3 Doors Down with Shinedown & Alter Bridge
Live at the DeKalb Convocation Center DeKalb, Illinois 10/19/2005
Concert Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter

3 Doors Down
Alter Bridge



I had my ticket for the 3 Doors Down extravaganza that was coming to town, and was excited to hear that up-and-coming rockers Shinedown were opening the show. In all honesty, I couldn't decide who I was more excited to see. 3 Doors Down has frustrated me a bit with their latest release "Seventeen Days." They kept to the same commercially successful formula as they maintained on their first two records, which seemed to me just another above average attempt. I've always felt that the band was capable of so much more. The story is a little different for Shinedown. They have just released their second album, "Us And Them," and it is even better than their above average first record. A powerful and passionate singer with a tight band to boot. For some reason, I thought 3 Doors Down was going to exceed their records in the live setting, and Shinedown would drop a rung or two. Needless to say, my curiosity was peaked and I was anxiously awaiting showtime.

I decided to see if I could find any info about the arena I was about to be sitting in for the late hours of my Wednesday night, so I went to the 3DD website to check out the show announcement. The information I came to find was something that sent my musical taste buds into overdrive. I saw the announcement for the show; "the show" turned out to be so much more than I had anticipated. There were not just two bands on this bill, there were three and that third band was Alter Bridge. I can't explain how much my level of anticipation started to rise. Alter Bridge, rising from the ashes of Creed, released their first disc almost two years ago and it remains a stellar record. Being a big fan of Creed and this Alter Bridge debut record, I was elated to find out that Alter Bridge would be playing for me. Now I was officially ready for them to dim the lights.

As Alter Bridge took the stage at 7:30, guitarist Mark Tremonti was instantly spotlighted and launched into a short, quick fingered solo to greet the sleeping crowd. The band sounded very raw as they kicked in with their opener, "One Day Remains." As the band ripped through some of my favorites from their debut disc such as "Metalingus," "Find The Real," and "Open Your Eyes," the set was lacking one very integral song. I find "Broken Wings" to be one of the best songs from this band, and it was not in this set. Disappointing to say the least. I also expected a more polished and clean sound, but instead got a pumped up, "bare bones" version of the band. Not that I didn't like the raw energy of the band, but it just came as an unexpected surprise. Vocalist Myles Kennedy did a wonderful job belting out his high powered voice over the shredding of guitarist Mark Tremonti, who was also at the top of his game. Kennedy is not the type of frontman to rally a crowd though, and this crowd seemed comatose at times during the set. Even as the band cut into a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic, "Rock And Roll," the audience seemed unresponsive to the band's stripped down sound. Considering they were the third act of a three act bill though, and only given forty minutes and a thin patch of the spacious stage to work with, they did a fine job.

It was only a twenty minute wait between sets, and almost exactly one hour after Alter Bridge started us off, Shinedown came out to rough us up some more. Now this frontman spent much of his time trying to rally this numb crowd. After opening the show with "Heroes" from their latest release, "Us And Them," vocalist Brent Smith immediately tried to set this crowd in motion. Asking the crowd to start bouncing up and down at the count of three . . . asking the people in the seats to rise out of them . . . asking all of us to raise a lighter or a cell phone (Man, it is a new generation isn't it?!) in the air you know, all of the usual crowd participation tactics. And, believe it or not, the crowd did respond fairly well. You could almost hear the sheep snoring in the farms that surrounded the arena in between songs during the Alter Bridge set, so this was quite an awakening, comparatively. While much of Smith's time was spent rallying the crowd, a better portion was spent fascinating me with his clear and powerful voice. As the band ran through hits from both of their discs, Smith sang with a fire and intensity, filled with passion and precision. Singing notes that pierced the ear like a sandpaper covered Q-Tip, and adding personal reflections that gave the songs a more intimate feel, he was ultimately the life of the party. Songs like "Fly From The Inside," ".45," and "Burning Bright" from their debut album, "Leave A Whisper," were presented in their full glory, but it wasn't until the band dimmed the lights and pulled up a stool that they really started to impress. The opening notes of the Lynyrd Skynyrd cover, "Simple Man," along with the touching dedication to a fallen friend, Dimebag Darrell, was enough to bring tears. The power and passion that Brent Smith brought to this song was illuminating the hearts of everyone in the arena. With just an acoustic guitar accompanying him through most of the song, Smith bellowed out with a tone and strength beyond compare. A truly amazing performance. "I Dare You," "Yer Majesty," and the set closer "Save Me" from the "Us And Them" disc were all stunning as well. This was a forty minute set that told me I had just witnessed the beginnings of something special. And besides, most of the people were able to stay awake for this set.

It was time for the headliner now; you know, the point where they remove three quarters of the crap from the front of the stage to give the big draw an obnoxious amount of space to romp around on. It was only a half hour that was spent before the lights dimmed once again, and we prepared for the third and final act.

As the film screens on both sides of the stage and the one smack dab in the center lit up with an ad for the band's latest DVD, followed by a plug for the band's charitable organization and a beer commercial that featured the band, my first thought was this . . . here come the Marketing Whores of the New Millennium. It was a little over the top, not to mention that it was detracting from the reason I was there and that, of course, was for the music. Just as the beer commercial ended, the band's stage set exploded and 3 Doors Down emerged with their opening tune, "Right Where I Belong." This song has to be one of my favorites from this band, but it just was not very exciting here. Singer Brad Arnold strolled around the stage like he had been one of those snoring sheep I was telling you about, and the band wasn't far behind. Now don't get me wrong, the band, as well as Arnold's vocals, were tight and accurate. It sounded smooth and clear, almost exactly like the record. But the lack of intensity brought forth from the band members made even the heaviest of their material seem ballad-like. After leading off with "Right Where I Belong," one of their heaviest tracks, and vaulting straight into "The Better Life," another one of their stronger tunes, you would've expected a tumultuous, riotous vibe to be emanating around the arena; instead, the atmosphere was very lax, bordering on serene. Surrounded by a stage set that included towering flames, huge cog wheels with lights all the way around them, sparks and explosions, the band seemed non-reactive to it all. It seemed like a really good bar band stepped into the wrong bar, and ended up playing the show anyway. They strolled through all the hits; "Kryptonite," "Be Like That," and the hit single "Let Me Go" all came and went with very little spark from anybody on the stage.

Again I will say it, Arnold's voice was exactly like the record, and the rest of the band played the songs accurately as well, but the passion was just not there. A live show should be a step up in intensity. I wanted to scream, "Light this place up already!" But the show just kept the same pace. No extra drum fills, no added guitar licks, no sweat or forcefulness on vocals. The show found it's high point just before the end of the regular set with a strong tune called "Behind Those Eyes," lifted from their latest lp, "Seventeen Days." The four ramps that graced the stage received some traffic, and the band appeared to be slightly inspired for the first time. As the band closed their regular set with their hit, "Loser," you had to know what was coming next. We were going to hear "Here Without You," and hopefully pillows would be complimentary. I think the track is decent on record, but it was the last thing that this show needed at this point. Cooling down wasn't exactly what I was ready to do. Sure enough, "Here Without You" was the first encore. The only possible song left to do was the excellent "When I'm Gone," and the band would again remain predictable, closing the show with a decent rendition of the tune.

Not once in the 3 Doors Down set did I get driven by the music. A live show should be about enhancement, surprises, and added intensity, along with proving your talent. 3 Doors Down did prove that they are talented. It's not studio magic that makes their records happen, they really are a talented band; that wasn't the problem. 3 Doors Down brought no enhancements to the songs in their set. They played each song like it was a sound check. There were little to no surprises in this set, and the intensity level from the band was extremely minimal.

I've been hopeful for a full record from these guys for a few years now, and I have yet to get it. I think I may start to realize after this performance that this is just your real good band (and there are billions of them, many in your local bars) that has hit pay dirt with the right kind of sappy radio singles. They really aren't ever going to release that complete album, are they? I think it's time to keep an eye on bands like Shinedown, and to let bands like 3 Doors Down cater to the Kidz Bop crowd and the beer vendors.


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