Live review: Nero @ Congress Theater


DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS.  “Is This Real Life?”

The last time I remember seeing Nero, I was at the Subterranean sporting a silly hair-cut. Now, that place was packed, but it was also very smallish and cramped. They also lacked a tricked out stage. It was all very basic: a table, some decks and huge-ass speakers flanking both sides of the stage. Having this mind-blowing experience under my belt, I walked into the Congress knowing what I was getting myself into…or so I thought.

Putting on a performance at an all-ages venue tends to open up the door for the more weird, bizarre, and immature behaviors that I was subject to this particular evening. I’m just going to put this out there: I thoroughly enjoy Nero’s music; I can throw it on at the homestead or during my daily commutes to and from work or school. I honestly cannot get enough of it. On the other hand, when the environment you’re in is just totally sub-par, it kind of ruins the magic that is Nero. A fan way up in front of the stage was waving around a sign all evening that read, “Is this real life?” I was beginning to ask myself the very same thing.

Sitting through the slew of so-so DJs was just unbearable, but Dillon Francis put on an okay set. His DJ booth had the letters “IDGAFOS” lit up on the LED screen before him, an acronym for “I don’t give a fuck or shit,” which was all these concert-goers were all about and I am stating this fact lightly.

Since everyone there was mostly high-school aged (the venue allowed patrons in that were 17 or older), it was like spring break in there. Neon was the new black and the kids were running around with this Nu-Hippie look that had finally met its psychedelic end. People are sneaking cigarettes like flapper girls snuck swigs of their bathtub moonshine and everyone here wants one of two things: drugs and light shows. Not a single soul I ran into was sober.

There was an incredibly huge gap between the Dillon Francis and Nero set, which was understandable because of the elaborate DJ booth they had to set up. People around me were beginning to get restless. But as soon as the lights dimmed, herds of bodies all converged towards the stage in one fell swoop. It was unbelievable. From the balcony, everyone looked like microscopic ants and as soon as Nero started to play what sounded like “Act Like You Know”—it was a teaser—the ground immediately starts quaking beneath my feet. This was not because of the insane sound system that was put into use, but solely because of the fact that thousands of bodies were beginning to jump around in perfect unison.

Describing the new Nero set-up in great detail barely paints the picture of its wonder. You simply needed to be there to fully experience, but from what I could see from the balcony it was as if Daniel Stephens and Joseph Ray (NERO producers/DJs) were towering above a sea of lowly peons, unworthy of their presence. An elaborate mass of speakers embedded with several monitor and LED light fixtures were fused into this enormous matte black wall that housed the entertainment for the evening. On either side of this, were of course more speakers and LED fixtures, but there were also two giant cubes that were bathed in light that flanked both sides of the wall.

A woman’s voice begins speaking as digitized faces appear on the monitors alongside other monitors flashing the NERO logo. Vocalist Alana Watson appears on the illuminated block to the left of the stage completely dressed in black and begins singing the opening lines of “Me & You.” Her face then appears on digital screens all over the stage revealing her ghost-like face in better detail. The sound is so crisp and clear you’d think you were wearing your own personal pair of headphones.

Suddenly a crimson storm appears in the backdrop of the stage and a familiar tune from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange begins to rings throughout the room. It is doomsday and then, there is a pregnant pause as an urban cityscape appears in a projection. After a slow track, “Innocence,” begins to pump through the speakers as Watson rises from the DJ booth bathed in pale, blue light. The crowd begins cheering as ever so familiar track “Do You Wanna” begins its driving bass lines and reverberates off the walls back into our skulls. I feel like I’m in a space station. Miss Watson makes yet another grand appearance on glowing block to the right and goes into yet another vocal track “Promises.”

Shortly before NERO closed out their set, I bailed. I was not about to deal with the shit show that was about to ensue after the fact—a wise decision on my part. Although the London-based act put on a very stellar set, it would have been a million times better had it been at one of the various 21 and over night clubs that this beautiful city has to offer. ‘Til next time, Nero.