Disneyland wasn’t the only happy place on Earth when Breaking Benjamin took over the House of Blues in Anaheim just a few short miles away on October 23, 2017. Considering the band is signed to Disney owned label Hollywood Records, it wasn’t surprising that there were just as many fireworks musically as there were being displayed at the park itself.
From the beginning, Benjamin Burnley made it clear that this was not going to be a concert but rather an intimate gathering of everyone just hanging out celebrating music. Burnley opened with a conversation about how they were going to do something different. “I know we are playing acoustic but we are still going to rock, but in a different way. We don’t want this to be a show where we’re just playing music to you guys. We want to make it so that we are just hanging out and having a good time. We want you guys to forget all of the drama and bullshit going on in your lives so let’s forget all that shit and have a good time.” The crowd roared as they began playing So Cold which instantly had the audience engaged. Burnley (founder, vocals, rhythm guitar), Jasen Rauch (lead guitar, backing vocals), Keith Wallen (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Aaron Bruch (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Shaun Foist (drums, percussion) were fully committed to putting on a performance that no one would ever forget, which included lead vocals being done by both Bruch and Wallen during the course of the show and while in most cases this would be a disappointment, it turned out to be a remarkable surprise that was welcomed. Allowing Burnley to take some rests vocally, this was the ideal vehicle for everyone to see just how high the level of musicianship is within Breaking Benjamin and bringing forth some soaring harmonies that were more dominant live than on the albums.
After the compelling performance of 2015 hit Angels Fall from Breaking Benjamin’s chart topping album Dark Before Dawn, rhythm guitarist Wallen took on the vocals for Sooner Or Later from 2004’s We Are Not Alone and surprised everyone with his confidence and strong vocal prowess.
Prior to the start of Follow Burnley decided to enlighten everyone about the experience he had in writing the song and his influences. “I wish that I was where I am now during the grunge era. We had Nirvana, Deftones, Pearl Jam, Korn and all of them. So, in 2003 I had the honor of writing with one of my childhood heroes Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins. Is it okay if I tell this story?” The crowd yelled a loud “yes” as Burnley goes on to say “This isn’t no Storyteller bullshit because we are just hanging out, but back in the day MTV had these moon men they would give away. They still have them but now they don’t look they same. Back in the day they were cool looking things and they gave them to rock bands. Now, they don’t do that anymore. They give them to people like Nicki Minaj now.” Burnley had the whole place laughing and cheering in agreement with this sad but true information. He went on to say that he and Billy Corgan were messing around at his house writing the song Follow and he noticed Corgan had a Moon Man in his living room and asked if he could touch it and Corgan told him “no” but Burnley said with a crafty tone to his voice that he touched the award anyways.
Ashes Of Eden, Never Again and Failure from their 2015 album Dark Before Dawn mixed in with classic Breaking Benjamin songs showed the transparent quality that this is a band who has remained true to its sound from day one. Every song was a crowd pleaser and when Wallen was once again given the microphone to sing a song he wrote called Face In The Light from their upcoming album, scheduled for a 2018 release, there was no denying that they will continue to play the music they love and that is what draws people in. It is the truth and the realness of Breaking Benjamin’s music that is the magnetic energy they hold both on stage and on recordings.
Declaring the last song I Will Not Bow as a dedication to Police Officers, active and Veteran Military members both present at the show and for those who weren’t, Breaking Benjamin further exemplified the gratitude, realism and genuine respect they have for the people who have and do put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis.
As Breaking Benjamin came back onto the stage for an encore, The Diary Of Jane, it was a show that no one wanted to end. What makes them such an extraordinary band is that aside from their remarkable musicianship, talent and the pride they have in their music, it is just as important to them that this show was about forgetting all of life’s troubles. This show was about having a good time and bonding. Burnley’s gift of captivating an audience doesn’t just span to music, but on a personal level with his stories and bringing people together from all walks of life.
Breaking Benjamin should definitely do more Unplugged shows in the future. The show was exquisite in every way and a delicious cocktail of truthful music, harmonies, Spanish guitar and storytelling. They are the real deal and considering the success of their last album and those before it, we can all be assured that the next one is worth looking forward to.
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Sooner Or Later (Keith Wallen vocals)
Blow Me Away
Simple Design (Aaron Bruch vocals)
Ashes Of Eden
Face In The Light (Keith Wallen vocals)
Give Me A Sign
Down In A Hole (Alice In Chains cover)
Until The End
I Will Not Bow
The Diary Of Jane