Breaking Benjamin at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI

Multi-platinum rockers Breaking Benjamin blows away fans in support of Ember album with support from Chevelle, Three Days Grace, Dorothy, and Diamante.

Blue-haired Diamante gets the show off to a great start with a short, but energetic set. Some of the songs include “War Cry” from Coming In Hot and “Hear Me Now.” The latter was a rock radio hit for Bad Wolves that featured Diamante on vocals. The fans who have arrived early love it. After the set, Diamante can be found greeting fans around the outdoor venue. She has certainly gained some new fans tonight.

Next up is blues rocker Dorothy from Los Angeles. They also play a brief set, but it captures the crowd’s attention from the opening riffs of “Naked Eye” and into “Raise Hell” from the 2016 album Rockisdead. Lead vocalist Dorothy Martin has a killer voice and her silver outfit that looks like a mirror ball has all eyes on her. She works the stage, thrashing her hair around, using the mic stand to steady herself as she leans way back, and even throws in some kicks. The set also includes “Flawless” and “Who Do You Love” from 28 Days in the Valley. “Flawless” really shows off Dorothy’s vocals with some soaring highs along with some raspy delivery.  Dorothy and her bandmates certainly deserve to go that next level. They close out the set with “Down to the Bottom” and “Freedom.”  

Canadian rockers Three Days Grace are no strangers around these parts with the border only about 90 minutes south of Clarkston. They have been cranking out great rock music for over 15 years and have several gold and platinum albums to their credit. The pavilion and lawn are getting packed now as they take the stage and get things started with “The Mountain” from current album Outsider. Several of their popular songs have the crowd moving and singing along including “Home,” “The Good Life” from Life Starts Now, and “Pain” from One-X

Drummer Neil Sanderson is up high on a platform. Guitarist Barry Stock provides the catchy riffs on the songs, while bassist Brad Walst lays down the bass groove and his brother Matt provides the vocals and also guitar on some songs. Matt is very active, roaming from side to side, using platforms up front, and also jumping up and down and getting the fans moving too. New song “Infra-Red” from Outsider keeps things cranking and then one of their most popular songs, “I Hate Everything About You,” has just about everyone singing. If the fans weren’t already jacked up, “Animal I Have Become” takes them to another level and has the whole venue rocking. They close out their hit-packed set with “Never Too Late” and “Riot”.  

Hailing from Grayslake, IL, Chevelle have been putting out one great album after another for 20 years. They are regulars on the spring and summer rock festivals and have a huge following. What is amazing with this band is they are only a three-piece, but sound so much bigger when playing live and even on their albums. Led by lead vocalist and guitarist Pete Loeffler, they get it started with “Young Wicked” from 2006 album The North Corridor. Pete lets out some of his harsh screams on this song, while his brother Sam pounds the drums and bassist Dean Bernardini provides the solid bottom end punch. The grinding song “The Clincher” is followed by “Jars” from Sci-fi Crimes. The opening notes of “Send the Pain Below” has fans up and singing along. This song hit #1 way back in 2003 and continues to be a fan favorite in their live shows.

Another #1 rock hit, “Take Out the Gunman”, keeps the momentum going. Most of the songs are familiar to the crowd and they respond with loud applause after each. “An Island” and “Door to Door Cannibals” may not have gotten the airplay of other songs, but they are still hard-rocking and have that familiar Chevelle sound. Getting back to the hits, “Face to the Floor” from Hats Off to the Bull once again has the fans amped. Going back to the 2002 album Wonder What’s Next, they play one of their earliest hits “The Red” that has the fans engaged and singing. They close it out with another radio hit “I Get It” from Vena Sara. It is yet another solid show by these rock veterans.

Finally, the time has come for headliner Breaking Benjamin to take the stage. A white curtain hangs in front of the stage. It drops and they kick things off with “Red Cold River” from their current release Ember. The crowd responds with deafening cheers. The stage is densely lit, mostly in red, with stairs on either side of drummer Shaun Foist’s platform, leading to a second tier. A backdrop of the cover of Ember hangs at the back of the stage. Lead singer Benjamin Burnley works the whole stage from side to side. He has quite a large presence at 6′ 4″ and his vocal performance is spot on with the sound dialed in tight.

The setlist tonight spans all of their studio albums. With a plethora of great songs to choose from, fans are in for a treat tonight. “I Will Not Bow” from Dear Agony keeps the fans fired up. It is followed by two more fans favorites, “Never Again” from Dark Before Dawn and “Breath” from the 2006 release Phobia. Guitarists Keith Wallen and Jasen Rauch are ripping it up and bassist Aaron Bruch provides the driving bass. Then they go all the way back to 2002 for two songs from Saturate; “Sugarcoat” and a setlist staple “Polyamorous.”

Benjamin declares himself a nerd as they launch into a heavy version of “The Imperial March” from Star Wars. Benjamin is playing drums up front that are surrounded by what look like lightsabers. They continue with a medley of songs that have fans bouncing including “Cowboys from Hell,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Enter Sandman.” They then tear into a great full cover of the Rage Against The Machine classic “Bulls on Parade.” Following this, Shaun plays a drum solo.

Fans who have paid for special packages are on shorter platforms on either side of the stage. Band members frequently give them fist pumps and Benjamin even spends the whole “Sooner or Later” song with them on their platform. It must be quite a thrill for these diehard fans. The packed venue is a mix of fans old and new and many younger fans are here with their parents. It’s cool to see these younger fans keeping rock alive. Judging by the crowd size and their reactions to all of the bands, rock and roll is certainly far from dead.

Keeping things moving along, they play the radio hit “Blow Me Away” that has many singing along as they have to almost all of the songs tonight. “Tourniquet” from the latest release finds Benjamin in the pit getting up close to fans in the first few rows. They love it. Slowing things down a bit, they take it back to the 2004 album We Are Not Alone and play one of their earliest hits “So Cold.” Another radio hit, “Angels Fall” from Dark Before Dawn gets huge cheers and has fans raising their arms to flash their horns.

After “Dance With the Devil” and “Failure,” Benjamin takes some time to chat with the fans. He talks about listening to Nirvana and getting his first guitar back when he was 14-15. He also describes getting his first tattoo at age 15 at Hub’s Tattoo in some trailer park. A story about getting fat from eating Lucky Charms, ribs, and Chick-fil-A while on tour gets some laughs from the crowd. A fan in the crowd even has a baggie full of Lucky Charms and passes it up to Benjamin, but he declines to eat any. They close out the main portion of the set with the heavy song “Torn in Two.”

Returning to the stage they play “Rain” and close out the evening with one of their most popular songs “Diary of Jane.” The crowd shows their appreciation with whistles, clapping, and cheers. It is one great night of music by Breaking Benjamin and the other four bands.

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About Gary Pahlow 62 Articles
Gary is located in Rochester Hills, MI and has been officially photographing and writing concert reviews since early 2016. His main music interests are metal and hard rock, but he is also a fan of most genres including alternative, indie, jazz, and even some pop and country. When not covering or attending concerts, you can find him traveling with his wife or watching the Detroit Red Wings.

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