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KIWR Summer Concert Series 05/11/2018

KIWR 89.7 The River’s  Summer Concert Series
Bad Wolves, Starset, Shonedown, Five Finger Death Punch
May 11th, 2018
Westfair Amphitheater
Council Bluffs, Iowa

Rule #1 for seeing a concert at Westfair Amphitheater? Leave early. Traffic can be vulgar. What rule did I not follow? Almost an hour and a half in traffic waiting to park meant that I would miss a few of the bands performing today.
For unknown reasons, gates were opened late, and local rockers Arson City were unable to perform. As I got to the main entrance, Shaman’s Harvest had just taken the stage. They set was finished by the time I had finally made it to the back side of the fairgrounds and make the trek to Will Call.
Wading through several thousand people, I got to the stage as Bad Wolves’ set was starting. The Metal Supergroup, managed by Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch, formed in 2017 and consists of former members of some of Rock and Metal’s most prominent bands, including Snot, DevilDriver, God Forbid, Bury Your Dead, In This Moment, and Vimic.
Selecting the heaviest tracks for their set, the band did an amazing job continuing the momentum already brought by Shaman’s Harvest. As an added bonus, vocalist Tommy Vext, who once filled in for Ivan Moody as 5FDP’s touring vocalist, asked Diamante, whom he referred to as “Smurfette”, to join him on stage for the performance of Hear Me Now.
Celebrating the day before release of Disobey, their debut album, Vext thanked the crowd for their support. “Because of you, we have the #1 album in 17 countries with our first album.”
Closing their set with a cover of The Cranberries’ Zombie, Bad Wolves had the backing vocals help of about ten thousand fans.
Today’s show would mark the 2nd time Ohio natives Starset would be playing Westfair Amphitheater, and their 6th Nebraska show since their state debut in 2014. With an elaborate light and laser show, I was curious as to how well their stage show would play out on a sunny Friday night. There’s a reason this tour is dubbed Immersion: Part 1; A Starset concert encompasses every human sense. The music, the visuals, even the thrumming bass can be felt in the bone marrow. Just enough shade hung in the early evening sky that the light show did enhance the overall experience, especially as the band’s fog cannons poured into the fairground’s natural bowl.
Had today’s concert been held at an arena, I’m sure we’d have only gotten the 8-9 song setlist, but today’s Demonstration was an incredible 13 songs. The band focused their set on their current release, Vessels, and chose their heaviest tracks to play. Not only have Starset’s Demonstrations grown visually, the band also seems more comfortable on stage.  There was a genuine sense of enjoyment emanating from the stage.
There was a serious side to their performance though. Before the band’s unplugged version of Telepathic, where violinist Siobhán Cronin and cellist Jonathan Kampfe take center stage as guitarist Brock Richards switches to an acoustic guitar and bassist Ron Dechant plays keyboard, vocalist Dustin Bates reminded the crowd that too much reliance on modern technology can be dangerous.
“We have to find a healthy balance,” he told the crowd.
The power and intensity of Starset’s music transitions incredibly through their live performance. While the band’s studio tracks are very electronic in nature, there is a definite organic feel when they are played on stage.  Whether a theater show in front of 1,200 people, or an hour long outdoors event with 50,000 screaming fans, Starset are not a band that you want to miss out on.
As the sun started to fade, Shinedown’s return to Omaha was heralded by a cool breeze. It had been almost 8 years since the band had played the Omaha Metro Area, and Shinedown didn’t hold back. Fans of the band expected a high energy set full of their favorite songs, but what none of us expected what the sheer intensity of their set.
Opening with Sound of Madness, Shinedown chose their fans favorite tracks for their 13 song set. Along with an elaborately detailed light and laser show, pillars of fire burst high during several songs.
As a special treat, Council Bluffs was privileged to hear the band’s 2nd ever performance of Pyro, off of their current release Attention Attention. Giving the fans a moment to catch our collective breathes, 45 and Simple Man were performed acoustically. Shinedown closed out their set with their current single, Devil, as more jets of flame erupted from the stage and fireworks exploded above them.
While the previous bands had truly given 100% to their sets, it was obvious that the vast majority of the crowd was in attendance to see Five Finger Death Punch. It’s been a few years since 5FDP had stopped in our area, 2015’s Got Your Six Tour to be exact, and we were ready to rock out with Lords of Metal.
The band, touring in support of their upcoming And Justice For None release, may have hit some speed bumps along their journey but tonight’s show, my 6th, was one of the most powerful performances from that band that I’ve seen.
It’s incredible for me to think back to the first time I saw the band. Family Values 2007 on the festival’s 2nd stage. A little known band that thrashed a crowd of several hundred people. Flash forward 11 years and there they are in front of tens of thousands of fans screaming the words to every song. Omaha/Council Bluffs loves our rock and metal concerts and this is exactly how our Summer Concert Series was meant to be kicked off.
For over an hour 5FDP shook the rafters of Westfair with a blistering set that encompassed all but one of the band’s releases. As brutal as it was to hear Over and Under it, Jekyll and Hyde, and The Bleeding, it was the acoustic performances of Remember Everything and Wrong Side of Heaven that proved the band is more than a one-trick-pony.
There was also humor scattered throughout their set. At one point of the set, guitarist Zoltan Bathory playfully tripped vocalist Ivan Moody, who attempted to take an exaggerated half tumble.
Another moment found Moody introducing a song with “I never go looking for trouble, but trouble always finds me.” As the band played Trouble, Moody stood at bassist Chris Kael and lead guitarist Jason Hook’s mic stands, plucking their guitar pics and tossing them into the crowd all along with a playful grin on this face.
It’s shows like tonight’s that remind me how much fun concerts are meant to be, especially when the bands are having as much fun as the fans are.

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