Shinedown & Five Finger Death Punch Shake Prudential Center Newark, NJ 11-26-16 w/ Sixx: A.M. & As Lions

Announced all the way back in the spring of 2016, Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown’s co-headlining fall tour had been in the corner of Hard Rock fan’s minds for sometime. A collaboration of two different, but no less powerful Rock bands, it is arguably one of the year’s best touring bills. That is even before one takes into consideration that Sixx: A.M. and promising new band As Lions round out the lineup. Packed from top to bottom, the tour spanned nearly two months after additional shows were announced sometime in late August. Beginning October 18th, concluding on December 10th, everywhere from the midwest to down south and across to the West Coast had a chance to see the show.

Not omitting the beloved East Coast, just days after the Thanksgiving holiday, on Saturday, November 26th, Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center was the hosting venue. Beloved venue known by locals as “The Rock,” believe it or not, this was in fact the closest New York city area date on the tour. That factor in mind, fans from all around New Jersey, New York, and even Connecticut made the trip out to experience a Hard Rock lovers fantasy. 

Ready to get the night started, first up was the less known, but equally intriguing As Lions. Hailing from the UK, As Lions is not without recognizable names amidst their lineup. Emerging from the ashes of the now defunct Rise to Remain, As Lions is the dawn of a new beginning for Vocalist Austin Dickinson along with Guitarists Conor O’Keefe and Will Homer. Joined by Bassist Stefan Whiting and Drummer Dave Fee, the band are now signed to Better Noise Records, making their debut with the release of their Aftermath EP back on October 14th. 

Clearly a new band in many concert goers eyes and ears, all watched attentively as Dickinson came running out, holding the microphone in the air. Possessing the same exuberant energy as his father, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, he unleashed, kicking off with “The Fall.” Extremely impressed with the dynamic range of his voice, matched by the melodic instrumentation of the band, everyone seemed to be in the groove as the band continued with “White Flags” and “The Suffering.” Matching Dickinson’s energy, his mates were also running about the stage, making the most of their time to engage the crowd as they continued with “Deathless,” “Aftermath,” before concluding with “The Great Escape.” Overall a very tight ensemble, As Lions’ performance was polished and lively. No strangers to the big stage, having been apart of Vans Warped Tour with Rise to Remain back in 2012, it is easy to see As Lions will one of Hard Rock’s brightest to watch for in 2017. 

Following a brief intermission, many of the fans in the crowd made the most of the time, exiting the main stadium to visit the concourse for concessions. Most of the time, Hard Rock shows are held in much smaller venues, so the amenities of an arena was a treat. Happy and anxious, the next band for the night was Sixx: A.M. The brainchild of Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, Sixx: A.M. has gone from a once thought of side project to a full-time band with their own identity and fanbase. Now celebrating their fifth studio album since coming together back in 2007, Prayers for the Blessed, Vol. 2 hit the public back on November 18th. A conclusion to the story begun with April’s Prayers for the Damned, Vol. 1, beloved fans were eager to see the new tracks performed live. 

Coming out running on all cylinders, the set was kicked off with Vocalist James Michael belting out “This is Gonna Hurt.” Upping the energy level, the audience exploded when Sixx and Guitarist DJ Ashba stood on each side of the stage respectively while touring member Dustin Steinke held no prisoners on the drum kit. Generously offering a mix of songs from their catalog, they received positive responses to “Rise,” “When We Were Gods,” and “We Will Not Go Quietly.” Being the showmen they are, Sixx and Ashba dazzled on their instruments, holding their guitars high up on their knees, aiming them at the crowd. 

Continuing along with songs like “Everything Went to Hell,” “Prayers for the Damned,” “Lies of the Beautiful People,” and “Stars,” the most touching moments were yet to come. Saving the best for last, they closed with “Life Is Beautiful,” inviting a little girl onto the stage to help them sing along. A symbol of hope to show the relevance of the song’s message, no one could have asked for a more spirit-lifting ending. 

Floating on air, the set change saw many smiling, exchanging in conversation, and talking about Shinedown who were up next. The first of the co-headlining acts, Shinedown have been one of Hard Rock’s biggest stars since the release of their 2008 album, The Sound of Madness. Certainly not unknown prior to such, releasing the impeccable Leave A Whisper debut in 2003 and Us and Them in 2005, Shinedown is now recognized by more casual audiences due to major radio hits.

Wonderfully enough, the band, led by Vocalist/Lyricist Brent Smith, has not let the success go to their head. In fact, they are still determined to outdo their previous efforts, but minus the criticism of outside noise. This was never more evident than the astounding effort put into 2015’s Threat to Survival; a potent collection of songs heavy enough to please Hard Rock lovers and refined enough to still connect with the mainstream. Now, in continued support of that said album, Smith, along with the united force of Guitarist Zach Myers, Bassist Eric Bass, and Drummer Barry Kerch, was ready to rumble. 

Teased with a large version of Shinedown’s SD interlocking logo on the curtain behind, flashing lights began to emerge as the curtain dropped for the start of “Adrenaline.” A fitting opening to hype up the arena, intense pyrotechnics complemented the light show as they continued with older favorite “Fly From the Inside” and 2010’s The Expendables soundtrack song “Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom).” Leaving it all on the stage with showmanship of a high level, Smith’s pipes were strong and emotional from the start. Taking a breath to rap with the crowd, Smith’s engaging personality beamed through as he asked the large crowd who was seeing Shinedown for the first time. That in mind, he wanted to spread the message that people in the crowd should connect with one another, regardless if they never met before. A refreshing sense of unity in a world that seems divided more than ever, Smith even jumped down into the photo pit area to shake the hands of those working, showing praise and appreciation for their efforts. 

All this love and affection matched the feeling of “Unity” perfectly and made the soulful “How Do You Love” even more effective. Moving along at a generous speed, not to go unnoticed, Myers chops on guitar were nothing less than amazing with flowing fingerwork and a entertaining way of showing it all off. Smith even requested the crowd split down the middle and bravely went into the sea of people to walk himself all the way to the back of the venue. An antic he has done for years during many live shows, it is nice to see some things never change. In between it all, “Enemies” had everyone jumping up and down before a more subdued piano launched the telling “Call Me.” A favorite of the The Sound of Madness album, everyone went crazy singing along with the chorus. 

Moving on to “State of My Head,” big hit “Second Chance” saw the arena illuminate with lights and cellphones as they once again sang the chorus loudly. High on the adrenaline rush, the band kept the momentum going with the heavier “Cut the Cord,” before their distinct rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” and winding it all down with “Sound of Madness.” One thing about Shinedown is that they are all about crowd participation, they want their fans to not feel like they are just watching, but a part of the show. Keeping everyone fully immersed, it was yet another example of why Shinedown is one of modern Rock’s most vital bands.  

Now down to the wire, the final performance of the night was left to Five Finger Death Punch. A band that beat the odds, Five Finger Death Punch for intensive purposes came out of nowhere in 2007 with their debut album, The Way of the Fist. A second chance of sorts for their veteran Guitarist Zoltan Bathory (formerly of U.P.O.) and Vocalist Ivan Moody (formerly of Motograter), the lineup completed by Guitarist Jason Hook and Drummer Jeremy Spencer were on the precipice of Rock-n-Roll superstardom when releasing War Is The Answer in 2009. Adding Bassist Chris Kael in 2010, the solid lineup of Five Finger Death Punch has since gone on to be a juggernaut force of nature. 

Touring and releasing albums consistently, 2015’s Got Your Six was their third consecutive to hit on Rock charts in the US, and with a rabid fanbase, they were ready to blow the roof off the Prudential Center. Commencing with “Lift Me Up,” Moody pushed the audience to get involved and sing along with him before Hook came to the edge of the runway to smoke with a guitar solo. Following with older favorite “Never Enough,” a sea of fists rose from the crowd in approval. Taking a moment to break it down, Moody made it personal, talking about his past. Quickly catching himself from going further, the audience held no judgement over Moody’s open dialogue as the music continued on with “Wash It All Away.” 

Giving Moody a breather, Kael took over on vocals for “Got Your Six” before Moody returned for their cover of Bad Company’s “Bad Company.” Visibly revved up, Moody signaled Spencer to give them hell as they blasted into “Jekyll and Hyde” followed by a blistering drum solo. With plenty of fiery sensations in the air, Moody brought a few kids on the stage to join in with “Burn MF.” A questionable decision, considering the songs profanity, it was with their parents’ blessing, who were also invited to stand behind the band on stage with the children. An experience all involved will soon not forget, the mood quickly shifted to a more sorrowful tone as they went into an acoustic version of “Wrong Side of Heaven” followed by more conversation. He addressed all the press hoopla about his speech the night before about his mother not being well. Clarifying he was speaking of his house mother, who he connected with in rehab, Moody candidly wanted to put the nonsense to rest as they went into a stripped down “Remember Everything.”

From here, the remainder of the performance was an up and down roller coaster of anger, frustration, and sadness as they went along with “Coming Down,” “Under and Over It,” and the signature “The Bleeding” to close it out. Remaining on the stage to take in the crowd’s cheers, Moody and company bowed out as the instrumental to “House of the Rising Sun” played over the speakers. Much todo has been made over Moody and his personal life in recent years. Some may be true, some may be false, but all is really no one’s business but his own. What does matter is he continues to bare his soul on stage each and every night, never mailing it in. Whatever he is battling, internally and externally, he has the support and love of the Knuckleheads worldwide. In his own response to the crowds cry of “Five Finger Death Punch,” “Don’t ever forget it.”

Photos credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography

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