“Look at all you people out there having a great goddamn time!” shouts Corey Taylor from the stage of The Forum in Los Angeles. The comment is followed by a shot of the LA venue’s vast, empty hall, post-apocalyptic in its silent response to the banter. It’s a bit of a dad joke, and one that Corey comes back to throughout the evening — but there’s a sweetness to it, an acknowledgment that this is the best rock fans (and bands) can do in the new world of 2020. Taylor seems to understand this, and gives his all during his Forum or Against ‘Em livestream event, performing songs from throughout his career with the knowledge that for his fans around the world, this is a much-needed return to something they direly missed.
Before the show even stars, the fan response is massive. Next to the screen in Taylor’s web portal is a comments feed that shows viewers a nonstop cascade of input from those watching at home. People from as far as South America and central Europe are saying hello and expressing their all-caps excitement, not to mention virtually ‘passing’ joints to one another and shouting out their friends around the world. As the show gets going, one sentiment is echoed over and over: ‘I needed this. I missed this so much.’ Even if they’re in front of a computer and not sweatily packed against a front-row barrier, Corey’s diehards feel like they’re finally home again.
The backstage camera provides what fans expect — shit-talking, air-drumming, nervous smiles. Just before taking the stage, Corey huddles everyone together and says, “Remember that time we practiced? Do exactly that.” An intro by Jack Black from his backyard makes all the party animals in their living rooms feel a little less alone (this writer included), while footage of the band showing up to the venue masked and getting their temperatures taken highlights the reason everyone’s watching online and not screaming along in person (and proves that Corey lives by his own request that folks should put a fucking mask on).
With the live debut of “HWY 666,” the opening number of both Taylor’s solo album as well as the event, Forum or Against ‘Em kicks off with a rousing bang and doesn’t stop for twenty-plus tracks of arena-sized rock and roll. The stage show blares with fake smoke, pyro, and ‘CMFT’ spelled out in ten-foot-high lights. Fans praise the mix and digitally lose their minds as over the course of nearly two hours Corey displays the many shades of his onstage persona — the smiling everyman-guitarist, the sneering Slipknot vocalist, and heartbroken Stone Sour frontman, and the confident rock star he’s become.
Much of the show is made up of tracks from CMFT, but includes plenty of exploration into Taylor’s other outlets, as well as a few curveballs. Stone Sour gets its due via performances of “Song #3,” “Taciturn,” and “Bother,” while Slipknot show up in the form of rarely-played ballad “Snuff.” There are covers throughout as well, including Eddie Money’s “Shakin'” (performed in tribute to the late pop star), the Dead Boys’ “All This And More,” the Eagles’ “Already Gone,” and Anthrax’s “Watching You.” The show closes with a rousing performance of Taylor’s solo album title track, “CMFT,” complete with an acrobatic appearance by go-go troupe Cherry Bombs. All the while, Taylor plays with admirable dexterity, seeming energized and excited from start to finish (as The Pit’s editor in chief Cat Jones points out, he even has his Fitbit on — hey, steps are steps).
If there’s one downside or weird aspect to Forum or Against ‘Em, it is indeed the absence of a crowd — a show like this would’ve been so amazing with a packed house, and the fans’ absence is deeply felt. And yet, by the looks of the comments filling Taylor’s feed, the heads are just happy to show up in whatever capacity they can. Forum or Against ‘Em might not be how Corey Taylor planned to roll out his first solo record, but he still found a way to give the people who live for his music an event like no other. If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.
Words by Chris Krovatin