Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Including this one, the last 3 Skillet shows in the UK have sold out in record time. Part of that is down to the fact that the band are bigger than they give themselves credit for. Skillet could sell out a venue twice the size of the Empire with ease. A better venue would have been the forum but really this is a Brixton Academy band, of that there is no doubt.
However, we were there, sadly so many weren’t and for that we are immensely grateful as this was the best show I’ve ever seen the band perform. More on that later but to kick off proceedings, Tennessee based Devour the Day.
Devour The Day
For a band I know little about, they certainly received a warm welcome when they took the stage. Solid enough, very energised and a drummer with the sort of skills that could only be bestowed by the ghost of John Bonham, made sure the crowd were suitably ready for the headliners. ‘Faithless’, one of the singles from their latest album ‘Signals’, definitely works and got solid responses from the crowd BUT personally I think it was a mistake to include such an iconic cover with Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as it then becomes THE song that you go away remembering. A short set as a support doesn’t need covers.. have faith in your own material, especially when it’s strong enough and the music from DtD most certainly is.
One UK gig…. just the one…. something John Copper would reference later in the set with an admission that ‘perhaps’ the band should believe the hype and come back for a proper UK tour. It’s a difficult decision. Not wanting to be on tour for more than 6-8 weeks at a time and wanting to play as much of Europe as possible limits the number of local dates we can expect from the band and as such, one date in London is the answer.
As soon as the lights dimmed, we knew what was coming; ‘Feel Invincible’. I don’t think the band could start a gig any other way these days. From the moment Skillet arrived on stage to the point the show ended, the band and crowd were one. There was more energy in the Empire than can be found in a nuclear reactor. The fans favourites were many, the crowd pleasers also present for the entirety of the show. After ‘Never Gonna Die’, the bit the photographers has been waiting for, ‘You Ain’t Ready’ saw lead singer and bass player John Cooper attach CO2 cannons attached to his arms, firing smoke over the crowd for the first half of the song. Spectacle….. nah… spectacular !!
Of course vocally Skillet have the secret weapon that is Jen Ledger and as we are on home turf, with one quarter of the first floor balcony filled with family members, the band make the most of the love the crowd have for our own Brit superstar. The voice, the drumming, the stage presence, is there anything this woman cannot do? I think not!
The audience.. the audience is an interesting one. A huge range of ages, wholly down to the fact that John and the band engage with them without ever once resorting to a single swear word. You don’t need to have all the antics and dangerous activities of the Motley Crues of the world, you can actually just entertain by being…. get this…. GOOD!
However…. if you ever put a note out of place, then John will enforce the Christian ideal of suggesting that you turn the other cheek…. which lead guitarist Seth Morrison has to do just so John can put the boot in!! Maybe 🙂
The ‘at one with the crowd’ continued through ‘Whispers in the Dark’, with Cooper telling the audience “You people are hurting my ears! This used to be what America sounds like. In other words, America used to rock, but you guys rock a lot harder!” To say it got an immense response would be an understatement. I’m smiling with a knowing adrenaline rush kicking in at the memory alone. received a huge cheer. Drummer and vocalist Jen Ledger joined Cooper at the front to sing the intro to “Awake and Alive”.
‘Victorious’ sees John offer heartfelt tribute to Chester Bennington and how much his death has had an impact on him. A solemn but very poignant moment as the crowd calmed down to reflect on one of rock’s greatest losses in recent years.
With a positive comment from John about coming back and possibly playing more dates in the UK (hopefully thanks to the nudge we’d given him in an earlier interview) the set rapidly came to a close. Wife Korey Cooper and Seth Morrison fly around the stage like Tasmanian devils in support of the bearded ball of energy that is John Cooper making us wonder if the band ever stop? It’s a full on assault on the ears and eyes as the booming sound is complimented with great lighting and smoke jets on the stage. .
‘Comatose’ saw John video the crowd for a while, before taking a photo with the audience behind them and then launching in ‘Monster’. A mid-song kiss for his wife and then the band were gone. ‘The Resistance’ for an encore is a great way to end a show and perfectly draws the evening to a close. “Heavy as a hurricane, louder than a freight train” sings John… who are we to disagree??
Roll on 2020
Not Gonna Die
You Ain’t Ready
Whispers in the Dark
Awake and Alive
Back From the Dead
Save Me (Preceded by Jen Ledger’s drum solo)
Victorious (Tribute to Chester Bennington)