Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Gig Review: Shinedown – Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall - 10/11/09

Tonight was always going to be an interesting night. There are few gigs I really look forward to, but this was most defiantly one of them. The usual pre-gig ritual was attended to (me and Suuze, down the pub for a few beers) followed by a trek down to the Wolves Wulfrun Hall, a venue I’ve been to many a time before, to see a band I used to love and have seen a couple of times and a band I’ve loved for a while and until now not had the privilege of seeing live. I must apologise to the opening band, as we arrived half way through the set and didn’t bother watching them (though from the bar they sounded OK.)

Shinedown are a band that have done all the groundwork and are finally getting the pay off. This is their second time touring the UK. The last time they played the Midlands was at the Barfly, a gig that attracted just over 100 people. So it’s safe to say that tonight’s sell-out performance will see them play to one of the largest indoor crowds they’ve had this side of the pond.

But first, the evening starts in earnest with the main support, as SOiL hit the stage. And what a disappointing start it is. Few people in the sold-out venue seem to know SOiL’s new material, half the people here remember the amazing quality Ryan McCombs voice used to bring to the songs but most people are just here to see Shinedown. As much as AJ Cavalier might try and mimic and match McCombs vocals, the new songs simply don’t hold up live and the old songs seems like lacklustre, unimpressive cover versions. It’s no secret that my biggest pet peeve is bands who replace their lead singers after they’ve broken through and this current incarnation of SOiL does nothing to alleviate those feelings. Tonight’s poor rendition of the classic Halo does well to sum up how far this band have fallen, a song that with McCombs at the helm would have had the entire venue bouncing tonight gets a half-arsed response from an otherwise disinterested crowd. How very disappointing.

All of a sudden things get a bit odd. We’re all used to having fairly dodgy music played between bands but when Beyoncé hits the PA, it confuses every single person in the room. Either something has gone very wrong at the sound desk or something is about to go very right. After 3 minutes of sonic torture, the lights drop and the crowd goes wild. Now, it has to be said that this is the first sold-out gig in Wolverhampton that I’ve been to in quite a long time, so when I say the crowd went wild, it really was something special. Shinedown hit the stage and start things off with a fierce rendition of the title track from their new album: The Sound of Madness. This really does well to set the tone for the hour and a half that is to come.

It has to be said, at this point, that tonight is a night of great irony. Until tonight, the best performance I’ve ever seen from any band was at the first Download Festival in 2003, when SOiL (the original line-up) absolutely decimated the Scuzz stage. That was a performance of raw brilliance and emotion that drew an uninhibited response from the crowd. Tonight, a night when the current incarnation of SOiL fails to impress, Shinedown perform with as much gusto and emotion as that SOiL performance 6 years ago.

A few songs in and Shinedown play one of my personal favourits, .45 , and it’s easy to tell the people who have only recently jumped on the bandwagon but for the rest of us this is a beautiful and heart wrenching rendition of an emotional song. It’s not hard to see why Shinedown manage to sell out arenas back in the U.S. with their mixture of hard rock anthems and acoustic ballads, their catchy chorus’s combined with pounding rhythms make for honest, yet crowd friendly tunes. It feels like it’s the fans who’ve flocked to the band, mostly due to the heavy airplay of the new album, that’ll propel the band to the heights of stardom this side of the pond, but it’s the long time fans, the ones who know the words to every song and have done since Leave A Whisper, that’ll keep the band there.

A brief interlude is followed by a piano/vocals only rendition of Call Me, a chance to showcase one of the slower, more moving tracks from the new album. Brent Smith is the consummate front man, controlling the crowd like a veteran and after a brief speech to get the entire capacity crowd revved up it’s on with the remainder of the set. The Crow & The Butterfly is the last song before another brief break and the band are back for the encore. Few songs will ever evoke such a personal, emotional response from me as Second Chance and to see it played live was an awesome thing. After giving heartfelt thanks to the sold out crowd the band plows in to a rendition of the first track of the new album, Devour, to finish the night and with that, we’re done.

Tonight, Shinedown have managed to make an excellent set, made of a majority of new songs to keep the majority interested, whilst throwing in enough classics to keep the old fans happy. I can honestly say this is best live set I’ve ever seen from a band, and as a veteran of literally 100’s of gigs, that’s saying a lot. This is a band who’ve come so far in the last year and will be going even further in years to come, mark my words on that!

Gig rating? That’s an easy 10/10 (and don’t expect to see that rating again for a very long time!) If you missed Shinedown on this tour then you’ve truly missed out on one of the best bands of the decade, make sure you catch them the next time they come around!

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