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Concert Reviews:
Disturbed and friends show that heavy rock is alive and well at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- "Are you ready for a rock show?" Saint Asonia frontman Adam Gontier asked the crowd DTE Energy Music Theatre crowd at the start of the four-act Showdown Fest stop there Tuesday night, July 26.

The nearly 15,000 who packed the venue certainly were, and countering any of the oft-professed concerns that rock is dead, the assembled bands -- also including headliner Disturbed, Breaking Benjamin and Alter Bridge proudly and abundantly loudly assured those fans that the heavy side genre is still in good hands, especially those that hail from the 90s and early 00s.

It was a prototypical Rock -- with a capitol R -- show, to be sure, one that could be emerging from a 20-year time capsule or sent forward into the future another two decades. The consensus attire, save for Gontier's white T-shirt, was standard-issue black, and even Breaking Benjamin guitarist's Keith Wallen's blonde hair stood in stark contrast to his colleagues. Staging was relatively minimal, with Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin spending most of their production money on pyrotechnics -- including an extensive fire display from the headliner that seared the already sweltering temperatures outside.

And there were plenty of fists and devil's horns thrown in the air, while Disturbed frontman David Draiman's cantorial tones and shamanistic presence, complete with a body-length tunic, gave the show the resonance of high church (or, in his case, synagogue).

Openers in this kind of situation could well be sacrificial lambs, but the all-star Saint Asonia -- Gontier from Three Days Grace, guitarist Mike Mushok from Staind, bassist Corey Lowery from Sevendust and more -- and Alter Bridge held their own. The former tossed Three Days Grace's "I Hate Everything About You" into its half-hour set, while Alter Bridge played a solid, hard-hitting offering from its four albums, although it surprisingly chose not to play "Show Me a Leader," the just-released single form its upcoming "The Last Hero" (due Oct. 7).

Breaking Benjamin -- the lineup's lone quintet amongst quartets took an hour-long troll through its five studio albums and "So Cold" EP, including the title track from the latter and plenty of earnest 'n' angsty anthems such as "Sooner or Later," "Breath," the defiant "I Will Not Bow" and the double-platinum "The Diary of Jane." Playing on a two-level stage that allowed band members to play and sing just above and behind drummer Shaun Foist. The group incorporated a bit of levity as well, when it introduced a geeky medley that included "The Imperial March" from "Star Wars" -- which a light saber-wielding Benjamin Burnley dedicated to "Lord Vader" -- Tool's "Schism," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Pantera's "Walk."

Disturbed, meanwhile, showed that little has changed in the wake of a four-year hiatus that ended with last year's chart-topping "Immortalized" album. The quartet was again a pounding force of nature, a Nurembergian blend of meaty riffs and thundering grooves and Draiman's voice-of-the-heavens vocals. Newer material such as "The Light" and "The Vengeful One" fit comfortably next to seminal fare like "Ten Thousands Fists," "Liberate," "Stupify" and "Down With the Sickness," while Disturbed's cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" -- accompanied by two string players and timpani -- was even more haunting in an outdoor setting.

You could quibble about the brevity of the group's set, just 13 songs in an hour, and Disturbed certainly left plenty of other favorites behind. But that just left more for next time -- and all four bands on Tuesday made it clear that they're not going anywhere soon.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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