Gig Review: Shinedown - O2 Academy, 29 October 2018

'such an unexpectedly impressive lineup of bands'

Loz Doyle
7th November 2018
Credit: wikimedia commons

I can’t remember the last time I saw the O2 Academy Newcastle so packed as it was when Shinedown played their sold out show on Monday night. (A Monday! One of the toughest nights of the week to decide to go out!) But considering this is a show for one of the best selling rock bands in the entire world, it’s probably fair to say they could have packed out a much larger venue too. Saying that, I also can’t remember the last time I saw such an unexpectedly impressive lineup of bands.

First up, all the way from Croydon, was alt-rock trio Press to MECO. Their three-pronged attack strategy for vocals gave their tiny, tiny band the force of a much better established band. That’s what I call an even distribution of labour. Stand out songs included 'Here’s to the Fatigue', a bass heavy song with riff which carried it from start to finish. They might not be the most consistently energetic band, but they did well considering all three couldn’t be away from the mic for more than thirty seconds at a time.

Next came something completely different: Starset. A lot of things run through your mind when you see three spacemen and a small futuristic classical orchestra come on stage. For me, it was mainly fear that this band would not live up to the expectations I had already built up in my mind. Boy, was I not disappointed.

[pullquote]With two such excellent supports, I initially worried that they’d outdo Shinedown at their own gig[/pullquote]

Starset, fronted by electrical engineer and space fanatic Dustin Bates, is exactly the space-themed concept band I didn’t know I needed in my life until now. Intergalactic set dressing and illuminated spacesuits is a risky path to take, and it could have fallen flat on its face. Thankfully, every gimmick they pulled out worked perfectly with their metal-tinged electronic rock.

'Ricochet' really impressed me during their set. This single from latest album Vessels is as dark and gritty as I like my electronica. 'My Demons', the song that kicked off this bizarre story, conversely wrapped up their set with smooth harmony and that signature orchestral tinge that runs throughout Starset’s sound.

With two such excellent supports, I initially worried that they’d outdo Shinedown at their own gig. Then I remembered when I first saw Shinedown at Download Festival 2018, they captivated a crowd of thousands. This comparatively tiny venue would be a walk in the park. As soon as the Florida-based four-piece walked on stage, it was clear that this would be a memorable night. While Press to MECO brought their sound and Starset brought their aesthetic, Shinedown brought the whole package with incomparable musical skill and a set design to die for.

Sixth album Attention Attention certainly garnered the interest of rock fans upon its release in May, topping charts across the Alternative music scene. Shinedown might be best known for their heavy rock and stunning compositions, but don’t forget about their hard-hitting lyrical content. 'Get Up' is a perfect example of this. Its stripped back style is absolutely fitting for its motivational and uplifting tone, although I’ve yet to get through that track with dry eyes. Or maybe old favourite 'Bully' is more your speed, with an angst-driven riff which empowers as well as entertains.

If you’re still looking to let off steam, then 'Enemies' should definitely do. This one really comes into its own live: it’s the one to get moving to. Anyone who can get a room full of mature fans to jump to a song deserves some kind of commendation, and that’s exactly what vocalist Brent Smith managed during this anthem. His polite confidence made it damn near impossible to refuse his request: diving into the crowd to yell instruction from the pit is such a power move.

Of course, a highlight of the set was without doubt 'Second Chance': there’s a reason why this is one of Shinedown’s most popular songs. This emotive song takes on even more power live, Shinedown sounding pitch perfect for this impressive mellow rock track.

After a four song encore, included their beautiful acoustic cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 'Simple Man', came the rowdy crowd pleaser 'Devil' to round things out. These high octane thrillers are Shinedown’s speciality, and they ended their show with as much energy as they started with.

There wasn’t a single dull moment for this entire show, and I honestly haven’t been as thoroughly and consistently entertained at a gig for a very long time. It’ll definitely be a while again before this experience is beaten.

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