CONCERT REVIEW: American Rock Gets Grimy in Nashville with FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH and BRANTLEY GILBERT (November 16th, 2022)

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Words by Jonathan Smith | Photos by Alma Reed

If American rock, be it of the country or the metallic persuasion, is known for anything, it’s definitely not for coming up short in the attitude department. The common thread of the blues and the image of the cowboy drowning his frustrations at the saloon run deep in much of what typifies the genre, and this holds true even in the present day of smart phones and social media drama. In light of this, the seemingly odd coupling of southern country rock aficionado Brantley Gilbert and Las Vegas-based metal icons Five Finger Death Punch, arguably the current embodiment of “I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock ‘n’ roll”, achieves an all too fitting synchronicity under that unifying theme of unabashed, liberty-loving Americana. With four dates already under their belt since kicking off their fall tour across the heartland, these two purveyors of dueling heavy music would hit pay dirt a fifth time on November 16th, 2022 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Taking the stage first to lead his six-piece outfit through a medley of bottom-heavy, smoky odes to southern music and culture, Brantley Gilbert pulled zero punches in delivering the goods to the multitudes of onlookers. It proved a hard-hitting extravaganza of guitar-driven rock that stood in stark contrast to a lot of the lighter, pop-infused material coming out of the country genre of late, culminating in a powerful hybridization of Lynyrd Skynyrd-styled rocking, old school bluesy swagger and plenty of nods to the old country greats. Indeed, most of the high points would come via several riveting cover songs, with Colt Ford himself joining the band on stage for their rendition of “Dirt Road Anthem”, while tour mate Ivan Moody of 5FDP provided additional vocals on a gritty performance of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue On Black” and fellow present day country hit machine Jelly Roll joined in on standout original number “Son Of The Dirty South”. Other show-stealing moments would include a brilliant display on the band’s own melancholy ode to boozing away “Bottoms Up” and a haunting execution of their military tribute song “One Hell Of An Amen”, accompanied by a heartfelt speech by Brantley on the subject.

BRANTLEY GILBERT Photo Gallery:

Though the opening foray was far from a light affair in terms of sound and subject, the Richter Scale would register even higher when headliners Five Finger Death Punch unleashed their craft upon the denizens of Nashville. Taking on a more theatrical approach, their set would kick off with the cinematic prelude from their latest album in “F8”, which segued as seamlessly into a pummeling display of their heavy-hitting first complete song from the same opus “Inside Out” as the original studio versions, with vocalist Ivan Moody shifting effortlessly between a brutal hardcore shout and a smooth, husky baritone. Punchy bangers were the order of the evening, with standout moments including nasty performances of fist-pumping anthems “Wash It All Away”, “Sham Pain”, “Welcome To The Circus” and the obligatory somber power ballad and original breakout hit for the band “The Bleeding” to close things out. Yet even more noteworthy than the flawless execution of the songs and the sheer skill brought to the table by lead guitarist Andy James (who shredded with the best of them) and drummer Charlie Engen (whose solo segment was on another level) was the on stage high-jinks of Moody, who raised the concept of crowd work to an art form during an a capella back and forth of Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” and his own “Judgment Day”, and subsequently took it in stride when a rowdy fan threw a boot on stage and was led out by security.

Despite this fall tour still being in its infancy, those who made the date in Nashville would feel uniquely privileged with beholding the best of what both bands had to offer. The contrast between the laid back, barroom demeanor and backyard country boy character of Brantley Gilbert’s performance and the larger-than-life, arena oriented flavor of 5FDP’s on-stage extravaganza could not have been starker, yet the audience response was about equally favorable. It spoke to the sense of cultural camaraderie that all Americans share, regardless of which side of the mainland they happen to reside, and the comparable level of professionalism and humility showcased by both acts was quite becoming of them as veterans whose exploits have been fast approaching historically iconic status. The party is far from over as this tour will proceed for well over a dozen more dates through the middle of December, but for those that caught the show this evening, it’s a safe bet that most arrived home all partied out and eager for a recuperation period tantamount to one required following an epic slough at the gym.

FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH Photo Gallery:

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