Before myself and the throngs of people waiting to enter Terminal 5 could worry about saying goodbye to one of the greatest metal bands of our, or any, generation, we had a much more pressing issue to worry about: getting inside before we froze to death.
With temperatures barely clearing double digits, a sold-out show, and an entire FOUR GODDAMN METAL DETECTORS getting people inside at a speed the TSA would consider “a bit slow”, the journey inside Terminal 5’s unwelcoming façade was torturous, only serving to give those of us braving the elements a brief respite from the thought that had been on our minds for days (Weeks? Months?). How do we say goodbye?
By the time I walked onto the main floor halfway through Daughters’ opening set, the main floor was packed from wall to wall. Apparently, most everyone had the same idea as me that they didn’t want to miss the chance to find a good spot to witness The Dillinger Escape Plan’s final show ever. I staked out a place on the left-hand side (the Ben Weinman side, at least I hoped) and settled in for the openers.
Thanks to the previously mentioned metal detectors (four!!!! Terminal 5 holds 3,000 fucking people!!!), I missed most of Daughters’ set, but the few songs I caught were pretty good. I’ve never heard of them before, but I was intrigued enough to give them a listen after my mourning period is over.
Next up was Code Orange, riding high off one of the year’s best singles, best albums, and a Grammy nomination. Under most circumstances I feel like the crowd would have been excited to see one of metal’s most promising acts. Instead, despite a raucous & energetic set, the crowd never really seemed to get into the performance. It’s hard to blame them, as we all had quite a bit on our mind that night. It’s hard to get too excited for the cheddar biscuits when the lobster main course is up next. Still, the band deserves credit for not only a great show, but being asked to lead into what was undoubtedly the metal event of the year.
The second Code Orange’s final note dissipated from the speakers, the crowd began to surge forward in anticipation of Dillinger’s set. I was surrounded by a great group of people, including one guy who was explicitly sexting some girl with my face only a couple of feet from his phone (I couldn’t move, how the hell am I NOT supposed to read what he is writing?). The guys behind me were at the show on Thursday and said the band came on late around 10, so I had time to prepare myself for the moment the lights went dark.
When that moment came, the crowd exploded. Not just in cheers and screams, not just in the customary “DILLINGER! DILLINGER!” chants, but the pit opened up and the crowd became a sea of ebbing and flowing bodies. The band had not even stepped foot on stage yet and already the crowd, myself included, were losing their collective shit. The moment we had all waited for, the moment we had all dreaded, was finally here.
For what must have been one of the more difficult performances of their career, the band did not disappoint. There were no signs of sadness or remorse in the show, as the
band was far too busy going mind-bogglingly wild to let the weight of the occasion bring the performance down. The set list was eclectic, to say the least, with the opening few tracks (including personal favorites “Panasonic Youth” and “Baby’s First Coffin”) starting the show off with a bang, followed by a few of the bands more melodic tracks (“One of Us is the Killer”, “Mouth of Ghosts”, and “Unretrofied”) sprinkled in throughout to give Dillinger fans of all types something to remember.
At first I was slightly bummed that I didn’t get to hear some of my favorite tracks one final time. Looking at the set lists for all three of their final shows made it clear that the band tried to make each night special for those in attendance. By my count, not a single song was played on all three nights, with most of their staples (“Sunshine the Werewolf”, “43% Burnt”, “Farewell, Mona Lisa”) being played twice. On the down side, this made me INSANELY jealous of Thursday’s audience, who got to see some all-time classics (“Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants”, “Room Full of Eyes”, “Crossburner” and “The Mullet Burden”) that were not played on the final night. But I’m sure many of the thousands of people who couldn’t get tickets to the final show couldn’t believe they missed one final chance to see “Dead as History” or “Happiness is a Smile”.
The band closed out their set with “Sunshine the Werewolf”, and then played “Farewell, Mona Lisa” followed by “43% Burnt” to end the night (so we thought). It was the most passionate performance of “43% Burnt” that I’ve ever seen from the band (which is definitely saying something), and had they called it a night I would have left a happily fulfilled man. The band even spent minutes on stage basking in the cries and cheers of the roaring crowd. But the band walked offstage to the sound of guitar feedback blaring through the speakers and the stage lighting flickering in the background, leading all of us to believe that we weren’t quite done yet.
After what seemed like an eternity (probably more like 5 minutes), the band returned with special guests Seven Suns in tow. As soon as I saw the string quartet on stage I knew exactly what the final track of Dillinger’s storied live career would be. I was shocked, befuddled, and impressed that they chose to go out the way that they did, playing “Dissociation”, the closing track to the album of the same name released back in 2016. According to Setlist.FM, this was the first (and only) time the song has ever been played live by the band. On an album that I didn’t exactly love, “Dissociation” has always been my favorite track, a darkly beautiful ballad that is one of the most emotionally charged tracks the band has written.
While ending with “43% Burnt” may have let the crowd leave with their heads held high and their fists in the air, “Dissociation” left us with tears in our eyes and a hole in our hearts. By the time the end of the song refrain came (“Finding a way to die alone/Is better than what I was shown”), my eyes had moved from “misty” into the “damp” category. Looking around after the song concluded, people were openly and unashamedly sobbing on the floor as the show ended, a first in my metal concert-going career.
When I think about it, I’m not sure there was a better way for the night to end. I went into the night expecting one of the wildest and craziest shows of my life, ignoring the elephant in the room that Dillinger Escape Plan would be no more once the show finished. I wasn’t ready to deal with that then, and I’m not ready to deal with it now. But closing with “Dissociation” brought that reality home, for better or worse, and brought closure to the night.
Seeing the band say their final goodbyes to the crowd, soaking in every moment, embracing everyone they could as they left the stage for the final time, it’s hard not to think that they’ll be back. No matter how many times the members have said that this is it, I can’t image they won’t get the urge to come back. For a band that appears to still get along (at least outwardly), they are too revered and too talented for this to truly be the end. That may (probably) be wishful thinking on my part, but I feel like we haven’t seen the last of the Dillinger Escape Plan.
But if this was goodbye, then it was worth every bit of pain and sadness that comes along with it. Thanks for the memories, Dillinger.