It’s an unusually warm evening for early March. Amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles, lies a sidewalk filled with Panheads. In case you’re unaware, Panheads are what Skillet fans call themselves. The hoard wraps around the corner, and stretches to the next block. On this particular corner sits the historic Belasco Theater, which is playing host to Skillet and their guests Sick Puppies and Devour the Day.
The interior of the establishment is ornate and looks very traditional, but this evening’s entertainment, will be anything but traditional. After all, the floorboards of this storied stage have been trodden by the likes of Humphrey Bogart and The First Lady of American Theater, Helen Hayes. But it’s no longer the 1930’s and the stage is set for some hard-hitting, heavy rock and roll.
At approximately 7:30 p.m., the evening begins with Skillet’s fellow Memphians, Devour the Day. The quartet blasts through an approximately 40 minute set of pounding rock. The highlight of the set is when lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Blake Allison climbs over the photo pit and stands on the barricade. From there, he serenades the crowd for a bit. Then turning as if to return to the stage, he falls back into the awaiting arms of the fans, to be crowd surfed about halfway into the standing area and returned to the stage. Devour the Day is rounded out by Joey “Chicago” Walser on bass and vocals, David Hoffman on lead guitar and vocals and Ronnie Farris on drums.
Next up is the Australian founded trio, Sick Puppies. The crowd seems to receive the Puppies’ songs with more familiarity. Bassist Emma Anzai, is the only original member of the band, and is the heart and soul of its performance enthusiasm. Drummer Mark Goodwin has been with the band for some 13 years. Sick Puppies do a nice job of getting the audience prepared for the main event. Guitarist, vocalist and relative newcomer to the band, Bryan Scott, connects with the audience. This connection is evident as he implores the attendees to sing along with their latest single, Where Do I Begin, and they heartily oblige.
One of the Panheads that was almost assuredly in line very early is Andy Rojas. Rojas is front and center at the barricade. When asked, he states “this is his 12th Skillet concert and has been a fan for 10 years.” In case anyone were to doubt his allegiance to Skillet, one only need ask him to show them the tattoo on his chest. Rojas along with the rest of the crowd are definitely ready to rock when Skillet arrives.
Skillet does arrive on stage at around 9:30 p.m.. The set begins with Feel Invincible off their latest release and identically titled tour, Unleashed. This throbbing anthem is marked by screaming guitar work from lead guitarist Seth Morrison and grinding guitar riffs provided by rhythm guitarist Korey Cooper. Cooper also provides keyboards and backing vocals. The bouncy tune is a good starter to set the tone for the show. Whispers in the Dark is next, a somber tune, about being in the depths and hearing the whispers of God in the darkness of your despair. The third song, Sick of It, screams and bounces the virtues of letting go of things and accepting life.
Skillet’s 16 song set charges through songs from throughout their career. Lead vocalist, bassist and founding member, John Cooper, is the imposing voice of the group. Looks can be deceiving though. His tattooed and bearded appearance belies a gentle spirit, no better demonstrated than by him stealing a kiss from his wife Korey in the middle of a song, which coincidentally brought a huge, shrieking roar from the audience.
Hero, as Cooper states is about his hero Jesus, has an industrial feeling intro. Crowd favorite, Comatose has the minions singing right along in the chorus, “I don’t wanna live, I don’t wanna breathe.” The entire set is paced by Jen Ledger, who was 19 when she joined the band. Ledger pounds out the beat of the songs with a gleeful enthusiasm that is rarely seen in music. Her infectious smile from behind the kit can be deceiving. Lost in her demeanor is the fact that she can flat-out play and play hard! The set winds up with Monster and Rebirthing. Monster, affirms the frustration of carrying anger and how that makes you feel. Rebirthing, is a more melodic finale to the set and apparently a fan favorite.
Skillet returns for a disappointingly short, one song encore. The Resistance, from Unleashed is a fitting ending to the entire show with an anthemic chorus of “This is how we rise up!” Skillet carries a very diverse fan base and one noticeable distinction is the number of younger audience members. It was a very refreshing change to not have one F-Bomb be dropped during the entire evening. Skillet and apparently their support, are a family friendly act.