As hot temperatures linger passed Labor Day on Long Island, New York, back to school season is in full effect, yet summer lives on in the hearts of music fans who are taking advantage of the final days of the 2018 concert season at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater.
One of the final shows in 2018 down by the bay, on Thursday, September 6th, modern Metal titans Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin, along with special guests Nothing More and Bad Wolves, made Jones Beach one of the last stops on the first leg of the aptly coined A Decade of Destruction Tour. Kicking off this intriguing tour package a month earlier, both in support of new releases in 2018, Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin hit the road on August 1st in Austin, Texas, rocking city after city before pulling into Jones Beach.
Even with an early start-time for a work day, 6:00 PM, the loyal Hard Rock/Heavy Metal patrons packed the Jones Beach parking lots, and did not hesitate to make their way into the venue to catch the first of four bands, Bad Wolves. Out of Los Angeles, California, they exploded into the mainstream in early 2018, releasing their cover of The Cranberries’ 1993 hit “Zombie,” following the untimely passing of Dolores O’Riordan on January 15th. A chart-topping hit for Bad Wolves, “Zombie” became the most downloaded Heavy Metal song on iTunes ever in the U.S. The instant success sent Bad Wolves 2018 debut album, Disobey, rocketing up the Billboard charts. A great success story, even more exciting is the band donated $250,000 of the money earned from the song to O’Riordan’s family.
Arriving to cheers, many Rock fans may be surprised to find out, Bad Wolves is somewhat of a supergroup – featuring former Snot Vocalist Tommy Vext, former God Forbid Guitarist Doc Coyle, former Bury Your Dead Guitarist Chris Cain, former In This Moment Bassist Kyle Konkiel, and former DevilDriver Drummer John Boecklin. Heavier than expected, Bad Wolves opened their set with “Officer Down,” bringing life to the already filled pit area. A native of Brooklyn, mixing unbridled screams with resonating harmonies, Vext engaged the enticed crowd on “Learn to Live” and “Better the Devil.” To close, Vext dedicated “Zombie” to Dolores O’Riordan as this night was also her 47th birthday. All in all, Bad Wolves impressed, bringing heavy riffs and high energy to the theater in a solid opening set.
As stagehands set up the next act, everyone around became aware the sky was growing dark, and an enormous wave of a storm cloud was looming onto the theater. Nonetheless, all were pleased as one of the hottest bands in Rock these days, the Grammy nominated Nothing More – Jonny Hawkins (vocals), Mark Vollelunga (guitar), Daniel Oliver (bass), and Ben Anderson (drums) – took the stage, handing over the band’s driving array of Alternative/Hard Rock potency to the beach.
A ball of fire, Nothing More kicked their set off right with, arguably one of the band’s biggest hit, “Do You Really Want It.” Tearing into it, Hawkins screamed the opening lines, as he and the crowd fed off each others energy amongst an eye-popping shower of lights and smoke. Murphy’s law, the imagery in the sky looked real bad, and, as soon as Nothing More finished the opening number, the venue announced the show would be stopped and delayed until the incoming storm passed, sadly ending the night for Nothing More, who truly rocked the house with just one song.
Fast-forward, after about an hour of rainfall, thunder, lightning, and visions of the Marilyn Manson/Rob Zombie show that was cancelled on August 7th due to a similar storm, fans were elated, practically in tears, to be let back into the theater as the show would go on. As rain fell for a little longer, no one was worried about it, as the humid air finally cleared up, and, in just moments, the first of the two co-headliners would grace the stage.
Now a packed house, as the lights went out on Jones Beach, it felt cathartic to know the Rock gods were on Long Island’s side. Appearing to a huge roar, one of the most enduring Rock acts of the last decade and a half, Breaking Benjamin members Benjamin Burnley (vocals/guitar), Jasen Rauch (lead guitar), Keith Wallen (rhythm guitar), Aaron Bruch (bass), and Shaun Foist (drums) – emerged from the shadows.
Cutting the air open, Breaking Benjamin ripped into a searing cut from the band’s new album, Ember, “Red Cold River,” as the stage was now swallowed up in a beautiful site of smoke and fire. As if standing up to the storm, “I Will Not Bow,” “Never Again,” and “Breath” were met by an emotional sing-along, as only excitement and emotion flooded Jones Beach. Not slowing down, Breaking Benjamin continued to fire up the night via “Sooner or Later,” “Blow Me Away,” and the addictive “So Cold.”
If there is one thing Breaking Benjamin proved to be, they are a band who want to do more than stand around and play, they want to engage with their audience. At one point, noticing a lot of kids in the crowd, Burnley invited two little boys on stage, allowing them to rock out for a song. That is one very cool, highly-respectable characteristic of Breaking Benjamin.
As the time came to say goodbye, Breaking Benjamin captivated the magnetic crowd on “The Diary of Jane,” as Burnley thanked Long Island, expressing how the band can’t wait to be back again. Well worth the wait, Breaking Benjamin really brought down the house, allowing a restless crowd to ease their emotions through the band’s hard-hitting music.
Geared up for the main event, the Long Island heavy music lovers made their way around the venue, hitting the merch booths, grabbing a bite to eat, or just chilling out with friends before heading back to the seats. Inside the theater, the stage was now highlighted by a large skull and two baseball bats for crossbones over the drum-kit. To the delight of all, the time had come for one of the most rambunctious modern bands in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal to grace the stage.
As the lights reached the off position, the crowd was amused by the playing of the Barney theme song filling the air. Then, Five Finger Death Punch – Ivan Moody (vocals), Jason Hook (guitar), Zoltan Bathory (guitar), Chris Kael (bass), and Jeremy Spencer (drums) – seized the theater, opening with “Lift Me Up.” A force of nature, Five Finger Death Punch embody an in-your-face sound, incorporating the best facets of Alternative Metal meeting Groove Metal, as Moody and Kael trade-off vocal parts. Off to a good start, Moody introduced the next song, “Trouble,”off the band’s hammering 2018 release, And Justice For None, engaging the crowd all the way through.
Ready for a set of adrenaline fueled Metal, the fired up crowd was receptive to Moody’s declaration that no matter who we are in our lives, in this moment, we are all one, so lets “Wash It All Away.” Charging on, “Jekyll and Hyde” kept the crowd’s fire burning and the emotion was especially high after Moody dedicated their cover of “Bad Company” to the U.S. military. Toning it down, only Hook and Moody remained on stage for enlightening acoustic renditions of “Wrong Side of Heaven” and “Remember Everything,” as the full band came back and slayed on “Burn MF.”
Defiant, Moody expressed he was not interested in meeting the 11:00 PM curfew and would play until they gave the fans what they deserved. Less than ten minutes on the clock, Five Finger Death Punch offered their cover of The Offspring’s “Gone Away.” Not letting it go, Moody picked-up the venue’s clock from the side of the stage, and as it turned to 11:00 PM, the crowd roared. After that, Moody smashed the clock with a baseball bat in a very entertaining, Rock-n-Roll moment.
Thereafter, Moody opened himself up, expressing his own demons, as the band pummeled with “Under and Over It.” Candidly, Moody spoke about his sobriety, asking members of the crowd if they were in recovery, and, when many responded yes, Moody praised their strength with applause from the crowd. With that, Moody dedicated the final number, “The Bleeding,” to those in recovery, among a glowing site of cell phone flashlights. As the house lights came up, Five Finger Death Punch stayed on stage a bit, waving and talking to the fans.
In conclusion, all four bands put forth a tremendous effort to entertain the dedicated Rock fans of Long Island. Though the early storm was frustrating, in many ways it made the show better in the end, as the co-headlining team of Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin saved the day by doing what they came to do in the first place, bring the music. The first leg of the Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin tour ends as of September 9th, but if you missed it, have no fear, the pair hit the road again in early November for another month of kick-ass shows.
Photo credit: Stephanie Asighieri