By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
2 and half years ago in Anaheim, Christian rock/metal giants Skillet came to the Grove of Anaheim. I have wanted to check them out ever since I heard “Monster” and “Hero” on the radio, and when I saw their magic for the 1st time in Anaheim, I was hooked on their stage presence. I could not wait til the next time they came to town, whenever that might be. Well, Skillet is back with a brand-new record, Victorious, and they are ready to hit the road once again to spread their message of faith, hope, and love in a heavy rock way, but they wouldn’t be doing it alone. They embarked on the Victorious War tour with alternative metal legends Sevendust. I have been curious to see what they are like live, and this tour was the perfect opportunity to catch them. They stopped at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on Sunday during Labor Day weekend along with Pop Evil and Devour the Day.
First group to warm up the fans rock aura was Memphis rockers Devour the Day. Funny thing, they were the opening group when Skillet came to Anaheim in 2017, so it felt special to see them again open for Skillet. Having just released their 3rd album late last year, Signals, Devour the Day came to devour our ears. Starting with “Respect,” frontman and guitarist Blake Allison gave it his all on the mic. Bassist Joey “Chicago” Walser wailed on the bass with tremendous passion, while Ronnie Farris dazzled the beats on the drums. I have only seen Devour the Day once, but I will say that this was one of the shortest sets I have ever seen from an opening group. For 20 minutes, they owned the Wiltern with songs like “Faithless,” “The Censor,” “The Bottom,” and “Good Man.” Memphis rock was red hot that night, thanks to brilliant performance of Devour the Day.
Full Devour the Day gallery below:
Up next was the band I have seen twice last year, and I have yet to get sick of them, Pop Evil. They shifted into full gear with the opener, “Boss’s Daughter.” I have been a follower of this group since I heard 2013 hit record, Onyx. Frontman Leigh Kakaty has one of the smoothest and aggressive voice in alternative rock/metal today, and he brought incredible stage presence. Ever since Nick Fuelling joined the group in 2012, his lead guitar riffs have been razor sharp and slick as shit. Same can be said about drummer Hayley Cramer, who was bombastic behind the kit. I love how she handles herself on that instrument; she is sheer tenacity. For me, bassist Matt DiRito stole the show with his wild bass lines and pulsating finger-plucking. He is extremely fun to watch. For a majority of their set, Pop Evil played a lot from Onyx and 2 songs each from their 2018 self-titled album and 2015’s UP. From “Deal With the Devil” to “Torn To Pieces,” “Footsteps,” “Be Legendary,” “Take It All,” and “Waking Lions,” Kakaty and his group roared with pride. During their last song, the popular “Trenches,” Blake Allison and That Metal Show co-host Don Jamieson came to lend their pipes, all the while Kakaty headed out to the crowd to give the fans a grand finale for their set. It was epic ending for Pop Evil at the Wiltern.
Full Pop Evil gallery below:
After a few minutes of relaxation and calmness, the venue went dark and the fans went wild, as Sevendust made their return to LA. The Atlanta outfit got their set off to a blazing start with “Black.” Frontman Lajon Witherspoon had an amazing set of pipes on him, crisscrossing between nu metal, alternative metal, and hard rock depending on the song. John Connolly remains the driving force on lead guitar, cranking out outrageous licks that the Sevendust loyalists love hearing. Drummer Morgan Rose, with his short, red dreads, is a sight for sore eyes when he hammers the beats with ferocity. From what a fan told me, I should have seen him back in the day because in his youth, he was all over the place. However, even if he has slowed down some that does not stop Rose from being just as fierce on the kit as he was in his 20s. Rhythm guitarist Clint Lowery and bassist Vince Hornsby were as steady as a rock on the beat, but they can crank up the volume of the rhythm to an 11. They recently dropped their 12th release, All I See Is War, but they only did one song from that record, “Medicated.” Sevendust went old-school that night, playing 4 songs each from 1999’s Home and 2001’s Animosity. From “Ugly” to “Praise,” “Denial,” “Insecure,” “Reconnect,” “Waffle,” “Angel’s Son,” “Trust,” “Shine,” and “Thank You,” it was like being back in high school and hearing a new Sevendust tune on the radio. It was our first time seeing them, and I would definitely see them again down the line.
Full Sevendust gallery below:
It has been a while, but Skillet has once again returned to Southern California, shattering our ears with the opener, “Feel Invincible.” Bassist and lead singer John Cooper is a typhoon of explosive energy, singing to the top of his lungs all the while thumping mean bass riffs. During “You Ain’t Ready,” he arms himself with 2 fire extinguisher guns and fires into the crowd. John is a premier frontman. His wife, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Katy, provided stellar beats and melodies that God was praising her for it. Drummer Jen Ledger is thunderous on the kit, keeping things simple but heavy stomping. She also has an amazing voice, sometimes providing co-lead vocal work with John. She was a great addition to Skillet when she joined 10 years ago. Lead guitarist Seth Morrison was looking cool the whole evening, shredding some tremendous riffs and solos. To quote Chazz Darby from Airheads, “That’s the quiet cool.” Skillet was anything but quiet, delighting the fans with heavy rock ‘n’ roll that preached faithfulness and love. A lot of the tunes they played came from the last 2 records they put out, 2016’s Unleashed and the newest one Victorious. From “Not Gonna Die” to “Whispers in the Dark,” “Legendary,” “Awake and Alive,” “Back From the Dead,” “Save Me,” “Hero,” “Undefeated,” “Comatose,” and the smash-hit “Monster,” Skillet was sizzling on the rock grill. Before they played one of their newest songs, “Victorious,” John mentioned he wrote that song in honor of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, thanking them for the legacies they left behind and spread awareness for mental health. Fitting tribute to our fallen music heroes. After a brief break, they came back out for the encore, “The Resistance.”
Full Skillet gallery below:
The Wiltern came alive that night. I think the last time I saw that much incredible vitality from both the bands and fans at that venue was when Dream Theater came through this past March. Skillet lifted our souls to Heaven, while Sevendust provided the alternative metal glory we crave so much. Pop Evil was popping all night and Devour the Day continue to leave their mark in rock. Skillet may be a Christian group (something that appeals to me), they are also a group for everyone from all walks of life, and that is what I dig the most about them. That Sunday night was Victorious! To Skillet, Sevendust, Pop Evil, and Devour the Day, I salute you. Horns and wings up!!!