Starting off the North American portion of their "30 Years x 30 Cities x 30 Song Set. No Openers" tour in Boston, Helmet took the stage fifteen minutes later than the announced time. Page Hamilton later joked that the venue wouldn't let them start on time since so many people had yet to show up. The audience did seem shockingly thin around 8:00 pm, but the extra time helped fill it the Paradise. (Also, it was a ridiculously stacked night for live rock in Boston, with Starcrawler, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Flipper with David Yow, and Against Me all playing shows Wednesday night.) And anytime you can see one of your all time favorites play for two hours and still be out by 10:15 pm on a work night, we'll be pretty happy at our advanced age.
When a band is celebrating their thirtieth anniversary of being a band, you expect to hear the classics and favorites. Helmet delivered that. 30% of the setlist was from 1994's Betty, and another 16% was from 1992's Meantime. If half of the set is going to be from their two most popular albums, you aren't going to find many complaints. Not that there was much reason to complain. Their newer albums might not be as popular as their classics, but new songs like "Red Scare" didn't sound out of place live. They even broke out their cover of Bjork's "Army of Me." "Wilma's Rainbow" and "Milquetoast" were incredibly well received, and for good reason, seeing as how killer they sounded last week. Of course, even with thirty songs, when a band has been around for thirty years some favorites won't get played. "Sinatra" and "Just Another Victim" were missed.
This was my third time seeing Helmet this century. The first was 2004 back at Axis, and then last year at Brighton Music Hall. In 2004, Helmet was Page playing with a cobbled together group since the rest of Helmet was backing Gavin Rossdale for a better paycheck, and last year felt like he was breaking in a new band. Last Wednesday's show was the first time I saw them that Helmet felt like a cohesive band. That made a huge difference. If you can see them on this tour, this might be the best time.