As the blustery cold winds howled and the skies hovered menacingly with the threat of a snowstorm, I could tell as I pulled into the parking lot that absolutely nothing could damper the spirits of over-zealous fans beginning to congregate in anticipation of what turned out be a stellar performance of three outstanding bands…not to be forgotten anytime soon.
Before I get ahead of myself, I first need to mention that due to unfortunate circumstances, Sick Puppies had to reluctantly cancel their show, due to their tour bus breaking down in Philadelphia earlier that day. However, thanks to the management of Skillet, their slot was filled by the extraordinary display of a headliner band in the making. With that said, I proudly present to you Buffalo, New York’s very own Lost Elysium! Fronted by Ashley Elle(compared to the voices of both Amy Lee of Evanescence and Maria Brink of In This Moment), who’s vocals actually made the hair on my arms stand up, as her range of pitch effortlessly achieved reaching into each and every soul, as if touched by an angel. Trailing on the heels of their latest single “Think Like The Enemy” (released January 20, 2016). This unified quartet comprised of the definitive riffs of guitarist Brian Muller, Ricky Stage on his Tama Art Star custom drum kit and Sabian AAX Cymbals as well as Earl Lee on his axe, powered by Traynor Amps. Opening their six song set with “Lose Control”, these New Yorkers displayed their unique brand of symphonic hard rock as Muller ferociously shredded his custom Epiphone Hollowbody guitar (of which he calls Betty) on their single “Remain The Same”. Closing their set with “Away”, a slower beat filled with pure emotion (a song dedicated to her father), as Ashley Elle gave it her all, along with the explosive reverberating bass of Lee and the effortless skin pounding of Stage. Formed in 2012, Lost Elysium will certainly grow on you…as it has for me. I truly hope to see more of these talented musicians in the months/years to come, as they progress and work towards being a headliner band, of which I have no doubt!
Next up was the hard rock band sounds of Devour The Day, founded in 2012 by original members Joey “Chicago” Walser (bass/backup vocals) and Blake Allison (vocals/rhythm guitar), both of former Egypt Central. Guitarist and backup vocalist David Hoffman commanded this near sold out show, with opening number “S.O.A.R.” and “Good Man”, producing slamming string shredding that pegged the soundboard decimeters, no doubt! Keeping these boys from Memphis, Tennessee on track was the simplistic yet commanding alternative/hard rock beats of the one and only Ronnie Farris, as they worked the crowd into a frenzy of fans, pushing closer to the rail. Along with the deep throated growling of Allison, this extraordinaire vocalist was extremely interactive with the crowd all through their memorable six song set, especially while playing their closer single “Save Yourself”. Following one of my personal favorites “Respect”. Before I was even aware of it, I caught myself trying to keep up with Hoffman with my air guitar, as my head bobbed with every beat of the drums! Such a noticeable improvement from covering them last year, in both the musical abilities as well as just having a blast onstage playing together!
Last but not least by far, is yet another Memphis, Tennessee based Christian rock band Skillet, originating in 1996. With ten studio albums to their credit, with the latest being ‘Unleashed’ (2015), John Cooper (vocals/bass) came forth onto the stage unlike any artist I’ve witnessed in some time, led his band into their sixteen song set plus an encore with “Feel Invisible” from the ‘Unleashed’ disc with the energy of a thousand men. Drenched in sweat by the second song “Whispers In The Dark”, even I had a difficult time hearing his vocals over the crowd, as they continually sang each and every song as loud as their lungs could fathom. What will be embedded into my memory for all eternity was the precision and stage presence of Korey Cooper. My last time witnessing this talented guitarist/keyboardist and backup vocalist was in 2014, joining forces with Godsmack, Seether and Buckcherry at the Rockstar Uproar Festival in Syracuse, NY, and all I can say is that the Cooper’s, along with Jen Ledger on her Pearl drum kit and occasional vocals/keyboard, and the timid yet masterful licks of Seth Morrison (2011 – present) on his PRS Mark Tremonti Signature guitar powered by the combination of his VOX AC-30HH amp head combined with PRS Archon head as well, displayed a comradery fitting of their reputation. During their singles “Awake and Alive”, “Undefeated”, “The Last Night”, and encore “The Resistance”, Tate Olson graced the crowd with his electric cello, dressed in a burgundy crushed velvet cloak and mardi-gras mask. At one point, both Olson and Korey Cooper ended up on two hydraulic lifts, positioned on both sides of Jen Ledger’s kit, one rising as the other descended. During their fifth song “Back From The Dead”, Cooper jumped off the stage and made his way to a five year old boy (accompanied by his father) standing close to stage right stairs, and took time to not only high-five the youngster, but also quietly said something to this boy that brought him to life, as if touched by a higher power. A perfect example of this magic was ever present when Skillet launched into “Monster”, as this lad was bobbing up and down with both raised horns as high as he could muster, to the amazement of his dad. Ending this spectacular musical as well as extensive light show with “The Resistance”, supported by Morrison’s fast paced riffs and John Cooper’s venue crumbling bass notes, Skillet did not disappoint their eagerly awaiting fan with their undying dedication to this well deserved and respected ensemble of talented musical icons.
While there were a few last minute scheduling changes, along with inclement weather on the near horizon, this was one show I gladly made a nine hour round-trip to see and certainly wasn’t disappointed. My hat goes off to all three bands for effortlessly working through these setbacks and delivered one of the best shows on the Unleashed Tour. I can easily say without any hesitation that it’s truly a shame that I can only rate this spectacular event a total of five out of five, as they certainly deserve much more!
And If I may, I’d like to toss in a shameless plus (lol) to the staff at Rock Burger, located just minutes from Rapids Theatre on Niagara Street, Niagara Falls, NY. This gem of a burger joint is famous for its gourmet burgers & buffalo style ranch French fries, and their prices are more than reasonable too!