Review & Photography by Greg Hamil for MPM
Another concert, another snowy night in the Midwest. But, definitely willing to brave the elements to see the Rock Resurrection Tour featuring Skillet, Theory of a Deadman, and Saint Asonia at the Eagles Ballroom inside The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
Completed in 1927, the Eagles Club was the home of the Milwaukee branch of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It featured a swimming pool, two-story gym, bowling alleys, a barber shop, and restaurant.
Through the years the Eagles Club featured entertainers from the big-band era such as Glenn Miller and Guy Lombardo, as well as performers like Bob Hope and Red Skelton. It also hosted performers from the early era of rock with the likes of Dion and the Belmonts.
It also hosted the “Winter Dance Party” tour on January 23, 1959 featuring JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens; all of whom died 11 days later in a plane crash following a performance in Clear Lake, IA.
Tonight is a hometown show for Skillet and the crowd did not disappoint. Prior to the show, a “low ticket alert” was issued, and while I don’t know for sure, I am sure by showtime this was a sell out! Usually when the first band goes on, you can expect about a 1/3 of the crowd to be in the door, with the rest trickling in as the night progresses. But tonight, the floor was just about at full capacity before the show even began!
First to hit the stage tonight is Saint Asonia. Formed in 2015, the band consists of former Three Days Grace frontman, Adam Gontier on vocals and rhythm guitar. His cousin, Cale Gontier is on bass and backing vocals. On drums is Cody Watkins. Normally, Staind guitarist Mike Mushok is on lead guitar, but due to “extenuating circumstances” he is unable to join the band for this tour. In his place is Adelita’s Way/Art of Dying guitarist Tavis Stanley.
As the lights go out in the arena, the stage is bathed in blue lights as the band enters. Adam steps up to the microphone and screams “Hello Milwaukee!!”. This brings the first pop from the crowd who has been ready to go for about an hour now.
The band breaks into “Better Place” from their 2015 self-titled album. Cale is lunging around the stage pounding out the bass rhythm along with Cody’s precise beat on the drums. Adam’s classic “raspy” vocals echo through the arena, garnering many fists and “devil horns” in the air. We also get our first look at Tavis on lead guitar and he is a perfect replacement for Mike Mushok as he doesn’t miss a note.
As the crowd reaction dies out, it is straight into “Above It All” from the 2022 EP “Introvert”. A slower rhythm with pounding bass drums and an excellent riff. Cale is still tirelessly jumping and lunging around the stage. Adam starts out playing guitar, but grabs the microphone and starts to walk to each side of the stage to engage the crowd bringing everyone to life once again.
Wasting no time the band moves directly into “The Hunted” from the 2019 release, “Flawed Design”. This song was co-written by Adam Gontier, Mike Mushok, Brian Sperber (producer), and Godsmack vocalist Sully Erna, who is a guest performer on the album version. Lights pulse from purple, to red, to green. The song has a nice beat with a fast bass drum beat and catchy lead riff that underlies the vocals.
We reach our first short break of the set, while Adam explains that he used to be in another band. And before he can say who, the crowd cheers louder than they have to this point. As he announces that the band he is speaking of is Three Days Grace, the crowd gets even louder. The first song is “Never Too Late”. The song starts out with Adam playing the first notes and singing the first few words. He steps away from the microphone, and without missing a beat, the crowd takes over all the way up to the chorus. This draws a huge grin from Adam!
Next is ”I Hate Everything About You”. If you closed your eyes, you would be taken back to the glory days of Three Days Grace. Adams vocals are on point with Cale backing him up flawlessly through the chorus. Tavis’ screaming leads on the guitar echo through the arena as he sways back and forth.
Adam takes another short break, to explain that he did vocals on a song with another band. Again the crowd reacts loudly as they know he is talking about “I Don’t Care” by Apocalyptica. Once again, Adam gives us the first few words and the crowd takes over. As we reach the chorus Cody joins in with the slow yet strong beat, as Adam and Cale scream out the chorus. As the song ends, they get an extended response from the crowd.
Moving straight into “Devastate” from the 2022 EP Extrovert, we hear a catchy riff from Tavis, while Adam joins on vocals. As it they hit the second verse Cale and Cody join with a fast underlying beat that delights the headbangers in the crowd! Tavis rips everyone’s ears off with his most scorching lead solo of the night.
Adam announces that they have time for one more song and thanks everyone for coming out. Tavis breaks into the opening riff of “Let Me Live My Life” which comes to a sudden halt. After a brief silence, the band slams into the vocals with the hardest beat of the night! Adam hasn’t lost a bit of his voice as he screams out the vocals as precise as can be. With the final notes, picks and drumsticks go flying into the crowd as they thank everyone again for coming out which draws a cheer from the crowd that is usually reserved for the headliner. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the night brings!
SETLIST: Better Place – Above It All – The Hunted – Never Too Late – I Hate Everything About You – I Don’t Care – Devastate – Let Me Live My Life
After a short intermission to reset the stage, it is time for Theory of a Deadman. Formed in 1999, the band consists of Tyler Connelly on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Brenner lead guitar, Dean Back on bass guitar, and Joey Dandeneau on drums and backing vocals. The band is known for its humorous and sometimes sarcastic lyrics that makes for an entertaining evening as you can laugh and rock out at the same time.
Not to disappoint, the lights dim and Dave walks on stage playing the opening riff to “Dinosaur” from their 2023 release of the same name. Dean and Joey join in with a catch beat that get the crowd headbanging right from the start. The music cuts and it back to Dave’s riff with Tyler joining in on vocals for the opening verse. Everyone joins back in for the chorus as the lights shift around from red to yellow to orange with smoke canons going off in between.
Tyler removes his trenchcoat and talks about crazy women as he transitions into “Bitch Came Back”. As with most of their songs, it has a catchy beat with a dark, humorous storyline. Also our first look at Joey on backing vocals. It is almost not fair to call it backing vocals as it borders on a co-vocal part. He is a beast on the drums and has to be in incredible shape to play the way he does and still be able to sing.
Time to slow things down a little as the band move into “Not Meant to Be” from the 2008 release Scars and Souvenirs. The song opens with a nice smooth rhythm with an underlying lead riff. Tyler slowly paces back and forth interacting with the crowd who have their cell phones out, waving them back and forth and singing along.
Moving back to a little faster pace, but also back to the dark humor, Joey plays a little drum riff to lead us into “Blow” from the 2014 album Savages. This is another back and forth lyric between Tyler and Joey that is almost more of a narrative than it is a lyric. But the groove with which it is played has the crowd pounding fists in the air and even has a few on the edges dancing.
Slowing it down again, we hear Dave with an electric acoustic riff to lead us into “History of Violence” from the 2014’s Say Nothing album. A nice slow grove, with Dave, Dean, and Joey all joining in with incredible harmonies. Tyler has the microphone again pacing the stage as he leans over to get as close to the crowd as he can. The performance is brilliant!
Dave breaks into a guitar riff that sounds like the opening to an old 70s detective show. Tyler begins half rapping/half singing the opening lyrics to “Ambulance” from the 2023 Dinosaur album. With the beat of this song, the crowd can’t help but dance along as Tyler almost prances back and forth across the stage.
Time to slow it down for a couple songs, as Tyler talks about the early days of the band and one of the bands first hits, “Santa Monica” from 2005’s Gasoline. The cell phone are out in full force as Tyler serenades the crowd with his crooning voice. Speaking of crooning, the next song is a cover of Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game”. Tyler is on the piano for this one and plays the whole song solo drawing a huge pop from 4,000 strong in attendance.
As the piano is moved off stage, Dean and Joey break into a bass and drum beat that gets the whole crowd clapping along. Dave joins in on guitar and Tyler reappears strutting across the stage as he begins to sing “Lowlife” from 2011’s The Truth Is….”. Dean comes to the front of the stage encouraging the crowd to sing along, while Dave jumps up and down. Joey is crazy on the drums pounding out the beat and singing along. The way he throws himself around the kit, it is amazing he doesn’t hurt himself.
Having some fun with the crowd, the band plays a cover of “Friends In Low Places” that even though it is a country song, still draws a big pop from the crowd. When the song is over, Tyler teases the crowd saying, “joining us on stage now is Garth Brooks!”. He turns as if waiting for someone to come out, then says, “this is embarrassing. One of these days I am going to announce Garth Brooks and he will actually join us”. This draws laughter and cheer from the crowd.
Tyler and Dave begin to play and sing “Angel” from the 2014 album of the same name. The slow beat has the crowd waving their arms in the air as white lights swirl through the arena like a mirror ball. Couples are dancing along as Tyler, and the rest of the band belt out perfect harmonies.
Tyler talks to the crowd again about the daily annoyances of life. Things that get in the way like traffic, work, relationships, etc. He tells the crowd they wrote a little song about it as he sings the opening for the 2008 hit “Hate My Life” from the Scars and Souvenirs album. Dave and Dean get the crowd clapping along as Tyler sings a line then holds the microphone out to get the crowd to finish the verse. On the chorus, the sound is thunderous as the 4,000+ crowd all sings along with the band.
“RX (Medicate)” is the next song up as Tyler whistles the introduction like an old western movie. Dave strums the electric acoustic, while Dean and Joey back up with a slow bluesy beat. Again, Tyler is singing while almost narrating the lyrics, while Joey is backing up with incredible harmonies.
Tyler announces there is time for one more song and thanks everyone for coming out and asks for a round of applause for opener Saint Asonia, and to let the next band up, Skillet to hear them! The final song of the night is their smash hit “Bad Girlfriend” from Scars and Souvenirs. Dave and Dean jump up and down with the beat encouraging the crowd to do the same, while Tyler paces back and forth engaging everyone in the front. As the set comes to a close, the crowd is going crazy screaming their appreciation for the performance they just saw.
SETLIST: Dinosaur – Bitch Came Back – Not Meant to Be – Blow – History of Violence – Ambulance – Santa Monica – Wicked Game – Lowlife – Friends In Low Places – Angel – Hate My Life – Rx(Medicate) – Bad Girlfriend
Finally it is time for the headliner, Skillet! Tonight is a bit of a homecoming for lead vocalist & and bassist, John Cooper and his wife, guitarist and keyboardist, Korey Cooper. Both hailing from nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin. They are joined on stage by lead guitarist, Seth Morrison and drummer, Jen Ledger.
The 4,000+ in attendance come to life as the Jen walks to the front of the stage and takes a bow before climbing the riser to get behind the kit. The band immediately breaks in the pounding beat of “Feel Invicible” from the 2016 album Unleashed. Korey stomping back and forth, while Seth has one foot on the riser, waving his guitar back-and-forth over the crowd. John looms large over the crowd as he belts out the lyrics being joined by Jen on backing vocals.
As the screaming and applause from the opening numbers dies out, Korey begins the opening keyboard sequence of “Rise” from the 2013 album of the same name. John and Jen belt out the lyrics while the crowd jumps and claps along.
A recorded narrative plays over the speaker as the band leads into the open beats of “Surviving the Game” from the 2022 album Dominion. John has donned a couple of smoke canons on each of his arms and as the chorus hits lets a blast out over the crowd, while even more canons are going off on stage. He takes the canons off after the first chorus and begins the pound across the stage engaging the crowd at every stop. He even stopped to lean down and sing directly at my camera lens!
John takes a minute to talk to the crowd saying the night is going to be “Legendary”! To which they break into the song of the same name. Korey and Seth crisscross the stage engaging the crowd, while John and Jen take turns on lyrics.
The next two songs come from the 2009 album Awake. First up is “Awake and Alive” which features both John and Jen on vocals work together in perfect harmony. Next, Seth jumps up on the riser to play the opening riff to “Hero” which also features John and Jen on vocals. There is no waver in Jen’s voice as she belts out her lyrics while pounding out the beat.
“Not Gonna Die” from the Rise album is up next as the Korey opens with a keyboard riff that leads to a pounding beat from Jen, Seth, and John. The crowd shows it appreciation with pounding fists and devil horns raised high in the air.
Seth comes to center stage and plays a screaming riff that leads us into ”Psycho In My Head” from the 2023 release Dominion: Day of Destiny. A heavy beat that is almost like a march has the crowd all jumping in unison. John bounces his arm over the crowd in the same rhythm like a heavy metal puppet master.
The crowd goes absolutely crazy as the string section joins the band onstage as they know what song is coming next. As they opening notes of “Comatose” from the album of the same name hits, the crowd gives its biggest pop of the night. So loud, you almost can’t hear the music. John runs from side to side, jumping up on risers as he belts out the lyrics, encouraging the crowd to get louder and louder.
With a heavy thumping beat from Jen and John, the band plays “Finish Line” from the 2019 album Victorious. John hums a few notes at the beginning and starting singing the lyrics. He backed on the chorus by everyone on stage.
The crowd comes to life as John re-introduces Adam Gontier to sing the second verse and finish the song out with them.
Seth jumps up on the riser again, while John get the crowd jumping and clapping again as they jump into “Monster” from the Awake album. Korey stomps and bangs her head with the beat as John get the crowd into a back-and-forth on the chorus of the song, in which crowd gladly complies.
The string section joins the band onstage again for another song from the Comatose album. They jump into “Rebirthing”, which has a slower groove with John’s strong voice booming through the air and everyone else joining in on the chorus with perfect harmonies.
The crowd boos as John tells them they have time for one last song. But the boos turn quickly to cheers as they play “The Resistance” from the 2016 album Unleashed. John, Korey, and Seth are all up on risers encouraging the crowd to clap, pound fists, and jump to the beat of the song.
At the end the applause and cheers are deafening as the crowd shows a home town appreciation to Skillet who as put on one of the better shows I have ever seen them perform. It was a great night!!
SETLIST: Feel Invincible – Rise – Surviving The Game – Legendary – Awake and Alive – Hero – Not Gonna Die – Whispers In The Dark – Psycho In My Head – Comatose – Finish Line – Monster – Rebirthing – The Resistance
SKILLET 2023 European “Day of Destiny Tour” (all dates subject to change):
April 14 Manchester, England – Academy
April 15 London, England – O2 Forum
April 18 Brussels, Belgium – Palais 12
April 19 Luxembourg – Rockhal
April 21 Hannover, Germany – Capitol
April 22 Berlin, Germany – Columbia Halle
April 24 Hamburg, Germany – Docks
April 25 Copenhagen, Denmark – Stagebox
April 27 Warsaw, Poland – COS Torwar
April 28 Gliwice, Poland Arena Gliwice
April 30 Koln, Germany – Palladium
May 2 Munich, Germany – TonHalle
May 3 Zurich, Switzerland – Halle 622
May 4 Wiesbaden, Germany – Schlachthof
May 6 Prague, Czech, Republic – Forum Karlin
May 7 Vienna, Austria – Gasometer
May 8 Budapest, Hungary – Barba Negra
May 10 Milan, Italy – Alcatraz
May 11 Stuttgart, Germany – Longhorn
May 13 Paris, France – Salle Pleyel
May 14 Tilburg, Holland – O13
Connect with Skillet: TikTok: http://www.tiktok.com/@skilletmusic