Concert Review: An Evening with Haken – Delmar Hall, St. Louis, MO – Feb 20th, 2024

Review of ‘An Evening with Haken’ at Delmar Hall in St. Louis, MO, Feb 20th, 2024

An Evening with Haken – Delmar Hall, St. Louis, MO, Feb 20th, 2024
Images: Jon Fiala Photography
Words: Chad Lakies, MDiv, PhD

Fans were packed into Delmar Hall in St. Louis, MO for “An Evening with Haken” on Tuesday, February 20th. Once things got started, they never stopped. Haken blew the audience away with a mesmerizing two sets covering the most recent release ‘Fauna’ and revisiting content covering their entire history. This show is a “must see” if they are coming to your area, and you better get your tickets soon or you’re liable to left out in the cold, wondering when they might come around again.

The show began with a full set that took the crowd through their stunning new album Fauna from 2023. From the very beginning of the open guitar riff of “Tauraus,” we were off on an eclectic sonic journey. Haken is well known for the almost constant odd-time signatures that characterize their music. Foot-tapping and head-bobbing to a steady pulse be damned. But Haken does it in a way that shows their incredible musicality, technical precision, and a great deal of playfulness. The playfulness is easy to see. From the video-gamey intro to “The Alphabet of Me” to the theater-rock-esque themes that come through on “Elephants Never Forget,” Haken makes no secret about their wide and varied influences, especially from the prog world.

In the second set, “1985” also includes a sense of playfulness that moves effortlessly into and out of Haken’s classic harder and heavier riffs, which thrilled long-time fans in the audience who we catapulted to new level of energy as soon as the song began. Jazz and progressive fusion has a distinctive influence on Haken. Whether or not their foundations stem from these influences, the almost math-rock tendencies of the opener “Taurus,” instrumental “Nil By Mouth,” and a number of sections in the longer epics “Crystallized” and “Visions” (the encore), teased our ears over and over again with simultaneously light and nearly uncountable touches of jazz fusion that seamlessly carried sections of a number of songs.

Their technically virtuosity was on display everywhere. The layered and contrapuntal guitars, the polyrhythms that characterized drummer Ray Hearne’s constant drive (he’s a beast!), the incessantly demanding bass lines (always handled with complete calm by Conner Green), the keyboard riffs and soundscapes, and not to mention the vocal dexterity of Ross Jennings—Haken delivered an aural performance that is second to none. The band was incredibly tight and full of energy. The audience could clearly tell they loved what they were doing, and that love was contagious in the sold-out venue.

It’s not just Jennings holding down the vocal responsibilities in Haken. While doing that and also bringing the energy to the crowd and engaging with them, the entire band had vocal responsibilities at some point in the more than 2 ½ hour “Evening With” set. At one point, all six members were lending their vocal talents at the same time, each while also playing their complex instrumental parts. “Cockroach King” was a major stand-out during which a number of vocal lines carried by various members were rhythmically layered over each other in a manner similar to Spock’s Beard’s “Thoughts” project (extended by Neal Morse, former member of Spock’s Beard, on his album 2012 album Momentum).

Jennings noted the “Evening With” event was meant to include tracks from Haken’s entire discography. We got a taste from each album, reaching all the way back to 2010’s freshman release Aquarius (remastered in 2017). Their epic “Crystallized” from the 2014 EP Restoration closed the first set. Other albums were given two songs each, including Affinity (2016), Vector (2018), and the aptly yet ironically named Virus (released in 2020).

Long-time fans surely left satisfied, not only because of the sampling of Haken’s historic repertoire, but also because of the dedication to the music and the music alone. Jennings engaged the audience as you might expect any front man to do, but still far less than many major artists. The members of the band, including its leader, were far less the focus. It was all about the music. Even the light show effectively prioritized the music, often leaving the faces of the band members and even their playing more in the background, lit primarily from behind, while everything fans came to hear sounded through loud and clear.

Haken is touring North America through March 6 before they move on to Asia. If you don’t have a ticket yet, get one soon. St. Louis was sold out with very little room for the general admission tickets to accommodate people only to stand, quite a commitment for an almost 3 hour show (still worth it, however!). This tour is revealing a new climactic season in Haken’s already storied past as a band shaping and innovating in the modern prog scene.


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