Over a decade ago, I discovered Skillet nationally recognized at an outdoor festival. Sunday’s show was my tenth live experience with Skillet. But, my first as a headliner away from the summer festival scene. What normally surrounds me at their shows is 5,000 to 15,000 faithful fans outside. But, this concert, a date on the band's The Victorious Tour, was different.
The iconic Fillmore Silver Spring in Silver Springs, Maryland is a smaller venue: quite personal and vivid with its own unique energy. Only nine years old, the Fillmore has a max capacity of 2,000. On this oddly warm March evening, the venue nearly earned a "sold out" tag. Faithful fans flooded the main level, crowding into the balcony level bleachers and chairs.
I arrived an hour prior (the doors were set to open early for VIP ticket holders). What I love to see during an early arrival are diehard fans. This time, at least 10 early birds sat on the sidewalk. They were not only the first in the meet-and-greet line but eager to snag a barrier spot–front row–for the show.
I loved how the team behind the band set up the show: VIP experiences, merch, everything encapsulated with touring is run at a top-notch level. Fast forward to the concert experience itself.
I was one of the fortunate ones to snag a nearly center, front row space to camp out for the next three and a half hours. Just before the 7:00 P.M. start, the anxious crowd of rockers, young and old, blurted out a chant repeating, “LEDGER. LEDGER. LEDGER."
The energetic 30-year-old bounced onto the stage, opening with the lines of a familiar song, “Iconic.” Rarely standing still from moment to moment, LEDGER navigated the small stage space with precision, surrounded by equipment poised to entertain for the remaining two acts.
In-between songs and sometimes directed at specific fans, LEDGER throws up the hand gesture for “rock on.” She was warmly welcomed by the crowd. It’s almost seen as a sign of appreciation in the genre these days.
Highlights from the set included several unreleased tracks, such as “Rampage,” “Goner,” and “Cosmic.” For the majority, this was the first time fans were treated with a live performance of her recent single, “My Arms.” LEDGER didn’t disappoint as the range in her vocals were greeted with a heightened level of applause and cheers. A favorite off of her only release, “Not Dead Yet” closed out the set and prepped the masses for the next band, Ashes to New.
From Ashes to New
After a 10 to 15 intermission for a quick set change, From Ashes to New hit the stage in a cloud of smoke, opening up with “Broken.” From the jump, the passion for music from the band lead Matt Brandyberry and vocalist Danny Case was quite apparent. The trade-off between rapping and edgy, harmonic screams was chemistry for ignition for the crowd as hit after hit echoed from the stage.
The opener was followed by tracks, such as “My Fight,” “Panic,” and “My Name.” The 11-track set, at times, sounded like an ode to Linkin Park, mixed with the emotions explained behind the music finalized with heavy guitar riffs and screams of artistic depth. Ashes to New was a solid lead way into Skillet’s finale.
Once From Ashes to New wrapped up, an extended set change followed, clearing the stage except for all things Skillet. Smoke-filled cryo effects. Check. LEDGER’s canvas of snares, bass, and cymbals. Check. Hydraulic lifts. Check. Minus the obvious lack of pyrotechnics due to the inside, secluded venue, the scene was set for 90 minutes of classic rock-n-roll spanning over the last decade of Skillet’s discography.
The 19-song setlist included hits from six different albums and a cover of Eleanor Hull's classic hymn, “Be Thou My Vision." A handful of standout moments: a LEDGER drum solo before rocking out to “Save Me,” an acapella version of a worship cover and “Stars (Acoustic),” as well as a performance of “Savior" from their Collide album nearly 15 years ago.
Lead singer John Cooper addressed the crowd in short instances either about his faith, the adventures of touring, or how much energy he’s receiving from the fans. In all honesty, I think the majority of fans were Panheads (diehard Skillet fans); They echoed back lyrics song after song, as well as surfed the crowd during the fast-tempo songs.
In true iconic rock-n-roll fashion, there was an encore song to end the night. Compiled together, Skillet’s set should’ve pleased the masses of Panheads, regardless of location.
A wide variety of songs covered. A mixture of classics. A solo from everyone’s favorite drummer (ahem, LEDGER). It was a night of rock I won’t soon forget. The concert was filled with a cohesive vibe of classics iconic enough to please a room of 2,000 or 20,000.
Regardless of the number, Panheads know their band’s discography as if it were the ABCs. Fill a room of faithful, dedicated fans ranging from children to seniors and the soundtrack of the night will remain on your heart for weeks to come.
Joshua Galla is an avid hip-hop head always hip to the latest releases while enjoying the classics. Music is his passion and escapes from the mundane.
(Image: Mary Nikkel Photography)
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