If you’ve talked to me in the last week or so, there’s a good chance I’ve been spouting off how much I was looking forward to seeing The Protomen this weekend. The last (and only) time I had seen them was over three years ago, so I was eager for them to come back.
As you may have guessed from the name, the Nashville band is known for their rock operas loosely inspired by the Mega Man series, with an absolutely incredibly live show that was enough to bring me out to… let’s just say a venue that’s not quite my favourite to hear shows at.
After a couple openers I sadly missed, a man in a silver robotic mask named K.I.L.R.O.Y. took the stage to introduce the band and hype up the crowd, proclaiming The Protomen were here to fight for us, if we were here to fight for them (the audience raising their fists with a resounding ‘yes’). Everyone was already 100% into the show before the rest of the band even took the stage, let alone before they kicked off the set with “Hope Rides Alone”.
Introducing us to the year 200X, the song saw lead singer Raul Panther III donning a Proto Man-coloured helmet and arm cannon for the song, and he would later wear a similar Mega Man-inspired helmet for “The Will Of One”, to signify character changes in the narratives. Dealing with the conflict between Mega Man and the evil robots controlled by Dr. Wily (from their first, self-titled album) or the backstory of Dr. Wily and Dr. Light (the followup, Act II: Father of Death), the songs wove a narrative of a post-apocalyptic future controlled by the robots created by a madman, and how it came to be.
But, as I’ve said before, all the gimmicks in the world can’t help a band if they can’t back it up musically, and The Protomen absolutely brought it with their prog-tinged rock. The crowd chanted along as the chorus of ‘citizens’ on the powerfully emotional “Father of Death”, and “Hold Back The Night“, saw Gambler Kirkdouglas taking over vocals, her incredibly powerful voice filling the theatre.
The set also featured a couple new songs, teasing the long-awaited next chapter in the trilogy, which from the lyrics I could gleam seemed to be the triumphant return of Mega Man for a climactic battle? In any case, they seemed perfectly fitting for an epic third act to the story.
After the intensely tragic “The Fall”, they fittingly brought the main set to an end with a cover of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”. But it was obvious they would return, as the crowd chanted PRO-TO-MEN and K.I.L.R.O.Y. came back to introduce them once more, for an encore that somehow managed to surpass the energy of the last hour, both on and off stage. First with “This City Made Us” and finally ending with “Due Vendetta”, the crowd chanting along to the various evil robots named in the song.
Both times I’ve seen them play live now, the crowd has been among the most energetic, enthusiastic, and intense crowd I’ve seen, and the band clearly feeds off that energy and redirects it tenfold. No doubt this is going to be among my favourite shows by the end of the year, and I hope it won’t be another three years until the next time.