Concert Review – Disturbed & Breaking Benjamin (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON, 08/08/2016)

The city of Toronto got awesomely “infected” by David Draiman and his horde on a warm and beautiful night of alternative music.

OPENING ACTS: Saint Asonia and Alter Bridge

Disturbed_Breaking Benjamin_2016Due to my hectic working schedule yesterday and the distance from my place to the fantastic Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, I wasn’t able to see the performances by the two special guests of the night, Canadian Nu Metal/Hard Rock band SAINT ASONIA and American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band ALTER BRIDGE. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited to watch Saint Asonia, despite the fact they’re portrayed as a “supergroup” based in Toronto formed by lead singer and guitarist  Adam Gontier (ex-Three Days Grace), lead guitarist Mike Mushok (ex-Staind), bassist Corey Lowery (ex-Stuck Mojo) and drummer Rich Beddoe (ex-Finger Eleven). I’m not sure how many people were actually able to watch their concert, nor if they were a good warm-up for the following bands. All I can say is that the music they play is not my cup of tea and I don’t really regret missing their performance.

What I do feel slightly sad about was missing the excellent singer Myles Kennedy and the talented guitarist Mark Tremonti (together with bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips) playing their straightforward and honest rock music with Alter Bridge. We all know Myles and Mark are awesome musicians, and even considering the music by this Orlando-based group a bit too soft for me I’m sure that might have been a kick-ass concert. Well, that’s the price to pay when there are too many bands in such a short period of time, fans end up missing a good chunk of what they paid for unless they arrive REALLY early to the venue, which was not the case for most fans last night.

BREAKING BENJAMIN

IMG_1585The Molson Canadian Amphitheatre got packed only a few minutes before American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band BREAKING BENJAMIN began their show, with frontman and guitarist Benjamin Burnley leading his competent band from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania formed by Jasen Rauch on lead guitars, Keith Wallen on rhythm guitar, Aaron Bruch on bass and Shaun Foist on drums. The band got back in action a couple of years ago after Benjamin was finally able to overcome his phobias and addictions, with all members being completely new to the band (except for Benjamin, of course), and based on the warm reaction from everyone at the venue I believe fans truly missed Benjamin’s melodious mix of Alternative Metal and Hard Rock during the band’s hiatus.

As a fan of the darkest side of music who’s always listening to the most visceral forms of Thrash, Death and Black Metal, I must admit their music didn’t excite me despite being extremely well-crafted and played to perfection by all band members. Except for the brief moments when they played an excerpt of the superb Walk, by one of my favorite bands of all time, Pantera, as well as another excerpt from the classic Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, I couldn’t really connect to the band’s music. One thing I enjoyed a lot though was the vocal range by Aaron, going from clean and melodic lines to furious growls whenever he was responsible for the vocal parts, and for me that was the best ingredient of their concert. Please don’t think I hate Breaking Benjamin with all my strength or that it was a horrible concert, let’s simply say it’s hard to pay some decent attention to a band you’re not a fan of their music or style when you’re anxious for the following act.

Setlist
So Cold
Angels Fall
Sooner or Later
Blow Me Away
The Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk
Polyamorous
Ashes of Eden
Believe
Breath
Failure
Until the End
I Will Not Bow
The Diary of Jane

Band members
Benjamin Burnley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Jasen Rauch – lead guitar, electronic strings, programming
Keith Wallen – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Aaron Bruch – bass, backing vocals
Shaun Foist – drums, electronic percussion, programming

DISTURBED

IMG_1592Only one day after playing at Heavy Montréal, Mr. David Draiman and his Alternative Metal horde DISTURBED hit the stage at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre to do what they do best, which is playing electrifying razor-edged modern metal music. Still promoting their 2015 album Immortalized (which by the way was awarded gold in Canada as well as platinum to the single The Sound of Silence, as informed by Draiman during the show), this iconic band from Chicago, Illinois not only revolutionized music with their inception back in the 90’s, but they also keep bringing different generations to their live concerts like what happened yesterday, something only traditional bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica do nowadays.

Blending classics such as the opening song Ten Thousand Fists and the classy Stricken with new songs like the kick-ass The Vengeful One, Draiman and his crew conquered all from the very first notes of their powerful performance. Draiman might not be moving around like before, but it looks like that’s a task he’s leaving for guitarist Dan Donegan, drummer Mike Wengren and especially bassist John Moyer to do, with those three guys being unstoppable on stage while Draiman focused on his unparalleled vocals (including his classic “monkey screams”) and leading gestures. They even invited the guys from Saint Asonia and Breaking Benjamin to sing the classic Who Taught You How to Hate with them, although it felt a bit weird seeing two bass players on stage at the same time.

IMG_1602One of the most anticipated moments of the show was their beautiful version for Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, and I have to say that lived up to all expectations and beyond. The drumming by Mike was incredible, as if he was pounding our hearts, and the piano notes embellished the entire ambience, but of course the main ingredient in such a unique ballad were Draiman’s vocals. He sang each and every note to perfection together with the fans, a memorable moment in a warm Torontonian night that will stay fresh in our minds and hearts for many years to come. Another great example of how Draiman flawlessly captivated and commanded the audience throughout the whole gig occurred during their new song called The Light, where he asked everyone to raise their lighters and mobiles during the chorus of the song and every single person obviously attended his demand, creating a sensational view of brilliant dots all over the venue.

My only complaint is that their setlist was way too short, with only fourteen songs being played in total. They could have played a few more tunes like the title-track “Immortalized” or even their version for “Land of Confusion”, which has been part of their recent setlists. Anyway, the icing on the cake came in the form of their biggest hit Down With the Sickness, with all fans jumping up and down and screaming the lyrics together with Draiman, especially the ones in the floor section like myself. The heat of the fire coming from the stage might have been strong, but the heat coming from their music was even stronger, leaving all fans happier than usual on a Monday night on their way back home. When introducing Down With the Sickness, Draiman said Toronto was “infected” by their music. I can’t think of a better definition to their concert than that.

Setlist
Ten Thousand Fists
The Game
The Vengeful One
Prayer
Liberate
Who Taught You How to Hate
Stupify
The Sound of Silence
Inside the Fire
The Light
Stricken
Indestructible
Voices
Down With the Sickness

Band members
David Draiman – vocals
Dan Donegan – guitar
John Moyer – bass
Mike Wengren – drums

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Concert Review – Van Halen (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON, 08/07/2015)

How to almost ruin what was supposed to be a memorable night in Toronto, by David Lee Roth.

OPENING ACT: Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

van halen 2015Although American guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his band members (Noah Hunt, Chris Layton, Riley Osbourn and Scott Nelson) are undeniably talented, I don’t think they were the best option to open the night for Van Halen at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. I might be wrong, but the Blues Rock played by this good band from Shreveport, Louisiana was not exactly what fans of the electrifying Hard Rock played by Mr. Edward Lodewijk Van Halen & Co. really wanted to see as an opening act, cooling down the temperature among the fans on a perfect night in Toronto.

Anyway, as I said before, their music was solid enough to get a positive reaction from the crowd even if they had opened for Slayer or Cannibal Corpse, and their concert was short and sweet to avoid any signs of boredom among the Van Halen fans. You can check their setlist HERE, and if Blues Rock is your cup of tea or if you are a guitarist you should definitely go after the music by Mr. Shepherd, in case you haven’t done so already.

VAN HALEN

IMG_0492Aging is not a curse, but an essential part of life. If we do not age, there’s nothing to accomplish, there’s no adrenaline to make our own lives more interesting, to keep us moving forward until the inevitable end comes. We all grow old, and although we might not have the same energy as when we were in our 20’s we still have a lot to offer to the world. During the North America Summer/Fall 2015 tour by Hard Rock heroes Van Halen you’ll be able to see how growing old is not a bad thing and how to keep kicking ass through the years (Eddie and Alex Van Halen), and how trying to be the same person you were 30 years ago is not a good idea (David Lee Roth).

In other words, if you attended or is planning to attend any of the concerts from the current Van Halen tour, you’ll witness how David Lee Roth is unfortunately capable of destroying almost all the electricity and atmosphere brought forth by the other members of the band. Don’t get me wrong, I love Diamond Dave and I believe he’s one of those guys that truly revolutionized rock music with his unique charisma and voice, but his performance nowadays is getting to a point it’s better if he call it quits and Eddie brings back even the tedious Gary Cherone to be the frontman of the band.

The setlist was quite lengthy (25 songs in total), which is not an issue if you have guys like Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford or Dave Mustaine to entertain you, but David Lee Roth can’t keep it up with Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang anymore even during their biggest classics such as Runnin’ With the Devil, Hot for Teacher and Jump. For instance, Hot for Teacher is by far my favorite Van Halen anthem of all time and the speed they played the song here in Toronto, especially Alex who was beautifully smashing his drums as if he was playing some Thrash Metal tune (by the way, his drum solo a few songs before that was also fuckin’ awesome), was outstanding, but I was yawning during most of the song because Dave “forgot” to sing it properly and decided to do some weird screams instead. He was not even trying to sing the chorus.

Of course fans got more into the concert after they started playing Unchained, mainly because the following songs were all classics and we got a PERFECT guitar solo by Eddie, but before that it felt like people were about to fall asleep and never return to consciousness so bored everyone seemed to be. No one was dancing during Dance the Night Away, can you believe that? I guess that says it all. And what were all those lame “speeches” Dave insisted on giving every two minutes, most of the time in the middle of a song, including a boring story about a bicycle he had when he lived in New York City? Van Halen doesn’t need that type of shit, they have one of the best guitar players in the world, and one of the most charismatic frontmen on earth, why not focusing on the MUSIC itself instead?

In summary, what was supposed to be a memorable night for all Van Halen fans that attended the concert this Friday in Toronto became a sad letdown, thanks to the once mesmerizing but now disappointing performance by David Lee Roth. I enjoyed the show as much as I could (and so did lots of other fans), getting thrilled with every single riff and solo fired by the guitar god Eddie, banging my head to the precise beats by Alex, and enjoying Wolfgang’s increasing consistence with his bass lines, but you know it’s not perfect without the magic crafted by Diamond Dave in front of the band. Let’s just hope he finally learns how to age soon, and then we will surely get back the real Van Halen we all love so much.

Setlist
1. Light Up the Sky
2. Runnin’ With the Devil
3. Romeo Delight
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
5. Drop Dead Legs
6. Feel Your Love Tonight
7. Somebody Get Me a Doctor
8.She’s the Woman
9. China Town
10. I’ll Wait
11. Drum Solo
12. Little Guitars
13. Dance the Night Away
14. Beautiful Girls
15. Women in Love
16. Hot for Teacher
17. In a Simple Rhyme
18. “Dirty Movies”
19. Ice Cream Man (John Brim cover)
20. Unchained
21. Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love
22. Guitar Solo
23. You Really Got Me (The Kinks cover)
24. Panama
25. Jump

Band members
David Lee Roth – lead vocals
Eddie Van Halen – guitar, backing vocals
Wolfgang Van Halen – bass guitar, backing vocals
Alex Van Halen – drums