Rock fans filled up the Times Union Center on November 23 as Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin and Sevendust heated up the Albany area arena with three incredible live performances by three of today’s top rock acts. Albany’s rock family was out in full force to witness the star-studded, Hall of Fame caliber rock lineup, that not only consisted of some of the best musicians in the business, but also three of today’s top rock frontmen: Shinedown’s Brent Smith, Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin and Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust.
For a Monday night, some would expect the crowd to be more laid back since it’s the start of most people’s work week, but that was not the case here as the fans in the arena were pumped and ready for a rock show. Even Upstate New York’s own Maria Brink from the band In This Moment, was in attendance as a fan with friends and family. Machine Head drummer Phil Demmel was also hanging out at the show.
First to grace the stage for the night was Atlanta, Georgia natives Sevendust. One by one each band member took the stage as the bass vibrated the whole building. Frontman Lajon Witherspoon stood front and center and asked the crowd “How y’all doing tonight?” The crowd screamed and once again Witherspoon asked the question to even louder screams from the crowd. Witherspoon then asked the crowd “Do you know who we are?” Witherspoon then shouted “We are Sevendust, let me see everybody’s hands in the air.” As the band went into the second song of the night “Driven,” Witherspoon asked the crowd if they were ready.
Before the band played the song “Not Today,” from the bands new album Kill the Flaw, the always emotional Witherspoon stopped for a minute to have a heartfelt talk with the fans. Witherspoon stated:
It’s a pleasure for us to be here. To be in your town. We’re a band, we go by the name of Sevendust. A lot of times, I feel like I have to build a relationship, with those that don’t know who we are. I’m not afraid of that. I like to say ah, you can love us, you can hate us, but you can’t fucking defeat us. With that being said, Were very proud to be out here with our brothers, from a band that goes by the name of Shinedown.
Witherspoon went on to thank everyone who helped on the tour, and those who have taken care of them by helping take situations that don’t feel like home, and that these people made them feel at home.
Witherspoon then asked the crowd, what do you guys know about Breaking Benjamin, to screams from the fans. Witherspoon then went on to say “Can you feel the energy? I said can you feel the energy, as fans yelled back. See now I feel like this relationship is starting to build.”
Witherspoon then asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a new song, and told fans to put their hands in the air. As the band played the intro, Witherspoon told the fans that were sitting in seats to put their hands in the air. Witherspoon then added “You get to sit down when you go back to your house tonight. Are you having a good time right now? Albany make some fucking noise.”
Witherspoon got all choked up when he gave an emotional speech about the recent tragedies in France before the bands song “Angels Son.” Witherspoon said:
Have you ever heard of the song ‘Angels Son?’ Tonight I’m dedicating it, because of the terrible things that have gone on in our world that we live in. The last couple of weeks, I’m talking about what happened in Paris. And I can’t believe it touched so close to home cause we had a few people that we knew that died over there, and what I’m trying to say is how very lucky, and how very blessed we are to be in this building together, and to be safe. See to me war is when you have someone on the other side and you know he has a gun, we have a gun and there’s a certain means, we have to do a certain thing. I don’t believe its a war when you go into a beautiful building (pauses as he chokes up for a few seconds) and you blow up people who have no freakin’ chance. Does that make sense to you guys? So what I have to say is, lets stay together, lets stay strong and lets not let them crazy motherfuckers scare us. Cause it’s not suppose to be like this, it’s not suppose to be like this, so we dedicate Angel’s Son to all those beautiful people that we lost.
Sevndust closed their set as Witherspoon introduced the last song for them of the night “Thank You,” by saying the song is a testimony to everything the band and he fans have been through together. He then added when it comes to fans of Sevendust, that he feels like they don’t have concerts, they have family reunions.
Sevendust Setlist: Black, Driven, Not Today, Angel’s Son, Shine, Thank You
Breaking Benjamin walked on the stage to the opening theme from the movie Star Wars, which frontman Ben Burnley is a big fan of. Burnley even sports the droid BB-8 from the upcoming Star Wars movie The Force Awakens. Breaking Benjamin then went from Star Wars to the first song in the setlist “So Cold.”
Burnley introduced the song Unknown Soldier by saying:
Right now I wanna take this time to send this next song out to every single man, and every single woman in this audience tonight that served this country. Your bravery, your courage, and your self-sacrifice, stand above all others in the world. It is because of those things, that America is the greatest country in the world. We are all indebted to you for your service. For without the service, of our soldiers and our veterans, we would not be up here playing rock & roll, you would not be out there listening to music, and we would not be having a concert tonight. Thank you or your sacrifices, thank you for the pain you have to endure in order for us to be here tonight.
Burnley then said to fans “Everyone of you, has a great heart, and you are thankful for the things that you have, you are thankful for the things that you have earned, you are thankful for the gifts that you are given. You have the things that you have, and you get the gifts that you get because of the service of our veterans and our soldiers.” This broke out a U.S.A chant from the crowd with help from Burnley.
Burnley decided to give his vocals a rest on the next song, and handed over the lead vocal duties to the fourth song in the set, “Sooner Or Later,” to guitarist Keith Wallen who sang the song as if was his own.
Breaking Benjamin then went into a small medley of songs that kicked off the “Imperial March Theme” from Star Wars. Burnley, from the catwalk behind the drummer sported a red light saber and said to the crowd that there is a new Star Wars movie on the horizon and showed his loyalty to the Empire.
In an amazing sight during the song “Give Me A Sign,” Burnley took a break to ask the crowd to pull out their cell phones and turn their flashes on. Burnley then went on to say “Alright, now were gonna do something. Were gonna turn off every light in this building, every single light on this stage, turn all of it off. Right now. Right at this moment. The only light that you see in this room, is the light that your shining yourself, and there is no other light than what you are shining right now. We are so grateful for that light. Without that light Albany, we would be in pitch black dark right now. Since you brought us into the light and out of the darkness, I want to sing this together as one. We’re gonna do this as one. And I wanna sing this so loud that we tear a hole in the roof. Can you do that Albany, New York?” Burnley and the fans then closed out the song together.
Burnley once again, then gave away the lead vocal duties for a song, but this time to bassist Aaron Bruch. Bruch then sang the song “Believe,” from the bands second studio album We Are Not Alone.
Burnley thanked the fans after the song “I Will Not Bow,” for their support. Burnley the told the fans that there is not a day that goes by, that he is not grateful to be up here on stage playing for you guys tonight. “You guys are so awesome. When you play for such an incredible audience, all of you fans in here, all of us up here, we’re nothing without you, we love you so much for that. Thank you so much.”
Burnley then reminisced to fans about growing up and going to concerts.
When I was young. I used to come to rock concerts just like this, and arenas just like this. I would stand here, I would stand there. When I went to go see my favorite bands, I would stare at this stage, and I would want to be up there so bad. I wanted to up there playing, or up there playing with my favorite band, you name it. I just wanted to be on this stage and it’s a dream come true to be on this stage. I want to thank you fans. Thank you for making all of our dreams come true.
Burnley then asked if there was some rebels (children) out in the audience who want to stand on stage with Breaking Benjamin for one last song. Breaking Benjamin closed out their set with “The Diary Of Jane,” with a stage full of kids rocking along side them.
Breaking Benjamin Setlist: So Cold, Angels Fall, Unknown Soldier, Sooner Or Later, Ashes Of Eden, Blow Me Away, Failure, Breathe, Medley (Imperial March, Schism, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Walk), Polyamorous, Give Me A Sign, Believe, I Will Not Bow, The Diary Of Jane
The National Anthem started to play throughout the venue followed by Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.” Only thing left was for the black curtain with a huge Shinedown logo to drop.
Shinedown came right out with authority. Looks like their pyro fit the fire code of the Times Union Center, as there were explosions, flames and sparklers throughout their set. Fans were ready for the bands high energy and Smith’s on stage theatrics to kick off.
Shinedown started off with the first single from the new album Threat To Survival, “Cut the Cord.” After the curtain dropped frontman Brent Smith stood on the catwalk and sang the song elevated behind drummer Barry Kerch.
After the opening song “Cut the Cord,” frontman Brent Smith asked the screaming fans, what’s going on? Smith then asked , whats up? Smith then said to the crowd “It’s been far too long wouldn’t you agree? It’s such a pleasure to be here tonight. Thank you so much for showing up on this cold, cold Monday night.” After cheers from the audience Smith then asked if everyone was in a good mood? Smith then asked the crowd if they had a wonderful week last week. After screams from the fans, Smith replied “Well we’re gonna start out with a phenomenal week, this week,” to more screams from fans.
Before moving on to the next song “Fly From the Inside,” Smith asked the crowd to give themselves a round of applause after he told them that he was always amazed by the fans that come out to a show. Smith then turned to drummer Barry Kerch in his hypnotizing voice “Mr. Kerch, so you have the floor. So why don’t you set the tone for what’s about to happen this evening.”
Smith told the crowd after the song “You see, you’re right about right here.” Smith held his hand flat out in front of him. Smith then added that where they need the crowd to be is right here, as Smith raised his hand and turned it into a thumbs up. Smith then added “Don’t worry, we’ll get you there.”
Now if you never been to a Shinedown concert, this is the part where Smith makes the crowd into one big rock family. Smith said to the crowd “Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. If this is you very first time ever seeing Shinedown raise your hands. Ok listen up, before we can go any further, we have to take care of something extremely important. So everybody in the building look to your left. Now look to your right. There’s a reason for this. See the person standing next to you right now. You may have never met them before tonight’s event. So we’re gonna change that. Everyone turn to you neighbor right now cause we want to see you shaking each other’s hands, giving each other high fives and telling everybody how nice it is to see them at the show.
Smith then went on and started shaking hands with the security team in front of him, and the photographers that graced the photo pit below as fans all got acquainted with each other.
Next song on the setlist, “If You Only Knew,” Smith told the fans that this song is for the ladies. Smith then said to the crowd “So guys, gentlemen, if your with your girl, grab her.” He jokingly added , ladies, if your with your girl, grab her, to laughter and cheers from fans. During the song Smith threw out a bunch of red roses to the ladies in the crowd.
Smith had the arena shaking when he asked fans to jump in unison to the song “Enemies.” Before the song Smith asked, “Ladies and gentlemen, do you know how we jump at a rock shows? Smith then said that this was the fans moment to reach for the stars. Smith then stated:
You see, there is already a ceiling on the building, but in Shinedown, we don’t believe I ceilings. They don’t exist to us. Smith then asked the fans to put their arms around each other and jump as one big family. So when I say go, we bounce as a family cause there is no such thing as a Shinedown fan. We don’t call them that. There is nothing in our world but Shinedown family, and that’s where you are tonight. That’s who is in front of you. So at this moment in time that person next to you, that’s your family.
Before playing another new song from their new album, Smith now took the time to explain to the crowd about the bands new record and why they go in the direction musically that the band choses to go in for each album:
So, I don’t know who wrote this down somewhere in history. Especially, the history of rock & roll, that you weren’t allowed to dance anytime like after the year 2000. Boggles my mind. On September 18 of this year, we released a record called Threat to Survival, which some of you might have. Thank you. Here’s the thing, we’re not hardwired to make the same record twice. We’ve never done it, never going too, cause that’s not growing. That’s not being artistic. When we write songs, we have to write about what we know.”
Smith then asked for the house lights to be turned down. As the arena went black, Smith then said to the crowd “Just listen to my voice. And if you don’t mind, would you show us that there stars out there in Albany.”
Smith went on to say “Here’s the thing. every lighter you got, every cell phone you own. Anything that shines. The whole place, and you gotta keep them up the whole time during the song and just follow us. Alright? Cause ladies and gentleman, it is officially time to dance.” Shinedown then played “State of my Head.”
Even though fans sung word for word, with every song during Shinedown’s set, fans were most vocal throughout the song “Second Chance,” singing every word loud and clear along wit Smith.
Smith and guitarist Zach Myers, stayed on stage for the bands cover of “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Smith and Myers kept looking at each other in amazement as the fans hit every note during the song. The way the fans sang the words “simple kind of man” back to Smith, who held the mic out over the crowd sent chills through Smith and Myers body.
Shinedown closed out the show in style with the pyro set on all cylinders to final song of the night “The Sound of Madness.” Smith closed the show by thanking Sevendust and Breaking Benjamin and the fans. Smith then stated that Albany was the most vocal crowd on the tour.
Class act Smith ended by saying “Thank you all so much for showing up. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Be good, be good to each other and God bless you all.”
Smith then said his signature line “It’s never goodbye, It’s just til’ next time.” Smith told drummer Barry Kerch to lock it down and ended the show with four pyro blast as Kerch hit the drums I sync with the explosions.
Shinedown Setlist: Cut the Cord, Fly From the Inside, If You Only Knew, Unity, The Crow & The Butterfly, Diamond Eyes, I’ll Follow You, Enemies, State Of My Head, Bully, How Did You Love, Second Chance, Simple Man, Sound of Madness