A Southern Rocking Experience: A Guest Vocalist for Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown at Home, and A Fist Fight
This past Friday, December 9th, I got the chance to fly to Tampa, Florida to see Sixx AM, Shinedown, and Five Finger Death Punch live. While I live for live music, and have seen many arena shows in my life, Shinedown was still on my bucketlist to see. So clearly my anticipation for this event was through the roof.
Hopping a plane to Tampa on Friday afternoon, I arrived to my hotel, right across from the Amalie Arena, two hours prior to doors. Seeing the traffic cones in the road and the familiar placement of traffic-directing police led me to believe I was in the right spot for a rock show. After the event, I can only say "Rock Show" was an understatement.
On the outside of the Arena, fans of ALL ages [and by all I mean mid 20s up through 60s, with a few children inter-dispersed] were buzzing around, stopping by the outdoor merchandise tent or meeting up with other people before heading in to get tickets. I ducked past the merchandise stand (as much as I wanted to buy a tee) and headed into 'Will Call,' where I picked up my ticket. As the heavenly piece of card-stock-whatever-type-of-paper-tickets-are-on entered my hand, I looked down to see the section "Floor." Prior to this moment, I had no clue what type of seats I had gotten for this show, and my only sentiment: THERE ARE NO WORDS.
After heading down the elevator as directed by staff into the "Lexus Lounge," a more private area with two bars, lounge chairs, private bathrooms, and food service stations, I made my way to the floor. Using my normal tactic of heading up the side and diving in, I made my way up front along the side metal barriers and cut sideways to get myself into the pit. Sixx AM opened up the show to a crowd filling the arena, and shortly after, I found myself being pushed backwards by people with shock that a mosh pit had started before the music really even started. Pretty soon I realized it wasn't a mosh pit and I was all of a sudden in the middle of two grown men, with one too many beers, taking swings at each other, and found myself ducking swings and helping pull them apart. No better way to start a rock show than with adrenaline already pumping!
Immediately, the guys from Shinedown came out rocking, all in charcoal three-piece-suits with neck ties and tattoos hanging out, giving off an almost steam-punk vibe. The suits didn't fool though, Shinedown was all rock. Brent Smith's vocals left everything to be desired, and me dying to see more. He was on point while singing everything from "Simple Man" (an audience sing-along) to "Cut the Cord." His voice had grit, it had tone, it had pitch, and it rocked.
Brent also gifted the audience with the aspect of energy- something not all lead men do. It's one thing to stand on a stage and sing, it's another to engage an arena full of hardcore rock fans. He displayed a ridiculous amount of fitness, running back and forth on the stage, heading into the crowd at least twice, and sprinting around (YES around) the pit crowd. Running full-pace from the back of the arena to the stage at least 3 times, he didn't even lose a breath after getting back on stage and continuing to perform. Brent called out the crowd for a "disconnect" early on, and made everyone put their phones away, until the point at the end where everyone pulled them out as a homage to the former use of a lighter [see pictures below]. He spoke about the power of music, and called out its importance with statements such as "without music life would be a mistake," and called on it's power to save, saying "How many times has rock and roll been there for you." After a performance full of a plethora of pyrotechnics, energy, and excitement, Shinedown ended it all with "Sound of Madness," with Brent Smith in mid-arena surrounded by a wall of pyrotechnics, and a spotlight shining solely on him.
A short break later, Five Finger Death Punch hit the stage with fill-in front man Phil Labonte [Vocalist: All That Remains]. Now, I worked backstage for All That Remains a few years back, and am a huge fan of Phil Labonte's. I remember that he was nothing but a gracious musician backstage, truly dedicated to his fans, and when he walked out on stage, he gave it all to the crowd. He's one of the musicians that is memorable in my mind for the 'good' backstage versus the 'bad,' and so I was really excited to see him get to perform with 5FDP.
The band acknowledged his presence throughout the show, and the lack of Ivan Moody, as well the immense level of gratuity they had for fan support, tour support, and the ability for Phil to step in. They brought a whole different aspect of heaviness to the stage following Shinedown, and Phil stepped seamlessly into the role of front-man, engaging the crowd, swearing up a storm, and getting the crowd to rock a 'wall of death' and mosh. At one point after a great drum solo by Jeremy Spencer [wearing a red sparkly mask], and prior to the 'wall of death,' bassist Chris Kael and vocalist Phil got all of the young kids from the arena crowd up on stage to rock out while the band played, the crowd moshed, and the kiddos stayed safe.
One of the most exciting surprises of the set was when acoustic strumming started to play, and out walked Austin Dickinson [Vocalist: As Lions; son of Bruce Dickinson] to step in and sing a few songs. While he started off quiet, his voice hit the grit and penetrated the crowd as he belted out notes, proving that he belonged to be on the stage.
At the end of the show, I left feeling amped, awed, and a whole lot more bruised and sore after a night of jumping, fist pumping, and rocking out. And while I'm a New Yorker, I do have to give credit where credit is due. The home-state crowd of Shinedown [originally from Jacksonville, Florida] knew how to rock. It was as if in that one night, in a whole arena of strangers, we were all allies, there to rock and roll as hard as we could. Check out more pictures below!