Show Review: A Night at the Rock Opera with Protomen
If the Protomen show at the Gramercy on Sunday night was anything to judge by, nerds go HARD. If you take offense at being called a nerd, come on. I was there and I saw you waving Mega Man hands and your glitter masks.
Rock operas may have gone the way of Meat Loaf’s weight but this Nashville chorus of dork defenders keeps the faith alive with their unironic love of video games, Freddie Mercury, and keytars. No ‘80s synth band has ever made the un-coolest of instruments worthy of screaming fans and sweaty bodies as much as Protomen. And on the swampy, New York night of July 19th, 2015, these warriors and their army definitely came out to play-yay.
Concept albums based on Mega Man may have been the schtick that first caught everyone’s attention, but Protomen feature two of the best voices performing live today. Raul Panther sounds eerily like Freddie Mercury but there are worse paths to follow than in the footsteps of the greatest showman of all time. The other voice is the operatic (but not in the tacky, power metal way) figure known as The Gambler. With her Pat Benatar attack on their new single, “Hold Back the Night,” she slams you in the face with a “Flight of Icarus” intro and dueling vocals that managed to raise goosebumps in the swamp that was the Gramercy Theater. Dueling voices and guitars are all clichés most often reserved for metal solos but the strength and energy these musicians pour into every song really feels like you’re going through a rock n’ roll battle.
Taking advantage of the endless comparisons to Queen, the dripping rainforest of bodies kicked into a further frenzy with a lovely duet of “Under Pressure” with Janelle Monae guitarist Kellindo Parker filling in for the Bowie part. The cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” was the perfect touch that encapsulates the entire soul of the band; others might not think so, but we love it and we’re all in this together.
Though the group is beyond tight in their choreography, which they have to be with the amount of people they have on stage, the joy of Protomen shows comes through those moments of spontaneous fun. Like the one fan yelling, “What??” at one rather muffled intro that set the entire audience laughing. Or when the tiniest, most precious pit formed for “Light Up the Night,” which puts anything Kenny Loggins did to shame (shut up, Kenny Loggins rules).
If you can, catch them on tour. Here’s to a future filled with Protomen, the only band that has the men in the audience flash their tits instead of the women. Celebrate the nerd and heave him or her onto your shoulders; now is the time of the nerd, so might as well give in and have a blast despite the absolute silliness. Hell, even cosplay for the next show.