GIG REVIEW: BREAKING BENJAMIN Debut Show at Koko, London
Since their formation in 1999 and the release of their debut album Saturate in 2002, Breaking Benjamin has become one of the leading alternative rock acts of the post-grunge and original nu-metal era, despite arguably well-publicised difficulties during at least one point in their career. The end of May 2016 marked the band’s first show outside of the United States, taking place at London’s KOKO venue, situated in the Mornington Crescent area.
As you could expect, anticipation and all-around excitement for this particular show was incredibly high due to the relevance of the occasion. Breaking Benjamin brought along with them opening act Starset, who were undeniably unique as a live act rather than musically. A significant amount of their stage set-up was melded after various science fiction fantasies including screens displaying scenes from a fictional reality, of which bits and pieces of a story were being shown. The band had a novel on sale which filled in the gaps of this narrative, which in turn made many aspects of the set more understandable, such as why all of the band members other than the frontman were wearing helmet style visors while performing. While this is definitely an inventive and original idea to implement, I believe at times it took away from the musical element of the performance and instead was too much about the visual aesthetic and not about the most important thing which is the music. Nonetheless, Starset were an enjoyable beginning to the evening and definitely impressive live.
After Starset, it was time for headliners Breaking Benjamin to take to the stage. The gig was expectedly sold out due to it being the first time the band would perform outside of the United States, but fortunately I was able to get a decent viewpoint from the downstairs standing area as opposed to one of the venue’s multiple balconies. Kicking off their set with “So Cold”, the band performed an 18 song setlist spanning their entire discography which included tracks such as “Angels Fall”, “Ashes of Eden”, “Give Me a Sign” and “Failure” among many others. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the night came approximately halfway through, when the group performed a four song medley consisting of Tool’s “Schism”, Pantera’s “Walk”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and John Williams’ “Imperial March” theme from the Star Wars franchise. This coupled with the expansive setlist as mentioned previously which incorporated the band’s big hitting tracks such as “Breath”, “Blow Me Away” and “I Will Not Bow” led to them ending on “The Diary of Jane”. A special nod has to be given to frontman Benjamin Burnley who is as captivating as an on-stage presence as anyone else I’ve ever seen since I’ve started going to shows.