Concert Report: Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Flyleaf 2/13 @ Tsongas Arena

I’m sorting the bands in this title in order of decreasing Awesome when describing this show.

One-line summary: These guys came and rocked pretty hard in a good venue with a pretty good crowd.

Okay, now for specifics…since more than just music goes into making a concert a good concert.

 

Getting There
Yes, it’s in Lowell. Yes, it’s a schlep. It takes about 45 minutes to get there from Cambridge in decent pre-concert traffic. The show started at 7, so we arrived pretty early with the intention of having dinner in the area beforehand. Since we came early it was pretty easy to drive through Lowell and get a parking spot in the Tsongas Arena parking garage ($10), which is right next to the venue. Many of the private lots in the area charge $15 or $20, which made very little sense to me.

Lowell
Lowell gets its own heading here. We drove through downtown Lowell, but not dine there. Instead we went to Southeast Asia Cafe; I haven’t posted a Yelp review yet but the service and food were excellent. There are many restaurants within a short walking distance, and your options are diverse.

Venue
Tsongas Arena is associated with UMass Lowell and is located on the campus, more or less. For events like these the entire place is opened up as general admission, which is always the most fun, anyway. I don’t really care about Flyleaf, but for a 7PM show they definitely started playing music at or slightly before 7! Who does that? The staff was pretty friendly, and generally helpful.

Flyleaf
Besides the failure of starting time (which wasn’t their fault), Flyleaf was okay. I heard of them back when they opened for Seether in the Warfield in SF, and have never been too fond of their sound. It was fun to watch the crowd change throughout the night depending on who was playing. Flyleaf has the late-20s, probably religious couples as their primary audience. One big failure here was the sound, you could barely hear Lacey Mosley’s singing, and what was audible wasn’t intelligible.

Breaking Benjamin
The second act, but the one that I (and seemingly the majority of people) came to see. Breaking Benjamin stole the show. The sound was perfect, the set was tight, and the stage effects were fun. They had these LED-type display curtains hanging behind them with a good set of accompanying visuals. The crowd was really into the music, which makes it all the more fun. It was during Breaking Benjamin that the crowd surfing and moshing started, which added this interesting interactive element to the experience. I wasn’t badly hurt by the shoving and lifting of people, but this was definitely the most active GA section that I’ve ever been in. My friend Jeff said they played for a while, but I guess I just enjoyed the music so much that I lost track of time.

One bit that surprised me was the way Ben was singing. Having heard only their albums so far I couldn’t figure out how he was producing the voice that he did. After listening to their live set it was clear that they normally record double-tracked vocals and add some interesting EQ effects on top of it to produce the distinct vocal tracks in the studio. I also wonder if Ben was careful with how he screamed to avoid further damage to his voice.

Three Days Grace
Definitely the band with the best pedigree. They’ve been around since the mid-90’s at least, and it seems they still cater to the same audience – angsty teenagers. The band had a good set, playing a lot of their classics as well as a bit of their newer stuff. Once fun part of their set was the pyrotechnics; during certain songs they had six columns of flame flaring with the music, which certainly added to the intensity. The other fun thing that 3DG did was in the middle of their set: everyone went offstage and their drummer, Neil Sanderson, was playing this crazy drum solo. Then, while playing drums, and synth, and synthpads, him and his drumset started rotating on the stage. He played with a looper live, which is pretty intense! Then, all of a sudden, the stage lights point to a spot right behind us, and their singer Adam Gontier comes onto this little stage and starts singing. That was a fun little surprise.

I wasn’t surprised to hear Adam’s voice sounding destroyed after 15 years of singing. For songs like, “Riot,” he didn’t even bother trying to pull off the intense screams, and I don’t blame him for it. The crowd didn’t seem to mind – they were actually a bit calmer by this point compared to when Breaking Benjamin was playing.

I was shocked that, as the last act, 3DG decided to just end the set and end the night without an encore! Who does that? I know it was around midnight at that point, so the concert had already lasted about 5 hours, but even just one encore song, for the fans.

Wrap-up
No encore meant everyone left at the exact same time. Getting out of the parking structure was a struggle. I ended up getting out of my vehicle and asking a car in line to leave if they would wait for my car to back out. Thankfully they agreed, or it would have been an hour of waiting for an opportunity to get in line to leave. Driving to leave Lowell was a challenge, as well; the streets of the town simply weren’t made to handle that much traffic. After we got to the highway entrance traffic wasn’t a problem at all, thankfully.

Overall it was a great concert, and I would definitely go to other shows in Tsongas Arena in the future.