Magma @ Highline Ballroom (9/20/2010)

Logo - Magma

Artist: Magma
Venue: Highline Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: n/a
Date: 9/20/2010
Label: Seventh Records

Every once in awhile you hit a show being held by a band that although having been around for a number of years and having a teeming and devoted fan base, is a group that you walk into the show blind about. Such would be the case for me when it came to the band Magma, who is a Progressive Rock band that hails from France. They’ve been around since 1969 and were founded by the bands drummer Christian Vander. Since their inception they have released about thirty albums when one adds up the entire studio, live and compiled works. Oh yes, and there is one more thing about them – they sing in their own language. That might not strike you as strange since many bands from other countries do this, but the folks in Magma sing in a language of their own creation and that is Kobaian. This was surely going to be an interesting night for me since I was not only clueless about their material but had no idea what Kobaian was all about either. The show was happening at the Highline Ballroom which I felt was the perfect choice for the event and it would be done in front of a mostly seated audience. My friends and I arrived early enough to get comfortable and we were greeted on the street of the venue by people who were looking for tickets to get in. Could it be sold out? I thought to myself and yes indeed it had. I guess it makes sense in retrospect given the fact that the band seldom gets over here.

The issues about not knowing their material walking in would not find me being alone as when the band hit the stage to thunderous applause they began to play the first part of their lengthy show by doing two new and as of yet untitled numbers. It was complex and diverse music and of course with it being in their Kobaian language I had a little difficulty in keeping up with them. I am sure some of the bands more argent fans have figured this tongue out much like the Trekkies had figured out Klingon but I digress. Vander himself was interesting to watch as he is the leader of the group and its main composer when it comes to material. He leads the progress of the music with the drums and while sometimes seems to keep it simple there is always a lot more going on than what you can perceive on the first listen. To the newbie this was a tricky thing to absorb but the long time fans all around me were mesmerized. The core singing was done by the bands male lead Herve Aknin and he is joined on several occasions in the front by Stella Vander (Christian’s Wife). There were two other female singers and for the larger part of the show they remained off to the side as a chorus kind of thing. The musicians involved were bass, keyboards, marimba and of course guitar. All of the male members of the roster were sporting Magma logo t-shirts with the exception of Christian who wore this emblem on a chain around his neck. The bassist had a hoodie on so I was not too sure if he was following the dress code this evening but I would venture to guess that he was.

A short break was taken after the two new numbers were performed and when the band returned they would deliver from beginning to end their 2009 album “Emehntehtt-Re”. It took me awhile to say this properly and again this was all new music to me but I was finding myself somewhat taken by it. It was different without question and was being done well by the creators. Considering how this was being presented I was glad that the crowd was a sit down one, but man was it quiet, and it reminded me of a classical recital. That’s the different between Progressive and Heavy Rock shows. At the first one you can often hear a pin drop and at the later even the sound of breaking glass is hard to hear over the bands. From time to time the front line vocalists would add to the percussive needs of the band and perform with maracas or cymbals and some of this stuff was hypnotizing. Truly it was a progressive show since it took us down so many avenues of musical exploration and it’s easy to see why the band has so many fans. After completing the album they took a quick couple of minute breather and then returned to perform the song “Kobaia”. I wonder if Google can help me translate some of this stuff, because I mean it translates everything else at this point doesn’t it?

I was happy to see this event be sold out but felt that perhaps had they opted for the larger venue space of B.B. Kings, that so many people who decided at the last minute would not have been turned away. I was glad I attended and while I did have a good time I think that this kind of show is lost on me. Needless to say this was an experience and one that tests your ability to mingle on the Prog-side of music. Thanks for visiting us Magma. May your travels back to Kobaia be safe.

Set List:
1. Untitled
2. Untitled
3. Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré I
4. Emëhntëhtt-Ré II
5. Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré III
6. Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré IV
7. Funëhrarïum Kahnt
8. Sêhë
9. Kobaia – encore

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