Industrial rock idols Filter returned to the Gramercy Theater in New York City Tuesday night to throttle the crowd with its unconventional synthesis of electronic, atmospheric and hard rock music. Blending shapes and sounds discordant and melodic, Filter fueled the air with an innovative harmony of bombast and cacophony kitted out with guitars, drums, keyboards and Macbook thaumaturgy. The pulsing bass and sonorous drums invigorated the crowd so much that, at times, the floor of the 80 year-old venue started to buckle.

Filter is the project of Richard Patrick, the founder, singer, composer/lyricist and bandleader (and only constant member) who started the band in the early 90s after leaving Nine Inch Nails. At the time of Filter’s debut, industrial was making waves with bands like Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails toppling the conventions of rock music and influencing myriad clones. Patrick’s approach gave prominence to guitars (he was a guitarist in NIN) while he softened his look somewhat, helping propel Filter into the U.S. mainstream Top 40 charts with the albums “Short Bus” and “Title of Record”, while earning the band’s videos heavy rotation on MTV.

While never straying from its industrial roots, Filter found commercial success as a modern rock guitar band. Most recently, the 2013 album “The Sun Comes Out Tonight” brought new hits on the rock charts with What Do You Say? and Surprise. So it was a bit of a shock when Patrick did a complete 180° turn and told Billboard the new album he was making was “more experimental and crazy. It’s where I am today. I wanted to go to some scary, weird places instead of doing that big-ass guitar sound again.” That album is “Crazy Eyes”.

 

“Crazy Eyes” is a powerful, avant garde collection of songs and one of Filter’s best albums. Heavy on industrial effects without sacrificing traditional elements of rock, the album was born of anger and exasperation. Patrick has expressed that he was heavily influenced by the events such as the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri (The City of Blinding Riots), the shooting of Michael Brown and numerous unarmed black men (Nothing In My Hands), the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina (Mother E) and the South Carolina flag controversy (Pride Flag).

While he has also acknowledged that the songs could fit any number of scenarios, the passion in his voice burns intensely on “Crazy Eyes”, which could easily be construed as a concept album about civil unrest in The United States. Appropriately, Filter’s headline tour to support “Crazy Eyes” is called “Make America Hate Again”, a piss take on Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign slogan (“Make America Great Again”). Also appearing on the tour is Death Valley High, Vampires Everywhere and Orgy.

filter live nyc Cr Derek Brad Photography

Photo Derek Brad

Current events aside, the vibe at The Gramercy was goth, industrial and rock. A mixed age group of fans convened while Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy and Killing Joke blared from the speakers. All walks of life and races were represented, it seemed: the only thing missing was a goth guy in a top hat and cape dancing by himself in front of a mirror. Filter has appeared on plenty of tours with rock bands (recently, on runs with Everclear and a series of dates with Stone Temple Pilots featuring Chester Bennington) but last year the band was out with aggrotech monsters Combichrist and something about that must have rubbed off on Patrick. This tour suits the new music well.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping to see Orgy Tuesday night, the band cancelled its appearance. After the stage was changed over from Vampires Everywhere, members of Orgy appeared together to announce that singer Jay Gordon was too ill to perform, apologizing and promising to go out into the audience to watch Filter. The stage was already being set for the Filter and shortly after, the lights went down and the band took the stage.

The 2015 incarnation of Filter includes Oumi Kapila on guitar, drummer Chris Reeve, bassist Ashley Dzerigian and Bobby Miller on keyboards and rhythm guitar. Patrick appeared behind a hospital curtain as a shadow while the opening strains of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” played over the speakers until it was corroded by industrial noise. The band launched into the new song, The City of Blinding Riots, and the show was underway.

filter ashley dzerigian

Photo: Wendy Podmenik Darugar

The new touring lineup is young and aggressive. Kapila moves effortlessly between prolonged sustain and flashy riffing, while bassist Dzerigian (who has played with Great Northern, Cee Lo Green and Adam Lambert) laid down heavy grooves characteristic of most Filter songs. Drummer Chris Reeve hits and moves like a young Tommy Lee, flailing about wildly but landing like John Bonham: he was a treat to watch and listen to. Patrick, dressed in black jeans and sporting a camouflage jacket, was as cool as ever with his new Weimar Republic haircut.

Patrick announced that the band would be playing a longer set to make up for Orgy’s absence and the band did not disappoint. The band moved between songs new and old, heavily featuring material from “Crazy Eyes” (nine songs to be exact). The older material was culled mostly from 2002 or earlier, with one each “Anthems for the Damned” and “The Trouble with Angels”. Sadly overlooked was the terrific “The Sun Comes Out Tonight”.

The emphasis on the new material was the correct choice, of course, since the songs are so strong (and lyrically poignant) they deserved the chance to breathe in a live venue. Heard in the vacuum of studio production and through an iPod or car stereo, the music of “Crazy Eyes” is thrilling, aggressive and contagious. Listened to those songs performed live on Tuesday evening, they were enriched by volume and absolutely came alive, every note, every beat crackling through the air like lightning in a thunderstorm. Highlights of the set included You Walk Away, Jurassitol, Your Bullets, Nothing in My Hands, Welcome To The Fold and Welcome to the Suck (Destiny Not Luck).

 

New music performed live can divide an audience but Filter fans seem to galvanize around singer Patrick as he screams and harmonizes with keyboardist Bobby Miller. When he’s not wailing like a banshee, he’s often very funny, bantering with the audience. Addressing the crowd he asked, “Are you guys worried about the future?” to which he was met with shouts of “No!” He smirked. “I am. I’m worried about the future. The young kids are like ‘fuck that’! That’s cool I get it… just you wait…”

Patrick can be sentimental, too, without being mawkish. Introducing Take A Picture, he spoke sweetly about his father and the line in the song, “Hey Dad, what do you think about your son now?” Before he died, Patrick said, his father told him that he was proud of him. People cheered and it was clear, if it was unclear before, that the crowd was right with Patrick.

 

The band skipped the obligatory encore and kept playing, closing with The Best Things before taking a bow and snapping pictures of the audience. At nearly two hours, Filter played an exhilarating set and gave Patrick the opportunity to declare and asseverate that “Crazy Eyes” is one of the best albums he has ever recorded. It may not meet the commercial success of his early work but it is unquestionably and unimpeachably one of the greatest albums by Filter, made ever more electrifying with his live band.

FILTER
Live at The Gramercy Theater, New York City
May 3, 2016

filter-live-newyork-2016-01

Photo: Mick Stingley

Setlist:

The City of Blinding Riots (Crazy Eyes)
(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do (Spawn Soundtrack)
You Walk Away (The Amalgamut)
Head of Fire (Crazy Eyes)
The Take (Anthems for the Damned)
Kid Blue from the Short Bus (Drunk Bunk) (Crazy Eyes)
Jurassitol (The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack)
Your Bullets (Crazy Eyes)
Pride Flag (Crazy Eyes)
Nothing in My Hands (Crazy Eyes)
Welcome to the Suck (Destiny Not Luck) (Crazy Eyes)
Take a Picture (Title of Record)
Take Me to Heaven (Crazy Eyes)
Mother E (Crazy Eyes)
Hey Man Nice Shot (Short Bus)
Welcome to the Fold (Title of Record)
No Love (The Trouble with Angels)
American Cliché (The Amalgamut)
The Best Things (Title of Record)

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About The Author

Mick Stingley
Collaborator - RREVERB

Mick Stingley is a freelance writer with a concentration in music and humor. He has been published in Esquire, The Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, BillBoard, VICE, Metal Edge, Terrorizer, Dominion, KNAC.com, Men's Fitness, FHM, The Huffington Post, Hustler, Consequence of Sound and The New York Post among others. He lives with his fiancee in NYC.