Wednesday night, rock n’ roll fans of all ages came out for the third annual “Carnival of Madness” tour at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. Just before doors opened, the parking lot was filled with tailgaters, as the line to enter the venue grew more and more and the seats soon began to fill in the amphitheater. While the show’s opener, New Medicine, took the stage, I was backstage, interviewing Halestorm’s Arejay Hale and Josh Smith. The tour, being sponsored by Monster Energy Drink, offered fans a unique opportunity to meet some of their favorite artists, including Evanescence and Chevelle.
Following New Medicine’s set was Cavo, a post grunge band from St. Louis. Their latest album, “Thick as Thieves” was released earlier this year. While their music was mostly unfamiliar to the crowd, their set was enjoyable. Closing with their radio single, “Champagne”, the group left the stage and the anticipation in the crowd built as they awaited Halestorm’s performance.
Other than being one of the last shows of this tour, this show was a big accomplishment for Halestorm in another sense. Before they went on, they had found out that their latest album, “The Strange Case of… Halestorm” had sold 100,000 copies. Halestorm took the stage with their ever-so energetic drummer, Arejay, running across the stage donning a skeleton bandana, throwing picks to the crowd as the rest of the band joined him in their Billboard #1 Active Rock song, “Love Bites (So Do I)”, heading right into “Mz. Hyde”. Lzzy Hale’s voice is a powerhouse, which especially got the crowd moving during their anthem for the abnormal – “Freak Like Me”. As Arejay, Joe and Josh left the stage, Lzzy took her place by the piano for the ballad, “Break In”. The crowd roared with excited screams and applause as Lzzy was joined by tour-mate Amy Lee of Evanescence for a truly breathtaking duet.
Anybody who loves music with all of their heart would be the first to tell you that a concert is one of the places where you can truly feel alive – just letting loose and leaving all your problems at the turnstiles, a true escape for just a few hours. That’s what it felt like when Halestorm got into “Rock Show”, a song that will send chills through any music lover’s body. But they wouldn’t stop the rock there, going into “You Call Me a Bitch Like It’s a Bad Thing”, the band created a spectacle with Lzzy and Joe dueling guitars. They then closed their set with their power-ballad “Here’s To Us”. Earlier this year, the song was featured on Glee, and as such it may be the band’s most well-known song. Lzzy held up her drink as her brother got the crowd’s arms swaying back and forth as the song began. Lzzy and the band gave 110% in their performance, from their crowd interactions (handing out picks and drinks to front row fans), to their spot-on playing, just like the record.
Chevelle were the next to hit the stage. With a huge stage setup – which included a giant bull, several rugs, a theater-style backdrop, and strobe lighting, the crowd expected an excellent performance from them. While fans of the band immensely enjoyed the performance, several parts of the crowd left the amphitheater during their set because, although their set-up was incredible, their performance was subpar - complete with a lackluster stage presence that left some having trouble paying attention.
The moment we were all waiting for was Evanescence’s headlining set. Opening with the flashing lights and drum solo by drummer Will Hunt, as Amy Lee took the stage and enchanted the audience with some of the group’s heavier songs, such as “What You Want”, “Going Under” and “The Other Side”. It didn’t take them long to get to the classic, piano based songs that Evanescence is known for, as Amy Lee took her seat. Not only is her live voice perfectly dead-on, she is a pro at tickling the ivories. She spoke to the crowd playfully and childlike and, like the bands that performed before her, thanked the crowd, “You all know too well without you guys, we wouldn’t be up her playing, so thank you so much.”
When they performed their Top 40 radio hits, “Call Me When Your Sober” and “Bring Me to Life”, the crowd erupted, singing along to every line, most even belting out the lyrics mimicking Amy’s style.
The band then left the stage, and came back dedicating their next song, “Disappear” to the audience. They closed the show with the somber, bone-chilling ballad, “My Immortal”, which was so beautifully overwhelming; it left some audience members in tears.
The Carnival of Madness came to a close yesterday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, but it was surely the show of the summer for rock n’ roll.