Review: Shinedown / Asking Alexandria / Zero 9:3 – Cardiff International Arena

One of the first major gigs I took my new girlfriend, and now wife, to, way back in 2012, was Download Festival. That weekend we came across a band called Shinedown that we both enjoyed and a few months later found ourselves heading off to watch their headline tour date at Exeter University. Certainly not the biggest venue in the world, but it was still no more than half full. However, the show that Shinedown put on was one of the best live performances I have seen (check out the video on YouTube of ‘Simple Man’ – the best version) and even Shinedown guitarist Zach Myers looks a little overawed by the vocal Brent Smith pulls out.

Since then the band has been firm favourites, and provided our first dance music (‘I’ll Follow You’) when we got married, converting others who saw what it meant to us both. Since then they seem to have gotten stuck in a strange universe of seeing themselves as support act to others, such as Alter Bridge and so we never really got to see a full set and stage show. That all changed with the “Planet Zero Tour” (named after the most recent album), where the UK survived a cull of all the European dates, and so we braved Cardiff on a rugby international day to enjoy the experience.

Opening the show was Zero 9:36 aka Matthew Cullen from Philadelphia. Hitting the stage alone he prowled from end to end constantly as he let rip with his fast-paced rap delivery, very much at odds with the style of the bands to come. He was soon joined on stage by a full band and together they surged through a powerful set. At first, he seemed almost quiet between songs but soon started to challenge the audience; asking whether there were mosh pits over here. That challenge was met with boos and I wasn’t sure that he was quite finding the audience he wanted. Pretty soon though he got what he wished for as the crowd started to warm to his never ceasing energy. Of the setlist, ‘Adrenaline’ was for me the stand-out track, bringing melody and complexity more in keeping with the kind of audience the headliners might attract. That said, given a younger, more accepting crowd, I would love to see more!

The filling in the line-up sandwich was Yorkshire Metalcore maestros Asking Alexandria. Huge kudos to Shinedown for giving the British band the space to put on a real show, with a drum riser higher than the headliner and a walkway right across the stage, not to mention a good dose of flames to literally warm the audience up. Their set began with vocalist Danny Worsnop taking to the stage alone with some scintillating vocals that made the hairs on my arms stand up as he started up ‘Someone Somewhere before the band ripped in behind him. The flames made an appearance on ‘Into the Fire’ and by the time we leave the pit I was feeling both singed and blown away by the energy of the entire band. The set alternated between Worsnop’s different vocal styles, guttural screams interlacing with the hauntingly beautiful, and I spent most of their set just letting the visual and aural feast wash over me. The crowd reaction was warm, energetic, and genuine and by the time the set closed with more flames and ‘Alone in a Room’ and ‘Final Episode’, it almost felt as if we had watched a headline set rather than a support act.

The stage was cleared remarkably quickly and the lights went down. ‘Welcome’ played over the large speaker array as the large screens at the back came to life, illuminating a relatively simple and bare stage. The video commenced and took us through a montage of covid related vignettes and segued into a glitchy Planet Zero before the band walked on from the side of the stage to ‘2184’. A bow and a wave, places taken, a shout of “Let’s Go” and my world exploded in front of me as ‘The Saints of Violence and Innuendo’, along with a huge explosion of sparks and flames, kicked off the night with immense energy. A cajoling “We Can’t Hear You” incited the crowd before ‘Devil’ took them even higher. This was simply sensational. Brent Smith, standing suited and cool between the flames, Zach Myers, and bassist Eric Bass running around like hyperactive kids, and drummer Barry Kerch a blur of dreads and sticks. Our third song in the pit is ‘America Burning’ and I was almost glad to leave the worry of photographing after some major camera issues and simply watch what was turning out to be one of the best gigs I have ever witnessed.

I am in my seat with an amazing view by ‘How Did You Love’ and the beam on my other half’s face shows that she is as blown away as I am! Then we are taken right back to the very beginning for ’45’, one of my favourite songs whenever I put a Shinedown playlist on. More eruptions as the insanely powerful ‘Bully’ has Myers and Bass leaping together every time the big hit comes in, seemingly competing for who can get the highest. ‘The Crow and the Butterfly’ melts my heart every time I hear it and yet tonight it manages to be one of the heaviest songs on the setlist, then in contrast finishes with Smith kneeling and Bass playing acoustic. We then get a real treat. Brent Smith informs us that many didn’t want the next song to go out, but they overruled them and were going to play it live, for the first time ever, next. To find that it was one of my favourite tracks from ‘Planet Zero’; ‘Dysfunctional You’, made my night. Live, it is every bit as special as I thought it might be.

‘Enemies’ kept the pace up and halfway through, Smith went over the barriers and parted the crowd like the Red Sea as he walked amongst them to the mixing desk and back. He then cajoled and commanded pretty much every soul in the building to get down before exploding into life on his command. Messianic stuff! Shinedown excel at songs that mean something to every person that hears them and ‘Daylight’ is an exceptional example. Lit by thousands of phone lights and with a choir of Welsh fans singing to have faith alongside Eric Bass’s piano, it was an emotional high point.

Time to up the pace again and the fire was turned back on, fireworks exploded and cannon-level bangs shook the foundations as we raced through ‘Planet Zero’, ‘Cut the Cord’, and ‘Monsters’, the energy never flagging for a second, yet Smith still looking cool and stylish. He then introduced ‘Second Chance’ with a speech about how the band has talked about mental health for two decades, “before politicians acted like they cared”. Another song that means so much to so many, from our seats I saw something that would have gone unnoticed in the stage production to most people (apparently the staging is designed by Mr. Myers himself). As fireworks went off, the sparkling effect on the audience was enhanced by the lighting, which then slowly reduced towards the front of the stage. Unless you were above the level of the crowd you would have had no idea just how beautiful the effect was.

‘Diamond Eyes’ was, as always, simply immense and then Smith left the stage for a delightful acoustic interlude between Eric Bass and Zach Myers. Starting with ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ (I believe as a tribute to the Manchester bombing victims) the crowd were asked to show that they know the words as “nobody does when we play it at home”. They left the band in no doubt whatsoever that they do! Then, not on the setlist, and introduced as never played here before, “Call Me” was sublime. Of course, the acoustic section HAS to be there to build up for one of the best cover versions in modern rock, ‘Simple Man’. Tonight, as always, it was a cooperative effort between band and audience, and any remaining voice I had was now broken. To send us on our way ‘Sound of Madness’ was just pure bombast with everything left unexploded thrown at it.

Finally, a full set, a full stage show, a full experience, and a totally full arena. It is never goodbye, it is just until the next time. I can’t flipping wait!

Review and Photos – Danni Wilkins/Rob Wilkins

Check Also

FAHRAN: New Single “Sever The Ties” July 29th

Nottingham’s rock-metal band Fahran (pronounced Fa-Ren) are set to release their eagerly anticipated new album, …

SIMONE SIMONS – releases video for ‘R.E.D.’ from her debut solo album

SIMONE SIMONS has released the video for ‘R.E.D.’, from her debut solo album, Vermillion, that’s …

TUK SMITH & THE RESTLESS HEARTS share new album details and single

TUK SMITH & THE RESTLESS HEARTS have today announced the release of their second album. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *