3 Doors Down with Pop Evil and The Fallen State at Manchester Academy – 05 November 2016
Review by Mark Dean || Photos by Christopher James Ryan
Bonfire Night in Manchester, I knew that two of the three bands in the package would sparkle, but would the unknown third element prove to be a damp squid on the night? Whose star would shoot the highest? Which band would rocket to be the best?
On first entering the venue I heard the hard-hitting brutal rock but also finely tuned with melodic choruses. I would have been forgiven for believing that one of the other bands higher up the bill had altered the billing and gone on first. No, this was the first act, The Fallen State. Second thought was where had these guys been hiding that I had not previously crossed them on my musical radar. Clearing touring with high profile artists like Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm, as well as artists such as Trapt and fellow rockers The Treatment, Young Guns, and Heavens Basement, had finely honed their performing chops. This experience had clearly given the band plenty of stage confidence to deal with larger crowds. Cocky and confident in their own abilities but without coming across as arrogant. Musically The Fallen State combine the passionate and soulful voice of singer Ben Stenning, the artful emotive phrasing of lead guitarist Jon Price, and a harmonic wall of warm rock guitars from Dan Oke. The rhythm method being laid down via drummer Rich Walker and bassist Greg Butler. The result is quality anthemic rock songs that instantly engage with a live audience. This band exploded like a firecracker on this Guy Fawkes night instead of proving to be the proverbial damp squid of the box. Very impressive in the way they grabbed the Manchester audience by the throat from the outset and had them fully engaged from the start of their set. Personal highlights of the set were “Hope in Revival” and “Burn it to the Ground”
I had previously caught Pop Evil at Download 2015, where they had successfully won over a huge main stage audience early in the day. Since then the band’s star had continued to rise to the extent that they could justifiably be labelled as “Special Guests,” rather than just a tasty filling in a three-band fireworks night live package. While some of their live mannerisms came over as a bit familiar and unoriginal, the strong quality of tracks like “Footsteps” and “Torn to Pieces” shone through. The type of songs that transformed from their studio counterparts into another dimension when accompanied by a loud and vocal passionate audience. Lead singer Leigh Kakaty proved particularly engaging with his crowd interactions – whether actively singing from the middle of the audience or eloquently plucking at an acoustic guitar for the emotional “100 in a 55.” Very able to deliver a headliner’s set in terms of quality, I relish the opportunity to see them again on their own stage.
3 Doors Down are a band that I was introduced to quite a few years ago. They were one of several that my former Canadian girlfriend shared with me. Similar in style to many other US arena acts, they just seemed to stand out for me personally. I was filled with high expectation immediately when the UK dates were announced. Thanks to our great media access both myself and my photographer were able to secure a great vantage point for their entire set. The headliners didn’t have an over-the-top stage set in which to set fire to the expectant Manchester audience. Sparse at best yet at the same time atmospheric and subtle. Their star in the UK is not on the same level as their US profile, but the venue was packed to capacity. This was the band’s first UK tour in four years and they were supporting the release of their latest album Us and the Night. The band have had their line-up decimated several times over the recent years but it has not affected the quality of their musical output. Truly a case of a band overcoming personal adversity and emerging stronger on the other side. Opening with “Still Alive” from the newest album instantly proved that many of the audience had already indulged with its purchase. The crowd was engaged immediately from the start as 3 Doors Down positively exploded with a high level of intensity and energy which threatened to lift the roof completely off the venue.
Where 3 Doors Down stand apart from their contemporaries is that their sound and style doesn’t fit snugly into a single category. Their catalogue diversifies from lighter-waving open heart ballads “Here Without You” and “When I’m Gone,” to harder grittier numbers such as “Duck and Run” and “Believer.” Surprise set inclusion of the night was taken by “Landing In London,” the former Bob Seeger song from the band’s Seventeen Days album. To be openly honest the set was top heavy on the band’s softer ballads, but judging from the number of couples present in the audience, the majority of the crowd were extremely fine with that. I on the hand viewed the set more subjectively, believing that they had achieved a fine balance in terms of set list composition.
The second half of the band’s set saw much more of the newest album’s tracks featured – ballad “Pieces of Me,” title track “Us and the Night,” and then “In the Dark.” While for many bands this would prove a situation for a mass exodus to the bar and toilets, this was not the case. It was to the credit of 3 Doors Down that they fully maintained the audience’s attention and there was no let-up in focus either from band or audience. The title track from The Better Life was served up before probably the band’s best known number in “Kryptonite.” I generally feel this song is overheard and commercially overplayed, and covered by everyone. However, honestly speaking, there is no denying its power to stimulate and serve a blast to drive an audience’s passions skywards.
The main part of the set incredibly highlighted a quality walkthrough of all the band’s back catalogue. For me personally, it was great that they served up the tastier morsels with two of the three-song encore featuring my favourite band tracks – the slow tempo “Here Without You” sandwiched with the new “I Don’t Wanna Know,” before exiting with “When You’re Gone.”
A veritable explosion of musical delights on fireworks night. All three bands served up a bright and noisy performance which appeared to fire up a Manchester audience on a very cold and frosty night. Nothing fell flat; all bands lit rockets of musical passion and many stars were visible, both current and future.