Music Reviews — 10 August 2010
A Concert Review: The Carnival of Madness

The Carnival of Madness Tour 2010
Shinedown, Chevelle, Puddle of Mudd, Sevendust, 10 Years
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
August 5, 2010

The number of modern rock acts with the ability to sell out a 10,000 plus seat venue in 2010 can be counted on less than ten fingers.  Thus promoters have come up with festival concepts to stack different bands together in a lineup for an affordable price in an effort to sell more tickets during a sluggish time for live music.  A humid and muggy early evening in August played host to The Carnival of Madness Tour- 5 bands, endless sponsor promotion, and a ticket price of $32.50 for mezzanine level seating- in New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center, a short drive outside of Manhattan.  While the water views at the Nikon Amphitheater at Jones Beach are breathtaking, they do not serve alcohol on premises making the drive out to Jersey that much more essential.

The venue itself is an interesting one.  Originally built in 1968, and host to countless legendary performers like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and Cher (yep.), the outdoor venue has two massive parking lots out front, separated by a long grass mall, and several other satellite parking lots offering school bus transportation to and from the venue’s gates.  Our ticket showed a start time of 5:00pm, and just like clockwork, at 4:58 opening band, Knoxville Tennessee’s 10 Years, made their way to center stage.  Dressed shirtless, but covered by a hooded winter coat, the band paraded around the stage for an even thirty minutes to rock favorites “Wasteland,” “Beautiful,” and the newest single from their forthcoming August release, “Shoot It Out.”  Unfortunately, the show from Mohegan Sun the night before must have taken a toll on vocalist Jesse Hasek’s voice, because he struggled to hit his notes throughout the performance, even though the band sounded tight overall.  Since the band took the stage so early, guitarist Ryan “Tater” Johnson was able to leave the stage and run through the crowd and throughout the out the amphitheater’s different concourses, which was fun to see up close.

Blog: Carnival of Madness

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Sevendust was the second band to take the stage, which admittedly was a bit of a surprise considering they are currently touring on the release of their eighth album, Cold Day Memory.  Other than Shinedown, they were the other band that we were waiting to see and even though they played for only thirty minutes, they did not disappoint.  Their set was a bit surprising as well, considering they opened with the first track (“Splinter”) from their new album, but did not play any of their newly released radio singles.  Moreover, with such a short set they decided to bring out two stools for a mostly acoustic performance of “Angel’s Son,” which felt a little bit out of place for the allotted time given.  Sevendust closed the show with a headbanging rendition of “Face to Face,” that may have converted any doubters of this band with that one lone song.  Pound for pound, their live act is second to none and Sevendust may have delivered the best performance on the whole bill, even though many fans had not yet arrived to watch them.

Puddle of Mudd was up next, and had slightly more time with the live crowd- probably around 40 minutes, in which they tore through hits like “Control,” “Spaceship,” “Blurry,” and “Psycho,” where they brought about 8 young children from the audience on stage and paraded around with them.  However, they closed their set with a completely uninspired version of “She Hates Me.”  The live crowd was waiting to explode during the song, but frontman Wes Scantlin opted to simply play the song and immediately exit the stage without so much as a thank you to the New Jersey faithful.  A notable from their set however, was a dynamite cover of AC/DC’s “T.N.T.,” which the crowd decisively ate up.

While the road crew was taking down and setting up the stage for the next act, the monitors aired interactive texting games (which almost certainly results in mass spam text messages), featuring three of the bands on the bill, as well as videos by similar artists not on the show- i.e. a ton of Saliva, Halestorm, and Theory of a Deadman songs.  It most certainly became annoying by the time the last two bands performed.

Vastly underrated and up second-to-last, was Chicago’s three piece band, Chevelle.  Given right around an hour and tasked with performing as day turned into night at the mostly outdoor venue, Chevelle opened up hard with “The Clincher,” “Jars,” and “Send the Pain Below,” which reached number one on the modern rock and mainstream rock charts when released as a single in 2003.  As the humidity continued to plague the crowd, Chevelle’s performance kept everyone bobbing their heads and as they weaved in and out of singles like “Vitamin R,” “The Red” (which got a huge pop from the crowd), and “Letter From a Thief.”  By the time they had closed their pulverizing set with “I Get It,” from 2007’s Vena Sera, the band received an extended standing ovation, indicating that perhaps the crowd was finally recognizing the talented trio’s efforts for the greater part of a decade.

As the headlining act, Shinedown took the stage at around 9:10pm to a raucous ovation from the large crowd.  Initially they appeared as a silhouette behind a massive curtain which was to be pulled down abruptly as the band launched into the title track from their 2008 release “The Sound of Madness.”  The stage was equipped with 14 oddly arranged flat screen televisions and a large video board along the back of the stage, all of which fed into each other cohesively contributing to each song played.  Frontman Brent Smith’s wardrobe, attempting to re-create the Mad Hatter, looked more like a conglomeration of Meatloaf wearing one of Elton John’s tacky jackets.

While the stage setup looked fantastic, the constant dialogue in between songs became tiresome as the minutes used to filibuster would have been better utilized to play more music.  Furthermore, Smith followed 10 Years’ suit and attempted to run into the crowd and around the concourses, only the venue was packed at this point and roughly ten minutes were wasted in attempting to “pump-up” the crowd up close, as the crowd began to pile into the concourse as a blockade.  The idea was nice, but ultimately the act fell flat and was quite frankly stale.  As a legitimate Shinedown fan and as a writer who has seen them in concert several times before, the most disappointing portion of the show however became the fact that Smith simply was unable to hit the high notes that he so perfectly does in studio.  The vocal track that he was singing over became completely noticeable during “I Dare You” (the third song in the set), as Smith struggled on his own to hit the notes in the verse, but somehow miraculously managed to sing the pitch of the chorus to studio-like perfection.  The show was tainted for me from this point on as I watched one of my favorite modern bands and had to wonder how many songs they were essentially lip synching to.

Regardless, the hour and forty minute set was solid if not spectacular, mixing in a B-Side (how does a band with just three albums manage to play B-Sides?), two soundtrack performances, and an outstanding cover of Lynryd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” which shows off Smith’s incredible pipes.  When he does in fact sing on his own, his vocals are unquestionably the band’s strongest attribute.  But nevertheless “.45,” “Heroes,” “The Crow and the Butterfly,” and “Save Me,” were all performed admirably and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed “Second Chance” as Shinedown’s closer.

The performance was good, but well below what we’ve come to expect of this band.  Perhaps they’ve been utilizing vocal backing tracks all along and were able to hide it better without two massive screens showing close ups of Smith’s face.  But for me this would be like finding out baseball players were using steroids (They are?).  Money aside, I do have to question Shinedown eschewing the dark, intimate personas that they deceptively show in club performances in favor of the hacky and fun, large crowd performances from the Carnival of Madness Tour.  I’d prefer that they get up there no frills similar to Pearl Jam and play their songs, compliment the crowd, take in the adoration, and leave.  Lester Bangs of Almost Famous once described, “a mid-level band, struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom,” which to me fits Shinedown to a T.

Shinedown- Live at the PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
August 5, 2010
(Courtesy of

  1. Sound of Madness
  2. Devour
  3. I Dare you
  4. Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide
  5. If You Only Knew
  6. Diamond Eyes
  7. .45
  8. Heroes
  9. The Crow and the Butterfly
  10. Her Name is Alice
  11. Save Me
  12. Son of Sam
  13. Left Out
  14. Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover)
  15. Fly from the Inside
  16. Second Chance

-  Jane Van Arsdale

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. Good article, nicely written, loads of interesting bits of information Also I appreciated the candiate evaluation of the performances

    Juan Carlos