Exclusive: Lamb of God Reflect on Playing First 2020 Livestream Show
On Sept. 19, Lamb of God played their first-ever livestreamed concert in the pandemic era. Crowd-less performances viewed on computer screens, phones and tablets have become increasingly "normal" for headbangers around the globe, looking for their live show fix, but for the legendary Richmond, Va. quintet, this was a brand new environment and in this exclusive interview, Randy Blythe, Mark Morton, Willie Adler and John Campbell have reacted to their livestream debut.
The first of two events found Lamb of God performing their latest record, Lamb of God, which was released earlier this year in June, in its entirety. It was a night of multiple firsts as it was also the first time the group had played one album from front to back.
They'll be doing it again Sept. 25 where the Ashes of the Wake album will be the focus (tickets here), but before that show takes place, find out what Lamb of God thought about the first gig below.
How did the physical/mental release of playing live virtually compare to the typical show? Were there any new feelings?
Mark Morton: It was very different. Obviously a big part of the typical show was missing. I always feel like a show is a dialogue between the crowd and the band. A band can be great and if the crowd sucks, the show sucks. The crowd can be great and if the band sucks, the show sucks. Both have to be connecting and functioning for the show to be great.
In this sense. it was foreign because there were no people there, but I was aware of the fact that people were watching, so there was a level of disconnect, but I also knew there were people on the other side. So it was new.
Practically, the oddest part was in between songs because you don't really know what to do, there's no one to interact with so that was a little bit different. In fact, I liked it. It felt kind of empowering that we could do something in the midst of this pandemic, something productive that engaged our fans and allowed us to interact with them, so that part felt good.
Was it relieving at all to not have to play some of “the hits”? One time Iron Maiden didn’t have “Run to the Hills” in a set and the band expressed it was a welcome change of pace.
Randy Blythe: Absolutely. In general, it was nice to just do something DIFFERENT. We’ve never played an entire album front to back, and after doing this band for over 25 years now, any creative change of pace is nice.
Most bands never get a chance to play every new song from an album live. Do you wish you had done something similar (one-off show) for past albums?
Willie Adler: Not particularly. I always enjoy playing newer tunes, simply because they're fresh. However, compiling a set is a lot like putting together an office coffee order. Sure, some folks want the same thing, but most want something different.
John Campbell: Not being able to tour on the new album is a bumout. For me, part of the excitement of making a record is having new material to perform live. Maybe there is some balance in performing the new record as a livestream, but I’m beyond ready to be in front of a live audience with this material.
Anything can go wrong at a show. What new challenges did the stream present from a performance perspective?
Mark Morton: For me it was very much like the times we played on live TV. You know there's a big audience, but you don’t have the volume and the atmosphere of the show to cloak any mistakes you make. So you kind of feel vulnerable and wide open in a way that I've only a few times felt before when we were on live television on Conan or Jimmy Kimmel. So that was a little added pressure, but part of the deal.
Did this scratch the itch to play live or deepen the need to get in front of a crowd?
Randy Blythe: Neither. I tried to just take it for what it was in this strange time — an attempt to play a show for an audience, even if they were not physically there. Right now accepting reality as it is and remaining grateful that we have the opportunity to do what we can without getting embroiled in some fruitless emotionally comparative mindset is the best plan — not just for my life in my band, but in everything. It was just nice to play music with my dudes on a stage.
Musicians constantly describe the feeling of performing for a crowd as a “drug.” Without this emotion present in your life these last few months, how do you satisfy that desire outside of this pair of livestreamed events?
Mark Morton: I don't describe the feeling of performing in front of a crowd as a drug. It is something I enjoy. I don't think there is anything, honestly, that does replace it.
Even more than the show — the show is the best part of the day when you're on tour — but just the traveling, too. Waking up 500 miles away from where you went to sleep. It's exhausting and kind of a mind warp, but at the same time it's a lifestyle you get very accustomed to, so to have that get taken away or paused, is odd.
But odd isn't always bad. I'm enjoying finding ways to be creative. These livestreams have been a way to be creative and engaged. I'm writing a lot of music and spending time doing some things I haven't had a whole lot of time to do the last few years — projects around the house and spending time with my family. So, it's not all bad.
After performing, did your perception of livestreams change at all? Did you watch the broadcast back and read through fan comments?
John Campbell: My perception of the livestream changed after I read the comments. I won’t lie and say that it was just like an in-person show — it was like more like a video shoot with a lot more pressure. It’s a ton of work. I wasn’t able to get the fans’ reaction until afterwards in the comments and tagged social media posts. Maybe I got lucky, but everything I saw was incredibly positive. If anything changed how I feel about livestreams, it’s been that.
Willie Adler: I can't say it changed only because I didn't really have an opinion one way or another. It's certainly odd. To me, a live set really is about the energy exchange. So to not have that, you've really got to stay focused. And no, I did not watch it back, nor read any comments. I hope everyone enjoyed it!!
“Reality Bath” was dedicated to Riley Gale. What did you see in Riley that made you realize he has the “it factor”?
Randy Blythe: I dedicated “Reality Bath” to Riley because it is a song about speaking truth to power. This is something Riley was all about — read the lyrics to “If Not Us Then Who” by Power Trip (the title is taken from a quote often attributed to the late civil rights icon John Lewis).
We had many great conversations on tour about politics, books, the environment, economics, etc.— things of actual importance beyond just the normal tour talk. That is why I got along with him so well, and beyond respecting him as just a great frontman, I respected him as a GOOD MAN. This is far more important to me than any “it factor” — whatever that means. I miss him.
What songs are you most excited to play off Ashes of the Wake?
Randy Blythe: “Ashes of the Wake.”
There’s a certain energy present when a community is connected, even if it’s not in the same physical location. What separates the stream performance from practice/rehearsal when the elements are similar?
John Campbell: The elements aren’t quite the same — there are cameras, lights, a finely tuned mix in ears and a stage. Rehearsals don’t have the same energy. There’s a lot of bullshitting and catching up. It’s not the same without an audience but with all the audio / video / lighting gear and the stage, a livestream is a lot closer to a show than the five of us standing around the rehearsal space working out songs.
Willie Adler: Bluntly, the cameras in your face. It kinda makes it feel like a video shoot/live set. Not to mention the amount of pressure to really nail shit considering folks can rewind and really see what my riffs are all about! But for real, I really appreciate everyone that tuned in and I hope everyone feels they got their money's worth. Now on to Ashes!!
Thanks to Lamb of God for the interview. The band will be performing their 2004 album 'Ashes of the Wake' in its entirety at a second livestreamed concert Sept. 25. For tickets and more information, head here.
Lamb of God Set List — Sept. 18, 2020
01. "Memento Mori"
04. "Reality Bath"
05. "New Colossal Hate"
06. "Resurrection Man"
07. "Poison Dream"
09. "Bloodshot Eyes"
10. "On the Hook"
13. "The Death of Us"
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