Review by Angela BlasiAugust 29, 2010- PNC Bank Arts Center Holmdel, NJ.
Nothing says Sunday summer afternoon quite like a beautiful day complete with clear skies, scorching sun, and of course, face melting guitar riffs and guttural screams. This particular Sunday played host to the UPROAR Festival sponsored by Rockstar Energy Drink; a day dedicated to the enjoyment of pure, American metal in all its glory. Now, I’m not a metal head by any means, but I have an eclectic taste in music and there is definitely plenty of mental in there. A nice change of pace from my latest musical undertakings, I hit the road to the show excited to see main stage performers Disturbed, Halestorm, Stone Sour, and Avenged Sevenfold.
Having been to Ozzfest a few times in the past at this particular venue, I came into the show expecting the same type of huge outdoor set up, rife with all things metal. However, being a bit smaller of a bill than Ozzy’s, the outdoor set up was modest, housing only a few stands for accessories, clothing, and food as well as each bands specific merch table. Thus, for the rest of the day my mind had dubbed this concert, “Ozzfest Lite.” I made my way over to the second stage, or Jagermeister stage, in time to catch super group HellYeah. Comprised of members from successful bands Mudvayne, Nothingface, and Damageplan, this group held promise to make each show about having an amazing time with one another and their audience; absolutely no distinction between band or audience member. Having been a long time fan of Mudvayne myself, hearing Chad Gray’s familiar vocals once again was refreshing. I always loved his ability to go from melodic tones into screams that had this way of purging my youthful anger. However, in this group I found the vocals swayed more towards the screaming and rougher side of his range. A well-rounded mix of southern rock, country and pure metal, HellYeah brought their blend of music loving, beer drinking and red-blooded American passion for their craft to the festival. At one point Gray even announced that he was going to do what he did at every show the last few dates, and that’s drink and have a good time with his friends as every member of the audience was one with the band, just in a different geographic location. I didn’t stay for the entirety of their set. Having heard a good half way though their set, I decided I’d seen enough and went to go stake out my spot on the lawn. I felt as though it was just pure metal, heavy and in your face as I would expect any outfit in such a genre to be. Nothing crazy or insanely catching as far as my musical taste was concerned.
On to the main stage!
Halestorm was the first act to appear on the main stage at PNC and admittedly, I was interested in seeing them. I had only become familiar with their music fairly recently, but I enjoyed it so I looked forward to seeing if they had the chops to entertain me live. When their show time finally arrived the arena was filled with the solo vocals of one Lzzy Hale, crooning into the mic signaling to the audience that the show had begun. I had to give it to her, the woman could sing. Her ability to sing a cappella for the first few minutes of the show while also staying in tune and exercising fantastic breath control (she was holding some nice melodic lines), began to sell me on this bands live performance and musical prowess. Minutes later the rest of the band joined her on stage breaking into the song “It’s Not You.” They had a more mainstream feel with thick guitar riffs tuned down to create an edgy sound that could appeal to a more widespread audience. Furthermore, drummer Arejay Hale was a small beast behind the kit, leaving me glued to his movements as he created a solid foundation for the group. Overall, I loved their set. Though, it was brief they diversified their time on stage with more than just playing to an audience. I particularly enjoyed Arejay’s use of giant prop drumsticks (by the way, he still tore it up with those) and their brief intermission of a Stomp like rhythmic breakdown. Yes, at one point they brought metal trash cans front and center, each grabbing a pair of drum sticks and playing their hearts out while still creating cohesive music. It was definitely unexpected, but different isn’t always bad. One could see that this band was all about having a good time and playing the music they love.
Next up was Stone Sour, led by notable Slipknot front man Corey Taylor. Honestly, I never really followed this band outside of their mainstream hits, “Bother” and “Through the Glass”. But like always, I approached their set with open ears and mind. They were definitely a tight musical unit, delivering hard rock with Corey’s signature vocals. Other than that, their set left something to be desired for me. I’m not saying they suck or anything, but there was very little interaction between band members. In fact, Corey really was the main focus of the set. Granted, he is the front man, but in all honesty I never found myself wanting to take a look at the other musicians as they held little interest for me. Maybe it’s just me and my personal taste, but it felt lacking, like they could have brought more energy to the stage. Understand, they didn’t make me want to up and flee like many bands I’ve seen live have done, their music just doesn’t do it for me.
And then Avenged Sevenfold took the stage. By this point the sun had gone down and all of PNC Bank Arts Center was shrouded in darkness. The house lights cut out and the black curtain drew itself back treating my eyes to a visually stunning display of cemetery gates and devilish backdrop only to make my jaw literally drop when a man, appearing to have hanged himself, came falling from the ceiling. The first innocent notes of “Nightmare” rang out and the audience surged to life. Creating this epic feel with both setup and energy, Avenged Sevenfold blew me the fuck away. Lead and rhythm guitarists Sinister Gates and Zacky Vengeance, often took center stage, playing side by side with their right and left-handed guitars, impressing the hell out of me with their nimble fingers and perfect squeals while giving me this stunning picture of brothers in metal. This was more than music, this was a show. Not one other band I had seen so far created this intense energy that heightened the state of the entire crowd. Circle pits broke out all over the lawn and bodies flew into one another in a pulsing dance, physically channeling each pound of the kick drum, every shredded riff, and moving faithfully to each word M. Shadows belted out. From pyrotechnics to fireworks, this band rocked the house so hard it felt like this was their headlining show; which I feel they absolutely stole by the way. Not going to lie, I asked myself how in the world Disturbed could follow that. Their music is this dark, unyielding force, shredding its way through every single crowd it encounters, leaving them changed. Notably, I admit, I saw many an Avenged Sevenfold t-shirt that day, more than any other band, which should have told me something. And in true die-hard metal fan fashion, I noticed the lawn cleared out considerably after their set ended, meaning the fans had seen what they came for. Prior to this, I was only vaguely familiar with their music, and even more clueless to their stage show. After that, I can honestly say I’m a convert and would jump at the chance to see them again.
Finally the time had come for Disturbed, the main attraction to grace the stage. I had seen this band several years before and I distinctly remember them delivering a high quality performance. As a result, I had expectations for this evenings show. Opening with a short film clip that went back and forth between flashes of adulthood and childhood in a horror movie like fashion, it depicted singer David Draiman’s torment and escape from confinement. Subsequently, the movie synced up with his appearance on stage, where he joined band mates and broke into “Remnants.” A simple stage setup of digital background lent itself to their set for the night, flashing with different colors and images as each song played on. For the first few numbers I felt as though the band’s energy was lacking and David’s signature growls weren’t as clean and on point as I remembered them to be in their last performance. It was difficult to tell at first if the band was really into the set at all. However, as the set got underway, the vibe felt more natural and David was more interactive with the crowd, leading the audience in unison to raise their fists in the air. Admittedly, the entire arena was in sync with the band, all chanting and pumping fists at his every command. It was a mellower feel in opposition to the crazy energy just unleashed by the previous act, but still encapsulated the entire audience. Playing tracks off their new release Asylum, as well as a great mixture of fan favorites like closer, “Down with the Sickness” and hit single “Stupefy,” I liked their set and found the music to be well-played and cleanly delivered. The band members seemed to keep to themselves for most of the set, each separately defining his presence while creating a unit. I’m glad I stayed until the very last note had rang out instead of fleeing in hopes of beating the traffic rush, as it was definitely a great set overall.
So there you have it. My take on the musical acts adorning this years Rockstar Uproar Festival. The metal scene in all its patriotism and no-nonsense attitude came out to show their love and support for the music that has defined countless fans for years. On the whole, the show was definitely a success and worthy of revisiting in the future inceptions.