A heads up: If you don’t like your Mega Man tribute bands with a side of rampant rock opera theatricality, The Protomen might not be your go-to. If you’re not into throwback 80s style electric guitar riffs and an onstage presence that just screams “neon”, maybe leave them be. If you’re adverse to triumphant instrumentation that includes a gong, vocoders, electric piano and a sea of synths, why are you still reading?
There’s a certain kind of buy-in to appreciate a band like The Protomen and it’s nigh impossible with even a hint of irony. Thankfully for the crowd assembled at Velvet Underground, fists thrust into the air, irony was nowhere to be found. Is it even possible for someone to ironically wear a Nintendo Power Glove to a gig? After robot masked hype man K.I.L.R.O.Y. delivered a rousing introduction, The Protomen strode onstage with an air of righteousness. The crowd roared.
Weaving between songs from their self-titled debut and 2009 release, the audience response to each track was universal. Singing and chanting, fists pumping away. The band played the crowd like an instrument, a perfect fit for their theatrical presence. The show seemed choreographed like a tightly blocked play. At crucial moments K.I.L.R.O.Y. returned to deliver props and costume elements. Drummer Reanimator leapt atop his kit during percussion downtime. Lead singer Raul Panther III donned the keytar for a wicked solo. It was indulgent and fanciful, sure, but brimming with talented musicianship. Panther is an incredible vocalist with a Freddy Mercury-esque range. Duets with fellow singer Gambler Kirkdouglas yielded fantastic harmonies buoyed by the kind of soundscape only an eight piece band can accomplish.
A set filled with fan favourites Hounds, Light Up the Night and Hope Rides Alone also held a few choice covers. Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night saw Kirkdouglas take lead vocals, while an atmospheric rendition of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight had the crowd baying for more. The Protomen delivered, playing This City Made Us and Hold Back the Night from their upcoming release Act III. If these tracks are anything to go by, there’s a storm coming.
I don’t know what kind of Mega Man tribute bands you’re into, but if you’re looking for an experience, brace yourself for the next time The Protomen tour.