MARCH 4th 2017

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan

First roadie of the year!!! And lucky me it was for a nut-kick lineup of Skillet, Sick Puppies, and Devour The Day.  Unfortunately, the line was so effing long to get into the Showbox that I’m guessing only about 30 people got to see Devour The Day’s set. I bloody love those dudes and their live set is amazing so I was epically bummed to have missed it; all I can say in a quiet creepy whisper is “Come to Canada…”

I walked into the packed house right at the beginning of Sick Puppies’ (relatively short) stint on stage.  They exploded into opener “War”, the first track on their sophomore album.  They continued with “Riptide”, “Stick To Your Guns”, “Odd One”, new tracks “Let Me Live” and “Where Do I Begin”, oldies “Maybe” and “All The Same”, and hardest hitting “You’re Going Down”, to name a few.  Given my Devour The Day void I was especially tickled when Blake Allison came out to lend vocals to “Stick To Your Guns”. It was literally the best tune of the set.

I have seen Sick Puppies many a time over the course of their existence. First time was in Ottawa, ON, at a 3-table bar where I was one of 4 patrons. Next few were festival performances or larger scale shows, but tonight was the first time I was disappointed.  Lead guitarist and vocalist Bryan Scott (who replaced founding singer and guitarist Shimon Moore in February 2016), bassist/backing vocalist Emma Anzai, and drummer/backing vocalist Mark Goodwin all sounded great. They all nailed every one of their parts.  Anzai especially is mesmerizing.  But there was just something missing from the set: overall it was boring.  For me the most thrilling moment was Allison’s surprise addition.  It pains me to say what I did just now about the ‘Puppies, but all that means is this is the worst of the best, so it still ain’t that bad.

Headliners Skillet got up next and were in such contrast to Sick Puppies that this was actually the best live performance I’d seen from them (and again, I’ve racked up a few by now).  Complete with vapour cannons and a bonafide light show, John Cooper (lead vocals, bass), wife Korey Cooper (rhythm guitar, keys/synth, vocals), Seth Morrison (lead guitar), and Jen Ledger (drums, backing vocals) brought the holy heat.  

Opening with “Feel Invincible” they portrayed exactly that, riling the crowd into actually moving as they worked through a set comprised only of offerings of the last four albums (going back to 2009).  “Whispers In The Dark”, “Sick of It”, “Rise”, “Awake And Alive”, “Not Gonna Die”, “Hero”, “Undefeated”, “Comatose”, “Monster” and “Rebirthing” all made an appearance, along with a few others.  Korey ripped around the stage on her guitar while, despite being trapped behind the kit, Ledger bludgeoned the beats.  John was spot-on vocally, as he always is, and was well guided by Morrison’s lead. Not only was this a performance, it was a stage show, and all the players knew their place.  The band was crisp, cohesive, and energetic in a way the night had lacked thusfar (since I had gotten there at least!)  The biggest indicator of their command of the room was the sudden crowd participation as they burst into their set.  There was no loss of interest when Skillet went into overtime and slammed the room with encore “The Resistance”.

Predominantly labeled, packed, and categorized as Christian hard rock, Skillet left no doubt that they can rock with the hellish-est of the rock universe.