Breaking Benjamin officially closed down the summer concert series in a colossal way Monday, September 16th when they headlined a stacked line-up featuring Three Days Grace, Chevelle, Diamante, and Dorothy. The show started shortly after 5 pm which was ridiculously early for a rock concert, let alone one that is being held on a weekday. However, the crowd began to pour in slowly but surely as the night progressed in anticipation for the final performance until every seat in the house was taken. Typically, the entire general admission section is standing room only but in this case there were plastic chairs lined up throughout the grassy area aside from a small reserved portion near the center stage. For the most part, everyone remained seated but there were points where those who decided to stand made it a bit difficult to see if you chose to sit. There was still plenty of space on the sidelines and behind the seating area if you wanted to walk around and while it seemed like there would be no room for a decent mosh pit close to the stage, in reality there actually was.
As the sun was preparing to set behind the Irvine Canyons, Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer started blasting through the loudspeakers, building excitement for Canadian rock band Three Days Grace. The crowd began cheering as Matt Walst (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Brad Walst (bass), Neil Sanderson (drums, keyboards) and Barry Stock (lead guitar) entered the stage and played their 2018 hit The Mountain from their 2018 album Outsider in front of multiple screens exhibiting their music video. Singer Matt Walst continuously yelled out to the audience to “get the f*** up” and while there wasn’t much room for a mosh pit, the energy was infectious and everyone was having a great time. They went on to play more tracks from the new album which included Infra-Red. As concertgoers cheered “Three Days Grace” between each song, they sang along to older hits like Home, The Good Life, Pain, Higher Places, I Hate Everything and Animal I Have Become which transitioned to the White Stripes song Seven Nation Army at one point. Walst went on to ask everyone if they were having fun as the crowd roared and made a heartfelt speech asking everyone to put their cell phone lights on for the emotionally charged Never Too Late. Three Days Grace ended on a big note with Riot from their One-X album. They really got the liveliness going as the sun had just gone down and the air was cooling.
Chevelle (not photographed) picked up where Three Days Grace left off and kept the momentum going. At first, it seemed lead singer & guitarist Pete Loeffler either was having trouble hearing himself sing on stage or it just took him a few songs to get into the groove after a few sharp notes. It was difficult to gauge the lyrics if you weren’t familiar with them but instrumentally they were incredible. The crowd seemed more interested in their earlier songs like Suffocating and The Red but it was a shame that their performance was cut short when the stage curtain fell on Loeffler and he exited. With the strict Irvine noise ordinance laws that take effect at 11 pm, it gave Breaking Benjamin a chance to play more songs than they probably would have.
Around 9:15 it was finally time for the moment we all had been waiting for. Pennsylvania-based rock band Breaking Benjamin walked on stage to a sold-out crowd that was cheering at a deafening level as blue lights lit up the stage and a backdrop of the cover art for their 2018 album Ember. It had been a little over a year since they had played in Irvine but it felt as though they had never left. Like all of Breaking Benjamin’s albums, their show began with an instrumental intro that intensified the excitement as Benjamin Burnley (lead vocals, guitar), Jasen Rauch (lead guitar, strings, programming), Keith Wallen (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Aaron Bruch (bass, backing vocals) and Shaun Foist (drums, percussion, programming) appeared on stage one by one prompting a rabid response from devoted fans. Opening with #1 hit Red Cold River from the Ember album, the dramatics of red lights flashing and fire shooting up during the chorus launched their performance into a frenzy of high-energy and emotion. Burnley’s melodic and mesmerizing voice rang through the venue as Bruch’s screaming vocals pierced through the crowd. The opening riff for 2009 hit song I Will Not Bow resonated from the stage all the way to the 5 freeway followed by Never Again from their 2016 album Dark Before Dawn which inspired the entire Amphitheater to sing along.
Known for his personal connection to fans of all ages, Burnley walked into the audience where someone handed him a packet of Chik-Fil-A sauce. Any fan who follows Burnley on social media knows it has become his favorite fast food spot while on tour. Burnley expressed his gratitude to the gift-giving fan and began proclaiming a newfound love for Baja Fresh and that he was looking forward to eating his post-concert burrito. In the spirit of their charitable contributions on tour for the past few years to Children’s Hospitals and to engage new generations of Breaking Benjamin fans, Burnley invited kids to hang out with the band on stage while they performed Breath, one of the many hit singles off their 2006 album Phobia. He spent a good few minutes chatting up with these kids and one little girl who was rocking some fairy wings. But, the invitation didn’t come without a clause or a warning. “Don’t leave us in charge of your kids. We are a rock band, we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing with our own lives, we can’t be held responsible for your kids” Burnley says. We all wished we were kids again because that was really cool and what all of us adults wouldn’t have given to have been pulled on stage with one of our favorite bands.
Burnley announced Dancing With The Stars alumni Derek Hough was coming up to join them for The Dark Of You. Hough had done a cover of their 2016 song Ashes Of Eden and Burnley was so impressed that he asked Hough to record with them on the new album, Ember. Everyone began screaming as Hough came out and sang with Burnley. It was a wonderful surprise to hear it live followed by a few songs from their first studio album, Polyamorous and Sugarcoat. A drum set was brought onto the stage equipped with a display of red lightsabers and Burnley once again took some time to talk about what a big nerd he is and how he lives for the next Star Wars movie and next Batman movie. He asked for his fellow nerds to raise their hand and the audience complied which led to the Imperial March accompanied by red flashing lights and the First Order emblem above and their famous cover mashup including Cowboys From Hell, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Bohemian Rhapsody, Enter Sandman, Bulls on Parade and one hell of a drum solo by Shaun Foist with fire shooting up from either side of him. Breaking Benjamin finished with more hits like Sooner or Later, Blow Me Away and So Cold where Burnley invited a fan to come up on stage and play with them. They finished out strong with When Angels Fall, Dance With The Devil and Torn in Two before they took a few moments on stage and came back for the two-song encore of Rain and the recently announced triple-platinum 2006 favorite The Diary of Jane. The night ended with a raffle to win a guitar which people were able to purchase tickets for before and during the show. All proceeds went to Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
Breaking Benjamin is one of the best live bands around. Between the massive lighting effects, pyrotechnics and seeing them perform their limitless catalog of chart-topping hits which continues to bring fans of all ages to their feet to sing along, this was an epic musical performance. If you missed them for this tour, you can still see them later this year on a detour to Kentucky at the Louder Than Life Festival on September 29th or in Virginia on October 1st which is the last date of their tour. For tickets and tour dates, check out their website at www.breakingbenjamin.com
CLICK HERE to view more BREAKING BENJAMIN pics from the show.
CLICK HERE to view more THREE DAYS GRACE pics from the show.