Stabbing Westward’s swirling concert dervish is a loud, post-industrial event, teeming with big flashing lights, blinding strobes and other disarming stage effects, all of which were squeezed into the confines of the tiny Roxy. But as nuclear power plant owner Montgomery Burns once said, “Where’s the heart?”
The Chicago-based five-piece employs a futuristic style that distinguishes itself from the rest of the Nine Inch Nails school with its melodic songwriting and catchy choruses. However, strip away the carefully crafted hooks, as well as all the bells and whistles, and what you’re left with is formulaic music as inanimate and cold as the shiny metal female torso that was mounted at the rear of the band’s impressive stage set.
Heavy themes of desperation, overdue retribution and self-sacrifice are what drives striking frontman Christopher Hall, who lyrically comes off like a less-brutish Trent Reznor. Such songs as “Torn Apart” and the strident “Save Yourself,” which was a recent single from the group’s third Columbia Records album, “Darkest Days,” had the capacity crowd swaying to the smoldering synth and guitar grooves.
But as the show wore on, the band’s intense songs — almost all of which followed a cognate pattern of starting quietly and building to loud crescendos — began to morph into one another, and the steam all but came out of the group’s engines.