REVIEW: Five Finger Death Punch & Shinedown Delight Fans in Newark

One might think when hearing the names Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown mentioned in the same sentence, that the speaker was talking about two different shows. It would be understandable, of course, if you were as confused as I was when I initially saw the lineup for this massive tour that features, yes, both Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown co-headlining a mammoth arena run that also features support from legendary Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx’s band Sixx A.M. as well as As Lions, the metal/rock band fronted by Austin Dickinson. If that surname sounds familiar, it’s because young Austin is the son of heavy metal titan and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson. That lineup might sound like an odd combination, but it works well. So well, in fact, that the tour has been packing arenas nightly. While this night’s show at Newark, NJ’s Prudential Center was not quite sold out, it was close enough to capacity that you’d think it was sold out.

I will unfortunately have to admit to knowing nothing about As Lions prior to seeing them. In fact, I didn’t even realize they were fronted by Bruce Dickinson’s kid Austin, which is my own fault for not doing my homework. I was mostly interested in the rest of the lineup – Sixx A.M. is a personal favorite of mine – but As Lions had 30 minutes to play 6 songs, and while that’s not enough for me to reach any kind of informed verdict, it was certainly enough to pique my interest and make me want to check out their music and find out what they’re about. After all, when your vocalist comes from the same bloodline as the legendary Bruce Dickinson, you’ve gotta come equipped with the chops to make it in the music business. The younger Dickinson certainly sounds the part, and the rest of the band are no slouches either from their limited stage time, but I will need to listen to them a few more times to be certain of anything. They definitely have the potential to stick around for a while.

Austin Dickisnon of As Lions at Prudential Center, Newark NJ
Austin Dickisnon of As Lions at Prudential Center, Newark NJ

Following a quick set change it was Sixx A.M’s turn to take the stage, and they were given an extra 15 minutes over As Lions, and rightfully so. I’ve long been a fan of Nikki Sixx and have now seen him 4 times – 3 with Motley Crue and once with Sixx A.M. – and he’s always an immensely talented showman, but Sixx A.M. was never meant to be Motley CrueSixx A.M. is a completely different animal and, if I’m being unbiased and honest, Motley Crue phoned in their performance each of the last two times I saw them – once with Kiss and once on their final run. There would be no phoning anything in for Sixx A.M., however, as they belted out 9 songs over 45 minutes and put on one of the more fun-fulled and energetic performances I’ve ever witnessed.

Kicking it off with the title track from their second album, This Is Gonna Hurt, the energy both on the stage and in the crowd was instantly apparent. DJ Ashba is out of his mind in a good way, as he flies around the stage swinging his guitar behind his back, and very obviously has so much fun on stage with these guys. James Michael is no slouch whatsoever as he belts out vocals, but I’m only telling you what you likely already knew. Sixx A.M. would go on to play 4 tracks from Prayers for the Damned, including the album’s title track along with its first single, Rise, as well as When We Were Gods and Everything Went to Hell, which may very well be my new favorite song after hearing it live.

Then came Lies of the Beautiful People and Stars from This Is Gonna Hurt and Modern Vintage, respectively, before the band wrapped up with their first hit off the soundtrack for The Heroin DiariesLife Is Beautiful. I’m not even going to pretend I wasn’t being a huge fanboy after photographing the first 3 songs and enjoying the rest of Sixx A.M’s set from my seat. Seeing them live for the first time was an experience, and it’s great to see Nikki Sixx genuinely having fun in a band again. The tension in Motley Crue was never a secret, and that reunion was a painstaking process mostly for money – the band never did release the new music they were working on 3 years ago – and it’s obvious that the chemistry and friendship in Sixx A.M. is real and Sixx, Ashba and James Michael genuinely enjoy being on stage together. Those elements are key to putting on a great performance, and as someone who had been dying to see Sixx A.M., they absolutely did not disappoint. If you haven’t seen them yet, you should definitely catch them on this tour, even if you’re not a fan of Shinedown or Five Finger Death Punch. It’ll be worth every penny.

Nikki Sixx, James Michael & DJ Ashba of Sixx A.M. at Prudential Center, Newark NJ
Nikki Sixx, James Michael & DJ Ashba of Sixx A.M. at Prudential Center, Newark NJ

After another brief interlude, co-headliner numero uno – Shinedown – would come out for their set. This night was my second time both seeing and covering Shinedown – I covered them on their headlining Carnival of Madness tour back in August (review here) with HalestormBlack Stone Cherry and Whiskey Myers – in which they were able to play a longer set and therefore include some of my favorite songs which were noticeably absent from this night’s set. That doesn’t really matter, though, as much as I would have liked to hear Asking For It live again, the songs that did make the set list were everything you’d expect from a Shinedown show. The set list for this tour is largely the same as it was on Carnival of MadnessShinedown opening with AdrenalineFly From The Inside and Diamond Eyes from The Expendables soundtrack as their first 3 songs.

Missing from the set list were Asking For It and I’ll Follow You, so where Asking For It was on Carnival of MadnessUnity would fill its slot on this tour. Following Unity would be How Did You LoveEnemies and Call Me, which remains one of my favorite Shinedown songs 8 years after its release. Rounding out the band’s set would be State of My HeadSecond Chance and a great cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic Simple Man, with Cut The Cord mixed in. Wrapping up with Sound of MadnessShinedown would complete an incredible 75 minute set that was only slightly marred by Brent Smith stopping the show briefly to check on fans in the pit as a minor fight broke out.

That did nothing to take away from the highlight of Shinedown’s set, however, as Smith would find his way to a riser behind the soundboard to finish Sound of Madness as sparkler-like pyro flew from canisters on said riser, an incredible moment no doubt, even for someone who spends a lot of time in a photo pit. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting that Smith continued his humble and appreciative ways by shaking hands with virtually every photographer in the pit. Not many bands interact with their fans in that way, let alone media, and that’s very much a part of why I’m such a big fan of Shinedown. Not only do they never cease to amaze me, but they’re down to earth guys who genuinely appreciate everyone in the building.

Brent Smith of Shinedown at Prudential Center in Newark NJ
Brent Smith of Shinedown at Prudential Center in Newark NJ

Finally, it was time for headliner numero dos. There were no doubt many questions about whether Five Finger Death Punch would be able to get through their set without incident, given the events of the prior night’s show in Worcester, MA, which resulted in the band playing 6 songs before Ivan Moody abruptly left the stage only to be followed by the rest of the band, ending the show and angering fans. While the band did get through a full set, the night was marred by violence as one fan was removed by EMTs on a stretcher after a one-sided fight, resulting in a very heavy police presence for the entirety of 5FDP’s set. We were also unceremoniously booted from the photo pit by Ivan after just one song – I believe his exact words were “photographers, get the f*ck out of the way” – guitarist Zoltan Bathory asked us to come back. Drama aside, Five Finger Death Punch ultimately did not disappoint in their 12 song setlist plus a snipet of Remember Everything with Ivan’s vocals only.

Opening up with Lift Me UpNever Enough and Wash It All Away, the band were clearly on point and ready to go, Moody included, and immediately erased any doubt about their performance. The fans, too, noticed this and responded by immediately crowd surfing and moshing in full force. Chris Kael would sing the title track of the band’s latest album, Got Your Six – and also give me the finger. Twice. I thought it was awesome – and then Five Finger Death Punch would play one of my favorite covers ever. If you’re a fan, you already know that I’m talking about the iconic Bad Company song by the same name. This is the song that got me into 5FDP in the first place, and is the reason I even know any of their music. It sounds odd that I know a band for a song that isn’t even their own, but 5FDP’s rendition of Bad Company is so well done that I couldn’t help but check out their original music. It’s better live than it is on record.

Jekyll and Hyde would follow, and then be followed by an out of this world drum solo by Jeremy SpencerBurn MF and an acoustic version of Wrong Side of Heaven followed the drum solo, and I’ve never heard Wrong Side of Heaven acoustic. Not many metal bands can strip a song like that down, but Five Finger Death Punch is one that makes it very clear they’re not just a metal band and can do acoustic material. As all over the place as Ivan Moody can be, the one constant is that his voice is incredible, not only for the band’s heavy metal roots, but also on the acoustic Wrong Side of Heaven His voice soars over the acoustic guitar, but never overpowers it like you would expect from someone with a voice made for heavy metal. Slowing everything down was a nice change of pass for a very in your face show and showed the band’s ability to not only strip a song down, but jump right back into the heavy metal they’re known for.

And go right back into it they did, playing Coming Down and Under and Over It before wrapping up the night with The Bleeding to cap off a long night full of great music and surprises both pleasant and unpleasant. On night that began with questions surrounding the show and talk of the night before and asked more questions when fans were being treated for injuries, some severe, the one thing that was never in question was the immense talent by the bands taking the stage before us on a Saturday night in New Jersey. I’d be remiss if I didn’t state the obvious, that no fan should ever  come to a show and leave with a severe head injury caused by another fan, or anyone for that matter – music is supposed to bring people together – and nobody should ever be afraid of being at a show. All four bands made you forget, at least temporarily, that there were bad things going on in the crowd.

As LionsSixx A.MShinedown and Five Finger Death Punch are all incredible bands full of incredibly talented people who came together to put on a phenomenal show totaling nearly 4 hours of music that anyone could get lost in. Despite the issues in the crowd, the show itself went off without a hitch and was in no way a disappointment. If you’re like me and questioned the lineup of rock bands touring with a headlining heavy metal band in 2016, it’s time to admit you were just as wrong as I was. This lineup is absolutely perfect and I can honestly say this show was instantly worthy of being in my top 5. See this tour before it’s over.

Photo gallery below:

Chris Kael says "hello" during Five Finger Death Punch's set at Prudential Center, Newark NJ
Chris Kael says “hello” during Five Finger Death Punch’s set at Prudential Center, Newark NJ