Breaking Benjamin, Skillet, Underoath and Fight the Fury: Live at La Crosse Center

Unless you have literally been hibernating for the past few months, the current Breaking Benjamin tour has been on your radar. I know you may be confused by which tour of Breaking Benjamin’s I am referencing, due to the fact that it seems that Breaking Ben tours constantly! I am talking about the Spring 2019 tour that is currently barreling through the mid-west as I am writing this. The fourteen show tour, is headlined of course by Breaking Benjamin, with Skillet as direct support. There are a few select dates that the roster changes, and there is a different opening band.

I was lucky enough to attend the show in La Crosse, WI. on March 23rd that included performances by Skillet, Underoath and Fight the Fury. The show was as close to being sold out as it could be, and I believe it, the 7,500 Capacity La Crosse Center was overflowing with eager music lovers. I do not remember the last time I have seen such a turn out for a Hard Rock/Metal show in this area.

The night unfurled with Fight the Fury storming the stage, filling the already packed venue with the thunderous sounds of aggressive Heavy Metal. I was impressed at how many people were packed up against the stage barricade as the music started to saturate air. I say that because generally, the opening act for a powerhouse tour like this one, usually plays to a pretty empty venue. This phenomenon was probably due to the fact that Fight the Fury is fronted by John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet. Fight the Fury came to fruition just this past September, with their first EP being released October 26th on Atlantic Records. Skillet guitarist, Seth Morrison, joins his Skillet band mate in Fight the Fury on lead guitar as Cooper shows impressive bass expertise. I had been a little skeptical when I heard John Cooper was the front man for a new band, thinking it would be a Skillet- ish spin off. I can admit when I am wrong, and boy howdy was I wrong! John Cooper and Morrison, along with drummer Jared Ward and guitarist John Panze lll delivered an unyielding stream of brutal, mesmerizing metal. Fight the Fury is noticeably heavier in sound than Skillet, yet the messages of some of the songs parallel the mindfulness of Skillet lyrics. Listen to ‘I Cannot’ off the new EP ‘Still Breathing’ and you will understand what I mean. The only bad part about Fight the Fury’s set was it was short, and then it ended. Keep your eye on this band, go see them if you ever get the chance!

Next up was Tampa, Florida natives, Underoath, with their high energy live show. The people in attendance Saturday night were obviously Underoath fans because when the intro to ‘ihatit’ started, the crowd went cuckoo bananas! The crowd, a mixture of teenagers, soccer moms and music lover alike, about rioted when the aggression filled hate anthem ‘On My Teeth’, started. These five guys put on one phenomenal show, captivating the crowd with songs off their latest release, ‘Erase Me’. I want to mention that this tour with Breaking Benjamin is Underoath’s first big arena tour. I was shocked to find that out, due to the fact these guys present themselves on stage as if they have been doing arena shows forever!

The 3rd band, Skillet, wowed the crowd straight out of the gate by starting their set 10 minutes early. I am an avid concert goer, and I can testify that bands starting their sets early on tours is a complete anomaly. Frontman John Cooper and guitarist Seth Morrison showed zero signs that they had both just played an energy-filled set an hour before. The band completely entranced the 7000+ crowd from the moment the first chords of ‘Feel Invincible’ filled the air. Korey Cooper, the purpled haired dynamo, wife of frontman John Cooper, is an absolute powerhouse of talent. Korey plays keyboard, rhythm guitar and does backing vocals all while being constantly in motion. I was particularly in awe of her ability to headbang, her violet hair flying widely, and still not miss a note. I cannot lie, when I saw Lacey Sturm take the stage and begin to sing with John Cooper, I had a little fangirl moment. I had heard rumors that Lacey was singing with Skillet, but no one knew what stops on the tour Lacey would perform. Well, La Crosse, you all got uber lucky, because you got to experience the absolute magic that is Lacey. It was rumored that Sturm would be behind the drum kit but when she was singing opposite John Cooper, Jarob Bramlett, (drummer for The Protest) was master of the beats. Song after song, Skillet produced the musical perfection we have all come to expect.

The moment had finally come for the headliner of the tour to hit the stage. The very feeling of anticipation was palpable as Breaking Benjamin, the crème de le crème of the Alt-Rock world, took the stage and the curtain dropped. Frontman Benjamin Burnley is the kind of rock star that dreams are made of. Early in the show, Burnley, connects with his entranced audience by jumping down off the stage and singing a portion of ‘I Will Not Bow’ to the teenage girl that was pressed up against the barricade in front of the stage. Burnley didn’t miss a note as he zipped back to his rightful spot center stage. As I watched the five members of Breaking Benjamin perform their mega-hit, ‘Never Again’, I had a startling revelation, an epiphany, if you will. Breaking Benjamin is not only masterful at writing and performing their songs, but their live performance is also, in a word, magical. Burnley and his bandmates, guitarist Jasen Rauch, Keith Wallen on rhythm guitar, Aaron Bruch on bass and Shaun Foist on drums, achieve complete synergy on stage. The vivacity these guys exude during their live performance seemed to infiltrate the very souls of everyone in attendance. I was titillated when the band mixed things up about halfway through their set by gifting their audience with a tantalizing mashup that included Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman,’ ‘The Imperial March,’ ‘Cowboys from Hell,’ ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. It is my belief that every Breaking Benjamin fan experienced their favorite song performed live that night.

I can say with some certainty that all that were in attendance the La Crosse Center walked into the brisk spring night knowing they had experienced a concert that will live in their memories forever. It doesn’t matter which band the concertgoer was there to see, it’s safe to say that most attendees walked out as fans of all four bands. Each band performed their verified fan favorites during their sets, so if you didn’t hear your favorite song, you must have been in the bathroom or getting a beer. I know I had eluded to the fact that Breaking Ben seems to always be touring, and right now that is a factual statement. The current tour ends April 10th, so you still have some time to catch the current leg. I caution you to make your plans to attend a show in the immediate future, due to the fact that the band is taking a break after the last show in April.

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SKULLGURL METALCHICK