Among the onslaught of shows gracing American shores this spring, the exquisite pairing of Leprous and The Ocean are currently making their way across this country, spreading the wonders of prog metal across the land. Leprous were active on the livestream front throughout the pandemic-driven venue restrictions, offering up many opportunities to see their work performed while the venues were shuttered. Thankfully, Covid-19 has relented enough to where live music can be enjoyed again with consideration, such as the vaccine card check enforced on this tour, and re-arrangement of the tour routing (placing all of the Canadian dates near the end of the tour) in a bid to mitigate impact due to Covid-19 restrictions. As Metro Detroit was fortunate enough to be included in the routing, I made my way to Pontiac’s Crofoot Ballroom for the evening’s festivities. Having plenty of prior experience with this venue, I knew the general mood (and especially the lighting setup) at the Crofoot would be a perfect match with Leprous’ music, with copious amounts of backlighting, and I was spot on here. Attendance was great for a Thursday night show, with the venue’s main floor being healthily full (however, the upstairs balcony was closed).
Up first were German prog metallers The Ocean. Launching right into their set with just the right amount of heaviness, they made it through their first two songs and then encountered what seemed to be some technical difficulties. To build suspense while the techs sorted things out, Peter Voigtmann (keys) cued up some ambiance courtesy of his synth, while Loïc Rossetti, the vocalist, bantered with the crowd about this being their first time in Detroit since 2013 while on tour with Between the Buried and Me. Overall, the pairing of The Ocean’s heavier style made for a fantastic juxtaposition to what was up next.
Touring in support of their newest work, Aphelion, Leprous launched into their set by delivering a flawless rendition of “Out Of Here” off the album of the same name. Personally, I am stunned that they didn’t open with “Running Low” due to its striking piano opening (which still gives me chills every time I hear it – and yes, they did get there eventually during their set, making me incredibly happy), but that choice was as good as any for showing off vocalist Einar Solberg’s chilling yet immensely powerful voice and shocking vulnerability. The lighting during their set was as expected, with copious amounts of backlight and fog punctuated with flashes that only add to the intensity of their performance. During banter between songs, Solberg asked the crowd what they should call this place we were in, since “surely you must all not be from Pontiac. I’ll call you Michigan.”, adding a bit of humor and lightness to the emotional weight of their set. Speaking of emotion, the live cello brought to the stage courtesy of Raphael Weinroth-Browne is always a treat, adding even more weight to an amazing performance. Working their way through their set, Leprous had the audience under their full control, expertly showing off the litany of textures and feeling woven into their music. To close things out, they ended with “The Sky is Red” off of Pitfalls, a 12-minute long (this IS prog!) track that is as varied as the mountains, and the crowd was definitely here for it; not many people filed out of the room until after the encore was complete.
In conclusion, Leprous is just about perfect as progressive metal bands come, with all of the emotion, vulnerability, intensity, unpredictability, and impeccable musicianship that can be mustered. Make it a point to check this tour out if at all possible!