CEDAR RAPIDS — From the opening torches blasting heat throughout the arena, Shinedown rained down plenty of firepower over a sold-out throng jumping at the U.S. Cellular Center on Saturday night.
This fearsome foursome from Jacksonville, Fla., hurled hits old and new for nearly two hours — on top of more than 30 minutes from opening band Asking Alexandria and an hour from Papa Roach.
Hard rock/heavy metal fans got their money’s worth, with one of the best rock ’n’ roll light shows and stage configurations on the arena circuit. A runway led from the traditional main stage to a smaller stage halfway into the crowd, large enough for a lead singer to work it solo or for the whole of Shinedown to gather down front for an acoustic set.
But the lights really stole the show. Sweeping lasers and vivid, saturated swirling shafts created a nonstop visual explosion that lifted the concert experience to a whole new height. Class acts all the way, even Asking Alexandria got to stand up and scream through the cool hot lights — a luxury seldom afforded the opener act.
Unfortunately, the arena was only about half-full to rock out with the Brits, who formed Asking Alexandria in York, England, in 2006. Lead singer Danny Worsnop has a seriously wonderful high tenor range, which pierces the air above all the old-school speed metal and guitar thrashing that pounds the sound right through your core.
Yes, he screams — a lot — which always makes me worry for the shelf-life of his vocal chords, but when Worsnop pulls it all back, his real talent shines through. “Roses” was truly lovely, and those lucky enough to catch the bouquet held their phones aloft to create an undulating starlit sky.
As for Papa Roach, there’s a reason the arena quickly filled up. This band rising up between San Francisco and Sacramento in 1993 has found that sweet spot between rap and metal, forming an amalgam that is pure party rock.
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Charismatic lead singer Jacoby Shaddix worked the crowd, strutting down the runway to the front stage.
He not only worked the fans along the barrier, he danced his way up the stairs and into the concourse seating tier high above the floor, kissing the top of a little girl’s head, then hilariously plunking down on one guy’s lap before snaking his way around the crowd as everyone he passed whipped out their phones to snap a photo or video, or catch a hug or a high-five.
Then everyone melted a little bit more when he dedicated the next song, “Not the Only One,” to his 5-year-old son. It’s a new cut off the band’s 10th studio album, “Who Do You Trust?” released in January. The mixed-age crowd also was digging another new cut, the hooky “Come Around.”
That momentum kept right on going through the final moments of the soul-searing line, “I’d tear my heart open,” that bares all the feels in “Scars.” It’s safe to say Papa Roach can keep coming around here, again and again.
Shaddix set the kind of tone that all the middle-aged headbangers with teens and tweens in tow could feel good about. He thanked the crowd often and sincerely, ending with “Thank you so much. God bless you. We love you.” That’s something you never hear at your average hard-rock concert. But this wasn’t your average hard-rock concert.
Brent Smith continued weaving that kind of sincerity throughout Shinedown’s extended groove. When he says, “You mean to us absolutely everything — you’re the greatest gift that could be given to us,” we believe him. He’s just that awesome in his sincerity.
He also worked the crowd easily and often, along with bandmates Zach Myers on lead guitar, Eric Bass (like the fish) on bass and Barry Kerch skinning the drums. Flames shot up from the stage repeatedly, punctuating key moments, while videos and lighting animations alternated on the backdrop and a kaleidoscope of colors radiated over the throbbing crowd.
The hit parade began with “Devil” and continued through nearly 20 songs, including “Enemies,” “Monsters,” “Black Soul,” the power ballad “I’ll Follow You,” the bouncy “Get Up,” “Bully,” the lovely “Amaryllis,” the heartfelt inclusion message of “Second Chance,” the quiet riot in a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover of “Simple Man” — all the way through the encores of “Cut the Cord,” “Sound of Madness” and “Brilliant.”
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With one final fireworks burst punctuating the lyrics “It’s my day to be brilliant,” it was, indeed, Shinedown. And that’s your gift to us.
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