CONCORD, Calif. — Breaking Benjamin headlined a bill at Concord Pavilion Wednesday with a trio of bands that have defined modern hard rock radio for the past two decades.
Pennsylvania rockers, along with Chevelle and Three Days Grace, have cranked out radio hits for years. The show also included emerging throwback rock bands in Dorothy and Diamante. While each of the night’s five bands all operate within the same relative genre of modern rock, each band’s set offered a sharp contrast from the others.
Ben Burnley and company arrived in Concord in the tail end of their touring cycle for their most recent release, Ember, and as they prep for the release of their upcoming acoustic project.
Wearing a beat-up baseball cap, Burnley spent much of the show at the front of a stage that was not illuminated. He looked to be in the best shape of his life following an ailment that led to the band’s hiatus in 2010. The retooled iteration of Breaking Benjamin that returned in 2014 has gelled more the longer the members have toured together.
Following some dark, subtle notes, “Red Cold River”gave way to a thunderous roar of its heavy intro riff, buoyed by the dual screams of Burnley and bassist Aaron Bruch. Breaking Benjamin kept up the heaviness early, continuing with “I Will Not Bow,” “Never Again” and the rousing “Breath.” Burnley handed off vocal duties to other members during the show. Bruch took the reins on the raw screaming of “Sugarcoat.” The band followed it up with original hit “Polyamorous.”
A covers medley has been a staple at Breaking Benjamin shows in recent years, perhaps as a nod to Burnley’s early days covering songs from his favorite bands. The medley has grown dramatically over the year and in Concord included a small lightsaber-laden drum-set on which Burnley contributed percussion on “The Imperial March.” The medley included songs by Pantera, Metallica, Queen Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade,” with Burnley performing Zack de la Rocha’s parts.
After a light-speed solo by drummer Shawn Foist, guitarist Keith Wallen sang lead on “Sooner or Later.” The rusted industrial stage design provided ample depth for the band to roam around the stage, climbing to different levels and platforms. There was a handful of pyro elements but they didn’t overwhelm the performance.
The band rolled through a pair of its most singable songs in “So Cold” and “Angel’s Fall” before hitting the dramatic opening notes of the dark “Dance with the Devil.” Burnley performed as though he took his past demons and exhumed them from his body, making for one of the night’s highlights. Following near song “Failure,” Burnley thanked fans and seemed taken aback at one point by the response he got in return.
After closing out the main set with “Torn In Two,” the band took a longish break before Burnley returned to perform acoustic ballad “Rain” from within the crowd. The band’s staff pulled children and families to join the band on stage for the closing performance of “The Diary of Jane.” As Breaking Benjamin left the stage, most of the lights stayed dark, except for a lone spotlight projecting the band’s logo like the Bat Signal on the ceiling.
Chevelle preceded the headliners. The Illinois trio, comprised of brothers Pete and Sam Loeffler, along with brother-in-law Dean Bernardini, focused on raw power in its 50 minutes on stage. Opening with the ferocious “Young Wicked” amid a blinding wall of monochromatic strobes and spotlights, the band played a set rife with its hits and heaviest songs. The foundation of Chevelle’s sound is built from its rhythm section, with Sam Loeffler and Bernardini providing the powerful swell. Singer-guitarist Pete Loeffler showed off his stellar vocal range and complex riffs on songs like “The Clincher,” “Face to the Floor” and “Hats Off to the Bull.”
The monochromatic lights of the intro gave way to multicolored spotlights that shot to every direction against mirrors the reflected the light as well.
Chevelle played older hits like “Closure” and “Send the Pain Below,” before Loeffler took the stage by himself to lead the crowd in a semi-acoustic singalong of “The Red.” The band concluded with its most upbeat track, the almost danceable, syncopated “I Get It.”
Three Days Grace vocalist (since 2013) Matt Walst provided a primal raw energy that didn’t let up for the entirety of his band’s stellar performance. Walst worked overtime to get the Concord crowd on his side, sprinting from side to side of the stage, militaristically marching and striking dramatic poses.
The band covered material both new and old. Guitarist Barry Stock, who not only has one of the best beards in rock, provided scintillating riffs on “The Good Life” and “Break.” The band also mixed in some of it’s newer Walst-penned tracks including “The Mountain” and “Infra-Red.”
The bouncy “Animal I Have Become” was made even better with an infusion of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” The band closed with a rock solid performance of anti-suicide anthem “Never Too Late” and rocker “Riot.”
Dorothy Martin has seemingly changed her looks each time she’s visited the Bay Area. This time she was clad in all black with jet black hair. She played it cool with a set of classic-rock-influenced tunes. Opening with “After Midnight” and “Raise Hell,” she got choked up in the middle of her more recent song “Flawless,” from her personal latest album. She kept up her rock and roll swagger on “Down to the Bottom” and “Freedom.”
The toughest task of the night surely went to Diamante. Assuming the lineup had to cater to the curfew needs of the venue, the band started its set at 5:20, 10 minutes early. The set included “Bite Your Kiss,” her Bad Wolves collaboration “Hear Me Now,” and “War Cry.”
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