For the first time in thirteen years, metal icons Mudvayne load up for their first headlining tour, and they’ve brought some high profile friends along for the ride. The band’s first headlining stint in over a decade is absolutely stacked with legendary bands like Butcher Babies, Nonpoint, GWAR, and Coal Chamber whose influence and allurement has had metal fans biting at the bit to get in the door. Tonight at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion, fans are going to witness one of the most hard hitting and nostalgic shows in recent memory. So tighten your shoes and get those devil horns warmed up, because you’re about to witness the full effect of The Psychotherapy Sessions.
Kicking things off are the roaring duo of Heidi Shepard and Carla Harvey as they lead the charge with the brigade of crushing tunes with Butcher Babies. Right out of the gate, the band pulled the pin on their explosive track Red Thunder off their newest release Till’ the World’s Blind. There is no denying the amount of energy this band kicks off the stage with every note. Between the crushing riffs, intimidating growls and furious hair spins, Butcher Babies had no problem getting the crowd going. A great example of their high energy mixed with a myriad of harmonies, screams and keeping it loose onstage would be yet another new entry to their catalog with Beaver Cage. The underlying thunderous rhythm hit fans in the chest like a drop kick as it fueled the energy throughout the crowd.
But with all of the vitality that was being produced on stage, there was a point towards the end of the set where Heidi Shepard takes to the center riser to introduce the next song. As Heidi briefly touches on the inspiration of Last December, she looks out to the crowd and tells them “At first, I thought this song was written for my own therapy. But I eventually realized that it was just written for me, but you too.”. As the fans cheer and loud thank you’s echo towards the stage, Shepard plunges into her emotionally charged sonnet before being joined by Carla Harvey for a passionate melodic duet. With a total rager of a setlist all but knocked out, Butcher Babies held on to the exclamation point of their set till the very end as they unleash Magnolia Blvd onto the fans. The tracks’ paralyzing riffs and machine gun double bass served as the foundation under a vocal assault that would make any metal fan proud. It was an amazing kickoff to a night filled with killer bands and brutal tunes. And we’re just getting warmed up.
Next up, who other than the iconic five piece hailing from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl with Nonpoint. With their banner high above the stage, it didn’t take long for the NONPOINT chants to start filling up the pavilion. Soon the band stroll on stage and frontman Elias Soriano hits center stage. He immediately greets the fans with “Middle fingers in the air!”. And when he’s satisfied with the crowd participation, he kicks off the first song of the night with “FUCK THAT!”, sending Rasheed Thomas, Adam Woloszyn and Jaysin Zeilstra soaring through the air as they pounce into Victim. As I stood with my camera in front of the stage I was totally blown away with Nonpoint’s intensity and ferocity. Within seconds of the song kicking in I looked back and said “Holy shit!”. And that sentiment did not stop there.
The band rips through more fan favorites like Dodge Your Destiny and What a Day before they drop the infectiously heavy grooves of A Million Watts. As drummer Robb Rivera counts off on his cymbal, Elias lays a little freestyle and the rest of the band get the crowd clapping along. It was impossible not to head bang or at the very least sway back and forth to the beat as it literally took over. Nonpoint would drop the hammer on the rabid crowd with their hard hitting ripper conveniently named Ruthless. The band’s crushing guitar work and anathematic chorus had Soriano’s token dreads whipping around like tentacles as the intensity picked up across the pit. But it would be the last song of the set that would ignite the excitement and further fueled the adrenaline fueled chaos across the floor.
When Zeilstra and Thomas start to play the opening riff to Bullet With a Name the cheers could probably be heard outside the venue and when the band dropped in, all four front men catapulted high into the air. It wouldn’t take long before Elias had assistance on vocals from every fan in attendance which only heightened the level of intensity in the building. Throughout their set, Nonpoint never took their foot off the gas and gave their fans not only a high powered performance, but showed exactly why they are still one of the premier bands around.
The band filling the third slot of the night in no way shape or form needed an introduction of any kind. There is only one band from this planet or another that can put on a spectacle quite like GWAR. Shortly after fans are greeted by Sawborg Destructo’s insults on his quest to find GWAR, he is confronted by The Berserker Bolthar and a bloody altercation with Bonecrusher ensues. This would be our messy and gruesome commencement into Hail, Genocide. Something that is almost as frequent as blood hosing down fans up front, are celebrity guests. This tour would bring everyone’s favorite communist dictator/president along for the ride with none other than Vladdy Puton. GWAR’s no bullshit anthem Mother Fucking Liar not only laid down those crunchy guitar tones and otherworldly grooves we all love, but gave fans a front row seat to the comedic public dismemberment of Russia’s shinning example of a diluted smacked ass.
Following a plethora of high octane insanity including Sick of You and Completely Fucked, it was time our fearlessly clueless leader Sleepy Joe Biden to address the crowd. As he sways in confusion, Bolthar grows impatient and does us all a favor and performs a swift decapitation, showering fans with the blood of the Commander in Chief. And what better way to usher in the lead licks and thunderous rhythms of Let Us Slay. Berserker Mode would not only serve up some vintage Iron Maiden type tones and riffs. But would unleash a giant blue abomination that resembled something from Jim Henson’s nightmares. The music would serve as the soundtrack to the battle that ensued between the beast, Bone Crusher and one of the Scumdogs. The altercation would end with the beast getting beat with his own limbs before limping off stage as both eyes swung low like an alien pendulum.
After defeating all types of outer planetary villainy, GWAR pays tribute to one of the greatest bands to ever grace the planet as they rip through AC/DC’s legendary If You Want Blood. The classic had fans raising their horns high and proud in the air as they belted every word over the incredible guitar work of Balsac the Jaws of Death and Pustulus Maximus. If you’ve come across these warriors from outer space before, then it’s business as usual and you enjoyed every second. If this was your first time. You either can’t wait for the next show, or you’re seeking counseling from what you’ve just witnessed. Either way you cut it, GWAR never disappoints when they land on that stage and this was no exception.
The one band on this tour that had the highest level of anticipation from the fans, aside from our headliner, was undoubtedly Coal Chamber. And as the classic Mr. Sandman started to flow from the speakers, you could feel the excitement in the venue start to grow. When the track transitions over to the more ominous Halloween theme song, it really begins to ramp up and soon the band walk out on stage to an almost deafening roar. Soon, guitarist Meegs Rascon starts playing one of the band’s most recognizable intros as Loco immediately sends the pit into a frenzy. I’ve been a fan of Coal Chamber since the very first album and I was blown away by how powerful and tight they sounded right out of the gate. And it would only get better as the set rolled along. After a few, while singer Dez Fafara walks in the darkness on stage he says “Oh I dropped the keys. Who’s got the keys to my mother fuckin’ truck out there?”. You don’t have to be an old school fan to know what’s coming up next.
When Dez belts out those iconic words “BIG TRUCK”, the entire floor and most of the lower seats begin to jump up and down with their arms in the back and forth driving motion. The energy almost had me put my cameras down, jump the barricade and join in on the fun in the pit! With almost twenty years of material to pick from, Coal Chamber was easily able to keep the chaos going with killer songs like I.O.U. Nothing, Rowboat and Drove. Aside from anything off the first record, one song I was really hoping to hear tonight was undoubtedly Dark Days. It’s eerie intro and punishing chorus was at a whole other level witnessing it live. Dez’s roar paired with the crushing rhythm of drummer Mike Cox and bassist Nadja Peulen made this one of the hardest hitting songs of the set. Another song that would rival the punishment handed out by Dark Days would no doubt have to be Something Told Me. As I looked out over the crowd, the thousands of head bangers and waving devil horns told me that I wasn’t the only one who was absolutely fired up!
Even though the set was jammed packed with nostalgic brutality and high energy, I felt like I blinked and we were already at the last song. But Dez would make sure the fans were still with him as he singled out different sections of the venue to get their screams and cheers going. And as the building came together in chaotic unison, he whispers those fabled words in the Coal Chamber legacy. “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire”. While the crowd picks it up from there, the pit starts to regain life and when the song kicks in, the anarchy is set off by towers of compressed air and that devastating riff. Though most fans knew this is what was going to finish the set off, that didn’t take away or dummy down their energy or admiration.
Some say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. And I think that because of the breaks in Coal Chamber’s career when we get to see them live, it really resonates with the fans and creates a greater appreciation. But I know that I can speak on behalf of all Coal Chamber fans when I say that this band is still on top of their game and can hold their own with some of the biggest metal bands in the world. And we hope that with their success on this tour, they will have plenty of chances to share these live shows together with us in the future.
And this brings us to the main event! As stage lights illuminate the iconic Mudvayne log on the stage curtain, the familiar sounds of the band’s intro track Monolith reverberate from the darkness. But soon the pulsating sounds of Not Falling trigger pandemonium in the building and when the curtain falls to reveal the band, the excitement reaches an incredible level. One thing that has been a high point at every show since Mudvayne’s return is when singer Chad Grey makes his way to the barricade to get up close and personal with the fans. They wouldn’t have to wait long for their up close encounter as Grey would drop down during the second song of the night. Through the chaos of hand shakes and cell phones, Chad spots a young fan crowd surfing and pulls him for a hug while belting out the words to Under My Skin as both had giant smiles on their faces.
At one point, Grey steps up on the riser and tells fans “Pull out their cell phones out and light this fucking place up.”. This would set the mood and the atmosphere for a long time fan favorite World So Cold. The sounds of thousands of voices passionately reciting the lyrics over a sea of lights was truly a sight to take in. The emotionally packed performance led Chad back to the barricade and this time he laid across them like a metal messiah preaching the good word. While the set crushes through tracks like A New Game and Severed, it would then bring us to one of the biggest gems off of L.D. 50 with Death Blooms.
The song just has so many monumental elements to it. Between Chad’s hypnotic cleans and ripping roars, Greg Tribbett and Ryan Martinie’s crushing precision and of course Matt McDonough’s percussive explosions behind the kit, whether you’re in your car and raging out at this show, it’s always going to make you sit back and say “God Damn!”. Another element to this unparalleled musical equation is the man in the shadows Marcus Rafferty. His additional vocals both dirty and clean while laying down a second helping of crushing guitar riffs behind Tribbett, adds another dimension to the live experience.
Following Prod, Chad takes a moment to reflect on what metal has done for him and how the genre brings us all together. And he is not wrong. There is truly nothing like the metal community and how it brings so many together regardless of how different we all are from each other. After Grey’s heart to heart with the fans, Mudvayne kicked it up with a trip back to the first record with the brutal inner struggles of the notorious Ed Gein with Nothing to Gein. Next, Chad works the stage side to side getting the fans fired up with the question “CAN YOU DIG IT?!”. Which can only mean one thing. And that assumption is confirmed when the most iconic bass line in metal history begins to pound through the monitors as Dig ravishes our eardrums. There are few songs over the last twenty plus years that hit as hard or have as much resonance as this song has with metal fans. And there is nothing like feeling that incredible energy when you experience it live.
After not only an incredible afternoon of killer music, but one of the best sets you’ll see in a long time, Mudvayne cap it all off with their uplifting anthem Happy?. This would once again give the crowd a chance to have their voices heard loud and clear. Throughout the song, you could look in any direction and see a sea pounding fists in the air and outreached hands as Chad Grey makes his final appearance at the barricades. At the final note, the entire building erupts with a thunderous outbreak of applause and cheers. I don’t think you could have ended this show on any more of a high note for the fans of the band themselves. This was without a doubt one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time and I am sure that there plenty of people out there that will whole heartly agree with that!