When a song remains in your head for days after seeing a live show, that is an easy way to know that you’ve just seen and heard something special. This is what is still going on for me with one of Red’s newest tunes, Perfect Life, a song off of their latest release, Release the Panic.
Touring in support of Release the Panic, Red made a stop on a beautiful spring day at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre. While not sold out, the venue filled up quite close to capacity, with a varied mix of rock fans of all ages arriving to see the hard rock heroes.
Arriving to the venue a bit later than I would have wanted, I missed out on tour opener Southbound Fearing, but did manage to catch the tail end of the main support act, We As Human. Playing a selection of hard rock that was slow and heavy, the crowd gave them a positive ovation, and really seemed to enjoy what they had to offer. Vocalist Justin Cordle spent a vast amount of time hanging over the barrier at the front of the stage, and I could hear all the way from the back, female fans screaming as they got to touch and sing with the flirty front man.
As the stage was being set for headliners Red, I had the chance to admire one of the most original set pieces I’ve seen in recent memory. Essentially a graffiti covered back ally, the stage setup included posted bills reading, “Strategies For Contended Living”, 40 MPH speed limit signs (with 88 scribbled over the signs and only viewable under black light, which I can only assume is a fantastic nod to Back to the Future), and slowly dimming street lights.
An introduction by one of Red’s biggest fans gave way to dimming lights, followed by loud cheers of “Red, Red Red!”, and a monstrous entrance by the four band members. Starting out with If We Only, one of the many fresh songs off Release the Panic to be played this night, vocalist and front man Michael Barnes jumped on top of one of the three raised platforms on stage, singing and screaming words with stunning clarity. Damage, another new one, was played with similar precision.
From the barrier, I witnessed quite a few of Red’s dedicated fans throwing their arms out in an attempt to reach the band, all while singing along to the words of the next song in the set, Faceless. Being the first song of the night that was a bit older, I could see more of the audience grasping onto the more familiar song.
“We have a rowdy bunch out here tonight in New York City!”, shouted Barnes, following with a song that got the crowd moving and more rowdy; Hard rocker Let Go. Bassist Randy Armstrong screamed out the title “Let Go!” throughout the song, with Barnes even holding his own microphone up to Randy for a heavier screamed effect.
While he was banging away with hair flying throughout most of the night, drummer Joe Rickard sat towards the back of the stage, bathed in a mix of darkness and blue lights. However, towards the middle of Red’s set, Rickard had his time to shine with a short drum solo. Drumming along to a remix of DJ Khaled’s All I Do Is Win, while Rickard’s drumming ability was certainly not questioned, his song selection was, as it did seem a bit out of place.
Following a few slower songs and the drum solo, the crowd was ready to release some pent up energy once again. “Remember, Hollywood lies. Don’t buy all the things the machine is trying to sell you!” Barnes told the crowd, followed by, “I want to see everyone jump!”, with Red breaking into the first single from Release the Panic, Perfect Life. Maybe it was energy from the audience, or maybe it was the blinding light from the stage that shifted like bright, multicolored snakes, but this is the one song that I’ve found myself singing along to at random points, days after the show.
Taking a break from music for a short bit, Michael Barnes addressed the crowd about a cause that Red is strongly supporting, Cure.org, and spoke about a young girl that with fan support, could receive the treatment she needs. (Learn more here.)
With Anthony Armstrong jumping to the front of the stage, the guitarist riffed his way into one of Red’s heaviest songs, Feed the Machine. With the band leaving the stage temporarily, a mix of cheers ranging from “Play more songs!” to “Two more song!” to even “Ten more songs! filled the Gramercy Theatre. Returning with a frantic drum roll, Red broke into the new album’s title track Release the Panic to massive applause. “You have been amazing tonight New York!”, shouted Barnes. With a spinning array of red, orange, blue and purple lights, Red ended the night with fan favorite Breath Into Me.
To my surprise, I enjoyed Red’s performance far more than I was expecting to. Their fantastic stage energy and clearly dedicated fanbase was a sight worth seeing. While I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of Christian rock, after seeing this show, Red would be the first band I would recommend to someone that is. With a high-charting album and a great live performance, I can see Red lasting and growing without dimming or turning blue any time soon.