Review & Photography by Greg Hamil for MPM
The weather is finally starting to warm up in the mid-west as I make my fourth trip to Milwaukee, WI this year. But, this is my first trip to the fabulous Fiserv Forum in 2023.
The Fiserv Forum is home to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and is one of the best venues for concerts in the area. The staff here are hands down some of the best people to deal with!
Tonight’s show is Hog Fest 2023, brought to us by 102.9 The Hog! The headliner tonight is Disturbed, with supporting act Beartooth. The show was also supposed to have Falling In Reverse, but due to an illness Ronnie Radke had to cancel their appearance just days before the show.
As we are escorted to the stage for Beartooth, you can feel a buzz in the air and the arena is already surprisingly full before the opening act. I enter the pit with a couple of fellow photographers that I have met many times, as well as seeing many fans that have become very familiar faces over the years.
Beartooth is a hardcore punk band out of Columbus, OH. They were formed in 2012 and have produced 4 albums and released several non-album singles. The band is fronted by Caleb Shomo on vocals, with Zach Huston and Will Deely on Guitars. The rhythm section consists of Oshie Bichar on bass and Connor Denis on drum.
As the music fades and lights dim, there is a loud pop from the audience as Beartooth strolls on stage. Shomo comes to the front of the stage and scream “Milwaukee! What’s up?” If you want a photo of him standing still, this is your one and only chance. The band breaks into Devastation, with Shomo running, spinning, and jumping everywhere screaming out the lyrics.
As the show progresses, Shomo announces their new song Sunshine!, which is a new, non-album release about moving on from a dark place. The song begins with a heavy riff and lightning fast beat, with Shomo screaming out the lyrics and jumping everywhere. But in a surprising twist, the chorus slows down and has an almost rock anthem type of feel. The crowd responds approvingly!
Moving deeper into the set, Shomo yells to the crowd that “if you are going to get in the pit, now’s the time!”. The band pounds into Beaten In Lips. Shomo is doing his now typical jumping around and screaming, while the band plays the hardest and fastest they have all night.
Now we move to the crowd participation part of the set, as Shomo starts a back and forth with the crowd as the band breaks into In Between. At the end of the second verse, Shomo tells the audience that this chorus is “all you”. The band comes to a complete stop and the crowd takes over singing the entire chorus without missing a beat.
As we near the end of the set, Shomo asks the crowd once again to “sing along if you know this one”. The song is Riptide, and everyone certainly knows this one as you can hear the entire crowd singing right along. As they hit the bridge of the song, Shomo tells everyone to “let it go!” as everyone begins to jump along with the beat of the song.
As for all good shows, Beartooth’s set must come to an end. For the first and only time of the night, Shomo picks up a guitar as they play the instrumental The Last Riff. About half way through the song, he jumps off the stage and makes his way to the soundboard, where he finishes the song getting a huge pop from the crowd!
Beartooth definitely fills their role as the opener and has this crowd more than warmed up. It was an extra treat for the crowd tonight, as with the cancellation of Falling In Reverse, they were allowed to play a few more songs they had been able to earlier in the tour. And what a treat that is for all of us!
Beartooth Set List: Devastation – Disease – Body Bag – Sunshine! – The Lines – Beaten In Lips – Bad Listener – In Between – You Never Know – Hated – Riptide – The Past Is Dead – The Last Riff
Disturbed got their start in Chicago, IL, so this show is kind of a homecoming show for them. Especially drummer Mike Wengren who is from the Milwaukee area. Formed in 1994, the rest of the band consists of David Draiman on vocals, Dan Donnegan on guitar, and John Moyer on bass. They are a heavy metal band, with 8 albums released since 1997.
During the intermission, a white curtain dropped across the front of the stage. The lights go out and the opening of Hey You can be head over the speakers as lights hit the curtain, showing silhouettes of the band members. You see each of them individually at first, then all four at once. Draiman yells “Hey You”, and the curtain drops as a stunning display of light begin to pulse along with the beat of the song. He struts back and forth in a long, black trenchcoat like a general commanding his troops. Donegan is decked out in black jeans and a black leather jacket, while Moyer and Wengren are both sporting sleeveless black shirts.
They immediately jump right into Stupify. Donegan and Moyer have traded sides of the stage, which they will do several times throughout the night to make sure everyone gets their fair share of all the members. As Draiman continues to pace back and forth across the stage, Donegan and Moyer take turns doing heavy metal jumps.
After a small break for Draiman to take off his coat, he comes to center stage and puts his fist in the air. Again, like a general he commands “Milwaukee! Let me see those fists!”, as Wengren plays the opening beat of Ten Thousand Fists. The is the first really big pop from the crowd as you can hear everyone singing along and throwing their fists in the air through each chorus.
As you would expect with a band like Disturbed, the entire set is hit after hit. As we reach the midpoint of the show, the stage goes dark and a video plays with Draiman narrating. He is talking about depression and how it affects millions of people all over the world every day.
As the video ends, the lights come back up on stage, the whole band is sitting on stools with Donegan playing the opening notes of A Reason To Fight. A very emotional song about depression, the crowd is singing along with many people in tears throughout.
At the end of the song, a visibly emotional Draiman explains that depression and addiction are as real as cancer. He is tired of losing people he loves, like Chester (Bennington) and Chris (Cornell). He then tells the crowd that “if I can be completely honest, a couple of months ago, I almost joined them” which drew a huge gasp from the crowd. He asks everyone who has ever dealt with depression or addiction, or knew someone who has to raise your hand. He then tells everyone to look around and know that “you aren’t alone”. He asked everyone to take care of each other, and if you are feeling that you are on the brink, to reach out to someone because we all have A Reason To Fight”.
With one serious point of the show behind us, it is back to the hard stuff as they jump into a cover of Genesis’ Land of Confusion, followed immediately by The Game. This was the highlight of my night, as The Game is probably my favorite Disturbed song of all and haven’t heard it live in many years. It has an industrial metal feel to it which gets everyone on their feet and jumping as Draiman, who hasn’t lost a bit of his voice, belts out flawless lyrics once again.
Once again, the lights come back up to Donegan on piano, Wengren behind the tympani’s, and a small two person string section. We find out later that the girl on violin is Wengren’s daughter. As Donegan begins to play the beginning of Sound of Silence, the arena lights up as everyone takes their phones out and wave them back and forth, while singing along. From the reaction, this is one of the songs everyone has been waiting for.
After pounding out Indestructible, Draiman stops to bring two people out on stage to tell their story. Both are very young people battling different forms of cancer. The first, a young girl from Madison, Wi who tells a story about how Disturbed found out about her from a radio station in Madison, and the band sent her a video for Christmas to try to raise her spirits. The second was a gentleman who has been battling pancreatic cancer for several years. He tried to tell his story, but broke down in tears. Draiman hugged him and said it was ok and that Disturbed and everyone in the arena were there to support him, which drew a huge round of applause from the crowd. At the back of the stage were two chairs by the drum riser. He asks both of them to have a seat and dedicated The Light, to both of them.
With that, it is time to rock out the rest of the night. What better way than to start the final four songs with Unstoppable from their album Divisive. From there moving into Stricken, and then the song that everyone has been waiting for. Leading in, Draiman says there is a gentleman that has been holding up a phone all night with a message asking if he can sing a song with them. He tells the guy to “get your ass up here”. As he comes on stage, Draiman asks if he is sure he knows the words, getting a light from the crowd. Wengren pound the bass drums with the open beat to Down With The Sickness which draws the biggest response of the night from the crowd. The gentleman on stage is good! He stomps around the stage with Draiman and belts out the lyrics like he has been in the band forever!
After a roller coaster ride of a show, it is time for night to end. Draiman beats his chest along with the opening beat of Inside The Fire. No one has left, and everyone is singing along as Draiman stands center stage and Donegan and Moyer criss-cross the stage making sure that they acknowledge everyone one last time. And with that the show is over.
Disturbed has never disappointed when I have seen them live, and tonight was no different. In fact, I would say this is probably the best I have ever heard them sound. Maybe it was because it was a homecoming show of sorts, or maybe it was the emotional stories that were told throughout the night. I am sure I am not alone in feeling like this show was one of a kind and meant only for this crowd on this night.
Disturbed Set List: Hey You – Stupify – Ten Thousand Fists – Prayer – Are You Ready – Bad Man – The Vengeful One – A Reason To Fight – Land of Confusion – The Game – The Sound of Silence – Indestructible – The Light – Unstoppable – Stricken – Down With The Sickness – Inside The Fire