May 15th marked the day that the Uptown Theater would be housing one of my most anticipated shows of 2018. Months before, Breaking Benjamin had announced that they would be touring in support of their newly released album, Ember. This announcement initially disappointed me, as they hadn’t posted any dates that would be reaching the Kansas City area. However, weeks later, they announced some one-off shows off of the tour where they would be performing with very little or no support. They did something like this a couple years ago with their “acoustic” tour which brought about an amazing turnout considering they were the only ones on the bill.
Anyway, I had arrived at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, MO an hour before the show was supposed to start. People were gathering outside of the door, with the line trailing down a couple of streets. It was pretty unreal to see that many people line up for just one band, especially Breaking Benjamin, considering they weren’t that well known in the area up until a couple years ago. The traction from their two latest records, Dark Before Dawn and Ember, were really pulling in new fans from all over.
As the clock was counting down until showtime, Uptown kept on filling up. I believe the capacity for the building is 1,700 people, and it looked like it would be meeting that limit sooner than later. While making it into the photo pit, there was talks that Keith Wallen of Breaking Benjamin would be the “opener”, showcasing some original songs as well as a cover or two in an acoustic setting. I was immediately intrigued, as I didn’t know that Keith had been reaching outside of the band and doing his own thing. The show ended up starting later than expected, but a round of applause soon began as the lights dimmed and Keith made his way up to the stage with a cowboy hat and some simple clothes. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Keith began playing and I had almost forgotten how good he was in the vocal aspect. His vocal style was crisp and stern, without that obnoxious southern twang. Many of the songs were in this style, with lyrics that weren’t exactly the most thought provoking or complex, but it all had emotion and meaning behind it. It was very refreshing, getting something totally off the wall to start off the show without taking anything away from the headliner. Keith even threw in a cover of “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac alongside Jasen Rauch who played the electric guitar alongside him.
After Keith’s set, it was another wait. The Uptown was pretty much filled to the max, from what I could see anyway. I don’t remember ever seeing so many people in this venue before. The lights dimmed again, with more applause and one by one the members took the stage, with Benjamin Burnley coming on last, taking the mic and the stage erupting into “Red Cold River”.
The set contained many of their more popular songs, like “Failure”, “Breath”, and “Ashes Of Eden”, which helped interact with the crowd as a lot of the times Benjamin would put the mic towards them so they could sing the choruses. Benjamin was all over the stage, lacking the usual guitar he wore when I had seen their shows in earlier years. This definitely could be considered an improvement, as he is the main vocal force of the band and this gave him a chance to concentrate on those duties for a while. Keith Wallen, Jasen Rauch, and Aaron Bruch didn’t solely focus on their instruments though, as they contributed their vocals during choruses and even taking on a few songs themselves. Aaron Bruch sung “Believe” like a champ, belting out ferocious growls that matched up against Ben’s pretty well. Keith took on “Evil Angel” and was quite impressive. It wasn’t the same dynamic punch as Ben’s version, but it still got the job done and would love to hear him tackle on more songs in the band’s future.
The night stayed crowded up until the last note was played from the stage. Quite the impressive feat. Breaking Benjamin continue to destroy barriers and stay on top. Their continued success with Dark Before Dawn and Ember shows that hard work and dedication to the music and the fans always pays off positively. Breaking Benjamin are about to set fire to everything around them, showing the world just how fierce they are.