on 21 January 2012
I first became a Shinedown fan about six years ago, when "I Dare You" was in heavy rotation, and even made it as a single for numerous soundtracks and events. All it took was one listen of "Us and Them", and I was hooked. That particular album is phenomenally produced, and the band really shines (no pun intended).
Later on, I took home a copy of Sound of Madness, and it came across not only as a sonically great album, but also a very lyrically-inspired and a socially/politically conscious one. Shinedown really took a ferocious byte at the war in Iraq and all that came with it.
I had also heard a previously released live album, going back to the "45" and "Fly From the Inside" hits and now to the more current "Diamond Eyes" and they're really a rock band to be reckoned with.
And so, my expectations were really high upon becoming aware of this release. And though both performances (both acoustic and electric) are solid, I do have some pet peeves to contend with.
I've been a music fan for my whole life and have been a musician for 17 years, and if there's a band that, in my opinion, defines what an "unplugged" live performance should be, is Nirvana. Yes, the balls-to-the-wall post-punk/grunge trio from Seattle, WA (extinct since 1994 with the untimely passing of singer Kurt Cobain). They really exemplified what a hard rock act can morph itself into, when you get to the nitty-gritty of song writing and when you find the song's soul. Nirvana's former drummer (and Foo Fighters singer/guitar player Dave Grohl) is likely one of the hardest hitting drummers to ever hit the skins on a rock band, and yet he approached the "Unplugged in New York" performance with such finesse and lightness, you could hear a pin drop. You'd be hard-pressed to say it was the same drummer, unless you actually watched the DVD. More than any other instrument, drums really establish the mood and the tone for the song, and "get you".
Many more bands approached their acoustic performances with a light touch, but truth be told, the same can not really be said about Shinedown.
Barry Kerch, as great of a rock drummer as he is, didn't really nail the softness required for the acoustic performance. He just brought his Shinedown a-game to an acoustic set. The result? It doesn't really work. When guitarist Zach Myers is softly strumming the strings, it doesn't really fly when the drummer seems completely oblivious to what's going on around him.
Mind you, I already mentioned Barry as being a great drummer, which he is. He's just out of context in this particular scenario. And when particularly the drummer is out of context, the whole band sounds out of context. And that's really the ultimate result which makes me enjoy the acoustic performance to a certain point, but not to its fullest extent.
Another thing that semi-bothered me was Brent Smith's "preaching" so to speak. An amazing singer, and a charismatic storyteller in his own right. But when he starts throwing Dr. Martin Luther King into a song intro - which drew its modest share of "boos" and yawns - the event stops being about music, and starts being about politics.
Granted, the band portrays itself as being politically-conscious in Sound of Madness, but it just strikes me as a horrible thing - and an unnecessary risk - to put music and politics into the same pot, when your band isn't REALLY about politics (unlike rock legends Rage Against a Machine, for instance) and when YOUR audience just wants to have a good time and be entertained.
As for the electric set, I really enjoyed it, but again, there's room to grow. I don't think Shinedown, as a band, has found its perfect comfort zone yet, and despite it being populated with great musicians, it occasionally slips into a "what was that?" moment, which sometimes interrupt the flow of the musical moment.
But if there's a BIG pet peeve that I have is the editing of the electric performance DVD, which, unlike its acoustic sibling, really seems to target Shinedown fans as being unsophisticated and unaware, which I would argue that the majority of those fans are easily into their twenties and sometimes older. You'd think this type of audience would be treated with a little more respect (as ANY audience should be, by the way).
Editing-wise, it makes NO sense to me that the band comes in with a HUGE bang, and you don't even see a spark of an explosion. While, at other times, it's quite the opposite.
And it makes even LESS sense to me that on "Sound of Madness" the crowd is jumping to the beat of the music, while a second later, they're just sitting there, pumping their fists. I mean, what gives?? With "Making Of" releases being increasingly popular as DVD extras, and just generally from a concert-goers perspective, are we supposed to believe that this is a natural way for a crowd to behave in a show? Jump around one moment, sit around the next? Are we that ignorant that we couldn't possibly be aware that there is someone who tweaks/edits the footage for a video release?
That I really consider to be an insult, and I don't blame it on Shinedown, but on the production team their label selected to put the video together. (Mind you I am commenting on the RELEASE, not just the performances).
I could also do without the Korn-like graphics constantly on screen to enhance the show, and somehow make up for perceived faults on stage. I believe a solid performance is only captured, not tainted with, but that's just me.
So, as the title for this review goes, I do believe it's a good release, though I do contend with these pet peeves (which are entirely mine, and hence, subjective).
If it I have to sum it up for the soon-to-be/current Shinedown fan? Yes, PLEASE do yourself a favor and buy this. Despite these little annoyances, it really is a couple of shows that you will be watching again and again.
I certainly have.