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DATE: Tuesday 2nd October 2018
VENUE: Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Exploding onto the scene earlier this year, with their platinum selling cover of The Cranberries' protest anthem, 'Zombie', a song on which Dolores O'Riordan was set to contribute vocals before her untimely and tragic passing in January, Bad Wolves' rise to prominence has been meteoric. Opening act on Three Days Grace's European tour, it's no surprise that they're greeted by such an enthusiastically loud crowd, in an already rammed Rock City, when they take to the stage at 8pm.

With a mightily strong debut album, 'Disobey', released in May, which backed up the hype engendered by the success of 'Zombie', it's from this album they draw songs for their short set. Just 30 minutes of a set, unfortunately. Disappointing in that doors opened a whole hour before their stage time, and a non-club night on a Tuesday in Rock City means there's no early curfew, so it's a shame they couldn't perform for longer. Still, they maximise their thirty minutes with a display of accomplished musicianship and energetic flair. In fact, such is the intensity of frontman Tommy Vext's performance, as he stomps and leaps around the stage, that he sends a mic and mic stand flying into the photopit near the beginning of the set.

With a repertoire of songs to draw upon, that are all about contrasts and unpredictability, their set is a musically varied one, from the heavied-up, almost Meshuggah-esque passages of 'Learn to Live' to the melodic poignancy of the uber personal 'Remember When'. And it's the latter track for which the crowd participate in a big sing-along. Bad Wolves evidently have a large number of fans of their own amongst the Three Days Grace hordes, judging by the amount of people who know every word to the track. And when Vext asks them to jump up and down, hundreds of eager peeps oblige. This crowd is well and truly won over, even if they weren't at the start.

'Zombie' provides an emotional climax to their set, with many holding cigarette lighters and other illuminated sources up high. It's a nice sight, and a touching moment of remembrance for the sublimely talented Dolores. Gone but never forgotten. Cue further sing-alongs in what is a flawlessly executed version of an immense cover. And there ends Bad Wolves' set. Having experienced, first-hand, this talented pack, I can quite confidently declare their future is indubitably an auspicious one. Guitarist Doc Coyle's long running God Forbid might now be defunct, and sticksman John Boecklin's twelve year tenure as DevilDriver's drummer came to an end in 2014 when he opted to leave... but they've found a great new home to exercise their chops.
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Bad Wolves at Rock City in Nottingham, UK, 2nd October 2018
Photograph copyright 2018 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
As the time reaches 9pm, the two hour wait for the night's main attraction (for most) has arrived. House lights dim and Bon Jovi's 'Livin' on a Prayer' blasts through the PA. The entire 4+ minutes of the song. Hmmmm... I've never been a fan of bands using such iconic songs as their intro music, whether you have some kind of affinity to the track or not. Seems an odd choice... but still, people sing along, and it seems to create something of an atmosphere. Bon Jovi sonic shenanigans eventually cease, and Three Days Grace hit the stage for their headline set.

I have to admit from the off, I'm entirely unfamiliar with their recorded output, as the fleeting occasions I've encountered these Canadians' music, it hasn't really done it for me. But, live this evening, I can't help but be impressed by the musicianship and slickness of their show, even if it does feel like a step down in terms of musical and emotional intensity, and energy, following Bad Wolves.

A peculiar choice of stage set, this has to be the most ridiculously tall drum riser I've seen for some time, considering the size of the venue, with Neil Sanderson's head surely only a few inches away from the rigging. Okay, maybe it looks less silly in bigger venues but, here, he seems detached from the action. Not to mention his kit obscures the band's logo on the backdrop from most vantage points. The long stretch of grating that constitutes the riser and occupies nearly half the stage also seems a little misplaced and uninventive. There's no visual spectacle here, so it's all about the band's performance which, fortunately, is rather good.

With a beard to rival that of Seasick Steve's, guitarist Barry Stock looks like the progeny of the Californian blues musician... but with a wider fretboard repertoire. However, vocalist and occasional guitarist, Matt Walst, is the catalyst of Three Days Grace's show tonight, as his energy and affability as a frontman provides an engaging focal point, as the band rattle through a lengthy set of what I presume to be some of their most popular tunes. A mid-set acoustic section does seem a little forced, with much prior faffing by roadies to bring out just a couple of stalls and keyboards. A nice interlude, nonetheless, though.

Wrapping up their pre-encore set at around 10:15pm, Three Days Grace follow the age-old formality of exiting the stage, listening backstage a couple of minutes for people cheering them back on, before... surprise, surprise... reappearing. Three more tracks are aired, and then that's that. Most seem to leave the venue with a beaming grin, so job done by these Canadians.
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