In an age of laser-precise light shows and pyrotechnics that mimic the might of dragons, seeing popular bands on tour guarantees a performance that is part theater, part music. For big-name bands in rock and metal alike, the performances that sell out stadiums have both elements in equal measure, spurred by the soul of the musicians that deliver such bombastic delights. Weighed down with accolades and an unwavering fan-base, Five Finger Death Punch brought the full package as they stormed across Florida, playing three shows across the state in just four days. Supporting them in their domination of North America was rock band Three Days Grace and genre companions Bad Wolves. Their second show in Florida, and the tenth show on the tour, took place at the Hertz Arena in Ft. Myers.
It was Bad Wolves that started off the night, touring not just in support of Five Finger Death Punch, but in promotion of their latest album, “N.A.T.I.O.N.” The members of Bad Wolves are no strangers to sharing a stage with Five Finger Death Punch, and vocalist Tommy Vext served to fill in for Ivan Moody in 2017 after the singer had checked into a medical facility. Since their inception in 2017, Bad Wolves has swiftly seized the music spotlight, and are now touring on the heels of their recently released sophomore album “N.A.T.I.O.N” which we reviewed here. Though there is a fair deal of overlap between the fans of each band, and striking similarities between the ferocity and raw emotion that fuel their anthems, Bad Wolves brought personalities to the stage that were unique and three-dimensional.
Most of the personality of the night belonged to none other than front-man Tommy Vext himself, who showed just how deep his many passions ran as he bantered with the crowd. When he wasn’t screaming his heart out into the mic, face twisted in the heat of the moment, he was speaking directly to the audience, unapologetically professing his truth. There was a time when he called out to the crowd, asking all present to take a knee and praise America. He stepped further than this as the crowd obeyed, highlighting with colorful language his deep-seated belief that anyone who spoke poorly of America should get their stuff and “get the f**k out of the country”. His fire carried into the next song, where he demanded that the crowd jump to the music until the chorus struck. Seemingly struck by his conviction, the crowd did as he asked, and created a rippling wave of energy that expanded from the barricade to the far reaches of the arena floor.
For songs so aggressive and a vocal personality that came across so brash, Vext also opened up a more tender, human side. As many metal bands that sing about the darker sides of the human mind, Vext is part of a rare few to bare his soul to thousands, admitting openly on stage to be the survivor of a suicide attempt. This admitted, he finished the song with unwavering might, and addressed anyone present that may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, telling them that they would be killing a version of themselves they have yet to meet. For all of his energy on stage, including taking considerable air from the drum risers more than once, it was an unexpected wave of emotion as he spoke to the gathered masses. No matter how short their set, only seven songs long, all present gained a deep understanding of not just the diversity of Bad Wolves’ musical capabilities, but the many values that Vext holds dear. Their closing song was one that all present seemed to know, and the song that played a role in skyrocketing the band to fame in 2018; for their rendition of the Cranberries “Zombie,” the stadium was filled with cell phones lights raised into the air. Between Vext’s gravelly vocal interpretation of the much-beloved song – with a special moment in which he brought a little girl to the stage to sing the chorus with him – and enough brightness to be mistaken for daylight, Bad Wolves closed out their set with an all-encompassing atmosphere that was irresistibly enthralling.
Taking a breath away from the wailing of distorted guitar and grating screams was following act Three Days Grace, driven by the melancholic hard rock that gained favor in the late 2000s. Having earned their fans over the course of the last decade, Three Days Grace brought with them an infectious atmosphere that seemed to touch every member of the audience, whether they were familiar with their music or not. For their performance, two large screens stood off to either side of the stage, projecting videos as they played their way through a set just a touch longer than their openers. Even though their music ran on a more mellow note relative to the bands they shared the stage with, their performance was just as energetic. Bass player Brad Walst was in constant motion while he performed, and seemed to have a penchant for sticking his tongue out as he plucked away at the thick strings in practiced rhythm.
While both Bad Wolves and Five Finger Death Punch pulled heavily from their more recent work, Three Days Grace dug deep for tracks that rang of a more alternative flavor, and have earned them long-time fans. Of their eleven song set, nine of their choices came from albums produced with former vocalist, Adam Gontier, prior to 2012. While current vocalist Matt Walst has been performing with Three Days Grace since 2013, he still seemed adamant to prove that he is enough to fill the shoes Gontier left behind. It seemed the audience was more than ready to assure him that there was no reservations left about his place at the helm of the platinum-earning band; when long-time favorite “Animal I Have Become” kicked off, the arena was filled with a tremendous uproar of enthusiasm. As lions walked across the screens, the Walst brothers prowled the stage, drawing on screams that were nearly primal as they professed themes of self-loathing and internal battles. Each track seemed to reach deep inside all attendees, striking with the doubts and uncertainties each heart seems to harbor. Voices rang out as they sang along with classic tracks including “Never Too Late” and “Riot.” At the end of the set, it was clear that current fans had been filled with nostalgia, and many new fans converted under the spell of their universal charm and musical appeal.
Personality is an understatement when it comes to the absolute attention commanded by headliners Five Finger Death Punch. Their discography spans nearly fifteen years, but in that time, the dynamic band has amassed a dedicated and rabidly loyal fan-base. With music that reaches to the core of a primal rage, it seemed only appropriate that the tour brought with them a full-blown stage production. The orchestration of lights and pyrotechnics was a continual explosion of stars, highlighting the sheer intensity the band brings to the stage with their music. This set-list was one mixed with old favorites and new hits, including tracks from their latest album “And Justice For None,” which came out in 2018. Vocalist Ivan Moody came to the stage with the ferocious bite of a much more youthful musician, and had an absolutely magnetic draw as he sang and bantered through the night.
Even though their delivery relies most heavily on Moody’s steadfast vocals, switching between shouting, screaming, and singing, each musician had their turn in the spotlight. Guitarist Zoltan Bathory seemed a touch more reserved than his usual self, but still manned his role on the strings with masterful precision as the rest of the band engaged with the crowd and photographers alike. The newest member of the band, drummer Charlie Egen, seemed comfortable where he was position high above the crowd, pouring his all into his performance, and despite being with the band for two years, seemed a natural fit with the long-established chemistry of the other members. Going through favorites including “Never Enough” and closing with “The Bleeding,” any die-hard fans got to see that Moody’s range and abilities haven’t faltered even after more than a decade of nearly nonstop performances, most of which reliably fill entire arenas with adoring masses. Moody’s love for the spotlight was difficult to miss; more than just performing his music and roaring alongside streams of burning fire, he took the time to make wardrobe changes throughout the set. Five Finger Death Punch seemed to thrive on the sea of fists raised in the air, frenzied shouts, and hundreds of voices raised to the choruses of both hope and pain. It was a headlining act that burned hot with not just a love for the stage, but a pure passion for the music between artists and fans alike.
Each band delivered heavy music that spoke to the darker parts of the human experience; self-doubt, loathing, and anger. But they also spoke of hope, if one cared enough to listen, and could pull themselves away from the performances that easily filled the arena with life and personality. Heavy enough to shake Florida to its core, Five Finger Death Punch will continue to roll across North America with their supporting acts well into December. Each musician truly brought their all to the stage of the Hertz Arena, and combined their musical prowess with an all-encompassing execution of lights, pyrotechnics, and theatrics. Personalities shined in a brilliantly cohesive lineup, and Five Finger Death Punch gave proof once again why their name has been maintained in the rock mainstream for ceaseless years.
BAD WOLVES SET-LIST
No Messiah / Foe or Friend / Remember When / Officer Down / Killing Me Slowly / I’ll Be There / Zombie (The Cranberries cover)
THREE DAYS GRACE SET-LIST
The Mountain / Home / The Good Life / Painkiller / Pain / Break / I Hate Everything About You / Animal I Have Become / Never Too Late / Riot
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH SET-LIST
Lift Me Up / Trouble / Wash It All Away / Jekyll and Hyde / Sham Pain / Bad Company (Bad Company cover) / No One Gets Left Behind / Got Your Six / Wrong Side of Heaven / Battle Born / Blue on Black (Kenny Wayne Shepherd cover) / Coming Down / Never Enough / Burn MF
Under and Over It / The Bleeding