Last week, I shot what I thought was easily one of the best tours this year – BREAKING BENJAMIN with RED as direct support. Including this show this would be my seventh time seeing RED, and eighth for BREAKING BENJAMIN. But there was something about both of their performances at The National in Richmond, VA last Thursday that just blew me away (no pun intended for the Breaking Ben hit).
Every time RED hits the stage, they prove themselves a force to be reckoned with. They started off with “Death of Me” from their sophomore record, Innocence & Instincts. As a photographer, there was a moment I was dying to catch: when front man Michael Barnes and bassist Randy Armstrong have a scream off in the middle of the song. Finally capturing that moment was pure bliss.
Just watching them rock out onstage is absolutely a mesmerizing experience, especially during “Take Me Over” from their current album, Of Beauty and Rage. Michael hopped off the stage and made his way over to the barricade, doing what the band truly does best – connecting with the fans on such a personal level, a strong and an important quality for a band to have and watching a fan’s face light up with pure joy is absolutely a special thing to see.
After finally hearing one of my favorite tracks from that same album, “Falling Sky”, they played back-to-back the two songs that made me fall in love with their live show back in 2013: “Already Over” and “Feed the Machine.” I sadly knew that their set was coming to an end as they began to play “Shadows,” the perfect song to headbang to and a song that Ben Burnley of BREAKING BENJAMIN co-wrote with the guys. How’s that for an awesome collaboration?
After a stellar performance of their hit from their debut album, End of Silence, “Breathe Into Me”, guitarist Anthony Armstrong, Michael, and Randy simultaneously jumped in the air as drummer Dan Johnson unleashed the final crushing beats. The perfect way to end a highly energetic sight. The night was far from over though, and the boys had just warmed the sold-out crowd for what was to come next.
It wasn’t long till BREAKING BENJAMIN hit the stage and no matter how many times I see and hear what happened next, it always amazes me. Once front man Ben Burnley started singing the first verse to opening song, “So Cold”, he encouraged the fans to sing along, however no encouragement was needed as the entire venue nearly drowned out the music.
Not a moment was wasted as the group continued their set with “Angels Fall” and “Sooner or Later” with lead guitarist Keith Wallen on lead vocals. After “Simple Design”, with bassist Aaron Bruch on vocals, the band played an incredible medley of covers of Star Wars’ “The Imperial March”, TOOL’S “Schism”, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’S “Bulls on Parade”, NIRVANA’S “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, PANTERA’S “Walk”, and METALLICA’S “Sad But True” with Keith on lead vocals.
Following their current single, “Never Again”, they kept the night going with their hits and personal favorites of mine such as “Believe”, “Breath” with a very special guest appearance from STARSET’S frontman, Dustin Bates, and “Evil Angel” with Aaron on vocals again. Though I have seen BREAKING BENJAMIN so many times, I still found myself belting out songs like “Until the End”, “I Will Not Bow”, and their encore hit, “The Diary of Jane”, the track that made me a fan in the first place back in 2008.
Overall, it was a night to remember and both bands truly did an excellent job. The tour is sadly ending as of this writing but I do hope it happens again soon because this was an incredible lineup. RED is currently working on their sixth studio album and BREAKING BENJAMIN has begun their sixth as well. Be sure to check out their websites and social media for any tour announcements, because both put on shows you will regret missing out on.
LIVE IMAGES AND WORDS: KATE DREXEL PHOTOGRAPHY