May 24, 2018
New York City, NY
Review and photos by Blair Levinger
In math, a “tesseract” is a four-dimensional extension of a square— an eight-surfaced shape where each surface consists of a six-sided cube. Mathematicians can render these, but they can’t really exist in our three-dimensional world. To truly experience a tesseract, you’d have to visit an alternate dimension.
So, it’s fitting that at their Irving Plaza show, the British progressive metal band TesseracT seemed to transform the venue into another universe. From their experimental compositions to the technicolor lights that spun and sparked above the stage, the five-piece band used every aspect of their production to emphasize an otherworldly ambiance. It was a night of immersive sounds and vibrant style, from a band with a knack for finding eerie beauty in their hard-hitting genre.
The show opened with a set from Boston-based metal band Astronoid. True to their name, they pounded the stage like a meteor shower, raging hard and intense against a backdrop of quick-flashing lights. Combining this intensity with a spacey, atmospheric sound, Astronoid did an excellent job of establishing the show’s extraterrestrial vibe.
Second on the bill was the Australian prog-rock musician Plini. Technically a solo act, the composer-guitarist was accompanied by a three-piece backing band, and all four artists took turns in the spotlight. Though the set had no vocals, the four musicians traded riffs and phrases like an easy conversation, and their groovy melodies often seemed improvisational; it was like a metal equivalent of free jazz. Another spontaneous move: mid-way through their set, the group brought their tour manager up onstage, grabbed a razor and— kid you not— shaved off his beard. “We actually ran out of tee-shirts, but if anyone wants to get their haircut, it’s only two-hundred dollars,” Plini joked afterward. “Come to merch. We’ll hook you up.”
Finally, headliner TesseracT emerged onto a glowing stage. Bathed in smoke and spikes of white light, their geometric logo hanging overhead like an alien stalagmite, the band pummeled through a tightly-knit hour-long set. Featuring songs from their current album Sonder as well as crowd-pleasing older works like “April,” their performance had no shortage of heavy sounds; the bass shook the walls, and the breakdowns were so intense that frontman Daniel Tompkins often threw himself down to pound the floor. But this hardness was threaded with an elegant note. Tompkins’s agile falsetto was accompanied by high, wailing sound effects and moments of careful quiet, providing the show with a wealth of both sonic and emotional layers. Filled with depth and drama, their music filled every corner of the room, a darkly lit landscape to get lost in.
Of course, whatever alternate world TesseacT was creating, they were more than happy to invite fans inside. As the Irving Plaza show was the last stop of the band’s US Sonder tour, the night definitely had a celebratory note; all three acts mentioned how much they had enjoyed working together and how grateful they were for the immense support of their audiences. “We couldn’t have done this without all of you,” Tompkins said at one point. “We have a symbiotic relationship.”
Later, while introducing the song “Smile,” Tompkins raised his water bottle towards the crowd as if giving a toast. “We welcome each and every one of you to TesseracT tonight,” he said proudly, before bursting into the song’s booming opening measures with a statement that held true for everyone in the room:
“You,” he declared, “make me smile!”