Carnival of Madness Captivates With Over The Top Production

Brent Smith, Shinedown
Brent Smith of Shinedown

Carnival of Madness

Mann Music Center
Philadelphia, PA
August 14, 2013

As we look back at all the momentous summer shows that rocked stages from front to back, there is one show that truly puts the emphases on stellar rock performances captivating one’s visual appetite for a great show and that is the Carnival of Madness. While previous runs were just an okay hand full of bands topping out with two co – headliners, this years’ Carnival of Madness production counts as both a spectacle of visuals and stellar rock acts combined making it the best show to date. The Carnival of Madness alone wasn’t your typical five bands show this year, the visual aspect wouldn’t be complete without the reality of circus meeting stellar hard rock clinched in one fist.

It was an impressive lineup of artists rounding out one stage proving that hard rock still runs deep in the veins of concert fanatics’ world wide. This years line was more impressive then previous hand picked semi popular or lime lighted artists that certainly need a push, of course with in six glorious hours fans visually and mentally enjoyed some of the greatest moments this large scale production had to offer during a mid week concert event at the ever popular venue The Mann Music Center.

This years line up included five great bands amongst two co headliners and three support artists spanning popular hard rock music with the likes of new comers We as Human opening the show with a great 20 minute killer set performing songs from their Debut hand picking songs like We Fall Apart  certainly got fans moving down in the pit. Even with just 5 songs in the set We as Human provided some great warm up material for a well rounded show with the headliners. While We as Human showcased their finest live show with not much stage space nor a fully lit up stage show, We as Human still worked the early crowd like they owned them hand over fist, pretty hard to do these days being an unfamiliar band. Much of their quick set provided the sound track to a great night even going on early in the afternoon.  Another promising band that can easily become a headliner after a few records and grinding their teeth as a support band. Amongst their set the songs that truly stood out were Strike Back, Dead Man, and I Stand all heavy hitters full of pure adrenaline.

It is amazing to watch a quicker then lighting set change from one band to the other in a quick flash moving right into Sevendust. This made their mark in the late eighties, and still going stronger then ever after releasing monster recordings. Since this was the third night of the tour when it rocked Philly fans, Sevendust replaced Paparoach who was originally scheduled on this entire tour. Sevendust has a Philly fan to band connection, performed in every venue in the city and has earned them popularity. Even as a headliner, Sevendust always had that energetic stage show with soaring solos and off the wall scorching vocals from Lajon which truly makes Sevendust a great band to watch live. Despite of their set only being about 45 minutes Sevendust still can win over any hardcore fan who enjoys their earlier works, honestly the older stuff is the best with any band but, sitting through the older songs night after night seems to get old quick but, those are the rock anthems that make or break any band in the music business, as a touring asset these days. Sevendust opened their set with Decay from Black Out The Sun, though leaving out some many of the older songs leaves something missing even in a quick set. Sevendust are still at the pinnacle of their performance with a few older songs which put them on the rock map early on Denial and Praise. While the new material has to grow on you, those older songs captivate Sevendust in the ultimate live setting center stage. As they say change is always good for any rock band to undergo a visual change, guitarist  John Connolly now sporting a completely shaved head which gives him a bold new look but for some it’s all about watching him move his fingers during the solos on every single song. Sevendust has always connected with their fans during such performances including their show in Philly at the Mann Music Center

Even with a short but sweet set Sevendust still wins fans over with their signature brand of hard driving rock, their live set is nothing short but great, fact is Sevendust has been great as a live band even leaving out all the old songs recently at Mann Center but, nice to see these guys once again truly go into over drive and work a semi filled venue.

Maria Brink, In This Moment
Maria Brink of In This Moment

Perhaps the greatest part of any show like this is the quick set changes, gear moving around drum risers moving in and out and presto, ready for the next set of bands. The next band to wow the fans was Century Media Records Artist In This Moment. Another great choice on this years run of dates on the Carnival of Madness. Oddly enough In This Moment brought with them an artsy stage production that obviously made you feel as if you were watching them perform at the cemetery gates complete with backing dancers synched to Maria Brinks every move center stage

Not sure how this incorporated into a metal show; seemed almost like a combination of shock rocks Alive Cooper and Lady GaGa retro attire type of set with several change of outfits to accompany songs fitting for that moment. Mind you, In This Moment musically has still captured the essence of pure adrenalized metal since their earlier efforts but, has toned it down a bit with Maria Brink bring to the table a more dramatic approach to her live show with a lot less momentous screaming and more of a boisterous performance especially belting out several new songs in their set made it a superior time to sit and watch In This Moment completely grip metal heads center stage at the Carnival of Madness.  In This Moment opened their great 7 song set with Rise with Me, during such song where Maria Brink dressed much like a rocker nurse complete with backing dancers capped out masks giving you that Halloween type effect of an ensemble complete with Skull stands to the left and to the right of her center stage fortress.

While Maria Brink has changed her entire look now sporting long beautiful blond hair almost makes her look like a dramatic sexy Barbie Doll with straight forward balls fronting a real rock band. Every other song Maria Brink seemed to disappear for a moment and then come out with a different outfit which kind of made their set impressive, loads of flashing lights, streamed filled smoke swirling the air making it like the stellar days of metal. In This Moment can certainly keep you on your toes musically especially with the new songs and their full throttle shock rock production. Other songs that stood out recently Adrenalized, Blazing’ and Whore, three great attractive songs for Maria Brink to showcase her ability to tame an audience while showing off her sexy seductive rock type outfits including the ever popular school girl retro look complete with whore dunce cap and smacking ruler at hand.

In this Moment certain have turned the page in the genre’ of metal with their newly released CD  “Blood”  For any metal fan who loves the female rocker type fronting any band these days will certainly appreciate In This Moment and their wholesome metal brigade as a band.

After sitting through three great bands and not really getting the full punishment of full sets, the change over came full circle for the co-headliner Christian rockers Skillet to take the stage. Back up behind the drum riser, a video screen showing bits and pieces of the band singing to numerous hit songs to get the fans wired for a great set. For many fans who could care less for a great band like Skillet sorry to say this band can really peel back the rock fortress and let loose with heavy hooks, power ballads, and distinct  melodies making them the perfect addition to this tour. Skillet opened their set with a roar ripping into Hero gracefully rocking out in stellar form right from the opening chorus to the song. While skillet is no stranger to the Philly area, Skillet pulled out key songs that actually made this band worthy of the limelight to begin with, every single hit song was nothing less then pure greatness, wowing the avid fans in the front row with thrashing moments rendering from Korey Cooper, who can shred with any well know guitar hero. While most of their songs were pulled from the last four CD’s Skillet’s stage performance wowed Philly fans with a great non stop adrenalized show full of promise and Skillet delivered hands down. While many of their songs reflect personal experiences Skillet demonstrates their power and musical passion as a live band. With each and every song throughout their live set, as a co – headliner Skillet honed their talents during their momentous set complete with driving melodies to songs like Whispers in the Dark, Rise, Awake and Alive, and Monster.

Skillet truly possess key features that many bands portray in lack luster, a drummer who, is sensual to one’s eye looking center stage yet Jen Ledger can visually pound drums like the female rocker she is while keeping in timed backing vocal choruses’ in key songs throughout the entire show. While Skillet seems to define their rock sound throughout every single power packed moments, John Cooper  worked himself into a frenzy during Sick of It gyrating around the stage like he had convulsions, certainly makes a great visual for a live effect. Skillet has always had that great stage presence with the band to fan interactions. Even if Skillet didn’t close the show, they seemed to perform like they owned the stage from the minute they opened the show with Hero. Defiantly a great show from Skillet who, certainly outshined at Carnival of Madness this year.

Just like any monster size show, we the fans are eager for the headliner to bring it home and cap out the entire day of great music with a heaping amount of music and that certainly creates a buzz of how great a band can truly be. While Shinedown is no stranger to playing Philly, this was the first time for this band to perform at the Mann Music Center during this run of dates. The lights went down at 9:30 and the curtain dropped as Shinedown opened their set with I’m not alright. The entire production for Shinedown’s set seemed to fit like they were playing an arena sized show yet brilliantly light up like a holiday show complete with fire bombs soaring straight up like rockets. Shinedown’s stage attire complete with the essence fitting to the Carnival of Madness. While Brent Smith showcases his entire new look center stage, he still possess that rocker altitude. It is always great to see bands like Shinedown undergo visual changes to keep things fresh and never boring especially in the live setting.

While the stage was draped with the circus type feel complete with pyros surrounding the stage, every song throughout Shinedown’s set was lit brilliantly first time ever where the rest of the band in solid bright lights made the visual portion of the show just that better. Like most bands with the front man hailing most of the limelight other then an occasional flashy backing vocal segment or stripped down guitar solo, this bad was on top of their game the minute they broke into the first song. Their set packed with fans favorites from just about every scale of their career, Shinedown delivered an amazing performance once again with Enemies while Brent Smith swayed back and fourth center stage waving his hands yelling out. “I want to see everyone on this next song move with me Philly”. “Are you ready?” “ Let me hear you”…. he quickly turned his head put his hand up to his ear oh yeah Philly on top of their game with the screaming chants making that particular song captivating. Shinedown has always been a band that can whisk you away musically with power ballads like The Crow & the Butterfly and I’ll Follow You both captivating their brilliant song writing abilities and unique blend of branded rock that Shinedown can deliver as a band. Their music has been always passionate, strong and brilliant enough to pull out a great cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man and a song that redefines countless generations of music fans who can relate to a stellar song that can raise the hair on the back of your neck then Shinedown pulls out the acoustic guitars.

Even with brisk ticket sales and a semi full Mann Music Center, one thing is for sure The Carnival of Madness Tour that rolled through Philly soil seemed to be one hell of a great time with bands that had everyone on their feel in full party mode with a grand climax to a stellar 90 minutes of Shinedown and 15 great songs truly captivates a great evening in rare form for rock fans to unite and kick back and enjoy a great show in Philly.

Skillet on stage at Carnival of Madness