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Shinedown @ O2 Apollo review – triumphant and bombastic

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Featured image: Rianna Ram

Shinedown have returned to our shores for the first time since 2019 to promote their latest offering Planet Zero. It’s a rarity to see them headline in the UK as they normally feature on package tours but that only adds to the excitement as their last headline run in 2018 was a sold-out success. Sunday’s show is another sell out with a full house heading down to the Apollo to feel the magic.

Openers are Zero 9:36, an American nu-metal band whom their first time on these shores is on this tour. Masterfully fusing calm ambient verses with ball-busting choruses, this band excel at what they do and start the night with a blaze. Credit to the vocalist whose stage presence was relentless, and I must admire his optimism in trying to win over what can be a hardcore set of fans. 

This was my first time hearing these guys and they reminded me of what Linkin Park would be if they started in the 2020s. While I don’t think they were anything too inoffensive, they had a great sound and I believe they will be back soon.

The next act are Asking Alexandria whose delayed return to these shores is also heavily anticipated by many in this room. The British metalcore act have released two radically different records in Like A House On Fire and See What’s On The Inside since their last appearance and their new direction is what features most heavily tonight.

Asking Alexandria have all the makings of a festival headline act at this point in their career. They have the show. All the lights, visuals and pyro makes for a dazzling spectacle that perfectly compliments their show. I always remember the support acts that use pyro, it’s the mark of a great band.

Photography: Rianna Ram

They are great musicians and energetic performers who cover every inch of the stage in fretboard fireworks with Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell getting every chance to shine with awesome expressive guitar solos in ‘Alone Again’ and ‘Someone, Somewhere’ while Sam Bettley prowls around with the Low Grumbling foundation-shaking Bass.

Danny Worsnop has one of the best voices in the business as one of the last great acrobatic vocalists left standing. His wild and expressive singing is where the band truly shines and when he’s allowed to bare his soul on songs like ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘Movin’ On’, we all benefit from the outpouring of emotion we hear on stage.

They have the songs too. Asking are a seminal band whose work has inspired a generation. Wall to wall hits are played with songs like ‘Down To Hell’ and ‘Alone In A Room’ providing all the fist-pumping and arm waving you could need. It’s 45 minutes of singalongs that should be reverberating around arenas and festival fields everywhere. While not everyone is onboard with their stylistic shift towards more straightforward rock music, I truly believe this is the most comfortable the band have ever sounded.

Shinedowns arrival on stage is greeted to rapturous applause from a crowd of people excited to bounce. The American rock quartet’s brand of heartfelt, defiant music has been a winner with listeners all around the world and openers ‘The Saints Of Violence and Innuendo’ and ‘Devil’ hit that impact with ease. 

Brent Smith is the mad conductor whose adventurous melodic vocals guide us through song after song of ecstasy and joy. His voice is pure soul and magic, the right amount of Etta James with the acrobatics and character of Chris Cornell. He is one of the best that modern rock has to offer.

Photography: Rianna Ram

If rock music never works out for Smith, he has a career in motivational speaking already sorted. The older I get, the more I appreciate the message of peace and love and acceptance that he preaches in-between songs. They have never shied away from talking about the human condition and their mission to help people be themselves is admirable. 

While some of their crowd-working exercises might frustrate some who want to hear the music, it really is a masterclass in breaking down barriers and driving home their message while also loosening up the crowd into having a good time. At one point Smith even dives into the crowd to get them ready to jump along to the next time and it’s that personal and confrontational touch that leaves Shinedown’s performances a winner.

‘Planet Zero’, ‘How Did You Love’ and ‘Cut The Cord’ are bombastic and while the politics of the new album are a bit much for me, songs like ‘Dysfunctional You’ and ‘Daylight’ slot into the set and serve their purpose to get arms around each other and bring us together.  

It’s easy to forget with a band like Shinedown who have so many hits that is a genuine treat to hear songs like ’45’ and ‘Fly From The Inside’ make the cut. Visuals, lightshows and pyro compliment each song and make the night a spectacle. The band match Smith’s vocal intensity with every turn: Zach Myers is given every chance to shine with blistering solos in ‘Bully’ and ‘Enemies’ while Eric Bass gets to prove his versatility with just about every instrument on songs like ‘Unity’ with sprinklings of acoustic guitars, keyboards and pianos alongside the bass.

By the time ‘Second Chance’ rolls around, there isn’t a dry eye left in the room. As the emotional high point of the evening, it can be difficult to sum up the personal connection this song has to people but hearing 3,000 people sing it back for 3,000 different reasons is one of the many reasons why live music is so important, and why it must be protected and cherished.

Late game tunes ‘Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)’ and ‘Monsters’ keep the pace up while a rendition of ‘The National Anthem of Manchester’ is led by Myers (and his Oasis shirt), Bass and Barry Kerch (Drums) as they make their way through ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. 

‘Simple Man’ is the penultimate song of the evening with Smith and Myers out front and centre leading the crowd through a tender rendition of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic. Any lingering doubts about Smith’s vocal capabilities are well and truly shredded at this point as he lays his soul bare through verse after verse of what was the Florida group’s finest hour.

‘Sound Of Madness’ sends the crowd home in a blaze of glory with one last singalong to send everyone shouting from the ceiling. The power of that riff truly cannot be denied as soon as them notes come ringing in.

Tonight I feel spoilt, I’ve only ever managed to see Shinedown live when they have opened for other acts and play for 30 or 45 minute sets at a time. To see them bring a full rock show for two whole hours is glorious and everything I could ever have wanted from them. Before the end, the band promises to come back sooner and head back to the AO Arena next time.

You best believe I’ll be there. 

Gallery by Rianna Ram

About the author / 

James Swindell

1 Comment

  1. Big Al 30th November 2022 at 6:19 pm -  Reply

    Brilliant review

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