July 6, 2015 Breaking Benjamin immerse The Orange Peel Asheville, NC 7-1-15
Established in 1998 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Rock band Breaking Benjamin was formed by self-taught guitarist/singer/songwriter Benjamin Burnley as a cover project, getting the band’s name after the owner of a mic that he had broke snidely remarked, “Thanks to Benjamin for breaking my fucking mic.” The band garnered attention in 2001 when their track, “Polyamorous,” was aired by local DJ Freddie Fabbri and became the #1 most requested song on his station. Fabbri then financed the band’s self-titled EP, released that same year. “Polyamorous” was then included in their debut album, Saturate, released in 2002 through Hollywood Records, an album that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and #136 on the Billboard 200 chart. After several line-up changes that brought band members in and out and then back into the fold, Breaking Benjamin released three more breathtaking albums titled We Are Not Alone in 2004, Phobia in 2006, and Dear Agony in 2009. Riding on top of the Hard Rock world, in 2010 fans were shocked and devastated to learn of the band’s indefinite hiatus due to internal legal issues.
With the landscape of Hard Rock changing in their absence, one thing remained clear, and that was fans were still hungry for their return. That is why when Breaking Benjamin declared their return via Facebook in 2014 as a quintet; the excitement level went through the roof. Restocked with all new members joining Burnley, including bassist Aaron Brunch (Forever Oeuvre), guitarist and backup vocalist Keith Wallen (formerly of Adelitas Way), lead guitarist Jasen Rauch (formerly of Red) and drummer Shaun Foist (Picture Me Broken), the band took to the road performing once again. Then in March of this year, a single titled “Failure” made its long-awaited debut, and on June 23rd, the band’s fifth studio album, Dark Before Dawn, successfully launched at #1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, a well-deserved honor that led to their best sales week to date.
Having toured throughout the Spring in anticipation for Dark Before Dawn’s release, the band now partake in a brief acoustic tour in selected cities. Kicking off the first show out of only five acoustic sets, Breaking Benjamin came to The Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina on Wednesday July 1st as fans poured into the venue to witness the end of their hiatus. With bright eyes and smiling faces, individuals from all over the South waited anxiously as the band’s technicians made their final adjustments, then at 9:15 PM, the crowd exploded like dynamite as the five musicians took stage. “So Cold” kicked off the nineteen song set and the building rumbled as mostly everyone sang along. Despite medical issues that have challenged Burnley for years, his face lit up like the fourth of July, thanking everyone for their support once the song came to an end.
With teary eyes and goosebump-covered arms, the crowd could feel the passion emanating from each band member as they went about their craft with “Blow Me Away.” The next three songs – “Failure,” “Breath,” and “Phase” – led up to Burnley going back to the band’s roots as cover artists as he and his crew nailed their version of “Would?” by Alice in Chains. Lyrics thundered from the venue’s floor, with “Into the flood again, same old trip it was back then,” as if they could be heard for miles upon miles around. As they moved forward, “Shallow Bay” and “Give Me A Sign” were just as appreciated by the crowd as they reciprocated the band’s ecstatic energy. Then, catching The Breaking Benjamin army by surprise, they went into a magnificent cover of Tools’ “Aenima.” Moving right along, they put the accelerator to the floor as they kicked up the nostalgia factor with a hammered out version of their first single, “Polyamorous;” a song that has gone down in history on various WWE video game soundtracks, reminding fans of Burnley’s own avid gaming lifestyle.
“I Will Not Bow” finished off the set as the band thanked their audience yet again. As the lights began to dim, the sleeping city of Asheville perked right back up, clamoring for more as they chanted, “One more song! One more song!” Fists pumped through the air as Breaking Benjamin made their way back onto the stage, Burnley grinning, broadly shouted, “Of course we are going to play more for you!” Then just like that, “Lights Out” erupted from the speakers as the crowd joined in chanting along once again. With fire and emotion flowing through their veins, Breaking Benjamin ended this magical, emotional night with “The Diary of Jane,” and not a single soul in the sold out venue was disappointed with the efforts of these exhilarating Rockers.
Only the strongest of bands survive nowadays. Even through sweat, blood, and emotional, as well as physical, toil, Breaking Benjamin have proven to the masses that they have what it takes to survive in this musically fickle culture. Above it all, Burnley has connected with a group of musicians which are not only compatible with the band, but as dear friends as well. That sort of joy felt by all projected off the stage, and there is no doubt, this band was not faking it. Breaking Benjamin is not a failure; they are back, better than ever, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon.