When entering the Grand Hall in the Mankato Civic Center for the In This Moment concert, the first thing I noticed was the ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter, illuminated in blue light, signing the concert to the left of the stage. It made realize how much I take my hearing for granted, especially with my love of live music. I feel bad that I’ve never wondered if deaf people can still enjoy a concert. At the In This Moment show, I met a group of concert attendees with different levels of hearing loss. Evidenced by their smiles, I learned they can definitely still enjoy live music. They can certainly see the musicians perform and feel the rhythm and the strong vibrations of the bass. Depending on their level of hearing loss they might even be able to hear some of the music but not the lyrics or even the musicians small talk we also take for granted. That’s where the skills of interpreters Jenna Murphy and April Kanzenbach from ASLIS ( ASL Interpreting Services) were needed. These two wizards enhanced the concert experience for those with hearing loss and everyone there that night. So many people stopped by between bands to tell them what a great job they did and even some of the musicians were fascinated by their work. While their talents entertained the casual fans, I learned that the American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires places of public accommodation, such as arenas, to provide interpreters if requested in advance by a deaf concertgoer. That’s why Jenna and April were working the show tonight.
The Grand Hall was not sold out but pretty full for a stormy weeknight in Mankato. There were definitely more folks here than for the recent Halestorm concert. The musician on stage was Hyde. Sometimes the first of three opening acts might not be must-see material. However, when you hear that Hyde is Japan’s most prolific rock artist and the lead vocalist for two of the most popular Japanese rock bands, you make a point to be there for it. I’m not sure how but Mankato made the short list (along with New York, Chicago, Boston and LA) for his brief 13 city US tour supporting the release of his new album, anti. The 50-year-old Japanese singer has blond hair and was dressed head to toe in black, including black gloves. Florescent banners made for a cool looking stage. Hyde has been playing rock music for over thirty years now after first following American bands like Metallica and Motley Crue. He sang entirely in English and sounded natural, but admits that’s not easy for him. With their hard music and supporting band members wearing masks, they resembled a Japanese Slipknot, and fans seemed impressed. This might be one of those performances you look back on later and say I was at one of Hyde’s first shows in the US.
LIGHT THE TORCH
Next up was Light The Torch and their heavier and pulsing music soon got the mosh pit churning at the Grand Hall. This is the rebranding or reincarnation of the metal band known for five years as Devil You Know. Comprised of singer Howard Jones, guitarist Francesco Artusato, bassist Ryan Wombacher, and drummer Mike Sciulara, they are touring to support their debut album Revival. You may know Jones as the long-time singer in Killswitch Engaged and he carries over his combination of singing, screaming, and growls to this new venture. They played mostly songs from Revival but also slipped in “Consume the Damned”, a heavier track from their Devil You Know days. My favorite song played from their new album was “Die Alone” which is a little lighter on the screaming. Jenna and April alternated turns and interpreting Light The Torch’s songs to give each other a break.
Sevendust was the final opening band of the evening and the veteran rockers proved they have a strong following in Mankato as many appeared to be there primarily to see these veterans. The band has been together since 1994 and still consists of the original five of singer Lajon Witherspoon, lead guitarist Clint Lowery, drummer Morgan Rose, bassist Vince Hornsby, and guitarist John Connolly. They released their 12th studio album in 2018, All I See Is War. Witherspoon still has his distinctive lengthy locs and brings that energy and melody to Sevendust that distinguishes them from other metal bands. To the crowd’s delight they played many of their popular older songs like “Black”, “Denial”, and “Bitch”. A special moment during their performance was when Witherspoon shared with the crowd that he had just learned that one of his best friends growing up in Georgia, Billy Jones, had died from an overdose. He said he would not be the person he is today if not for him and their adventures together. He dedicated the song “Shine” to Billy. The lead singer was also very intrigued by the ASL interpreters, often walking over to that sided of the stage to watch in amazement the motions that translated their songs. He told April, “You rock girl.” He was correct as April was so expressive and energetic in translating the song, using facial expressions along with sign language, while also “rocking out”. She as able to tell the story of the song and powerfully punctuate it as well. I still can’t believe it, but April said this was her first time interpreting a concert. Witherspoon was a big fan and kept repeating the phrases “We are Sevendust” and then “Sevendust has arrived”, just to see the powerful signing of those words again and again and again.
IN THIS MOMENT
In This Moment is a spectacle that needs to be both seen and heard. It’s not just a rock show, but a concert/theater/dance production wrapped in one. A true audio/visual experience. Jenna Murphy from ASLIS readied herself to help fulfill that complete experience for the hard-of-hearing fans that stood near her. In This Moment is Jenna’s favorite band, but it would still take preparation time to be able to stay on pace when signing the live concert. She has interpreted many concerts and was well prepared for tonight.
Watching the preparations behind the stage curtain resembled preparations for a Broadway show rather than a concert. Crew members put the final touches on various sets while other crew members tested the lighting and smoke machines. Performers and extras finalized their makeup and costumes. The elaborate primary scene was a temple with a small fenced graveyard in front of it. There were candles, and of course plenty of smoke. There appeared to be some technical difficulties that delayed things but once that was fixed the preshow music transitioned to powerful pieces to get the crowd ready. Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” played as the final intro song, and Jenna began her work with an impressive performance of the song that I recorded for one of my best friends who is a diehard Whitesnake fan. The song abruptly ended and lightning flashes illuminated the stage. The curtain was lifted to reveal Maria Brink and her three matching- blonde Blood girls all wearing long black robes in front of the temple.
The opening song was something I would never have expected In This Moment to play. It was a slow cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” that Maria sang from the area in front of the temple that would be the base of operations for her all evening. After this unusual start to a Goth-metal show, the girls disrobed one layer off Maria to reveal a sheer white robe underneath. In this way, the band minimized the time delay during constant costume changes between songs. The second song was “River of Fire” from the latest album Ritual and illustrated the stage presence of Goth’s version of Lady Gaga. The older favorite “Adrenalize”, from the album Blood, really got the crowed involved and singing along. Before the song concluded, Maria was armed herself with a smoke gun and blasted the audience.
“Roots” began with Maria and the three girls huddled around her in black, hooded robes and faces covered by creepy masks before progressing into the powerful song. “Natural Born Sinner” was the first song played from the Black Widow album and the girls were dressed like nuns wielding rulers to discipline Maria. Crew members next carried a keyboard built into logs to the stage for Maria to sit and play a song. However, due to technical difficulties, they ended up removing the keyboard and the planned “Lay Your Gun Down” got skipped. Maria shrugged it off saying things happen and it’s not a big deal. Instead, during this break she honored the active military and veterans in the crowd before introducing the rest of the band, including her fellow founder, guitarist Chris Howorth. Randy Weitzel is the other guitarist, Travis Johnson is the bassist and Kent Diimel, the newest member, on drums. They all wear different rustic costumes and deliver a heavy sound.
It was then time for another cover song. I guess absolutely every band sings Journey now if In This Moment is now covering “Don’t Stop Believin'” too. This seemed the strangest part of the show to me. But like anywhere you hear this, fans were happy to sing along. Maria took a breather during an instrumental segment they call “Monster Jam”. This is where the band had a chance to show off their chops around Diimel’s drum work in covering segments of songs by artists ranging from Metallica and Pantera, to Survivor and Queen. Maria and her three young ladies returned wearing wolf masks and the four of them scurried around the stage to “Big Bad Wolf” for the most energetic song of the night thus far and Maria’s layers were peeled away to enough now to show some skin. The song finished with the four ladies kneeling and head banging to the “bang, bang” of the drum.
Having recorded a dark and sinister version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” on Ritual, made it no surprise that the number of cover songs played tonight would reach three. The girls wore red robes and held lighted globes for the song. Playing so many songs by other artists unfortunately meant many other of their own originals would be left unplayed. Fans would get to hear two of their favorites yet this evening as Maria asked, “Minnesota, are you feeling good? Are you feeling bloody?” She then got the crowd to chant, “We want blood, We want blood” before saying, “Let’s give them what they want.” “Blood” it was, with the Blood girls slowly marching around the red-lit stage carrying long handled axes of some sort.
Maria thanked the crowd for coming and the band exited the stage and knowing fans did not begin chants of “Encore, encore,……”, but instead “Whore, whore,…..” for the popular song they hoped the band would still play. Right on cue, Maria’s voice asked over the loudspeaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, is there anything else we can do for you before we leave? What would you like to hear? What? I can’t hear you. Did you say whore? Say it one more time. OK, I’ll be your whore.” The finale was quite the sight as Maria climbed a large tower with WHORE spelled from top to bottom. She wore a white conical hat with “Whore” also written on it. The three Blood girls were placed in the stockade below her, as Maria told the crowd, “You are beautiful just the way you are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Large black and white balloons were released from the ceiling an absolute snowstorm of confetti covered everyone as Maria raised her arms to the sky from atop the tower. Before they left the stage for a final time, Maria asked for a round of applause for each of the opening bands and then also their hard working crew that make these shows possible. The band also all clapped for the fans with Maria blowing kisses before yelling, “We are In This Moment!”
While In This Moment only played an eleven-song set list and really only seven of their own songs, the depth of their theatrical performance left fans feeling satisfied with the show. One group of fans, despite being deaf or hard-of-hearing, really enjoyed being able to fully experience the show tonight with the help of ASL interpreters Jenna Murphy and April Kanzenbach. Here is April pictured with the group of fans and also
In This Moment Setlist:
Fly Like an Eagle / River of Fire / Adrenalize / Roots / Natural Born Sinner / Don’t Stop Believin’ / Monster Jam / Big Bad Wolf / In The Air Tonight / Blood.