The best live bands transcend.
They pull you into the music and the spectacle in a way that makes you forget the band is actually on a stage down there somewhere beyond the rest of the crowd. They also make you forget whatever it is you thought you knew about them before they start playing.
It’s easy to see why the Florida rock band is so wildly popular and why it has no shortage of rock radio hits – 11 have topped Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs.
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This is a heavy chugging rock band, yes, but with dimension.
Shinedown played for close to two hours (partially to make up for cancellation of All That Remains earlier in the day, no doubt), pulling out both energetic thrashers (the opening number in particular), more mid-tempo pop-centric stadium rock and its cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic “Simple Man” for good measure.
It was all heavily produced; punctuated with ambient interludes and laser lights and frontman Brent Smith’s onstage banter, which was refreshingly honest and void of the typical “are you ready to rock?” BS.
Highlights: “State of my Head,” “Second Chance.”
The rest of the bands:
All that Remains got caught in bad weather back East. There were delays and thousands of canceled flights.
Sick Puppies is anchored by bassist Emma Anzai, who spent the majority of the band’s set thrashing around and generally looking super bad-ass in a Hollywood metal band way. The aesthetic (and the sound) works. Highlights: A surprisingly on-point version Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerrilla Radio”
As Lions are English and during the between-song banter vocalist Austin Dickinson seemed chipper as all get out to be in a town they’ve never played, in front of new fans. Dickinson’s soaring vocals have only the slightest hints of his father (Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson) and works perfect for the band’s brand of contemporary radio rock.
Centerpath beat out more a dozen local acts to earn an opening spot at Blazefest. The Clovis metal band proved they deserved to be on that stage with a set that showed off the band’s technical prowess and Jacob Wilson’s ability to sing (and growl and scream) and to keep a crowd engaged. Highlights: “Another One Bites the Dust,” which might be the most metal Queen cover since Metallica did “Stone Cold Crazy.”
▪ Rock bands may be replacing country singers as the humblest of all artists. There was a massive amount of thank yous coming off stage from all the bands (starting with Centerpath) and the idea of the fans as family was a definite theme for the night.
▪ Though the afternoon rain let up and the sun eventually came out, it was still cold for much of the show; 55 degrees by my weather app. Still, there were several shirtless dudes mixing it up front of stage.
▪ Normally rock shows like this tend to smell like weed. Blazefest smelled liked fried food and for some reason, cotton candy, though later in the night it did smell like weed.
▪ If I have to hear one more rock band ask how Fresno is feeling ...
▪ Shinedown actually has a song about putting your hands in the air, which sort of seems genius.