How do you sell out arenas in 2016? This is a question that many musicians, promoters, & agents may be asking themselves when the answer is rather simple. You put the metal favorite Five Finger Death Punch, the established rock giant Shinedown, 2016’s hardest working band Sixx:A.M. and emerging rockers As Lions on the same tour together. From the day this tour was announced the excitement in the rock/metal community was electric as nearly every web forum and website came to life with chatter about the need to get tickets. The tour kicked off in October and has done strong ticket sales in nearly every city it has come to.
This was no exception this past Saturday as the bands packed the Prudential Center – home of the New Jersey Devils – to near capacity. It should be noted that their own hockey team really does, The Who failed to do this and most events held there don’t reach the levels of sold tickets that this show did. The numbers were stacked in the band’s favor to deliver one of the most iconic shows that New Jersey has ever seen, did they? Well it all started with As Lions and they did a fantastic job at setting the tone for the evening.
Hailing from the United Kingdom, As Lions has crossed the Atlantic to bring their music to the people of the United States of America. Fronting this relatively new venture is Austin Dickinson – son of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. They say that music runs in the blood and this was the case with Dickinson as he commanded the stage from the start to finish of their brief yet distinctively memorable set. The Prudential Center was well over 1/4th full when they began their set and it was encouraging to see people trickle into their seats from the concourse to catch the opening set. More often than not fans tend to linger in the concourse purchasing alcohol and merchandise during this time but As Lion got a fair chance at entertaining a large audience.
The standing room section broke into a mosh pit at point which Dickinson gave massive roar in the microphone to as he encouraged more to follow suit. Humble, composed, and tactfully the band ended their set with a gracious thank you for those who came early to catch their set – hopefully making new fans from their first performance in Newark. The stage went dark and a set change began, normally time to run out but the exact opposite took place as the arena packed to almost 100 percent capacity. Sixx:A.M. was next and New Jersey was ready for their return to the stage in the state.
A few months back Sixx:A.M. wrapped up their second headline tour with a stop in New Jersey at the Starland Ballroom. Since then the band has released another album, “Prayers for The Blessed,” and have not really let their foot off the gas ever since the release of “Prayers for the Damned” earlier this year. Sixx:A.M. is band born out of a creative meeting of the minds between Nikki Sixx, James Michael and DJ Ashba. As we all know it was never meant to be a band but one album lead to the next and the fans demanded it – now Sixx:A.M. are poised to be one of the biggest bands of the decade and they have no signs of slowing down. While the band may have been listed as “support” on the show Sixx:A.M. always treats a show like it is a headliner and Newark was given a true performance from the band.
Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba were the unstoppable duo on strings as always with both of them making ample use of the unique stage design to get as close to the friends in the front as they possibly could. James Michael took the fan involvement even further as he dove into the front row to perform almost all of ‘Stars.’ Their show came to a close with a young girl being brought on stage with the band for ‘Life is Beautiful’ and she would eventually walk away with the guitar DJ Ashba performed the song with as her Christmas gift but not before being treated as a true rock star in training along side the band. Whether you call them “blessed” or “damned” there is no doubt that Sixx:A.M. left an impression on those who didn’t know them in the crowd but from the amount of band branded merchandise in the crowd and excitement during their set we can safely say that almost every there has already joined the Sixx:A.M. train. 2016 has been great to this band and there is no doubt that 2017 will be even better – whether they are headlining or stealing the show as support.
A massive curtain the length of the stadium and more was draped across the front of the stage as the crew began to prep the stage for the arrival of Shinedown. The band is fresh off the Carnival of Madness with Halestorm that wrapped up earlier this summer and their most recent release, ‘Threat to Survival,’ has performed well on the charts since it’s release with single ‘Cut the Cord’ constantly getting air time. Their set began with an homage to Prince as ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ before the curtain drop and started with a bang as concussion grenades and pyro exploded across the stage. With just 12 songs the band did what many struggle to do with 30 as they brought the building to their feet and picked off where Sixx:A.M. did earlier with their impressive 9 song set.
Brent Smith is a talented front man but what sets him apart from the pack is the showmanship and class he posses. Between the second and third song he took time to encourage the crowd to say hello to those around them while he thanked the photographers and security on the barricade up front who were doing their jobs that evening – something I have not seen in 400+ concerts to date. Sixx:A.M. embody this same level of humility and respect that made the pairing of these two artists on their line ups a no brainer. Shinedown fans gave it their all for Sixx:A.M. earlier in the evening but it was during moments like ‘Simple Man’ where Smith turned the vocals over to the crowd that it truly became obvious how impactful Shinedown was to the genre of rock.
Shinedown has never really fell from grace or stumbled from popularity and a large part of that is due to the sheer amount of talent they posses as a band. Brent Smith’s live vocals are out of this world and the rest of the band shine just as bright as he does. The band’s music melded well with the positive vibe that Sixx:A.M. got started earlier that evening in Newark and if anything Shinedown truly fed off the energy that was already in the building following the earlier set. With 3 acts down and 1 to go the Prudential Center was ready for the main event of this Saturday evening of rock.
During the 30 minutes in between Shinedown and Five Finger Death Punch it was interesting to see about 40% of the arena begin to trickle out. An examination of the concourse revealed that they were these folks had in fact departed the concert – for one reason or another they had decided not to stay for Five Finger Death Punch. One fan we talked to explained that Shinedown and Sixx:A.M. were the reason he came and he didn’t understand the mixing of the artists.
When the curtain dropped and the band took the stage one can only wonder if a ping of regret started to set into those who had decided to leave because Five Finger Death Punch came to rock regardless of who was left standing – in fact their goal might have been to knock everyone down who was still there. Ivan Moody came out swinging as the curtain dropped and the band dove right into ‘Lift Me Up.’ The crowd went nuts, the band went nuts and this was the routine for the rest of the set which ended up being 13 songs in total – this included 1 drum solo and 1 song being sung entirely be Chris Kael.
Every song was sung by the crowd, whether Moody asked them too or not and their dedication to their fans was only matched by the returned love from the crowd. For every guitar pick tossed a raised set of “horns” was returned to them, a sight that is very hard to describe in text but in person it was an impressive back and forth between the band in the fans within pick tossing distance. ‘Bad Company’ was a shining point of the set and while it is just a cover it really does showcase some of the best of the band’s sound next to their wildly popular ‘Under It and Over It’ which was the last song performed. We also want to point out and thank the band for their vocal support of our United State Veterans and Active Duty Individuals – too few bands out there support these individuals and it was a really fantastic to see them honor them during their set as they did.
There is no doubt that Five Finger Death Punch fans in attendance enjoyed themselves Saturday as so many mosh pits broke out at one point that security didn’t have enough bodies to deal with them as crowd surfers had begun to flow over the barricade as well. Five Finger Death Punch has come a long way since their humble beginnings – we hope that everything holds for them and they continue to have the success that 2016 has brought them long into the future.