I was fascinated by the line-up of Monday night’s show. Two country acts, one metal act, what in the heck was going on? Full disclosure, I knew nothing about the two country openers to the point where I had never even heard their names before. I knew of the headliner and had some choice thoughts on them when walking into the show on Monday. I won’t get into it but let’s just use my dad’s favorite line– They are good at what they do, I just don’t like what it is that they do. But that didn’t stop me from jetting over to The Target Center in downtown Minneapolis for a night that was sure to be quite unforgettable.
Country act Cory Marks was the first to take the stage. Although he is classified as country, he is so much more than that and, within the first song, the line-up started to make sense. Sure, Cory has a southern drawl to his voice and music (which is a bit confusing as he’s a Canadian but we will let that go without any more question) but there’s something edgy about the music that he is putting out. It’s not even just musically with the heavy metal-styled guitar and the thumping arena-ready drums- it’s also in the lyrics. Singing about real life and the hardships of the working class clearly resonated with the quickly growing audience. Although the arena wasn’t full as he took the stage and people seemed a little bit hesitant to really get into it as if preserving their energy for the rest of the night, I could definitely hear the cheers get louder between songs as the set went on. Monday night was Cory Marks’ first time in the Twin Cities but I have a feeling it most definitely won’t be the last.
Much like Cory Marks, Brantley Gilbert has a very unique style of country music. It definitely has that punk and metal edge that was hinted at during Cory Marks’ set but Brantley definitely leans into it a bit heavier. Vocally, Gilbert lacks that southern twang that was so prevalent throughout Marks’ set but something about his voice still hints towards country even though, at times, he uses a coherent growl through his songs. Although the music has an edge to it and leans heavy, there’s something commercially accessible about the overall vibe of Gilbert’s songs. That in addition to the real-life lyrics about living for the weekend and other fairly “standard” things had the audience eating up every second of Gilbert’s set. It may not have been quite for me but it was clearly for the audience and it was easy to see why Five Finger Death Punch had chosen Brantley Gilbert to open for them.
There was something very informal and personable about Gilbert’s set. From breaking into a seemingly spontaneous Pantera riff to having the drummer shot-gun a beer, I just found something fun and full of life when it came to their set. Don’t get me wrong, their music is still absolutely not my thing and I didn’t rush to the merch tables after the set but seeing that personality and the fun Gilbert and his band were able to have on stage while delivering what I can only assume was a flawless performance (I really can’t say for sure as I don’t know his music at all), I found myself enjoying the set more than I had expected to.
My favorite part of Brantley Gilbert’s set was when he called out the odd line-up. He mentioned how he was sure people were a bit confused when this tour got announced and went on to say, well, he was confused too. But then he continued to say that he knows that Five Finger Death Punch likes to have a good time just like he does so, hey, it works. This entire show definitely wasn’t my normal listen but hearing Gilbert explain that it really doesn’t matter what’s happening through the speakers stylistically and that it all comes down to the passion and the fun… well that had me sitting a bit more comfortably as the night moved on.
5 Finger Death Punch started off their set with a bang– literally. As soon as the black curtain concealing the stage dropped, a giant blast of fireworks went off simultaneously with green-highlighted plumes of smoke. It was a hell of an opening statement full of power that didn’t falter throughout their set. Song after song, 5FDP had the entire audience clapping, singing, and screaming along to their anthemic hard rock songs. Yes, that’s right, I am calling them hard rock, not metal. That’s not trying to be a jab, just how I see their music. It’s powerful and it’s heavy but the vocals lean more into the hard rock vein of things for me.
Beside Singer Ivan Moody’s vocals the rest of the band left me a bit speechless as I tried to act unimpressed from my seat. If I’m being completely honest, my eyes were pretty glued to drummer Charlie Engen. He actually went to the same college that I did and I always love seeing alumni that have stayed in the music industry because, sadly, there are not many of us. His power behind the kit can not be understated but neither can the power of the guitarists and bassist. Everyone not only brought a flawless sound to the stage but also brought an endless stream of energy that was reflected by the crowd (well, if you were looking closely).
I expected the crowd to be super rowdy and, don’t get me wrong, my from vantage point I did see some pretty aggressive pushing and shoving but it was nowhere near as insane as I had thought it would be. There’s no telling if that was due to the interesting opener choices creating a bit of a different crowd or just people still trying to thaw out from the arctic tundra they had to walk through to get inside. Regardless, I found the crowd a little lackluster. Thankfully, 5FDP was there to catch my attention. For the sheer amount of power this band has and the amount of production they could have done, I found their stage setup and overall performance to be a bit understated. They relied on the music and I honestly wasn’t expecting that. The energy they bring to the stage is enormous and I always say that a band is their live show, not their recordings so, Five Finger Death Punch, I may not be your newest and biggest fan but you absolutely gained my respect with what you did on Monday night.