By Alex Dumbiotis
It was a cold and miserable October evening and there was an underlying feeling of excitement across the Exeter University campus. American hard rock band Shinedown were taking to the stage in the Great Hall and judging by the sea of band t-shirts, it was going to be a good night.
The first band of the night were Exit Ten. Hailing from Reading and seasoned Download Festival veterans, their set certainly set the bar for the night. It was a shame that the number of the audience missing out on this brilliant set was quite high, choosing either to miss the support acts or were held back to finish their drinks in the bar (No drinks allowed in the auditorium).
The second band of the night were Canadian rockers Redlight King, who followed Exit Ten with another strong rock set, with the likes of their song Bullet In Your Hand drawing more of the crowd out of the bar and into the auditorium to enjoy their high voltage set.
Finally, it was the band we were waiting for. Taking to the stage after the introduction of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Shinedown ripped straight through the songs Sound Of Madness and Diamond Eyes which featured on the soundtrack for The Expendables, in addition to their brand new single Enemies – getting the party really started. Shinedown had really brought it to the table with this electrifying start to the night.
From the beginning, the formidable presence of vocal powerhouse Brent Smith was one to be reckoned with. Considered as one of the best vocalists currently in rock today, he hit every note flawlessly, showing himself to have earned every part of that praise. As a band they solidly recreated the full impact of the album, an accolade to be proud of.
Through the night the set carried on into the fist-pumping solidarity of 45, and drew the audience straight into the song. In softer songs such as The Crow & The Butterfly, If Only You Knew, and I’ll Follow You, Smith regularly told the crowd that the fans were their greatest gift, and that “Rock and roll is no genre, it’s a way of life”, and judging from the sheer crowd reaction, everyone was in agreement.
The only negative from the technical perspective was that in places, Brent’s vocals were lost in the barrage of guitars in the front of house mix and in some places between songs it was difficult to make out exactly what he was saying. As Brent clearly had a lot of things to get across, it was a shame some of it was lost on the audience due to this imbalance within the mix.
What was noticeable throughout the set was the instrument variation. The band built up the textures of their album tracks with the introduction of Eric Bass and Zach Myers swapping their electric guitars and bass for acoustic guitars, and even a keyboard for I’ll Follow You. Not only did it serve to recreate the album arrangements, but it really showed the talent of the band as a whole, being multi-instrumentalists holding down all the harmonious vocal parts, all backed by the solid rhythms of Barry Kerch on the drums.
In the encore, Shinedown hit the place with another crowd favourite Devour which was eagerly lapped up in appreciation. Personally, I was incredibly pleased to discover that they also included an acoustic version of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic Simple Man as I think that Shinedown’s acoustic performances can be just as powerful – if not more than – their full band arrangements. I am sure that the man in the Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt I had previously seen at the bar was also enjoying it just as much as I was.
Closing the show with Second Chance and Bully, Shinedown really chose a brilliant cross section of old and new, heartfelt and emotional songs to include in their setlist tonight. The only downside I could see apart from the odd mix problem was that the venue was nowhere near as full as I had hoped it would be, and their set was over far too quickly! A lot of people missed out on a brilliant rock show, one I will certainly be returning to see next time.
99 Problems (Introduction)
Sound Of madness
The Crow & The Butterfly
If You Only Knew
Fly From The Inside
I’ll Follow You
Simple Man (Acoustic)