Editor’s Note: Please check out Amber Lyons Photography on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amberlyons04. Madness To Creation bringing you the words behind this review and Amber providing the photos. On Tuesday, August 20th, the Victorious War Tour featuring Skillet & Sevendust with special guests Pop Evil and Devour The Day came to the historic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. This was a most fabulous way to end summer and get back into some semblance of a routine. The concert was presented by Rock 108 out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Devour The Day were the first band to come on the bill.
Out of Memphis, Tennessee comes the rising band known as Devour The Day. Fans might know the band as their old namesake, Egypt Central. They didn’t waste anytime with their 20 minute set. You can tell that the trio was there to win over every fan that they could, and they certainly did. I heard comments from the audience stating that they couldn’t believe that Devour The Day was a three piece band because their sound was that full. Blake Allison, Joey Chicago, and Ronnie Farris rocked the crowd with songs such as “Respect”, “The Censor”, and “Faithless”, and closed it off with their smash modern rock hit “Good Man”. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t play “White Rabbit”, but maybe they moved on from the Egypt Central days. After a quick changeover, Pop Evil graced the Surf Ballroom stage.
Out of Grand Rapids, Michigan comes a five-piece band known as Pop Evil. Before they took the stage, I personally wasn’t that stoked to see them, I looked at them as just waiting to get to Sevendust. Pop Evil proved me wrong with their absolute rocking set. Their energy was infectious, they were loud, and they were determined to win every fan over at the sold out Surf Ballroom. They had the crowd in massive singalongs with their hits “Deal With The Devil”, their power ballad “Torn To Pieces”, and their summer rock anthem “Be Legendary”. Frontman Leigh Kakaty definitely is gifted when it comes to commanding the crowd, and it just seemed like they had the collective goal in mind to next time they come around, they’re headlining the Surf Ballroom. Hayley Cramer is one of the best live drummers I have ever seen. I love drummers that are a part of the show, not just in the background playing, Cramer was center stage due to her charisma. They provided a mental health moment that is personally endorsed by Madness To Creation as they spoke about how music got them through difficult times before breaking into “Waking The Lions”, and Leigh climbed into the crowd and sang “Trenches” to close out the set. Pop Evil stole the night, far exceeding my expectations! The legendary Sevendust was next to take the stage.
The legendary quintet out of Atlanta, Georgia known as Sevendust took the stage as the first co-headliner in the “Victorious War” tour. This band has been flying under the radar since 1997, yet they are considered to be one of the most influential bands in the history of nu-metal/mainstream rock. Their soulful songs combined with innovative guitar riffs and infectious grooves made Sevendust who they are today. While the mixing of the sound seemed a bit off on this night, that didn’t hinder the band’s performance in any way, shape, or form.
We all know that guitar intro that sets the anticipatory setting, the song that initially put Sevendust on the map during the TVT Records days, that song is “Black”, and they kicked off the night with that song. Immediately, the crowd starting bouncing and rocking out. What I love about Lajon live is that he changes up how he sings the song from the record, which showcases him as an artist in every sense of the word. Based on the reaction, you can tell that Sevendust never grows tired of playing that song. They kicked into “Ugly”, which was a pleasant surprise from the audience, the crowd sang back every word to that song. They also surprised the crowd with playing a few cuts off of “Home”, which has been out for 20 years. I remember rushing to Wal-Mart at 12:01 on Tuesday to pick up that album. They hit the crowd with “Reconnect”, “Denial”, and “Waffle”. Later on in the set, they paid homage to their “Animosity” days, with their smash song “Angel’s Son” and “Shine”. The mixing seemed to be off in “Shine”, especially during the chorus, which threw me off a bit, but Sevendust pulled through.
They closed off the set with “Medicated” and “Thank You”. Sevendust showed the crowd why they have been around for over 20 years, and that there was no “Denial” in their stage prowess live! Sevendust especially did well for a crowd that was predominantly there to see Skillet. Although I did see a handful of people leave after Sevendust’s set.
After meeting and taking selfies with the vocalist of Devour The Day, Skillet was next to take the stage.
Skillet was the band that the vast majority of the crowd came to see. They brought their positive energy and solid musicianship to the Surf Ballroom stage and made it to where the show felt like an arena act decided to come through and play a more intimate setting. The rockers came out firing on all cylinders with their “stadium rock anthem” “Feel Invincible”. I argue along with “Monster” as the song that broke Skillet out into the mainstream. John Cooper brought the energy and he plays the bass guitar in such a unique fashion where he keeps in time with the rhythm while being a very charismatic frontman.
I was curious to see if the strings were the programming that was just going to blare over the PA or if there were actual strings. There are actual strings in the Skillet set for some of their songs. They have a touring cellist who you can tell is classically trained by the way he plays. He definitely added to the spectacle on this night as he introduced “Not Gonna Die”. This freed up John Cooper with him only have a mic and he was able to engage in some crowd participation with this song. This song is meaningful to so many “panheads” as it seems to hit home with those who suffer with mental health issues. After “You Ain’t Ready” and “Whispers In The Dark”, they had a really nice intimate chorus into “Awake and Alive”, it was John singing with Jen(drummer) while the cellist played this beautiful arrangement. This really shows Skillet’s gift of coming up with unique arrangements into their set, then they kicked it up a notch. Personally, I love it when bands/recording artists change up the song from the studio version. It shows that they are musicians and that they’re willing to do things like that to make it feel like you’re part of something special.
The crowd was especially loud during “Hero”, “Back From The Dead”, and “Monster”. They came out for one more song called “The Resistance”, and fans went home drained and tired, it showed that Skillet kicked their asses on a Tuesday night. If they’re half dead at work the next day, blame it on Skillet and Sevendust! Here is Skillet’s setlist:
- Feel Invincible
- Not Gonna Die
- You Ain’t Ready
- Whispers In The Dark
- Awake and Alive
- Back From The Dead
- Save Me
- The Resistance
Check out the remaining dates of the “Victorious War” tour featuring Skillet and Sevendust:
Tue. 8/27- Knitting Factory in Spokane, Washington
Wed. 8/28- Showbox SoDo in Seattle, Washington
Fri. 8/30- Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada
Sat. 8/31- House of Blues in Las Vegas, Nevada
Sun. 9/1- The Wiltern in Los Angeles, California
Mon. 9/2- Marquee Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona
Wed. 9/4- The Rialto Theatre in Tucson, Arizona
Fri. 9/6- Warehouse Live in Houston, Texas
Sat. 9/7- Brady Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma(no Sevendust or Pop Evil)
Go to www.skillet.com for tickets and further information.
Concert Photography Credit: Amber Lyons Photography