Once again Skillet returned to the Santander Arena in Reading this past week to pack the stands and floor to capacity, but this year they were supported by 9 other bands as part of the 2015 Winter Jam Tour Spectacular. This particular event quite like no other I have experienced in this industry, tickets don’t go on sale until doors open and when they are priced at a mere $10 a piece allowing fans access to a great night of music featuring 10 bands for a budget-like price.
The sheer popularity of Skillet along with the numerous other popular bands/artists on the bill was more than enough to complete fill the arena early in the night and it stayed that way late into the night. Keep in mind that it has been just a little bit over a year since Skillet last came through the area and while they are still supporting their 2013 album release, “Rise”, the band continues to pack in venues with each consecutive tour. This truly speaks to the popularity boost “Rise” delivered to them as well as their growing reputation as one of the best live performance’s in rock music this decade.
By the time Skillet was set to hit the stage, 9 bands had already performed which meant the headlining show didn’t start until about 10:30 PM, a late night for some but for all it was worth the hours of waiting. A quick look across the crowd on the floor showed hundreds of fans wearing Skillet shirts from all eras of the band’s career and a closer look at the stands showed thousands more wearing their favorite Skillet branded shirts and hoodies. Screens were slid out across to stage as the final touches were made before the show began. As the lights went dim the fire marshall walked off the stage giving a nod of approval that Skillet’s pyro set up was ready for action and right on cue following this the lights went burst back on in cue with the LED screens that flickered to life to begin the show.
After a cinematic intro tied into the band’s first song of the evening, “Not Gonna Die,” the screens were whisked away off stage revealing Korey Cooper, John Cooper, Jen Ledger and Seth Morrison grouped in the center of the stage. The spotlights then burst to life with a bluish purple mix and the suddenly band was fully illuminated as John Cooper took off down the massive T-shaped stage as he sang the beginning lyrics of the song while the rest of the band moved to their respected areas of the stage. Not even a mere 30 seconds into the night the pyro began across the stage and it didn’t let up for the majority of the evening. Skillet’s live show had always been outstanding but being a part of Winter Jam 2015 has allowed them to do even more due to the sheer size of the stage at their disposal each night.
From a purely technical standpoint Skillet managed to deliver a flawless performance. Their behind the scenes staff and crew truly have their act together when it comes to the lighting/effects as I mentioned earlier but it is important to note that the audio mix was crisply balanced to which allowed each member to shine during the night. For example Jen Ledger’s vocals came through perfectly when she needed to sing, not to mention all of her drum parts as well and Korey Cooper’s guitar parts sounded even better when blasted through the massive arena speaker system. Many large arena venues tend to have a bit of an echo, however the Santander Arena’s small size prevented that from happening which made their performance sound even tighter than it would have elsewhere. John Cooper’s vocals tended to be best while he was standing still playing bass but he still delivered just as well while he was running, jumping and rolling across the stage. Musically the band delivered for the packed house and the crowd fed off their interactivity with them as well as Skillet’s lively on stage personalities.
My only real criticism of the performance was the length of it, which was entirely out of the band’s hands just due to the set up of the Winter Jam tour. While their 8 song setlist was a flawless performance few bands can attempt to compete I’m sure many people would have loved to hear 14-16 songs or even more just due to the sheer volume of songs in Skillet’s library at this point. It is safe to say that the next Skillet headline tour will be more content filled than this Winter Jam Festival tour and Skillet fans can always look forward to the next time the band will be back in town to hear some more of their favorite tracks that didn’t make the cut this time around. The band’s setlist was as follows for the Reading Santander Arena show :
Not Gonna Die
Whispers in the Dark
Sick of It
Awake and Alive
Skillet has not let up since their triumphant return in 2013 with the release of “Rise.” Sight of Sound has covered them 3 years in a row now and each time it has been a pleasure to watch them take huge steps in terms of production and the quality of their performance. I’d imagine the band will be looking forward to some time off after this Winter Jam run but if history proves correctly I wouldn’t be surprise to see Skillet back on the road by the end of 2015 either supporting “Rise” or a new release in even bigger venues than the ones they are filling now. Only time will tell but one thing is for certain, Skillet is always one step ahead of every other band in their field and I have a feeling this is only the beginning of their reign at the top.