Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY is home to my beloved Kentucky Wildcats and holds up to 23,000 patrons. On this day, my Wildcats suffered a horrible 30 point loss at the hands of the Tennessee Vols in Knoxville. So what better way to shrug off a horrible loss than with an amazing rock show? Three heavyweights in the rock world took the stage. P.O.D., Three Days Grace and Shinedown rolled into Lexington like they owned the place and by the end of the night, I’m not so sure that they didn’t own the place.
While Rupp holds up to 23k, the upper decks were not sold, so I’m guessing the crowd to be around 7-9,000.(Thanks to reader RealityChecked for their input on the numbers, I’m certainly no expert) When you consider that Lexington is more of a Country music town, add in the recent departure of Adam Gontier from Three Days Grace and the shape of the economy; I’d say that number of patrons was a great success. Perhaps the fact that it was on a Saturday, just two days after Valentine’s Day really helped ticket sales. Either way, I’m still smiling to see such a successful rock show in my town. Cheers to ZRock 103 for really getting the word out there for this one.
First up was veteran Christian rockers P.O.D. The band has been a staple on the road and radio for nearly 15 years now. Intensity is something the band has long been known for and last night, they did not disappoint. Vocalist Sonny Sandoval delivered one of the better performances that I have seen from him, as well as the band over the years. Supporting their newest release Murdered Love, P.O.D.’s setlist was littered with their biggest hits and a couple from the new album. The highlight for me was Here Comes The Boom, I still love that song much more than I probably should. When you get such a veteran act opening the show, with such big hits, you know you are in for a great night of music.
Next up was Three Days Grace (3DG). The band is supporting their new release, Transit Of Venus. Back in January, longtime vocalist and one of the founding members of 3DG, Adam Gontier left the band. His exit was initially listed as medical reasons (I have my doubts on that though). Stepping in is bassist Brad Walst’s brother Matt. You may know Matt Walst as the vocalist of the band My Darkest Days. I was eager to see and hear what Matt could bring to the 3DG sound live. While, I can honestly say that his vocals are probably a bit too high in comparison to Adam’s, he delivered a great set. After hearing some grumblings online, I feared the worst, but thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. Here’s the deal though, if you are or have ever been a fan of the band, don’t give up on them. They’ve rocked you for many years and the core of that sound is still there. Give them time to find a replacement and have the faith that they will continue to deliver. (Steps off soapbox)
The set resembled an apocalyptic scene. Complete with a Las Venus (Las Vegas style) sign which is edited for each show. There were barrels with toxic symbols, which housed pyrotechnics and a huge backdrop to help set the scene. Vocalist Matt Walst came out wearing an oxygen mask to help set the scene. One of my favorite things about the set, which I’m sure most would have never noticed, were the large mats at each mic. They all had a chalk outline of a victim. Complete with pooled blood, as if the bodies had recently been removed.
The set kicked off with the lead single from Transit Of Venus. The song Chalk Outline really did a great job of igniting the crowd and setting the tone that the band was here to kick some serious ass and not just snag a paycheck. The added pyro was a surprise to many in the audience. As I saw several drunk patrons jump as if they’d been shot. I certainly enjoyed that, hell I’m still laughing about it. 3DG followed up Chalk Outline with hits Just Like You, Pain and Home. One interesting note just for perspective here. I was able to see the set list before the show and beside each song was what key the song was in. That’s a good indication of how new the departure of Adam is, but it’s also a great way of seeing the effort that Matt has made to make things right. His energy never wavered and you can color me impressed.
One of the most impressive things of the entire night was the drum solo from Neil Sanderson. He began the solo accompanied by Dani Rosenoer on piano and ended it on his own. Neil delivered one of the coolest drum solos I have ever witnessed. With the lighting guy playing right along with the beats, it was absolutely captivating. As soon as it was over, I immediately wanted to see it again!
3DG played the majority of their hits. They also threw in an interesting cover song. After inviting Shawn Hamm, or Hammer as they called him, onstage the band broke out the Limp Bizkit classic Break Stuff. Most either have a love or hate relationship with Limp Bizkit. There really is no in between, so I was surprised to hear the cover. Apparently, Lexington on the other hand is a big fan of the song. As the crowd sang a long, you could simply tell the energy was just ratcheted up a notch. The song was electrifying and when 3DG hit the first chords of Let’s Start a Riot to end the night, the crowd blew the roof off of Rupp Arena. I was so proud of my community for rocking out like they did. I hope 3DG shares that same feeling.
After a near 30 minute changeover, Shinedown took the stage. Just not the one everyone was expecting. In the middle of the general admission floor area, wrapped around the front of house consoles and lighting boards, were two risers. The band dropped the curtain on the main stage and the crowd was stunned when only drummer Barry Kerch was there to greet them. Brent Smith, Zach Myers and Eric Bass had fooled the majority of the crowd. Like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, the crowd shifted and took off in a mad rush to other stage. Moments make memories and this was one moment that those on the floor won’t soon forget.
After cleaning up his life, Brent Smith has also cleaned up the bands image. The band was adorned in suits and vests, which is a stark contrast to their grungy, dirty look from early in their careers. As fit as he’s ever been, Brent Smith is a commanding presence and one of the better performers you will see on stage now. His voice has always been captivating, but now he’s the total package. He’s finally realized that the success of the band rests solely upon his shoulders.
One of my favorite songs from the new album Amaryllis is Enemies. With it’s high energy and pounding drums, it was the perfect show opener. They followed up Enemies with Devour. Which is another high energy track that absolutely lit the fuse on this dynamite crowd. By the time the band began the single Unity, there was no one sitting in the arena. Everyone was on their feet and showing the love.
Their set was adorned with a huge circular video screen as the backdrop. Complete with another large riser behind drummer Barry Kerch. There were lights adorned around the circle screen and the design was seemingly influenced by the Amaryllis album cover. The band made good use of the screen, creating and playing back custom videos to help tell the story of the band and it’s lyrics. (More on the power of this screen later)
Keeping the mid-tempo songs coming, the band played a barrage of great ones. Following up Unity was The Crow & The Butterfly, Save Me and I’ll Follow You Down. While I’ll Follow You Down is my absolute favorite song from the new album, I want to take a moment to talk about Save Me. The last few times that I’ve seen Shinedown, the absence of songs from the album Us and Them has been painfully obvious. I say painfully because that was one of the worst times in Brent Smith’s life. He battled addictions and weight issues, as well as many other personal demons during this time and had chosen to bury that time in his life. Seeing Save Me in the setlist, for me was an indication that time has helped heal Brent and he’s ready to use that era as inspiration. The song is a tremendous example of the power of music and a dark lyrical cry for help. Thank you for the inspiration Brent.
I want to mention a specific moment, which may bring some laughter. The band played one of their singles Diamond Eyes. Which was featured in the movie The Expendables. After seeing 3DG with so much pyrotechnics, you’d think the crowd was used to it by now. Well, one drunk individual was apparently not ready. When the big booms went off, he immediately looked to his crotch. He pulled his shirt down and was a bit more timid the rest of the set. Apparently, Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom scared the piss out of the guy. That’s a moment that I won’t soon forget.
Keeping the night going with an absolutely perfect blend of music, Shinedown played such hits as If You Only Knew, a BEAUTIFUL rendition of Amaryllis, the powerful .45, the high energy Sound Of Madness and the massive hit Second Chance. I want to mention .45 in a little more depth. That song is still one of the more powerful songs that the band has. Bringing it down to a softer delivery in the verses, the band really brought out the dynamics and power of the song itself. The chorus was perhaps the biggest sing a long of the night. A great thing to witness.
After .45, the band made their way back to the middle stage on the floor. They had some fun with the crowd. Playing a few acoustic snippets of some great songs. Including She Talks To Angels by The Black Crowes, Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, Enter Sandman by Metallica, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin and Wanted Dead or Alive by John Bon Jovi. All this was of course leading up to the bands remake of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic Simple Man. This one is known by all. Even the security guards were singing along to this one. A lot of fun for sure.
After heading back to the main stage, the band made great use of the circular video screen that I had mentioned earlier. I knew that the band had not played the single Bully as of yet, so I had my suspicions that it was the closer for the night. The song is an anthem against bullying. I’ll admit, I have not been the biggest fan of the song until last night. On the screen was a video of a young lady’s story. Her name was Amanda Todd. I highly suggest you take a moment to research her, especially if you have children. Unfortunately, Amanda took her own life on October 10, 2012. I’ll include the video below the article which Amanda made that tells her story. It’s the same video which was played on the screen. Bullying is a serious issue and Shinedown did a brilliant job of getting their message out there. It was a heavy note to end on, but one that many, especially the younger members of the crowd won’t soon forget. For me, this was another step in the growth of Brent Smith as an artist, but more so as a human being. A fantastic night and a concert that I highly recommend.
See Amanda Todd’s heartbreaking video below: