There was a crispness in the air on Friday, October 11th, with the near-full moon watching over SLU's Chaifetz Arena as lines of fans wended their way into the venue for a night of hard rock and heavy messages. Chicago-born rockers Disturbed brought their “Evolution” tour down the road into St. Louis, with an incredible display of showmanship and musical ability.
The night started with a set from Los Angeles-based metal act In This Moment, on a stage that couldn't have been more appropriate to the Halloween season. With the gothic spires and emblems all around the stage, Maria Brink and her band of glaring, snarling friends – Chris Howorth and Randy Weitzel on guitars, Travis Johnson on bass, and Kent Diimmel behind the kit, along with a trio of dancers working with Brink collectively called the Blood Girls – brought the dark beauty of Tim Burton-meets-Edgar Allan Poe to the stage, merged with the sounds of gritty, raw, throat-ripping metal for their “Mother's House of Horrors” tour. Opening with a nearly-unrecognizable but oh-so-good rendition of the Steve Miller Band's “Fly Like an Eagle” and soaring from there, the band didn't let off the gas at all. Working the stage like a diaphanous spirit with hair flowing everywhere as if on its own during “River of Fire,” Brink commanded the attention of the audience with her performance as well as her presence.
After “Big Bad Wolf,” (a personal favorite, which should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me…or anyone that can see my branding on the photos!), “Natural Born Sinner” and “Legacy” were next on the bill. The opening set closed out with a double punch of “Blood” and In This Moment's other Gold-certified single who, for the sake of publication standards, I can't name here. But there's no questioning that, for all the production and flash you see on stage, In This Moment has the substance to back it up. When the rubber meets the road, they have the horsepower to quiet any challengers.
When the smoke (or cryo fog, at least) cleared, the stage was set…and mostly cleared as well. Disturbed's stage for this tour comprised multiple step-down levels that covered roughly two-thirds the length of the arena floor, an arrowhead stabbing into the crowd. With Mike Wengren's drum kit set up on the upper-most dais, demanding attention while Dan Donegan on guitar and John Moyer on bass flanked frontman David Draiman as they moved all around the wide open spaces, the band was able to play to all sides of arena (except directly behind the stage; it wasn't quite in-the-round). Opening up the show with “Are You Ready” before going into “Prayer” and “The Vengeful One,” Draiman and crew came out swinging at the bell, and kept punching up the whole night.
Hit single “Stupify” gave way to a blazing guitar solo before moving on to hear “Voices.” Draiman worked the front line of the crowd like the professional he is, singing to and with audience members and pulling them into the show. Diving into their cover of Genesis's “Land of Confusion” and then on to the heart-tugging “Hold On To Memories.” You might think that's an odd term to use for a Disturbed song, but listen to the track if you don't know it, and then imagine it live, with that powerful voice, talking about lost friends, family, and punctuated with photos and great memories scrolling on the screen behind the band.
After Wengren and Moyer had their turns on the solo front, it was time for “Ten Thousand Fists” in the air, with the rebellious anthem landing just right in the crowd at Chaifetz. Following this up was “The Game” and “No More” before a moving video about the need to fight against addiction and depression prefaced a moment on stage that should be seared into the minds of everyone present. Draiman pulled a young woman on stage that he had met earlier at their VIP event and, with her permission, read a letter she had given, talking about her own struggles in the past and how music, especially Disturbed's, helped get her through those times and on to a successful career. “A Reason to Fight” was the theme of the video, the moral of the letter, and the song that followed, and it's a message that so many more people need to hear. (I'm going to add a personal note here: I've been doing work recently with the Adams County Suicide Prevention Coalition, so this topic was very fresh and timely to me, as well as sitting alongside the loss of an acquaintance to suicide just a few months ago. I don't generally make statements like this in my reviews, but please, if you need help, reach out.)
The show-stopping performance of “The Sound of Silence” delivered exactly what you would expect: A breathtaking moment from Draiman and the entire band, with additional musicians onstage to amplify the experience. I don't think it's a stretch to say there were likely some members of the audience that bought their tickets just for this moment, and I would also say they certainly got their money's worth. After “Indestructible,” the band kicked in to “Inside the Fire,” bringing what I have to say may be one of the coolest pyrotechnic displays I've seen in a while (and that's saying something!). Along with the jets of flame at the back of the stage, burning ropes of some type dropped from the lighting rigs and standing posts of fire came up from the stage, meaning the three mobile members of the band spent the song weaving their way through a forest of flames on stage. These words just don't do justice to the visual spectacle.
The night wrapped up with a three-song encore, starting with “The Light” and going into “Stricken” before another fan-favorite track blasted out: “Down With the Sickness,” with that trademark Draiman vocal sound that's known so well. By the end of the show, the crowd was still screaming at the top of their lungs, ready for more and soaking it all in, even as the house lights came up. It was a show that proves behind any doubt that metal music had a heart that often dwarves even the biggest of sounds.