Review by Peter Keevil
Photos by Tony Gaskin
‘twas a night of 3 frontmen, many a decent tune and spiritual enlightenment.
Openers, Exit Ten took to the stage as the large crowd were filtering in. They sounded decent, worth checking out their studio efforts for sure. They’re a 5 piece that focusses around charismatic frontman Ryan Redman, who was totally comfortable with the larger stage space and audience of the Academy main room. Its just as well, as he was surrounded by band mates all dressed in black and more comfortable staring at their shoes. They only got to play a handful of songs but were brave enough to try an audience sing a long – the hypnotic ‘You will see the lion in me’ not the most catchy I’m sure – but they just about pulled it off. A worthy effort.
The interestingly named Redlight King kicked off with their most famous song, Comeback, which featured on the Avengers Assemble movie soundtrack. It was a bold move but appeared to get the knowledgeable crowd on their side.
It’s their first venture around the UK and their melodic Canadian radio rock sound suited this tour well – big choruses, sweet harmony vocals backed by huge chunky riffs.
Despite it being a cold and wet Sunday night the crowd really showed their appreciation but I was left thinking that they actually weren’t ‘that’ good. Like Exit Ten the main man Kas new how to work the crowd but unfortunately his vocal performance didn’t match his drive and passion, often signing a little flat. The crowd didn’t seem to mind though and they are the main judge.
Standout songs included… City Life, Built To Last, Something For The Pain and Bullet In My Head.
Shinedown are no strangers to the Midlands and like Black Stone Cherry & Rival Sons are seeing their concerted efforts on the road beginning to pay off in the UK. This was their 2nd trip to Birmingham this year, having previously played the HMV Institute in February at the beginning of the Amaryllis tour.
Now I’m a big fan of Shinedown, ever since being introduced to them at the old Barfly some years ago but if like me you are familiar with them then the one downside of seeing Shinedown play live often is that they are a little formulaic. Some might welcome that like an old friend, whereas I would just like to see a little more spontaneity.
Truth be told, it’s a minor gripe of an old man as the show performed was yet another phenomenal live performance. And when main man Brent Smith asked who in the crowd were experiencing Shinedown for the first time the vast majority of hands reached for the skies, meaning it was all fresh and new for most anyway!
The benefit of a well organised, dare I say scripted, show is the attention to detail… Brent loves his between song monologues but they are delivered as if they are as important as the songs themselves; to the point where they are typically accompanied by Zach Myers on guitar and treated like part of the set list.
Before the show, Zach explained the relationship the band has with WWE and you can see the similarities in the performance of Shinedown compared with the sport-u-tainment monster from across the pond. Brent looked lean and toned, pony-tailed and in the best shape of his life. His muscles rippled and flexed just in holding the mic.
The music too is suitably muscled and toned but expresses a keen vulnerability that seeps out beyond the testosterone.
Opening with Sound of Madness the sound was colossal making me wonder if backing tracks were being used. Not that this mattered as there was plenty coming out the 4 strong gang on stage to believe what was being witnessed was honest and true.
The whole of the main room Academy shook as 3,000 fans sprung like demented jack rabbits to the command of Brent during Enemies. Barry Kerch looked like a flailing percussion Doc Ock (one for Spiderman fans) as his dreadlocked hair matched his swinging, blurring arms.
Crow and The Butterfly had this scribe singing along, while the Ringmaster Smith took us back to their beginnings with Fly From The Inside. New, title track, Amaryllis, sounded just as strong and urgent as the ‘hits’, while Unity and 45 closed as good a set as these walls will have seen.
Returning to the stage with the opening rhythms of Devour had us all bouncing again. But this was followed by THE killer monologue that even had the shivers coursing down this old fella’s back.
I couldn’t possibly do it justice here (hopefully someone has posted it on YouTube – I’ll be searching for it next) but let’s just say that Brent Smith ‘connected’! He spoke about how rock n roll picked him up and helped him when he was feeling at his lowest. He asked what songs had done that for us; when it had been there for us; that it emphatically showed how rock n roll was much more than just a genre of music, that it was a WAY OF LIFE!
Zach Myers strummed the opening chords of Skynyrd’s Simple Man and the audience transcended to another level. Second Chance kept us there and Bully left us in a permanently altered state.
Well-rehearsed or scripted, call it what you will, this was one helluva show. Shinedown expect to return in 2013 – I suggest you save the date and keep the whole year free.
You can hear my pre-gig interview with Shinedown guitarist Zach Myers here. http://www.themidlandsrocks.com/audio-interview-with-zach-myers-of-shinedown/
Check out more photos from the gig below: