By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
Las Rageous was the first time I caught the righteousness of Five Finger Death Punch. Armed to the teeth with skull-crushing riffs and a sinister attitude, the modern metal megastars of Las Vegas were total bad-asses at Las Rageous. Five Finger have been having some trouble recently in the past with addiction, mainly with frontman Ivan Moody’s alcoholism. Now in recovery and stronger than ever, he is looking forward to melting more faces off. They have joined forces with alternative metal/hard rock stars Breaking Benjamin for a co-headlining tour that is sure to be one of the best for the summer. Coming along for this headbanging adventure are my boys in Nothing More and Bad Wolves. It has been a hot summer, and it just got hotter.
Bad Wolves have riding on the gravy train ever since the release of their debut album, Disobey. Tommy Vext is an efficient frontman who has buoyant energy and a radical style of singing. Lead guitarist Doc Coyle was a riff-roaring pleasure to watch on stage as Bad Wolves dominated their set with songs like “Officer Down,” “Learn to Live,” “No Masters,” and “Better the Devil.” As soon as they wrapped up “No Masters”, the blue-haired rock diva Diamante came out to join Vext for a duet of their new single, “Hear Me Now.” Both Diamante and Vext had great chemistry together, singing together with love and conviction. Bad Wolves ended their night with the ever popular Cranberries cover, “Zombie.” It is still saddening to think that Cranberries leading lady Dolores O’Riordan is gone, but Vext does her justice with his singing. Who’s afraid of the big Bad Wolves? Not me, I embrace them every time.
Full Bad Wolves slide show below:
It is always exhilarating to see my boys from San Antonio, Texas. Nothing More is truly one of the most thrilling rock bands on stage today. They have been riding high ever since the release of their sophomore album, The Stories We Tell Ourselves. As always, frontman Johnny Hawkins was a fireball of pure energy. They kicked things off with the crowd pleaser “Do You Really Want It,” one of my favorites. Guitarist Mark Vollelunga, bassist Dan Oliver, and drummer Ben Anderson sizzled on the stage with their enchanting stage presence and wicked musicianship. Playing mix from their latest album and their 2014’s Nothing More, the crowd was in awe with their hit-making songs like “Go To War,” “Jenny,” “Mr. MTV,” and “This is the Time (Ballast).” They finished the night with a bang, literally, when they went into their drum act for “Salem (Burn the Witch).” No one puts on a hell of a performance like Nothing More.
Full Nothing More slide show below:
This is my first time seeing Breaking Benjamin, a hard rock band from Pennsylvania that Rockaholic turned me onto. Ever since vocalist Benjamin Burnley reunited the group with new members in 2014, they have enjoyed bigger success both critically and commercially with the release of 2015’s Dark Before Dawn and its newest effort, Ember. Burnley serenaded the Irvine loyalists with his tenor vocal and occasional death growl, showing that he is still one of the best vocalists in modern rock today. From “Red Cold River” to “Never Again,” “Angels Fall,” “Psycho,” “I Will Not Bow,” “Blow Me Away,” and “Torn in Two,” Breaking Benjamin tenderized my musical soul.
After playing “Breath,” they went into an impromptu musical breakdown by meshing together “The Imperial March” from Star Wars, Tool’s “Schism,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Pantera’s “Walk,” and Metallica’s “Sad But True,” to which rhythm guitar Keith Wallen killed it on lead vocals. He also handled the singing duties on the next song, “Sooner or Later.” Both he and lead guitarist Jasen Rauch were slayers on their instruments, while bassist Aaron Bruch was a pulsating earthquake machine when he struck his notes. Drummer Shaun Foist got a chance to show off his mad skills on the kit with his own solo, and crushed it. The amphitheater erupted when Burnley ended the evening with the classic tune, “The Diary of Jane.” Breaking Benjamin killed it in Irvine, and I am extremely happy to finally see them live.
Full Breaking Benjamin slide show below:
Before the main attraction onto the stage, we were treated to the sound of the ear-bleeding children’s tune from Barney the Dinosaur, “I Love You.” It was painful to hear because I genuinely hate that song with a passion, but it was amusing. Five Finger Death Punch then emerged with the powerful “Lift Me Up.” Ivan Moody was on key the entire evening, giving the fans ear-shattering screeches and roars, while also captivating us with his melodic crooning. Lead guitarist Jason Hook shredded some mean street style solos, while rhythm player Zoltan Bathory displayed a whirlwind of awesome riffs. Drummer Jeremy Spencer, dressed like a skeleton with face paint, banged and clashed into our hearts, while bassist Chris Kael, with his awesome Viking beard, conquered the songs with his monstrous bass licks.
The entire set list was filled with bone-chilling tunes like “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Trouble,” “Wash It All Away,” and “Fake.” Only two songs came from their latest LP, And Justice for None. They even paid homage to troops with their version of “Bad Company,” to which Tommy Vext came out to help sing. Moody then got personal with the fans with an unplugged version of “Wrong Side of Heaven,” with Hook wailing it on acoustic. Before doing “Remember Everything,” Moody invited a bunch of kids onto the stage to help him sing, which was very cool of him. I even saw my rocker buddy, Christian Leyva, on stage. After “Coming Down,” Moody stopped the show because a fan got injured in the pit. Some of the fans were growing restless, but I think that was awesome of Moody to put the fan’s safety first. During which time, he goofed off with the fans, signed autographs, and the camera guy caught a flasher. They then assumed the evening with “Under and Over It.” The final song was the popular “The Bleeding.”
Full Fiver Finger Death Punch slide show below:
This was a fist pumping evening that every hard rock and metal fan would be proud to be a part of. I enjoyed everybody that came out to perform, and I got to see my buddies Jose and Melissa Mangin, Diamante, and Bad Wolves’ Doc Coyle. Matt, Tyler (Rockaholic), Rick Marto, and myself were proud rock fans when the night was over. To Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, Nothing More, Bad Wolves, and Diamante, I salute you. Horns up!!!