LOUDER LIVE: Five Finger Death Punch @ SSE Arena - 31/01/2020
Las Vegas metal band Five Finger Death Punch have unquestionably been one of heavy music's real success stories of the past decade. With most artists struggling with record sales, 5FDP have had no such problems and have been capping off this success with larger and prolific tours. So it was that at the new of a new decade, the Megadeathpunch Tour came to Wembley Arena; raising a lot of eyebrows across the metal community for the inclusion of thrash legends Megadeth as support acts. While this was not FFDP's first appearance at the iconic venue, the inclusion of such an iconic band on the same lineup made it feel like this was yet another step up for a band still remarkably on the ascendancy. With this however came a real weight of expectation, as well as a lot of excitement ahead of what was already looking to be one of the most talked about metal shows of the year.
Opening up this stellar line-up were up-and-comers Bad Wolves, who drew a crowd which far exceeded that of the majority of opening acts of any show. Whether the crowd was full of people who had seen the band before or those who had come to see what all the fuss was about, Bad Wolves left nobody disappointed that they rocked up early. Acting as if they were the headliners, they stormed through an explosive and at times emotional set which served to be a terrific advert for their recently released sophomore album 'N. A. T. I. O. N.' Lead singer Tommy Vext in particular was on amazing form filling the vast arena with his powerful vocals and getting into highly personal territory when conversing with the crowd in between songs. This is a risky move with a badass metal band, but Bad Wolves have the authenticity to make it work. This approach is fully recognised with their much-loved cover of the classic Cranberries song 'Zombie', which had the whole audience bellowing along in unison.
Most bands would not fancy following that sort of performance, but Megadeth have the reputation and experience to be able to not be phased by this challenge. Coming in with 'Hangar 18', they did however get off to a slightly rocky start with the band not synergising together as well as they could; but they were soon able to get into their stride with the riffs and solos becoming a great deal sharper. Once they're in the zone, you can truly appreciate what incredible musicians Megadeth are and just how many classic songs they have in their arsenal. From the angsty 'Sweating Bullets' to the anthemic 'Symphony of Destruction', they pack as many hits into their hour on stage as possible (while also throwing odd surprise like 'Tornado of Souls' for the die-hard fans in the crowd).
As far as these die-hard fans go though, the unquestionable highlight of Megadeth's show was when iconic frontman Dave Mustaine took the mic to reflect on his recent well-publicised health problems and announce to a jubilant crowd that he was now "100% cancer free". It was a truly touching moment; especially for a band not generally associated with such things. Though it's fair to say that Mustaine was far from his best in terms of his vocal performance, his circumstances and his legendary status among metalheads meant that he could absolutely get away with it. The wave of love for the band that it created was well and truly ridden right to the end of the set. As bassist Dave Ellefson began the recognisable riff of 'Peace Sells' to end the main part of their set, it was clear that despite not being the main act, they were going to be called out for one more. And so, it proved as they came out once again for 'Holy Wars... The Punishment Due' flanked this time by their giant mascot Vic Rattlehead. As patchy as their set was, seeing Megadeth do their thing on the big stage is always a great thing to witness.
Between bands, a giant screen was erected over the stage with the knuckleduster logo projected onto it. As the screen came down to reveal the band, they launched straight into the anthemic 'Lift Me Up' and the arena duly went completely crazy. Accompanied with enough lights, lasers and pyro to make even the most outrageous classic metal band proud, and with a giant knucklehead and crossed baseball bats over the drumkit; it’s fair to say that FFDP spared no expense when it came to the stage show. At the centre of this is frontman Ivan Moody, who was a phenomenal presence on stage, constantly prowling across and engaging the crowd. He also was able to demonstrate his vocal dexterity superbly well as the band moved swiftly from ‘Lift Me Up’ to ‘Trouble’, from their most recent album ‘…And Justice for None’. The onslaught continued into ‘Wash it all Away’, which has become a real fan favourite since its release on ‘Got Your Six’ in 2015 and was duly belted out by the faithful in the arena. When Moody declared that “it’s great to be home” therefore, you can forgive him the grandiose statement. Five Finger Death Punch are a band that ooze confidence and when every song is as well-received as these had, it’s easy to see why. Their next track ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ saw Moody re-emerge in his first change of outfit; a half-and-half suit in which he conducted the audience through the chorus.
Though Moody is obviously the centre of attention, the rest of the band also put in stellar performances to make sure that the music is not lost among the spectacle. New drummer Charlie Engen did a solid job as the band’s newest member having recently replaced founding member Jeremy Spencer. Bassist Chris Kael has some real hefty stage presence of his own and was not shy to demonstrate it when providing backing vocals in particular. Rhythm guitarist Zoltan Bathory also demonstrated some real chops when it came to his presence on stage, and as the band’s main songwriter, he will have been proud to see how the band’s performance as a whole unit accentuated the anthemic nature of so many of the songs in the set. Lead guitarist Jason Hook was the real star of the show however, nailing solo after solo; including one during ‘Coming Down’ where he was raised up above the stage on a small platform (though I do think they missed a trick by not doing this during ‘Lift me Up’). As a unit, Five Finger Death Punch are incredibly solid throughout and are able to complement each other well while giving every individual the chance to shine.
The biggest highlight of the show for many though was when all but Moody and Hook left the stage so that they could perform an acoustic rendition of ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven’ and ‘Battle Born’. It was a bit of a risk stripping down the music for these two songs in such a huge setting, but they pulled it off superbly while their set benefited from a brief respite from the frantic affair that had gone before (and what continued after). The only slight criticism to be had of the band is that despite their plethora of huge songs, they peaked a little too soon by putting many of their biggest hits at the start of the show. However, it is hard to be too harsh on them for this, especially as their encore songs of ‘Inside Out’, ‘Under and Over It’ and ‘The Bleeding’ still got massive responses from the crowd. Five Finger Death Punch have everything that a successful metal band needs. They foster a real connection between themselves and their fans, even on such a huge stage as Wembley Arena; and they know how to use their stage show and personnel to get the most out of their wealth of songs. While some bands may lose something by moving up to a bigger stage, they own it and rise to the challenge. When Moody leaves the crowd by saying that the next time they come to the UK they’ll “be headlining Download”, it’s tough to argue on that performance that they don’t deserve to be given the chance to.
Five Finger Death Punch's latest album, 'F8', is out now.
Check out the lyric video for single 'Living the Dream' below:
Five Finger Death Punch will be touring the US this spring- dates can be found below:
SPRING 2020 US TOUR DATES:
4/8 - Sunrise, FL // BB&T Center
4/10 - Duluth, GA // Infinite Energy Center
4/11 - Pelham, AL // Oak Mountain Amphitheater
4/13 - San Antonio, TX // AT&T Center
4/14 - Ft. Worth, TX // Dickies Arena
4/16 - Houston, TX // Toyota Center
4/18 - Phoenix, AZ // Talking Stick Resort Arena
4/19 - San Diego, CA // Viejas Arena
4/21 - Los Angeles, CA // The Forum
4/23 - Tacoma, WA // Tacoma Dome
4/25 - Portland, OR // Veteran Memorial Coliseum
4/27 - Morrison, CO // Red Rocks Amphitheatre
4/29 - Kansas City, MO // Sprint Center
5/3 - Baltimore, MD // Royal Farms Arena
5/5 - Worcester, MA // DCU Center
5/6 - Newark, NJ // Prudential Center
5/8 - Cincinnati, OH // Heritage Bank Center
5/12 - Detroit, MI // Little Caesars Arena
5/14 - Pittsburgh, PA // PPG Paints Center
5/15 - Camden, NJ // BB&T Pavilion
5/17 - Nashville, TN // Bridgestone Arena
5/19 - Rosemont, IL // Allstate Arena
5/20 - St. Paul, MN // Xcel Energy Center