Last year, North Carolinian progressive metal quintet Between the Buried and Me were scheduled to hit the road in commemoration of both their 20th anniversary overall and their fifth studio LP, 2009’s The Great Misdirect, in particular. Of course, COVID-19 forced the band—and countless others—to cancel their concert plans and reschedule when the moment seemed right. Luckily, the pandemic has now regressed enough for live music to make a significant comeback, so BTBAM wasted no time and began their tour earlier this month.
This past Thursday, 5 August, they played Philadelphia’s Theatre of Living Arts and, unsurprisingly, delivered a gloriously comprehensive, meticulous, and engrossing overview of their whole discography. Specifically, they proved to be as dynamic and proficient as ever, generating appreciation for their past works and massive hype for their upcoming tenth album, Colors II, due out on 20 August. They also received gratitude for the larger significance of live music returning after nearly a year-and-a-half of disheartening—yet completely necessary—quarantine.
There were no opening acts because the tour is billed as “An Evening with Between the Buried and Me”. Instead, the group took to the stage right on time—at 8:30 PM—and performed two sets: a career-spanning sequence and then The Great Misdirect in its entirety. Gratefully, the first batch of tunes lasted about 70 minutes and included at least one piece from every original release (well, except for 2011’s The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, but that’s understandable since it’s an EP). That meant they juxtaposed the more relentlessly abrasive tracks from their first three records with the more structurally dynamic and complex material from their post-Alaska trajectory.
Wisely, Between the Buried and Me didn’t go in chronological order, either, choosing instead to directly contrast newer gems like “Astral Body” and “Yellow Eyes” with the less sophisticated—but still predictively characteristic and impressive—“Backwards Marathon”. Likewise, “The Coma Machine” from 2015’s Coma Ecliptic and “The Grid” from 2018’s Automata II bookended “More of Myself to Kill” from 2002’s self-titled debut LP and the one-two punch of “Mordecai” and “Reaction” from 2003’s The Silent Circus. By repeatedly jumping back and forth between these periods, the group consistently and faultlessly appeased fans of all eras amidst showcasing how they’ve grown in every way over the last two decades. (Naturally, they also pulled out the lead single from Colors II, “Fix the Error”, and it was a clear highlight of the night.)
Following a 15-minute break, the quintet resumed their reign with a complete and uninterrupted playthrough of The Great Misdirect. Cleverly, they used an orchestral snippet of closing epic “Swim to the Moon” as the intro music, and they replicated virtually every timbre and moment as accurately as possible. Adding to the musical magic was the overwhelming enthusiasm from the crowd, whose cheers and complementary singing often overshadowed the spellbinding showmanship by vocalist/keyboardist Tommy Giles Rogers Jr.
On that note, the audience displayed unparalleled excitement for—and knowledge of—the Between the Buried and Me’s catalog from beginning to end. That dedication, alongside a palpable sense of thankfulness for the sheer fact that we were finally at a fully-fledged concert again, made the evening equally exhilarating and heartwarming. Granted, there wasn’t much spectacle to the show itself, but the visuals they did include (a series of appropriately synchronized colored lights and a huge The Great Misdirect banner behind drummer Blake Richardson) did enough to enhance the experience.
Between the Buried and Me gave an impeccable performance at the Theatre of Living Arts, as they represented their whole musical history with steadfast technical accuracy and unfaltering devotion from their fans. Honestly, you could see them live dozens of times and still be blown away by how precisely and scrupulously they recreate their songs (not to mention the fact that they wrote these incredibly intricate and temperamental compositions in the first place). Despite being 20 years into their career, they’ve never become stagnant; rather, they’ve continuously cemented themselves as the ruling kings of what they do. Thus, the night provided a stunning celebration of their past triumphs and made the wait for Colors II even more difficult.