be the happiest and healthiest they’ve been in awhile, rejuvenated by the creative outpouring that became their latest record, Requiem. While it delivers the reliable heaviness and headbanging beats that Korn is known for, there’s also a bit of light dancing overtop the darkness this time around - perhaps a manifestation of Davis and company’s current positive headspace. It certainly comes through onstage. As a sign of confidence in the new tunes, the band began their set with album opener ‘Forgotten’ and would go on to play nearly half of the album by the end of the night, including their latest hit single ‘Start the Healing’ and Davis’ personal favorite ‘Lost in the Grandeur’. The Requiem songs fit right into the rest of Korn’s set, which was made up of greatest hits and setlist staples alongside one or two rarities like ‘No One’s There’, played in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Untouchables.
Plenty of credit for the relentless bursts of energy at the Greensboro Coliseum that night also must go to openers Code Orange and Chevelle. Code Orange, who have become legends in their own right after years of tearing it up in clubs and smaller hardcore venues, are fresh off of playing alongside Slipknot on the Knotfest Roadshow last year. For longtime fans, seeing the eclectically brutal bunch playing arenas might be a bit surreal, but as the band stormed the stage to kick off the festivities with ‘Out for Blood’, their confidence made them seem right at home. Eager pit masters got the center moving right away, and the first brave crowd surfer of the night was met with cheers from the people in the seats.
Still, most of the place needed a little encouragement. “When this riff kicks in, you’ve gotta do something!” frontman Jami Morgan demanded from the early arrivals. “I don’t care what you do. Move something a little bit, even if it’s your hands.” He gestured at the rowdy side of the floor. “I know my boys and girls right here are gonna do something!” After a double assault of ‘Spy’ and ‘Swallowing the Rabbit Hole’, Chevelle was up next. The floor quickly became an endless sea of crowd surfers and the pit continued to grow in size as the three-piece riff kings smashed their way through an appropriately savage set that included new bangers ‘Self Destructor’ and ‘Mars Simula’. “Whoo, I like it!” Pete Loeffler told the enthusiastic audience.
Properly warmed up, by the time Korn hit the stage and tore into heavy hitters like ‘Here to Stay’ and ‘Falling Away From Me’, the place was properly losing its collective mind. Halfway through the set, Davis marched his way across the stage playing the classic bagpipes intro to ‘Shoots and Ladders’, As the pit widened itself in preparation, the blaring instrument truly felt like a call to battle. ‘Blind’, the band’s game-changing lead track from their very first album, the song “that started this motherfucker!!!” as Davis puts it, ended the wild night. Greensboro was ready. As people charged in various directions, leaped into the air, threw their whole back into headbanging, or just screamed at the top of their lungs, that moment in time was a true display of the escapist power of music. There was no worry of the world beyond that coliseum, no painful memories of the past couple of years, no fears about what tomorrow may bring. There were a lot of those kinds of moments that evening.
Staying relevant and exciting is no easy feat for any act, especially a metal band. Yet here we have Korn, all older gentlemen now who have been dancing to mostly the same beat these past three decades despite themselves, still pulling in fans old and new. The most popular shirt from the merchandise booths that evening was one that proudly labels the wearer as “Still a Freak”, and for every small child rocking out on their parents’ shoulders you could count a dozen Gen Z goths. Half of the crowd was familiar with Korn’s live antics, while for the others it was their very first time seeing the legends in person. One pair of diehard fans were decked out in matching Adidas tracksuits.
There’s something universal and constant in the way Korn captures their unique brand of vulnerable anger, and evidently, it’s powerful enough to fill up the biggest rooms across the world after all this time. They’re a band that feels larger than life more than ever before now, and it’s thrilling to see them and their fans feeling more inspired than usual after such dark times. The band has already announced that a followup to Requiem is well underway, and if this current colossal tour is any indication, Korn evidently have nowhere else to go right now but up.
"Some of you might not have noticed but the world is really fucked up right now, it's fucked up!" Davis shouted to the sea of proud freaks. "But you know what? We got this right here. Doesn't matter if it's Korn or any other fucking band. As long as all of us can come the fuck together, listen to some good fucking music, and forget about everything going on in our lives and the fucking world, then we're gonna be alright!" Hard to argue with that.
Korn is currently on tour with special guests Chevelle and Code Orange. Check out the remaining tour dates below and grab tickets HERE.
March 19 – Manchester, N.H. @ SNHU Arena
March 20 – Albany, N.Y. @ Times Union Center
March 22 – Rochester, N.Y. @ Blue Cross Arena
March 23 – Saginaw, Mich. @ Dow Event Center
March 25 – Moline, Ill. @ TaxSlayer Center
March 26 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ Target Center
March 28 – Des Moines, Iowa @ Wells Fargo Arena
March 29 – Madison, Wis. @ The Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center
March 31 – Oklahoma City, Okla. @ Paycom Center
April 1 – Wichita, Kan. @ INTRUST Bank Arena