With less than two years under their belt as a band, Sydney’s RedHook found themselves thrust into the spotlight as opening act for Sevendust on the Australian leg of their international tour.
From past experience Sevendust fans are not exactly the most welcoming in their support for opening acts, but such was the enthusiastic and infectious charm of RedHook that the initial sporadic polite clapping soon generated into heartfelt applause.
Opening with ‘Cuts’, RedHook quickly shed any hint of nervousness with an eclectic blending of musical genres that covered everything from heavy to alternative to post-hardcore to modern rock to nu-metal.
Vocalist Emmy Mack used the vast expanse of the stage to maximum effect, climbing on top of foldbacks and falling to her knees in a performance that threatened to vocally bludgeon the Anzac Day crowd into submission despite their allegiance to the headliners.
Working through a nine-song setlist that included singles ‘Minute On Fire’, ‘Paralysed’ and ‘Turn Up The Stereotype’, Redhook grabbed their opportunity with a precision and professionalism that belied their youth as a band and will only benefit more from their exposure to a national audience.
Looking more like the person next door than international rock stars, Sevendust stepped on stage in darkness and wasted no time with introductions or greetings before launching into ‘Dirty’ from last years album All I See Is War.
By now Sevendust are seasoned touring professionals, and their persona and warmness towards their adoring fans reflected their connection with not only the music but also those for whom the music was made.
I have seen the band play live on a number of occasions in different parts of the world, and the one constant with each performance is the way each member engages individual people throughout.
Regularly swapping from one side of the stage to the other, guitarists John Connolly and Vince Hornsby went out of their way to make eye contact, personalising the experience with as many people as possible.
Bass player Clint Lowery sang, barked at, and smiled with punters from the front to the back to the balcony throughout, pausing only to dispense guitar picks or drum sticks to the sea of hands that reached skywards each time he motioned to throw.
Vocalist Lajon Witherspoon welcomed his fans with a rousing, yet brief monologue urging the crowd to love and respect each other, before the Sevendust machine kicked into overdrive with ‘Pieces’, ‘Reconnect’ and ‘Praise’.
When Lajon thanked the crowd for making him smile, you could sense it was a genuine statement rather than a nightly rehashed gesture. The emotions were real, as was the gratitude, and when he called his fans family you just knew he meant it.
The band not only fed off the crowd but seemed to throw back that energy at regular intervals, inviting each person with them on a musical journey that was as much about connection as it was entertainment.
Sensing that a large portion of the crowd were long term Sevendust fans, the band quickly reached into their extensive back catalogue by dusting off older songs ‘Bitch’, ‘Denial’ and ‘Waffle’, each one earning louder cheers than the last.
Lajon thrived off the adulation, often silencing his vocals in favour of listening to the collective sound of the Sevendust faithful harmonising back at him, while drummer Morgan Rose smiled and smashed his way through a setlist that covered the entire history of the band.
‘Angel’s Son’ and ‘Shine’, both deeply personal songs, resonated deeply long after they finished, but it was the two closing songs of the night ‘Black’ and ‘Face To Face’ that threatened to send the crowd into overdrive.
Unlike many of their contemporaries, Sevendust understand and respect the fact that the majority of their audience are old school and as such have never cut too many of their earlier songs in favour of an oversaturation of new material.
They embrace the notion that music is about more than just living in the moment. It is about feeling and holding onto it, and you get the sense that until they can do that Sevendust will feel their task is incomplete. They have a unique ability to find that greater plane of musical accomplishment by not only welcoming you into their family but also accepting you as part of it.
At one stage when Lajon started the now-familiar chant of ‘Sevendust have arrived’, you could tell from the quiver in his voice that if one person disagreed with him the band would have done even more in their power to convince them but there was no way it was ever going to come to that. Sevendust HAVE arrived, and based on tonights performance and the unequivocal vote of confidence reflected in the crowd, they don’t plan on departing any time soon.