Grand Rapids, Michigan (March 7, 2019)
Nineteen years to the day after the career altering LP “The Sickness” was released, hard rock legend Disturbed rolled into Van Andel Arena to a sold-out performance. Grand Rapids may revel in “The Sound of Silence” every day, but Thursday it was a celebration about the “Evolution” that held a deeper message than anyone anticipated.
Quickly approaching a quarter century since their formation, Disturbed remains a prototype for what other rock bands strive to be. The Chicago-formed quintets 18-song performance Thursday mixed a raw “in-your-face” brawn with the musical sophistication that fans cherish, but also delivered a heart felt message that even silenced the headbangers into listening intently.
Disturbed has been at the leading edge of the genre since their first single,“ Down With the Sickness”, but frontman David Draiman has brought the bands focus to something we all should be proponents of, “the war against the demons of addiction and depression”. Starting with a PSA video while the band moved to a candlelit “B-Stage” on the arena floor for the emotionally driven renditions of “A Reason To Fight” and “Watch You Burn”, Draiman solemnly lamented that the lists of victims “ keeps growing daily”. Name-checking “recent victims” such as fellow artists Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Scott Weiland and Keith Flint, Draiman went on to announce, “It takes an army to fight a war, ladies and gentleman, and even though we have lost some soldiers, there are many more battles to be fought” Once the emotionally charged Van Andel crowd was silenced by the raised hand of Draiman, he went on to lead a pledge to be thoughtful and intervene when “anyone that can hear me” encounters a situation where someone needed help. Leading the charge by bringing awareness into their performance, Disturbed went one step further and provided phone numbers for suicide prevention and addiction hotlines on the massive video screens surrounding the stage. Disturbed should be commended for bringing these daily life challenges to the forefront by empowering their fans to make a difference and to let their voices be heard to hopefully save a life.
Even though the message was sobering, the show itself was vibrant and electric. Disturbed hit it hard right out of the gate with their anthem “Are You Ready”, off their most recent LP, Evolution. The power and excitement energized the arena and served as the catalyst that whipped the mosh pit into a circular frenzy. It continued unabashed as they powered through “Prayer”, ”The Vengeful One”, ”The Animal”, “Stupify”, and their cover version of “Land of Confusion”. Draiman along with guitarist Dan Donegan and bassist John Moyer engaged the crowd as they moved about the arrowhead shaped stage throughout the night. Each taking turns at different points and elevated wings on the multi level stage which was enhanced by the dramatic use of lasers and pyrotechnic effects that Disturbed shows have become renown for.
The masterful stage production was in full effect for a passionate performance of “Hold Onto Memories”, off the Evolution LP. Mixed in between the mesmerizing pyrotechnic effects and pulsating lasers, was a video montage of Disturbeds quarter century career along with candid family photos which allowed fans a glimpse into their lives outside of music.
The highlight of the emotional performance was Disturbeds stunning rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”. Donegan, perched at burning grand piano, supplied the eerie resonating vocals while Wengren, playing a Timpani accompanied. A pair of string players joined on stage and built the momentum into a rousing crescendo accentuated by plumes of fire jutting high above the stage.
Disturbed, as their latest album title attests has evolved. They are at the precipice of bringing addiction and suicide to the forefront among musical artists and share their concern with their fans. They have the heart to care and if you were a lucky one to be in the crowd, you understood. The set list told a story of hope and remembrance along the evolution of who Disturbed has become. Musically powerful and lyrically strong along with a message to be heard…. “ARE YOU READY”?