Three Days Grace at The Save On Memorial

Photos by Casey Bennett

One of the most striking things about the debut concert of Three Days Grace’s newest national tour was not the music per se, but rather the empty seats. The floor section was full, but only about half the rafters were occupied. Nearly five full sections, the better part of a thousand chairs, sat unfilled. Whatever the reason, be it the recession, end of semester schedules, or the torrential downpour that had oppressed the city most of the day, the three bands in attendance didn’t seem to notice, and put on a surprisingly spirited show.

Vancouver band Default opened with a set of a about a half dozen songs, including past hits “Wasting My Time,” and “Deny,” as well as material off their newest album, Comes and Goes. While fans in certain sections complained about the lackluster P.A. system that left lead singer Dallas Smith’s vocals in the dark, it was quickly evened out and the band finished their set with high energy.

There was a time, back around Taste of Chaos 2005, that Bert McCracken simply couldn’t do live what he could on an album. It’s no surprise given the time that’s passed, but his voice has gotten a lot stronger. The audio issues that began with Default continued into the beginning of The Used’s set, and for the first few songs McCracken’s improved vocals were hidden behind a wailing wall of vicious post-hardcore guitar, but (again) it was quickly evened out and the band got on with what turned out to be an incredibly well chosen set list. Despite not having the luxury of a headliner’s stage time, The Used managed to touch on the highpoints of each of their four full length albums, with surprising attention paid to their older material. Song highlights included “The Taste of Ink,” “Buried Myself Alive,” “Blood on My Hands,” “Pretty Handsome Awkward,” “Take it Away,” and “A Box Full of Sharp Objects.”

2004 may have seen the peak of The Used’s popularity with In Love and Death, but this was the best I’ve heard from the band, playing the finest songs they have, and was a definite treat for long time fans as well as new ones.

Three Days GraceA quick turnover between bands, and Three Days Grace started their set with the most ingenious, yet somewhat sneaky way I’ve ever seen a band pump up the crowd. They turned off all the lights in the arena and played “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” maybe the best and most underplayed of all of Johnny Cash’s songs. It was brilliant.

The band came on stage wearing black, from head to toe, and looked like they just hopped out of Rancid’s “Time Bomb” video. They started the show with “Break,” the up-tempo single from their newest album, Life Starts Now and whatever sound issues the two previous bands had must have been well under control by this point because the quality was dead on. The music geek in me delighted at the fact that Three Days Grace really began the song by blowing a little silver whistle into the microphone and I want to stress how good the sound was, because it was easily one of the most ‘true to the album’ efforts I’ve seen live.

It wasn’t long into the set, which quickly included their hit song “Pain,” when a half dozen pillars of searing flame erupted from the stage, roaring fifty feet into the air and literally burning the eyebrows off Casey, my photographer. The heat slapped me in the face from a hundred meters away and as I peered into the crowd, a boy who couldn’t have been more than eight years old wore industrial sized ear muffs which covered half his head, all the while hardcore dancing with his dad a ways back from the stage.
About halfway through their set, the stage darkened and drummer Neil Sanderson began a nearly five minute drum solo accompanied by subtle guitar harmonies. Halfway through, the platform he was playing on began to rotate. It was unexpected to say the least, but very well done and I was giddy when he included more and more double-kick near the end.

When Sanderson finished his awesome little intermission, the spotlight switched to the back of the arena where vocalist Adam Gontier had relocated. He sung the first verse to the next song while hopping energetically through the crowd on his venture back to the stage.

They played “Home,” and the flames erupted again, this time in bursts synchronized with the flashing stage lights.

They continued with “Riot,” and “I Hate Everything About You,” before announcing that they would be playing their last song, “Never Too Late,” though they barely went a minute before they began their “encore,” which ended with One-X stand-out “The Animal I Have Become.”

While the music was tight and the set was strong, the band’s verbal dynamic was lacking. There was no real attempt to engage on a personal level, instead Gontier resorted to clichéd rock concert phrases and said “Victoria” a lot. They also played a thoroughly uninspired cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” which lacked the irresistible groove of the original and the post-grunge edge that is distinctive of Three Days Grace songs. It fell flat in the middle of an otherwise dynamic set. The clearly rehearsed nature of the “encore” (it even had its own choreographed fire geysers) seemed a little fake, but the fans got more music so I doubt many of them minded.

All in all, a solid arena rock show that will likely only get better as the tour gets a few more dates under its belt.