On an abnormally chilly November night in Halifax, outside of the Cunard Centre snaked a line of shivering patrons who were anxious to get inside to see the terrific trio of hard rock acts who were slated to take to the stage. Long time stalwarts of the Canadian music scene Three Days Grace were headlining the evening’s proceedings, and brought with them a pair of heavy hitters in the form of Fozzy and Texas-based Nothing More. It was a lineup that had music fans and audiologists alike salivating over the potential of that evening. It was a loud raucous affair, and I’m sure the echoes are still reverberating throughout the Cunard Centre; if not, then certainly in the hearts of those in attendance.
Being a life-long fan of pro-wrestling, it was a trip being able to finally see Fozzy perform, and watching Chris Jericho, aka the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla aka the Master of 1001 Holds, work the stage in a very similar fashion as he would work the squared circle. The thing is, when Fozzy started out they were little more than a cover band cobbled together by guitarist “The Duke” Rich Ward, and eventually enlisted a singer by the name of Mongoose McQueen (who bore a striking resemblance to current front-man Chris Jericho) to handle lead vocals. The band eventually rose out of that cover band tier, and have evolved into a rock n’ roll behemoth who have played massive rock/metal festivals overseas and even played the Chris Jericho Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Rager at Sea this past summer. Now, on a chilly November night, a legion of Haligonians stood at the alter of rock n’ roll and basked in the re-tooled Fozzy glory of Chris Jericho (having claimed lead vocals duties), Rich Ward, Billy Grey, Frank Fontsere and Paul Di Leo. The band strode on stage and blasted into an all-too brief set with their massive lead single “Judas”.
For the next approximate 30 minutes, Jericho commanded the stage with an undeniable charisma. As nearly impossible as it is to ignore his lengthy wrestling career, he was every bit a front man and played to the crowd the whole way through. Whether he was bouncing from stage right to stage left or back, or posed atop his riser, he looked equal parts Steven Tyler (thanks in large part to his Mr.T-esque scarf collection) and Chris Jericho. At the tail end of the 3rd song, Rich Ward and the band welcomed a contingent of fans to the stage to fulfill their rock star aspirations, and while Jericho worked the crowd, Ward interacted and jammed with the ecstatic music fans. The entire time Ward seemed to be having the time of his life sharing in their moment. It was clear from the moment that Fozzy hit the stage, to the moment they departed, that they are a band meant for far larger venues, and the Cunard Centre is a cavernous space, but Fozzy is a band meant to be sharing their vintage hard-rock, arena anthems to far bigger audiences.
While Fozzy definitely set an inconceivably high bar for the rest of the evening, San Antonio-based Nothing More and the band’s brand of hardcore/alt-rock was more than potent enough to knock that bar off of its moorings. There were more than a few perplexed faces in the crowd as the stage was prepped for Jonny Hawkins, Daniel Oliver, Mark Vollelunga, and Ben Anderson’s arrival. Looming on stage left was this large metallic contraption (better known as “The Scorpion Tail”) which was crafted from scrap metal and auto parts, which lifted Hawkins 14 feet into the air toward the end of the set, where he used this large midi-controller joystick-esque arm to create digital sonic effects and actually broke out a cover of Skrillex’s “First Of the Year (Equinox)”. It was a great way to close out the set. The thing is, that’s not even the craziest thing that took place during the band’s set.
The band carved through a great chunk of their breakthrough album The Stories We Tell Ourselves, regaling the packed Cunard Centre with massive tracks such as “Go To War”, “Don’t Stop” and “Let ‘Em Burn”. It was at about the halfway point in the set when things veered hard left, and Daniel Oliver started playing a bass that was mounted on “The Scorpion Tail”, and was then joined first by Mark Vollelunga, then Jonny Hawkins got in on the action, eventually playing percussion on the strings. Then as the three of them were playing, they would occasionally spin the bass 360 degrees and keep on playing. It was one of the most jaw dropping performances I’ve seen in some time. They were everything I could have hoped they would have been, and was completely gobsmacked by how exceptional Nothing More were.
Closing out the night were headliners Three Days Grace, an act who is no stranger to these parts, as they have played many rooms and have always brought along some top-tier supporting acts (the last time they played Halifax, Halestorm opened). The band was kicking off their Outsider tour which would take them right across the country, and Halifax was only the second night of the tour. For a band with a nearly 20-year career, they have the daunting task of crafting a set-list that features the new material, while honouring the past. That being said, it struck me as odd that the band only included three cuts (“The Mountain”, “Infra-Red” and “Love Me or Leave Me”) from the new record, but the band’s eponymous debut album had four tracks on the set-list (the obligatory “I Hate Everything About You”, “Just Like You”, “Home”, and “Let You Down”).
Having been a long-time fan of the band, and having been able to see them perform during both the Adam and Matt eras, I was looking forward to seeing them work through the new material. This isn’t to say that the performance wasn’t good, because it was, it just wasn’t as vibrant or exciting as the previous two acts. Now, my vantage point is a little more jaded than most, because the room was packed and ready to ride with Matt, Barry, Brad and Neil. All in all, it was a great night of rock n’ roll, capped off with some Canadian rock giants.
It’s safe to assume that many in attendance were left with smiles plastered on their faces, music in their hearts and bells in their ears. It was a kick-ass night of hard-rock in Halifax, which was not unappreciated. If people start coming out to shows like they did for this trio of titans, we might get bigger and badder rock shows in town. For now, let’s just bask in the awesomeness that was Fozzy, Nothing More, and Three Days Grace, and hope that people were rocking their aural protection last Friday night.