CONCERT REVIEW: CANDLEBOX Offers Masterclass Of Timeless Music During Last Ever South Florida Show (September 16th, 2023)

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After honoring the musical landscape for three decades and being responsible for one of the most revered debut albums that ever came out during the grunge explosion of the 90s, Candlebox is retiring. The Kevin Martin-led outfit has been embarked on their farewell tour for several months now, and last Saturday they graced the southernmost lands of Florida with a performance at the Mizner Park Amphitheater, which would become their “long goodbye” to the Sunshine State, which not so coincidentally is the title of their last studio album, which we reviewed here.

It was a humid and hot night, even for South Florida standards, but that did not prevent the show from being sold out, despite modern metal acts Avenged Sevenfold and Falling in Reverse playing the same night a few miles away from the venue. Coming out of the gates with “Don’t You”, also the opening track of their eponymous 4-times platinum debut album, Candlebox simply owned the night since the first note reverberated through the airwaves. The band’s setlist was a fan’s wet dream: 10 out of 11 songs from plus “Punks” the fantastic lead single off “The Long Goodbye”, which Martin jokingly introduced by saying: “No one here wants to hear a new song!”.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Now, if my man-cave walls could talk, they would tell you the tale of how many times I have blasted that “Candlebox” record at full volume since the first time it landed on my hands, and I pressed play. It was musical love at first sight; therefore I consider myself someone objective enough to confirm that the band on stage played with enough fervor and pizzaz to even surpass the musicality of the studio version, adding an extra touch of dynamism to the ageless magic of cuts like “Change”, “Blossom”, Arrow” and “He Calls Home”, the dedicated to all the veterans by Martin. As you can imagine while reading this chronicle, the crowd’s reaction was second to none, with hundreds of voices joining to sing alone the verses, raising their glasses in the air to celebrate the timeless melodies.

After 40 minutes of pure musical bliss, and with the audience excitement running at high-fever levels, there was hardly a better way to close the set than with the combination of “You” and “Far Behind” – a song originally penned as a tribute to the late Andrew Wood, lead vocalist of Mother Love Bone, the band which sparked much of the grunge movement – which Martin emotionally dedicated to the late grunge heroes when saying: “This song is to the memory of those Seattle friends that I don’t get to see anymore, and all of them had such a tremendous influence in my life: Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Mark Lanegan, Scott Weiland and Chris Cornell. Could you please sing this song at the top of your lungs!”

Photo by Joel Barrios

Everything this band is about was in full exhibition: the fluid and crisp guitar riffs, the meaty bass lines, the surgically precise drumming, and Martin’s astonishing vocal intensity that saw its peak when he held a wailing not for over 20 seconds after the fantastic middle solo by Peter Klett. It was a climactic ending only surpassed by the thunderous ovation that followed, lasting several minutes while the band waved goodbye.

You know what they say about true rock n’ roll: it must be loud, sweaty, and hot to be real. And that’s exactly what Candlebox gave us in spades during their final hurrah in South Florida, leaving no doubt as to what band should have been the night’s headliner. I can genuinely say that if you loved the 90’s alternative rock movement and you missed them during these final shows, I feel sorry for you. If anyone needs a masterclass on how to retire with grace, honesty, and at the top of your game, please go ahead and give Kevin Martin a phone call.

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