It’s only apt, in a city overrun by cranes and construction, that in the aftermath of the performances this past Wednesday night by Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, Sixx: AM and From Ashes to New, that the Scotiabank Centre lay in ruins. It was a potent lineup that was sponsored by Monster Energy, and brought to Halifax thanks to an online vote. That being said, with a strong hard rock/metal line up such as this, you would think the energy would be instantly palpable both in and outside of the venue; unfortunately, there seemed to almost be an energy void. There wasn’t the same buzz surrounding the venue that I’ve experienced at other Scotiabank Centre shows; but while the lineups were short, and the crowd seemingly paltry, those in attendance were in store for a treat, as this was the final night of the Canadian tour.
It would have been great to see a packed Scotiabank Centre, but the small but mighty legion of Haligoons on the floor were ready to show that what they lacked in numbers, they more than made up in vigour and passion, and they would have you believe that the room was jammed to the rafters. The crowd was primed and ready for a dose of some serious rock n’ roll. First up was From Ashes To New, a band out of Lancaster, PA, who kicked the night off with some high-octane hardcore infused nu-metal (think Alexisonfire meets Linkin Park). I think a longer set might have worn out the band’s welcome, but their limited 5-ish song set was ideal, as it primed the crowd for the bands to come and introduced the crowd to their material. If I were 15 years younger, I’d be way into From Ashes to New; but I’ve mellowed a bit, and can appreciate the energy and passion, but it’s not exactly what I’m reaching for when I need some listening material.
Now, I know a lot of the folks in the crowd who were a little longer in the tooth were stoked to see the next two bands, one being a relatively new band with an iconic member (and namesake), and the other being a band that a large swath of the Haligoon crowd was into 15 years ago. First up was Sixx: AM, the band whose namesake is band member and former Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, along with former (post/pre-Slash) G-N-R guitarist DJ Ashba, and front-man James Michael. In looking around the venue, this was one of the more anticipated acts on the bill, and let me tell you they did not disappoint. From the moment the band stepped on stage, you could tell that they were ready to leave it all on the stage, as this show marked the end of the tour.
Knowing they were battling time as the second act on the bill, the band hit the stage and tore into “This is Gonna Hurt”, and you immediately forgot that there were still two bands to follow, as this felt like a headlining set (and technically, it was longer than a traditional opening set at 9 tracks). The Sixx: AM sound was tailor-made for arenas, and Michael’s vocals were huge and commanding as they soared over the scintillating work from DJ Ashba and Nikki’s bass line. It was a set that astonished many in attendance, as the crowd was treated to Sixx: AM’s best known “Life is Beautiful” and the massive (and recently released) tunes “Rise” and title track “Prayers for the Damned”. The band took absolute pleasure in tearing the roof off the Scotiabank Centre, and in the process setting the bar exceptionally high for Papa Roach and Five Finger Death Punch.
After the debris was swept from the stage, Papa Roach hit the stage. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, as I haven’t followed the band since the early ’00s and was only really familiar with the band’s breakthrough album Infest and its follow-up Lovehatetragedy, but holy shit folks, the band managed to exceed my low expectations and blasted through the bar that Sixx: AM set. While the songs weren’t immediately recognizable, the electricity and passion with which they were performed was infectious, and while we all wanted to hear “Scars” and “Last Resort”, we weren’t left to wade through an impotent catalogue of chaff. Instead the evolution of Papa Roach hardened the band’s sound, and helped infuse Jacoby Shaddix’s vocals with an urgency that draws the listener in and keeps them invested. It was an awe-inspiring set that completely won me over, and was easily the biggest surprise for me on this supercharged bill. If you were wondering, we did get to hear the Papa Roach classics, and “Scars” was stripped down for a quiet intimate acoustic performance which invited a huge sing-along with the crowd. It was a fantastic moment. But, GOD DAMN, what a treat that set turned out to be.
After the fantastic road crew cleared the stage and completed the changeover, it was time for the evening’s headlining act, Las Vegas’ own Five Finger Death Punch. The need for a hard rock/metal show of this calibre in Halifax was undeniable, and the crowd was ready to throw down when Ivan, Chris, Jason, Zoltan and Jeremy hit the stage. The band launched into “Lift Me Up” from 2013’s The Wrong Side of Heaven, and Righteous Side of Hell Vol.1 and the crowd was ready to dance in the rubble of the Scotiabank Centre, as this set shook the remnants of the building to its core. The powerhouse set also included the stellar Bad Company cover “Bad Company”, which sounds great on radio but even better played live, it’s a definite crowd pleaser. While I may not haul my 6-year old daughter to a Five Finger Death Punch show, there were some younger fans in the audience whom the band invited onstage for the questionable “Burn MF”, which the crowd chanted along with the band as the crowd pulsed and throbbed with excitement.
Knowing I had a 6 am wake-up call in front of me, I regretfully opted to head for the door to start my drive home. I could still hear the band as I made my way to the sidewalk and started my hike to the car. Aside from that one WTF moment, I walked away entirely pumped to have just witnessed one of the best rock n’ roll shows that has come to Halifax in a very long time. We need to have many more shows like this. You could tell this was the end of the tour, as each band was fun and jovial, many of whom took time to mug for the photogs in the pit. It was a show where it was all left on the stage, and I can only expect that the Haligoons left the Scotiabank Centre exhausted and satiated.