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Carnival of Madness: Shinedown / Skillet / Papa Roach / In This Moment / We As Human Live

Cedar Rapids, IA, USA: Sunday, August 25, 2013

by Paul Hanson

When you go see the Carnival Of Madness tour in 2013 as it weaves across the USA to your town, you need to remember to note the starting time. If you do not, it’s possible you will miss the first band, We As Human. Don’t blink. In Cedar Rapids, they got 30 minutes and played five songs, including the well received “I Stand” and “Strike Back.” This quartet is the best band you’ve never heard on your local rock station. Because they are first, they get a small stage, but it was big enough for Skillet’s vocalist to come out and lend his vocals to “Zombie” like he did on the band’s release. I expect a lot of success for We As Human. Their music is accessible and their performance was very energetic.

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After what seemed like too long of a set change, In This Moment took thesthange. I mean no disrespect to Madonna, but all I could think of when I watched vocalist Maria Brink dance her choreographed moves between two dancers (strippers) who wore masks to conceal their face was that without Madonna, there would be no In This Moment. I don’t care if In This Moment is from Los Angeles or not because, frankly, their stage show paid more homage to Madonna than any other legendary band that has come from LA. If you’ve heard “Blood” on your local rock station, then you know the general vibe of the other five songs they played on stage. While I could easily imagine We As Human in a basement or club or other smaller venue, I cannot imagine In This Moment being anything but an arena act. Their stage presence is very atmospheric and their light show is remarkable. I am not the biggest In This Moment fan – I admit I have not invested a lot of time into their Blood release – but I now better understand what they are trying to do.

It also became apparently very quickly what the third band, Papa Roach, was trying to do – turn up the intensity. The crowd was already in a frenzy as the band began playing, but that didn’t seem enough for Jacoby Shaddix, who pointed to the balcony and interrogated anyone he saw sitting down with the words, “Why are you sitting down? This is a rock concert! Get up!” Shaddix led his bandmates through the songs I would expect the band to play, including “Scars” and “Forever” in addition to a song from the band’s The Connection release called “Leader Of The Broken Hearts.” Every thing about the band has improved since the last time I caught them live a decade ago at Memphis in May. Shaddix’s struggle with substance abuse is well documented as well as his marital issues, but those real life issues didn’t interfere with their performance. As they triumphantly nailed the last note of the first song I ever listened to, “Last Resort,” anyone who had not heeded Shaddix’s earlier demand to stand up merely looked like a fool. I didn’t see any fools in the arena.

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Beginning their hour set with “Hero,” it was immediately evident why Christian rock band Skillet was selected to play immediately prior to Shinedown. Vocalist John Cooper, guitarist Korey Cooper, drummer Jen Ledger, and guitarist Seth Morrison played all their well-known songs like “Monster,” “Awake And Alive,” and threw in a couple of tracks from their latest release, including “Rise” and the crowd-pleasing “Sick Of It.” I have been attending concerts since 1986 but I thought I had seen it all until Skillet brought out a violinist and a cellist to play with them. The musicians stood on platforms that rose on either side of the drummer and rocked out. The platforms were put to use by guitarists Cooper and Morrison throughout the concert. During some songs, the video screen above the band reinforced the lyrics, for example, during “Hero;” meanwhile, the hilarious video played during “Circus For A Psycho” made me smile.

I also liked the way vocalist Cooper created a relationship with the audience. He did this by talking to the crowd in what sounded like a very sincere tone. One time, he talked about the love of Jesus Christ and another time, he talked about writing a song for a friend of his who had thought her life didn’t matter and who had considered suicide. He said he sang the song and dedicated it to her as well as anyone in the arena that felt like their life wasn’t worth it. He wanted us to know that was not true – that each of us mattered. I was thoroughly impressed with Skillet and I hope to see them again.

carnival2_400After putting up a large tapestry between the crowd and the stage, the crew for Shinedown went to work. When the tapestry did get pulled down, lights flashed, including fire on sticks as the Carnival Of Madness performers twirled their batons. Kicking off with “I’m Not All Right” was a difference from when I saw Shinedown on February 1, 2013, when they began with "Enemies." Shinedown poured out their hits, including “Second Chance,” “45,” “If You Only Knew,” “Follow You Down,” “Amarallyis,” and “Simple Man.” Fans of the band were smiling. Like Skillet, Shinedown made use of the video screen, including for some especially powerful footage during “Bullies.” As in February, they played the video by Amanda Todd, the teenager who committed suicide in October 2012. The band didn't preach about bullying or say anything about the video, which made its impact that much stronger. Todd's video is available on youtube.com and it is worth watching. Smith ended their set by declaring, “This isn’t goodbye, this is until next time” as the band left the satisfied crowd.




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