A late review, Five Finger Death Punch (January 2020)

I was one of 7,500 people sharing a surreal and quite awe-inspiring show. Five Finger Death Punch turn up on Welsh soil to deliver a huge stage presence, amazing atmosphere and jaw-dropping music.

Bad Wolves, Megadeth and Five Finger Death Punch

Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, Thursday 30th January at 6:50pm

There’s always a difference between seeing a band through their music and their videos; some bands are better live and others are better through their videos. After my sister showed me them, I was curious as to which side Five Finger Death Punch would fall on. We travelled miles to see them, and it’s not often I’m left speechless after a gig, they certainly know how to blow you away and flex their showmanship and heavy metal muscle on stage.

I’d been lucky enough to see the first support band, Bad Wolves, at Download last year; and I knew that they’d bring their infectious energy and soulful music to the mix. They didn’t disappoint, despite the smaller crowd, they owned that stage as if they were the main act; encouraging mosh pits, whipping shirts around and storming around that stage. It wasn’t long before everyone was screaming the words to classics such as ‘Remember When’ and their infamous cover, ‘Zombie’ – which brought genuine tears to my eyes.

As Tommy Vext dedicated the song to former The Cranberries member, Dolores O’Riordan, he encouraged us to think of our family. The loved ones who are no longer with us. It hit me hard, thinking about my granddad, and being able to sing that with them seemed therapeutic and a song to lift the spirits (never mind about the roof); and as he left the stage giving us a message of hope and welcoming us to join their family, their Wolfpack was beautiful. This message of unity and family was so heartfelt and genuine, in between talking about their own struggles and beautiful lyrics. It added a deep and rich layer to night, one that has stayed with me.

Bad Wolves were experts when it came to controlling the crowd, knowing when to throw out heavy songs and when to strip back for something more touching. It wasn’t quite the frenzy I’d seen them whip up at Download, but I felt that by replacing that by talking about family was a smart move. It brought everyone together ready for the rest of the night.

Bad Wolves performing ‘Zombie’ to a sea of lights.

It comes as a surprise that Megadeth, a band I’d heard such amazing things of, failed to deliver after such a strong start. Plagued by sound problems, it was frustrating not to be able to hear them clearly, particularly when Dave Mustaine shared the amazing news of being cancer free. There was a clear disconnect with the audience, with many of them flicking through their phones. It was left to their incredible guitar riffs and hypnotic lighting and screens displays to save the show.

I’m disappointed that I couldn’t understand what songs were being played and it felt isolating. I didn’t have that feeling that I’d had at the start, that sense of being a part of something. Instead, I felt like I had hearing problems as I strained to hear for a hook or chorus I could latch onto. It’s a shame as the muttering from those around me said similar, it wasn’t the best they’d played. Could that be down to the sound issues or not being the main act? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know, however, is that this first showing of them definitely affected the mood of the night. It was clear to see from everyone that the crowd were frustrated and annoyed, with the sound issues being the main problem; and being the one issue that the band couldn’t recover from. I’ll admit I was disappointed, I wanted to enjoy them; but if you can’t hear a band properly, it’s no wonder people switch off.

It’s not their fault, I know, and despite, this technical hitch they do know how to power through. I just hope the next time I catch them, I can hear them because I’m sure their songs could pack a punch as much as their guitar riffs did.

Megadeth continuing to rock despite the technical issues!

Would Five Finger Death Punch succumb to same issue that destroyed Megadeth’s set? Aside from a few moments where it sounded like we were in a goldfish bowl, the band managed to rescue the night. They had a brilliant stage presence backed up by some heavy duty pyro and lighting – you could tell they knew how to put on a (brilliant) show.

Every part of the show showed their meticulous attention to detail. They really did have the whole package. From a great selection of their back catalogue, who doesn’t love ‘Wash It All Away’? I loved how they had this brilliant rapport with the audience, not just from how they bounced across that stage feeding off the energy of the music and the audience screaming the words to them; but also how they talked to us inbetween each song, working in subtle introductions before tearing through another classic.

Five Finger Death Punch are a well crafted machine and a force to be reckoned with. The real clincher for me, that sealed my love for this band, was their acoustic version of ‘Wrong Side of Heaven’. Just before this song, Ivan Moody was talking about how they didn’t play certain songs anymore, as they were too painful, and then when on to explain how he had a close relationship with his grandma; how he always kept her voice with him, and played this beautiful and touching song. It floored me.

Five Finger Death Punch in full force, tearing up the stage.

I was brought back to this sense of family, which was a running theme of the night. From joining the Wolfpack, celebrating amazing news of recovery to singing about lost loved ones. That idea seemed woven in, right from the start. It’s what made this gig one of the best I’d ever seen, and it’s no wonder that this is why these bands are huge. You’re not just there to rock out, it’s like you’re attending a big family reunion.

Everyone sung their hearts out, danced, head-banged and moshed. We spoke to everyone throughout the night as if we’d known them for years. For a band to bring everyone together like that is incredible and admirable.

I will never forget the amazing music as well as this sense of belonging to a family, a community, like I did that night. It’s almost like you finally find where you fit in. So if you haven’t already, I urge you to catch them live to feel that for yourself.

Raising my metal horns in salute.

~ E