Breaking Benjamin

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author AP date 06/09/17 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

Despite the fact that Breaking Benjamin has been churning out popular post-grunge since the turn of the century, the Wilkes-Barre, PA-based outfit had never toured outside of the U.S. before last summer. The reason for this is that frontman Benjamin Burnley suffers from a variety of phobias including fear of flying, and the band’s record label was unwilling to facilitate traveling by boat until the likes of Download Festival, Rock am Ring and Nova Rock Festival managed to change its mind. And it would seem that those opportunities proved to be lucrative, because hardly a year had passed before a full European tour was announced to take place in the autumn of 2017 — one which would include Breaking Benjamin’s first-ever concert on Danish soil. Having enjoyed plenty of airplay on Denmark’s myROCK radio channel over the past few years, the show at Amager Bio was expectedly completely sold out months in advance and as one of the bigger rock- and metal-focused medias in the country, we of course needed to be there to witness the début.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Breaking Benjamin

Arriving at the venue some 15 minutes late due to having misplaced my earplugs, I am met by the sound of virtually the entire crowd singing the chorus of “Never Again” back at Burnley, and struck by what must be one of the best sound mixes I have experienced at ‘Bio to date. The vocals, guitar, bass and drums all come through with incredible clarity, yet at the same time, there is no lack of oomph in the low end — which is so crucial in this genre lest it end up sounding like the worst of chart music. In general, the concert lacks that excessive mainstream feeling that you would expect on the basis of Breaking Benjamin’s two most recent albums, 2015’s “Dark Before Dawn” and 2009’s “Dear Agony”, with even the likes of “Failure”, which has been drained of its appeal by endless spins on myROCK, delivered in a more convincing, heavier rendition than usual. The show is also devoid of corny remarks and hackneyed crowd-control techniques, facilitating a serious atmosphere helped along by the moody, elegant lighting.

One of the upsides of the attention shown to Breaking Benjamin by Danish radio is that almost every song enjoys a strong response from the audience. With the baffling exception of “Polyamorous” — one of the heaviest picks from the band’s discography and a personal favourite of mine — the thousand attendees are constantly pumping their fists, jumping up and down and stumbling over each other to sing the words to songs like “Ashes of Eden” and “Evil Angel” the loudest. And the band seems genuinely taken aback by the warm welcome, playing the tracks with extra energy and nerve, and repaying their fans keeping faith with a presence that is oddly intimate considering the size of the venue. The production does include ramps and pedestals, and these are put to good use by the various musicians. But none of it feels like compensating for not having the depth of song-writing or skill of musicianship to win over an audience otherwise.

The only hitch to how smoothly the show has been running arrives with a completely unnecessary intermezzo, during which the five members take turns as the lead musician in a medley covering bits of “The Imperial March”, Tool’s “Schism”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Pantera’s “Walk”, Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” and Metallica’s “Sad But True”. By doing this, the band no doubt hopes to showcase some of the influences that lie behind their music, but when the show has been timeboxed to one and a half hours, the inevitable consequence is that a number of revered cuts from Breaking Benjamin’s repertoire have been left out. After this pointless sidetracking, the band redeems itself, first with a bruising take on “Until the End” and since, in the encore, with a chilling rendition of “The Diary of Jane” (both off their celebrated 2006-outing, “Phobia”), which expectedly has the entire room booming, ”Something’s getting in the way / Something’s just about to break / I will try to find my place / In the diary of Jane”.

The song provides the perfect conclusion to a concert that, in many ways, justifies the long wait that Breaking Benjamin’s Danish fans have had to endure. It seems that they can breathe easy now though, as Burnley makes heavy insinuations that once the band’s sixth studio album arrives later this year, they have plans in place to cross the pond again. And judging by the support witnessed tonight, a certain metal festival taking place in Copenhagen next summer might not be the worst bet for ‘Benjamin’s sophomore performance in Denmark.

7

Setlist:

  • 01. So Cold
  • 02. Angels Fall
  • 03. Sooner or Later
  • 04. Blow Me Away
  • 05. Never Again
  • 06. Failure
  • 07. Believe
  • 08. Medley of “The Imperial March”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Bulls on Parade”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Walk” and “Sad Bud True”
  • 09. Polyamorous
  • 10. Ashes of Eden
  • 11. Until the End
  • 12. Drum solo
  • 13. Evil Angel
  • 14. I Will Not Bow

— Encore —

  • 15. The Diary of Jane

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