GIG REVIEW: Five Finger Death Punch, In Flames & Of Mice And Men Live at Schleyerhalle, Stuttgart
The day, Five Finger Death Punch announced their big co-headline tour with Gothenburg’s arsonists In Flames, fans were skeptical. Just prior to that, singer Ivan Moody made headlines by publicly proclaiming the band’s end and leaving the stage in the middle of their set, but as soon as the band kicked off this massive arena tour in Helsinki, the Knuckleheads of Europe breathed a collective sigh of relief – as the band seemed not only back in action, but also more motivated than ever before.
Therefore it wasn’t surprising that the Schleyerhalle of Swabia’s capital Stuttgart was almost sold out with over 13.000 tickets. Some rants appeared online after fans had to pay an extra amount to be able to access the „Golden Circle“ of the venue (approximately the first 30 meters in front of the stage) and see their heroes not only from a far distance, but the venue filled up quickly and the first gallons of beer were destroyed before Of Mice And Men entered the stage at 7:00 PM.
After the departure of their singer and founding member Austin Carlile, the future didn’t seem too bright for the Californian metalcore high flyers, but their new front man Aaron Pauley left no doubt that he would be the perfect man to fill Austin’s shoes. Charismatic, euphoric an looking a little bit like a young version of Jack Black, he guided the still rather shy audience through six merciless tracks, like “You Make Me Sick” or the neck breaking finisher “The Depths”. After only 30 minutes, the band left the stage and by now, the Schleyerhalle was packed both in the standing area and on the seats.
In spring this year, In Flames already performed a special “In My Room”-tour which saw them perform some of their songs acoustically and while it was great to witness the band in such a different setting, the European fans were visibly waiting to hear the raging classics in their original and heavy way. After “Drained” performed behind a semi-transparent curtain, the audience went completely crazy as “Before I Fall” blasted through the boxes and the curtain fell to unveil an impressive stage setting with LED-screens and both drummer Joe and their new tour keyboarder standing on their own platforms.
With the help of their brand new PA, the band’s sound was sharper than ever before and as crystal clear as you rarely get to hear it on live shows. However new systems tend to have some teething troubles and therefore a few minutes of silence occurred in the middle of the set, but luckily the sound technicians were able to quickly fix the problem and In Flames returned with full force and “Only For The Weak” leaving the entire audience jumping up and down that even the floor vibrated.
With six songs from ‘Battles’, the band’s focus was clearly on their latest album, but fear not, dear old school fans, as the Swedes also offered some thrilling time travel back to the Nineties with the rhythmic “The Jester’s Dance” and classic “Moonshield”. Once the band moved on to their post-millennium tracks, their mascot, the giant Owl Boy, hung from the stage’s ceiling with glowing red eyes, while the LED screens still showed different video impressions to underline the modern metal anthems. Singer Anders Fridén insisted on pointing out that he doesn’t mind fans to film the show or take mobile phone pictures, but suggested them to enjoy the show in an analogue way and mosh the hell out of themselves and others. And while Germans may not be the craziest audience in the world, the Stuttgarters obeyed and screamed along to “The Quiet Place” with all the air they still found in their exhausted lungs.
While some never seems to get over the fact that In Flames evolved their sound with every album they released, it was mind-blowing to see how much the band has grown within the past years and now plays arenas with such a huge stage set – that seemed perfectly made for them.
With their hymn “Lift Me Up”, Five Finger Death Punch invaded the Schleyerhalle. A massive skull and two crossed baseball bats were hanging above the stage, multiple lasers shot over the audience and from the first second on, the Americans prove that they were stronger than ever. Although the sound being not as crystal clear as during In Flames, the chorus immediately echoed back from the 13.000 throats inside the arena.
To introduce their killer “Wash It All Away”, Ivan took a minute to sincerely apologize to all the fans for his previous behavior, but the Knuckleheads obviously didn’t seem to bear a grudge against the charismatic front man and welcomed him back to his new life with singing along to every single note and starting a giant moshpit. Closeness to their audience seemed to be Five Finger Death Punch‘s mission throughout their entire set. Therefore Ivan did not only bring his football shirt from the German national team, but also invited around 20 fans on stage, to rock out to their blazing anthem “Burn MF” and experience a unique moment together with their heroes.
During the Bad Company cover “Bad Company”, guitarist Jason Hook brought his twin guitar, before a young boy received another chance to come up on stage and sing the haunting ballad “Wrong Side Of Heaven” with the band. With “Remember Everything” a second acoustic ballad performed only by Ivan and Jason drew a melancholic veil over the entire venue, before the Americans pulled the e-guitars out of their closet again to burn the Schleyerhalle to ashes with four more rock anthems. Coming to an end with “The Bleeding”, Five Finger Death Punch left no questions unanswered. No matter what the band went through within the past months, they delivered such a tour de force on this evening, that they definitely earned twice as much fans as they might have lost. The Punchers are back – let’s hope that this time, it’s for good.