This past August we were treated to Skillet as one of the headliners at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. The show proved to be a good turn out for the day of the week it was on and the performance phenomenal as well. This time around Skillet brought some big name friends with them (Third Day) and they hit a different city in Pennsylvania; the results were stunning. The venue this tour stopped at was the newly re-named Santander Arena in Reading, formerly the Soviegner Center. At capacity, for a concert of this type of stage set up, the venue can hold right around 7,000 people and it is a fair assumption to say that we were pretty near that on Saturday evening.
The floor was lined with aisle after aisle of occupied seats and you were hard pressed to find any open seats until you got way up high near the rafters actually. The crowd turn out was much better for this show than Musikfest date and I want to accredit that to the massive amount of work that band has been putting in lately. They toured with Shinedown on the Carnival Madness last year, their most recent album was a huge success and the fanbase just keeps expanding as a result. The pacing of the night was very quick and the music never stopped from the moment Third Day hit the stage until Skillet’s finale note. Surprisingly enough the two fan bases mixed really well for this concert despite being totally different genres. Third Day even used a bit of Skillet’s stage production but not nearly as effectively as they did.
I want to touch on the stage set up first actually, it was incredible for this tour run. The T stage was a nice touch because it allowed them to get literally inches from some many fans. John Cooper shook everyone’s hand he could reach I think. The giant LED screen has all new graphics on it and they replaced their pyro for a much safer and fan friendlier Co2. As a photographer I appreciated that change because I wasn’t getting my face fried every 10 seconds and we didn’t have to worry about where we shot from like last time. Safety first right? Pyro is fun though but Co2 just looks better for some reason in photographs.
Skillet hit the stage a bit after 9:30 and kicked things off with their massive hit “Hero” preceded by a slightly remixed introduction to the song. Their set was loaded with songs of their recent album “Rise” including the singles “Sick of It” and “Not Gonna Die.” In fact, I was really pleasantly surprised at just how heavy their set was that evening. I feel that “Not Gonna Die” is one of their strongest songs of “Rise” if not all their albums and the live performance did it massive amounts of justice.
A few older fans left early in the set for some reason and I heard them muttering about it being to loud/heavy but they missed out because Skillet slowed it down a bit later in the set with “Awake and Alive.” Honestly though I enjoyed that they played a heavier set, I think their sound shines through better when they play these songs, don’t get me wrong I love “American Noise” and “Lucy” but I think they wanted to give their fans a high energy set that they could rock out to from start to finish. In fact I think not playing many slow songs was a rise choice because it set their performance apart from Third Day’s slower country rock sound.
Technically everyone was on point of course, I feel like I don’t even need to address it because they really have it together right now in terms of their live performance. Jen Ledger belts out beautiful backing vocals on the tracks while drumming away, Seth Morrison shreds like he is fighting for his life against that guitar, Korey Cooper moves around like crazy and jumps off just about everything without missing a note and John Cooper hits notes that don’t exist on the studio albums but does so with such raw emotion that everyone in the venue feels compelled to listen to what he is saying in every lyric.
My only real complaint was that their set was so short but I feel that was just due to the massive amount of bands on the bill that evening. 9 songs just wasn’t enough for me and I don’t think it was enough for the Skillet fans in the crowd either. I don’t think anyone wanted to end so early but I understand why it was that way and don’t hold it against them because they made up for the shortness by bringing the energy level up to max.
Skillet always deliver and Reading was gifted to a real treat on this tour, in fact this might go down as the best performance of the year for the venue. The heavy setlist was a pleasant surprise and it filled the Santander Arena with a breath of new life. If this tour is coming to your town before it ends I’d recommend you buy a ticket; just don’t forget your earbuds because this is one show that will rock you from start to finish.