Gig review: FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, 30 January 2020

This was my first visit to the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena and on arrival at the venue prior to the doors opening I was greeted with massive queues waiting to get into the sold out venue. Thankfully local boy and crack photographer Darren Griffiths was a seasoned hand and managed to pluck me from the back of the queue and into the venue in the blink of a camera shutter, top man!

Once inside I had time to peruse the merch stands where prices appear to keep rising. Unfortunately it is a fact of life now that the music industry has changed and the merch revenue is now a big part of a band’s income but judging by the social media backlash over the £35 t-shirt price and £80 for a hoodie there has got to be a point where price outstrips demand and a balance has to be stuck.

I do wonder how many more shirts would have been sold at even a fiver less, possibly enough to make up the shortfall and keep the punters happy? Anyway, enough of the economics of touring and on to the matter in hand, we had a three band bill to look forward to that promised to shake Cardiff to it’s foundations.

Opening proceedings were Bad Wolves who have been picking up both fan and media acclaim over the last couple of years. Hitting the stage with ‘No Messiah’ the band rocked hard with frontman  Tommy Vext stalking the stage and screaming out his vocals with conviction. Tommy is a big guy and you certainly wouldn’t want to spill his pint, he did however head down the Brent Smith from Shinedown route with his between song interludes coming across as a bit on the preachy side.

Having said that when he said to folks to hug their partners most literally embraced the idea and did just that. Maybe I am just old and jaded and don’t get the snowflake generation…

The band played a good set with songs taken from both their albums including ‘Killing Me Slowly’ and ‘I’ll Be There’ from the band’s latest album N.A.T.I.O.N released late in 2019. The sound during the guys’ set was a bit muddy and strangely quiet from my vantage point down the front, but they went down well with the crowd, many of whom were singing along.

The biggest cheer though was reserved for the band’s final track which was their cover of The Cranberries classic ‘Zombie’ which was dedicated to Dolores O’Riordan. She had been scheduled to provide vocals on the Bad Wolves cover but passed away prior to the recording. The crowd sang most of the vocal parts and the song was the set highlight. The band got a roar of approval at the end and it looks like they won a few new Welsh fans.

One band that it was great to see on the bill was the mighty Megadeth. Given Dave Mustaine’s recent health issues there was doubt over the band’s future with all activity suspended during 2019 until Dave received the urgent cancer treatment he required. It was great then to see Dave back in his rightful place centre stage and rocking hard once more. Although the band had limited stage space they used it to good effect with video screens on the drum riser and in between the backline speakers which added a good visual element to the performance.

Opening with ‘Hanger 18’ any doubts over Dave’s vocals post op were soon dispelled and if anything his slightly deeper, gruffer delivery suits the Megadeth material well. ‘Wake Up Dead’ and ‘Sweating Bullets’ kept up the pace and sent the circle pits into overdrive. ‘Dawn Patrol’ allowed bass player Dave Ellefson to take the limelight with just he and drummer Dirk Verbueren on stage giving Mustaine a chance to rest his voice for a bit.

He was soon back on vocal duties though and playing up a storm on guitar along with Kiko Loureiro on ‘Poison Was The Cure’. It was the big hitters however that brought the crowd to boiling point with ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ and ‘Peace Sells’ bringing grown men, old enough to know better, rushing down to get into the mosh pit to relive their youth, bet they were in agony the following day!

‘Mechanix’ was a welcome addition to the set and kept the pit on the boil before the set was rounded off with the epic ‘Holy War’ which brought things to a fitting climax. I have seen Megadeth many times over the years and, to be honest, I have never really been a huge fan.

Tonight, however, the band were spot on and put in a polished performance with a great setlist. The fact that Dave Mustaine is back on stage with the guys appears to have brought a new focus to the band and they look invigorated. Try and catch them while you can, on this form the band are a must see.

One band that are always on the ‘must see’ list are Five Finger Death Punch. The band have had their own issues over the last few years but with Ivan Moody on the wagon for the last two years things appear to be more settled in the camp and the band are back firing on all cylinders.

As the stage curtain dropped to expose a huge skull and twin baseball bat stage set the guys battered out ‘Lift Me Up’ as if their lives depended on it. Ivan was in great form both vocally and as our genial host. Zoltan Bathory was a blur of spinning hair as the set continued with ‘Trouble’ and ‘Wash It All Away’ complete with a great light show, flames and lasers galore.

The set was awash with classics from across the band’s career including one of my personal favourites ‘Sham Pain’. The pace was then slowed down with a fantastic version ‘Bad Company’ complete with the sold out crowd on backing vocals. A brutal ‘Burn It Down’ upped the pace again with Ivan spitting out the lyrics with venom which was quickly followed by ‘Got Your Six’.

The stage was then vacated before Jason Hook appeared with an acoustic guitar to accompany Ivan Moody on ‘Wrong Side Of Heaven’ which Moody explained was about his grandmother who had instilled good virtues and life lessons from an early age. This then led into a chat about Cory Taylor and his similar character to Moody stating that they were both ‘Battle Born’.

‘Blue On Black’ upped the pace slightly whilst ‘Coming Down’ found Jason Hook heading skywards for his guitar solo on a raised platform.  ‘Never Enough’ and the crowd favourite ‘Burn MF’ returned things to full on chaos complete with a mini drum solo from new man Charlie Engen. The guys also played ‘Inside Out’ which is the lead track from the eagerly anticipated new album ‘F8’ which is due out in Feb 2020.

We were on the home straight now with ‘Under and Over It’ pounding out and Chris Kael beating his bass guitar like a prize fighter. ‘The Bleeding’ then rounded things off and the band took their well earned bows, what a show!

The question is frequently asked, with the demise of the old hard rock stager, who will be the new festival headliners? Five Finger Death Punch proved to the sold out crowd tonight that they have the showmanship and the music to headline any festival. Looks like the future of hard rock is in good hands, perhaps I am not as jaded as I thought after all!

Review by Dave Wilson
Photos By Darren Griffiths

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