Five Finger Death Punch + In Flames @ SSE Wembley Arena, London

Date: 21st December 2017
Review by Steve Allen

We’re beginning to get accustomed to these package type tours coming to the UK now which have generally seemed to be slightly mismatched at times and tonight is no different. We have Sweden’s melodic-death metal pioneers In Flames combined with American knuckleheads Five Finger Death Punch.

In Flames take to the stage bang on time and waste no time tearing straight in to 2016’s Battles album opener DRAINED. At first glance, other than the two mammoth 10 foot high risers for drummer JOE RICKARD and their touring DJ In Flames appear to have a very plain stage set up with just a back drop and minimal lights, but as seasoned fans of the band know they had a few tricks up their sleeve.

We didn’t have to wait too long for the first of these tricks. As the band launch into TAKE THIS LIFE the stage becomes alive. The backdrop transforms into a giant video screen, as do the three faces of the risers along with the gaps either side of them and in between. Images of the bands iconic JESTERHEAD logo flash up and move around the screens in time with the music.

Throughout the set the screens change to reflect the mood of the song. Sometimes it’s just their logo flashing and spinning around and at others they display the struggle of inner demons. Midway through the set a 10 foot high effigy of the mascot from their latest album lowered from the ceiling, staring ominously out over the crowd with its glowing red eyes.

Tonights set from In Flames is heavily culled from 2016’s BATTLES, and only one song from earlier than 2006’s Come Clarity which was a little disappointing for some long term fans of the band hoping for some classic cuts thrown into the mix.

Aptly wrapping up tonight’s set with The End In Flames leave the stage having torn Wembley Arena apart. Some might say that their best days are long behind them, to those people I say go and check them out again you don’t know what you’re missing. Stunningly tight playing from guitarists BJORN GELOTTE and NICLAS ENGELIN drive the band forwards all night whilst ANDERS FRIDEN’s vocals both soar high and scrap the bottom of the guttural growl. 4/5

Setlist:
1. Drained
2. Before I Fall
3. Take This Life
4. Dead Alone
5. Darker Times
6. Drifter
7. Save Me
8. Alias
9. Here Until Forever
10. The Truth
11. The Quiet Place
12. The End

With the gauntlet well and truly thrown down at their feet, Five Finger Death Punch had no option other than to come out swinging, and they did exactly that.

Opening up with the explosive LIFT ME UP (sadly no appearance from Rob Halford) and NEVER ENOUGH, front man IVAN MOODY swaggers about the stage with his usual level of charisma and guile.

During Ivan’s hiatus from the band, bassist CHRIS KAEL ably filled in on vocals for a time and again tonight he takes control of the vocals for GOT YOUR SIX. And he wasn’t the only guest vocalist this evening, with TOMMY VEXT (Bad Wolves) and AARON PAUL (Of Mice & Men) joining the band on stage for a version of AIN’T MY LAST DANCE.

For as much flack as this band receives, you cannot deny how much fun they and their fans have at a show. Guitarists ZOLTAN BATHORY and JASON HOOK race around the stage grinning like kids who have been let loose in the sweet shop during BURN MF BURN.

It was at this point in the show that things took a more serious tone as the entire band except for Ivan and Jason left the stage for a 3 song acoustic set. Starting with I APOLOGIZE (which Ivan dedicates to his band mates after his on stage “antics” caused by his breakdown earlier in the year). Following this the renditions of WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN and REMEMBER EVERYTHING become mass sing alongs.

The band return to the stage to round off the night with a barrage of some of their heavier songs that opens the pit up and sends the crowd surfers flying before ultimately closing the set with the classic THE BLEDING.

Long term fans of the band will know that Ivan is famous for bringing young fans up on to the stage to hand bang and party during one of their songs, but that doesn’t happen tonight. He DOES however hand his silver baseball bat to a member of the audience as well as sign a T-Shirt for an older woman sitting in his eye line. He also takes various items from the front few rows and signs those too. Ivan has always been grateful to his fans and it seems that now he is back on an even keel he is more willing than ever to show it. Even jumping down off the stage to walk along the front row after the show to shake hands, take selfies and sign autographs.

Whilst tonight might not be a classic Five Finger Death Punch show, it is a triumphant return for a band that a few short months before seemed on the verge of imploding. 3.5/5

Setlist:
1. Lift Me Up
2. Never Enough
3. Wash It All Away
4. Got Your Six
5. Ain’t My Last Dance
6. Bad Company
7. Burn MF
8. I Apologize (Acoustic)
9. Wrong Side of Heaven (Acoustic)
10. Remember Everything (Acoustic)
11. Coming Down
12. Jekyll and Hyde
Encore:
13. Under and Over It
14. The Bleeding

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