Front 242 has been around since before any of us were glints in our father’s eyes. There’s a reason the band has been around as long as it has and still continues to influence the genre it helped birth decades ago. Their performance at the Wax Trax! Retrospectacle (their only scheduled one in this fair United States) was the perfect reminder.
The show started with a universal declaration – the Constitution displayed Star Wars style on the enormous screen erected behind the stage. As the bass rose to brain rattling levels, Richard 23 emerged into the light. The chorus of “98,” “shout it loud” was the perfect accompaniment to the mind altering synths and epileptic strobes. It wasn’t until later that we discovered that the loudness transpiring in between the crowd and the digital representation of the Constitution was the first of its kind in the United States. This first time was easily more memorable than any I can recall.
As the late 80s version of Front 242 (don’t worry, there were no track suits) ran through a complete list of all the crowd favorites (the set was over an hour long), everything from redacted words to mudflap trucker chicks to giant flames graced the screen behind them. The performance was as visceral visually as it was sonically. It’s Blue Man Group (without the gimmick) that you would happily watch more than once. It’s an audio climax stimulated by intense feelings of loud euphoria. The soundtrack from your favorite horror movie performed in front of you in living color. It’s like being inside of a computer without the need for a data disc. The blue pill cure for everything that’s wrong with music today.
After an almost tantric performance, the Front 242 set eventually, unfortunately, drew to a close. The closing ceremonies came in the form of a few heartfelt words from the sweat-drenched Richard 23 about how much Wax Trax! meant to everyone in Front 242. As the rank and file slowly spilled out of Metro, I couldn’t help but feeling like we all just bore witness to an historic event. Front 242 IS industrial music and for one night (two if you count Sunday) they came home again to Chicago.