When I first heard about The Protomen, about a year ago, I was more than a little intrigued. A band that performs rock operas loosely based on the Mega Man universe? Nicely tying up my love of concept albums and/or rock operas with my lifelong gaming habit? Of course I want to check them out.
Well, just ahead of the release of Act III of their trilogy, and no doubt in correlation with PAX being this weekend in Seattle, the Nashville band returned to Vancouver.
The curtain at the Biltmore opened to a single man on stage, K.I.L.R.O.Y., wearing a silver, robotic mask. He psyched the crowd up, claiming they were not here to rock, they were here to fight, and asked who would fight with them. Everyone in the sold-out room raised their fists as K.I.L.R.O.Y. whipped the crowd into a frenzy, all before the band even took the stage, let alone a single note was played.
The rest of the band hit the stage, clad mostly in black, some in silver facepaint, and lead singer Raul Panther front and centre with aviator shades on. The sunglasses were part of his subtle "costume changes", usually representing which character in the narrative is singing. Like during "The Will of One" when he donned a helmet reminiscent of Mega Man's classic headgear.
But of course all the costumes and props and Robot Hype Men wouldn't mean a thing if they couldn't back it up musically... which The Protomen absolutely did. From the first song, "This City Made Us", they cranked up the energy with their hard hitting prog-rock, and hardly let their foot off the gas.
Aside from Panther's vocals, other band members stepped forward to voice different characters in the story. "Build To Last" featured Commander B. Hawkins on synthesized, robotic vocals, with Panther on keytar, and while The Gambler's powerful voice was impressive throughout the night, she really got to let loose for "Hold Back the Night", an absolutely epic song.
It was also one of those shows where the crowd's energy matched, or even surpassed, the energy on stage as a good portion of people were singing/chanting/yelling along, clapping and fist-pumping. The audience was so passionate about the band, and made the atmosphere that much more electric.
As the main set drew to a close, they wrapped up with a fantastic cover of "In The Air Tonight" (strangely enough, the second time I had seen that song covered on the Biltmore stage in the past two weeks) and made the crowd work for the encore, building some actual suspense before K.I.L.R.O.Y. came back out. This time, he stayed to appropriately help out with vocals on a cover of "Mr. Roboto" by Styx. Which, along with the Phil Collins cover, is on their recent The Cover Up album.
And they finally wrapped up by going back to the beginning with a pair of songs from Act I: The Protomen; the first song on the album "Hope Rides Alone" which introduces the dystopian future ruled by Doctor Wily and his army of robots, and the final song from the album "Due Vendetta", listing off Mega Man's robotic foes as, once more, everyone chanted along.
An incredible performance of great music, combined with a bonkers crowd, made for one of the best shows I've seen so far this year.