Review by Kristal Harpur | Photos by Jack Barker
While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have gotten himself in a spot of trouble for his musical performance in London in recent days, Toronto’s rock heavyweights Three Days Grace have also been in the UK on their EXPLOSIONS world tour promoting their latest album. We caught the final night of the tour at Birmingham’s O2 Academy where the band were joined by 10 Years from Knoxville, Tennessee. With the stage in almost darkness (a theme that would continue throughout the set), the band made their way on stage with lead vocalist Jesse Hase wearing a strange plague doctor mask.
They kicked off proceedings with ‘Russian Roulette’ to a packed venue. Hase announced that the band had been to a lot of places on this tour that they had never been, and I feel like this has served them well, seeing as they had somehow avoided our musical radar even though they have released 9 studio albums! ‘Fix Me’ from their 2010 album Feeding the Wolves saw a lot more of the crowd singing and clapping along, warming up to what became insane amounts of energy throughout the rest of the night. One thing I noticed was just how quickly the crowd were clapping along, something which drummer of Three Days Grace, Neil Sanderson, also mentioned later in the evening.
Before beginning their brand-new track ‘The Optimist’, Hase said “We’re very lucky to call this crazy existence a job”. I feel like since the forced break during Covid, a lot of bands have started speaking out about how lucky they feel to be able to do what they love once again. Although the crowd wasn’t singing along with the song being so new, the applause at the end of the track was a sign the new material was well received.
Changing things up with a haunting cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’, I really liked the spin on the original track, not a straight cover, but not so unrecognisable that the original song was lost. ‘Knives’ seemed to be the heaviest song of the set, with Hase making the crowd laugh after, by apologising to someone in the front row saying “Sorry for screaming at you”.
Backing vocals, from guitarist Matt Wantland were provided throughout the set but were noticeably heavier during the last song ‘Shoot it Out’, during which his microphone seemed to be louder than Hase’s, perhaps due to some slight sound problems.
Leaving the stage to big cheers, the venue was clearly warmed up and ready for Three Days Grace.
Before the band had even taken the stage, ‘Jump around’ by House of Pain had the venue…well…jumping around! If the venue wasn’t warmed up enough from 10 years, they definitely were now. Opening with their first single released from their new album Explosions, ‘So Called Life’ saw an incredible reaction from the crowd, which continued throughout the entire night. I have seen Three Days Grace three times now, and each time they just seem to get better!
I was very pleased the band had risers on the stage as with the venue being so wide, seeing the band members would have been difficult without them from my vantage point. Throughout the entire set, after pretty much every song there were loud chants of “Three Days Grace”, egged on by lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Matt Walst. Some people were meant to be on stage, and I believe Matt Walst is one of those people with his endless confidence and stage presence!
Asking the crowd “How many old school fans are in the house” Walst then encouraged a circle pit to form before beginning ‘Home’, originally released in 2003. Merging seamlessly from a track from a time before Walst joined the band into ‘The Mountain’, a track from an era when he had clearly begun to shape the band’s sound, really showed off the vocal talent and how comfortable he has become as the band’s new frontman.
Playing a live debut from their new album, ‘I Am the Weapon’ was a definite hit with the crowd. They had changed the set list for their final show by adding this new song, testing the waters for future dates. Walst spoke emotionally about joining the band 10 years ago saying ” When we released this next song, you guys welcomed me with open arms” before starting ‘Painkiller’ from the 2015 album Human.
With a quick set change, it was time for drummer Neil Sanderson to grace the front of the stage and take his position in front of a keyboard for some slower songs. During ‘The High Road’ and ‘World So Cold’, you really could hear the crowd singing word for word. With the band mentioning how loud the clapping was, Sanderson commented on the tempo of the clapping, stating that “he wasn’t sure if he should drum to his normal rhythm or match the pace of the crowd”, but then went on to say that if he had matched the pace of the crowds clapping “the rest of the night would have become a punk show”.
After a few slower numbers, Walst asked for some assistance to reignite the energy in the room, by inviting a few audience members on stage to sing the next track. Having brought two people on stage Walst revved up the rest of the crowd getting them to chant lines from the next track ‘Just Like You’, before the rest of the band kicked in. Getting people on stage to sing can be very hit or miss depending on the musical ability of the people invited on stage, however the two people brought on stage where able to hold their own vocally while having some impressive stage presence and confidence.
Bringing it back to Explosions, ‘Neurotic’ showed just how dedicated Three Days Grace fans are as it was only released in February this year as a promotional single and had the audience singing along as if the track was a classic hit. The second official single ‘Lifetime’ saw lighters and phone torches shinning to the ceiling after Walst prompted “If you have someone you’ve lost, put a light in the air and let’s light this place up”. The emotion in this song a vast contrast to the next, ‘I Hate Everything About You’, where the sheer anger of the song matched Walst’s facial expressions.
The band left the stage and there were instant chants of “One more song!” The crowd were pleasantly surprised to be awarded two more songs in the encore. Ending the evening with ‘Riot’ was utterly insane with how pumped up the crowd were, with a massive mosh pit to finish the night.