Skillet Rises up at Bear Birthday Bash

When Skillet’s previous album, Awake, went platinum (a feat that’s hard enough for anyone let alone a rock band these days), the question arose as to how they could possibly follow that up. The answer came easily with their explosive first concept album, Rise, which debuted at no. 1 on the rock charts and in the top five on numerous charts. Easily one of the heaviest-traveled bands in the industry today, Skillet immediately set out on the road again to support the record, which many consider to be their strongest effort to-date. The first leg of their U.S. tour came to an end recently in Fort Wayne, Ind. at the 98.9 Bear Birthday Bash and they flew in directly from a show in San Antonio to play the show. Opening the show were Scarlett Raven, We As Human, Ra, Trapt and Adelitas Way, a great lineup of support for a band as big-time as Skillet. After Scarlett Raven wrapped up an impressive opening set, We As Human, who play with Skillet more than anyone took the stage for an up-tempo, stage-stealing set that had all the concert early birds roaring with approval. Frontman Justin Cordle is always one to get the crowd involved in every aspect and it’s not abnormal to see him make his way into the pit at some point during the set. Luckily, the band got a lengthy timeslot to play, which they normally don’t- with their usual set being enough for just four or five songs. At the Bear Birthday Bash, however, they got to play a good portion of their debut full-length album and show the crowd just how good that record is and they took full advantage of it, battling through microphone cut-outs and other technical problems they couldn\’t control and handled everything with complete and utter professionalism. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2013/98.9 The Bear Birthday Bash /We As Human/\”] Ra was second on the day and were probably the lowlight of the day. They’d been dormant for four years and, although their fanbase was still strong, their set was not. They played quite a few songs from their first record and some from their latest upcoming record, a combination that a lot of fans weren’t familiar with and they just failed to captivate the crowd in the way they needed to. Following them was Trapt, who, due to a few things that were out of their hands, took the stage almost 40 minutes late. Their plane was delayed and that factored into their late stage time and the fans were growing restless but, when they did finally take the stage the fans were immediately blown away. Most of the reason the fans were so restless was most likely in part to needed some excitement after a stale performance from Ra, one which only their diehard fans were really into. Opening with “Headstrong,” their biggest hit to-date, many people were surprised- they needed to do something to get the fans attention, though. Many thought the band should have played a shorter set since they were so late, but the set they played satisfied everyone and included any song fans would have wanted to hear. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2013/98.9 The Bear Birthday Bash /Trapt/\”] After Trapt wrapped things up it wasn’t long until Adelitas Way took the stage for a set that was, as always, full of energy, adrenaline and forced fans to get involved. Frontman Rick DeJesus is always one of the most entertaining singers to watch and you can’t help but get into it when they’re on stage. They hadn’t played a show in months and took a break from recording their highly-anticipated follow up to Home School Valedictorian to fly in and play the show and they were in prime form and, if they hadn’t told the crowd how long it had been since their last show, no one would have noticed. Along with the Adelitas Way mainstays in the set (“The Collapse,” “Sick,” “Alive,” and “Criticize”) the band debuted three or four tracks from their upcoming record that gave a good idea of what the new studio effort will sound like- absolutely epic. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2013/98.9 The Bear Birthday Bash /Adelitas Way/\”] With Trapt going on as late as they did, it pushed Adelitas Way’s set back a good hour or more, which meant headliners Skillet went on a little before 9 p.m., rather than at 7 as originally planned. Skillet flew in straight from San Antonio to play the show, which was their last of the year before heading to Europe with Nickelback so they were ready to pull out all the stops. They are always known for their high energy show and frontman John Cooper’s entertaining banter with the crowd and this was no exception. While the sound wasn\’t the best and the microphones kept cutting out and the lighting was atrocious, Skillet battled through all of it and through the cold weather of late September to put on a great show that was worthy of being their last U.S. show of the year. It was just like any other Skillet show minus their LED screens, stage risers and pyro fire which was made up for with a personal performance that showed the band interacting with the crowd on a whole other level. Frontman Cooper talked more about the meaning behind some of the songs than he has on recent shows and joked numerous times about different things. Before “The Last Night” he told a story about how he had a friend growing up with whom he would stay up all night playing Nintendo and listening to Metallica, which is what the song is about and did similar on other songs. It wouldn’t be a Skillet show without the band talking about their faith, which they did on this night as well. One thing you have to respect about Skillet is that whether they’re playing a Christian or mainstream (or secular- as they say in the Christian circles) they’re going to talk about what they believe. However, they do it in such a way that it doesn’t alienate their nonchristian fans. They want people to know what they believe because it’s who they are- it isn’t a gimmick and they aren’t gonna shove it down people’s throats either. They mention it from time to time and let the music do the talking. There’s no doubt Skillet are becoming one of the biggest rock acts in the world today. After they left the highly-successful Bear Birthday Bash, they were taking some time off before heading to Europe with Nickelback, but they’ll be back next year- and look for them to bring the heat- literally. When all was said and done, each band on the bill played a solid set. Had the promoters used better sound equipment, the show would have been better, though. The night was plagued with microphones cutting out, bad speaker systems and a makeshift security barricade that was practically just a bunch of bike racks fashioned together- which the fans in the front row dismantled before Skillet took the stage, forcing Security to push them back and reassemble the barricades. They said the Bear Birthday Bash would return next year, so let’s just hope they do a better job with their event organization. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2013/98.9 The Bear Birthday Bash /Skillet/\”]