While some people moan about how early gigs are at the Academy on a Friday and Saturday because of the club nights that follow any live shows, personally I think it’s a great idea; there’s something strangely enjoyable about watching a gig and still getting home in time for the 10 o’clock news. And so, it was an early trek down Dale End for the sold-out show from nu metal survivors Disturbed.
However, opening things up are Floridian five-piece Shinedown. Despite the fact that their first two albums have been certified platinum and gold in the US, and that their forthcoming third record, ‘Sound of Madness’, is a cracker (trust me, I’ve heard it), the band are wholly unknown over here, and have to take the stage to chants of “Who the fucking hell are you?” from mostly adolescent crowd gathered. Pity the fools, because within a few bars of opening ball-breaker “Devour”, the room was bouncing and Shinedown had won themselves 3000 new fans. The band made a shrewd choice of set list for their 45-minute slot, playing more of their heavier material with songs like “Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide” and “Sound of Madness” being particularly strong. But, they also know how to write powerful melodies, and with numbers like “Save Me” and “Second Chance” you can really see why they are so big in the States; these songs are stadium fillers, and vocalist Brent Smith’s range is hugely impressive. With a headline UK tour planned for January, you can expect to hear a lot more about Shinedown in the coming months.
Being one of the survivors of the nu metal fallout, it is impressive that Disturbed have made it to their fourth album, and that they can still sell out a venue the size of the Academy, but you can’t help but feel like surviving is all that they’ve done — they haven’t really changed that much, just written three albums that have not been a patch on their debut. Now, having never actually seen them play live, I was willing to be converted, willing to believe that Disturbed are as necessary now as they were to me when I was 16, but the fact that even my inner child found the sight of frontman David Draiman being wheeled on stage in straight jacket and Hannibal mask absolutely hilarious was not the best of starts, and it didn’t really get any better for me from there on. The opening group of “Perfect Insanity”, “Liberate”, “Just Stop” and “Voices” certainly slapped the crowd into a bouncing pit of devil horns held aloft, but also highlighted how much better the material from ‘The Sickness’ is than anything that they’ve written since.
Taking nothing away from the Chicago foursome, Disturbed on stage are excellent; the power of their sound is crushingly loud but superbly clear, they are incredibly tight and they command the stage with the kind of presence that you would expect from a band with the kind of experience that they have. Put simply, they are everything that a headliner should be. And yet, there is still something frustrating about Disturbed that prevent them from being the kind of huge act that they perhaps should have turned into by now. Instead of really interacting with the crowd and having fun with their own fans, Draiman seems determined to keep up the kind of macho, metal front that probably died a death the day that Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage first donned a cape and denim hot-pants. It is that kind of attitude that has seen Disturbed draw the same sort of fans throughout their career — mainly teenage metalheads looking to rebel, just as they did back when their debut was released and I was one of those rebels. This becomes even more noticeable when you compare them with some of the other bands that broke through at the turn of the Millennium; Slipknot have grown into a fine metal/hard rock group with distinguished song-writing skills, and Linkin Park have pushed the nu metal boundaries further into hip-hop than most people could have imagined.
Disturbed are still writing songs with choppy riffs topped with lyrics about being tough and/or angry. That said, shortly after 9pm when they launch into the show’s finale of “Down With the Sickness”, there is not one single person in the room who isn’t singing along, devil horns aloft, the house well and truly being brought down. And therein lies the frustration with Disturbed — a fine band to watch live with some superb old songs, but one that has never realised their true potential, and that has never quite turned into the sort of heavyweight that it should have done.
Review & Photos — Dave Musson