In the waning moments before the kabuki curtain dropped for Slipknot's long-waited return to Los Angeles, just off in the distance the downtown L.A. high rise buildings provided an iconic backdrop for what was to take place.
The atmosphere of Knotfest Los Angeles was especially celebratory. Not only had the sold out crowd spent their day roistering to an eclectic roster of heavy music's top tier, but the flag bearers of counter culture were armed with a brand new song to add to their arsenal - a weapon that would make it's grand reveal on this night.
As AC/DC's "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)" added to the anticipation, there was another byline to the evening's story that became apparent as the audience sang along to rock roll classic.
"We Salute You."
Commencing their headlining offensive with the emphatic one-two of "Unsainted" and "Disasterpiece" it's hard to not indulge superlative in describing how well-oiled of a machine Slipknot is. While the tendency is to become fixed on the spectacle of the suits, the masks, and the unmatched production, the band charges through their songs with astounding fluidity. With Slipknot, showmanship is always of the gold standard but the sense of musicianship cannot be understated when watching 9 forces of nature transform a cacophony into a symphony.
"Is that all the lights we have in the house, turn the fucking lights up, I wanna see my family," frontman Corey Taylor declared from his pulpit. Speaking to the significance of the evening, Taylor shared that the band had been working up towards tonight, a culmination of sorts unofficially capping the band's touring itinerary for the year but moreso, bookending what has been an arduous, albeit triumphant return to the stage. Years had passed since Slipknot last touched down in Los Angeles and on this night, the band was hellbent on making up for lost time.
Taking on anthems like "Before I Forget" and introducing the alien in Sid Wilson who manipulated his vinyl in the countdown to destruction of "The Heretic Anthem" that rumbled throughout the stadium, the narrative of the night came into focus even more. For as much as tonight was about celebrating Slipknot and presumably the start of the band's next chapter, the ever-present theme of community with all things Slipknot seemed to be sharing the shine.
However, Slipknot flexed their unparalleled ability to captivate a stadium-sized crowd with complete command. From the soaring guitars and flame-throwers on "The Devil In I" to the enduring volatility of "Wait and Bleed" each song seemed to ratchet up the energy from the floor to the concourse in a way that suggested the thousands in attendance hadn't already spent all day consuming heaps of social distortion.
Of course the big reveal of the evening arrived when Taylor asked fans if they were "ready to read The Chapeltown Rag," referencing the brand new song the band had released literally hours prior. Punctuating a cryptic rollout that included implementing NFTs as audio puzzle pieces in which fans could assemble snippets of the new song, the buzz about the single was infectious.
While fans had already been afforded the opportunity to stream the track in preparation, the live translation proved a powerful experience complete with the thunderous blast beats from Jay Weinberg that anchor the track. The cut was so intense live, fans seemed to collectively take a breath afterward, gathering themselves in a way that suggested they had just been profoundly rattled.
Blazing through the latter third of their stage time with a collection of essentials that spoke to the depth of the band's more than two decade long catalog, fundamentals like "Duality," "All Out Life," and "Spit It Out" further asserted why Slipknot supersedes the confines of any one genre to create a space all their own. This is outsider art at the highest degree, the kind of articulate aggression that galvanizes fans the way a movement would, not a band.
Resurfacing for an encore that included a three-staged assault in "People = Shit," "sic" and our forever new national fucking anthem in "Surfacing," the notion of WE salute YOU was again brought into focus. Tonight, over the course of a 16-song decimation, Slipknot again asserted why they are our champions of subversive culture - a collective of 9 masked maniacs that execute their craft at the highest level of proficiency. But, they are ours.
Though it was Slipknot in the spotlight, the band emphasized their connection with the fans is that of family - a symbiotic synergy that completes the spectacle of the band's live crusade. We, salute you. In giving themselves entirely onstage, there is a sense of sacrifice that drives home that point. Slipknot's stage time isn't a performance as much as it is a congregation - a soundtrack to a spiritual reckoning that makes a concert more than spectacle and show but rather something lasting, impactful and shared.
Slipknot no doubt remain undisputed. They remain our champions with Knotfest LA serving as their victory lap. More than another Friday night festival, Slipknot tallied one for the culture tonight in a way that will be discussed years from now.