A report from Day 1 of first-year hard-rock festival Las Rageous, held at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center Friday, April 21, and Saturday, April 22.
Killswitch Engage There were so many fans packed in front of the second stage that the space felt a little cramped, but that kept the energy high, and the band reciprocated the fans’ enthusiasm. Opening with “Hate by Design,” off last year’s excellent Incarnate, Killswitch ran through 12 songs in less than an hour, spanning its entire career. Although original singer Jesse Leach has been back in the band for two albums now, previous singer Howard Jones’ work still makes an impact, and the Jones-era hit “The End of Heartache” scored easily the biggest crowd response of the set.
The second biggest came when Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna showed up for a set-closing cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver,” another song from the band’s Jones period, when it was an unlikely radio hit. The two groups are on tour together, bridging metal generations, and the collaboration was a nice demonstration of what Las Rageous could bring to the hard rock community if it proves an ongoing success.
Coheed and Cambria The prog-leaning band’s ethereal, often lengthy songs might have been a bit too esoteric for the beer-drinking Las Rageous crowd, which was relatively thin in front of the main stage, even compared to the prior main-stage act, generic metalcore band Of Mice & Men. If the band members noticed, though, they didn’t let on, keeping the entire focus on the music (frontman Claudio Sanchez didn’t speak, aside from a quick “thank you” at the end of the set). Beyond some vaguely trippy videos, there wasn’t anything in the set to indicate the intricate, ongoing storyline in Coheed’s music, delivered in multi-part concept albums (although the band’s latest, 2015’s The Color Before the Sun, isn’t part of that narrative).
Instead there was a pretty straightforward rock show, occasionally meandering but mostly focused, with some strong guitar work from Sanchez and Travis Stever. Sanchez impressively wielded a double-necked guitar on set closer “Welcome Home,” and earlier in the set the catchy riffs of “Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood & Burial)” were another highlight. Perhaps even more impressive was Sanchez singing from behind his massive mane, which sometimes covered his entire face and made him look like The Addams Family’s Cousin Itt fronting a rock band.
Anthrax The veteran thrash metal band has experienced a bit of a resurgence lately, and it held up nicely against the mostly younger bands in the rest of the festival lineup. Unlike Killswitch Engage, Anthrax doesn’t bother with music from the period when its current singer was out of the band, so the set was split between songs from the ’80s albums fronted by Joey Belladonna, and the two recorded since his return to the band in 2010. Belladonna’s voice sounded strong on all of the songs, and fairly recent addition Jonathan Donais (formerly of Shadows Fall) on guitar has added an extra spark to the band’s live performances.
The many fans who cut out early to stake out their spots at the main stage for Godsmack missed a powerful rendition of “Breathing Lightning” from last year’s For All Kings, as well as classic set closer “Indians.” Thankfully, one holdover from the ’80s that the band has dropped (despite its presence at concerts up to a few years ago) is Belladonna stalking the stage in full Native American regalia during that song. Anthrax remains a classic band, but some things are better left in the past.
Godsmack It’s sort of amazing that what started out as a watered-down Alice in Chains knockoff has been one of the biggest bands in hard rock for nearly 20 years (bigger, probably, than the current version of Alice in Chains). Godsmack is still more or less a watered-down Alice in Chains knockoff, as demonstrated by a set that drew fairly evenly from all of the Boston band’s albums. This is, after all, a band whose two earliest hits are “Keep Away” and a song that repeats “go away” in its chorus; not exactly the most creative songwriters.
The performance was also full of blatant audience pandering, although at least that paid off in a way at the end: Early in the set, frontman Sully Erna pointed out UFC president Dana White in the audience—and not ensconced in some VIP area, but right there at the front of the general admission crowd. After the band closed with “I Stand Alone” and the crowd started filing out, Erna rushed back to the stage, checking if his microphone was still on, and announced that White had promised to donate $10,000 to Godsmack’s favorite charity if the band would perform its version of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way.” Sure, both that song and the band’s inexplicably popular take on The Beatles’ “Come Together” are awful bludgeonings of rock 'n' roll classics, but at least some deserving organization got some money out of it.