GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — The parking lot at the historic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, was partially full Thursday night, but there wasn't one eye fixated on the gridiron. The action was happening across the street at the Brown County Arena as Disturbed, Taproot and Chevelle kicked off their Music as a Weapon 2 Tour to a near-capacity crowd.
"Some people would like to say that nü-metal is broken [but] we are here to say that we will not be broken!" Disturbed frontman David Draiman declared minutes into the Windy City quartet's headlining performance.
All three acts on the bill seemed determined to make believers of the predominantly college crowd by performing frenetically throughout their sets, but by the end of the night it was clear that the crowd belonged to Disturbed. The nü-metal rockers, who certainly had the most elaborate stage decorations of the night with their faux stone staircases, matching drum riser and logo from the cover of Believe on a red curtain backdrop, captivated the crowd with the close-fisted dramatics of Draiman, double bass drum assaults from drummer Mike Wengren and feverish riffage from guitarist Dan Donegan.
At 75 minutes, Disturbed's set was relatively short, though in that time they hit on material from both their breakout discs, The Sickness, as well as many tracks from their latest, Believe. Although the new material from Believe was well received, it was the old tracks from The Sickness like "Stupify," and "Down With the Sickness," that had the mosh pit swirling, while Draiman, dressed in black leather pants and a black sleeveless shirt, traversed the stage, frequently reaching out with his fist to emphasize his words. The collision of his primitive, throaty vocals intertwined with Donegan's muted chords made "Down With the Sickness" an evening favorite.
Of the new material they sang, Believe's title track, with its spinning melodic undercurrents, transformed the densely packed pit into a crawling fury, while "Remember" had many on the floor bobbing their heads to the simple melodies of the song. Draiman and the rest of Disturbed seemed to feed off the crowd's energy, constantly switching places on the stage and increasing the pace of the material. The fiery crowd, that was near silent during a brief set by openers Unloco, was mesmerized by Disturbed’s performance and expended all of its energy to make the band aware of this.
A rendition of "Intoxication" showcased the cohesive nature of the band, with bassist Fuzz and Donegan matching blunt notes as Draiman sung the chorus to the fans pressed against the barrier in front of the stage. The crowd, waving their hands in the air, echoed the singer's melodic vocals.
After touching the wall backstage, Disturbed resumed their positions onstage for a two-song encore. "I think it's time we took a little trip back in time and finished this thing the way it started. What do you say that we all get stupified?" Draiman asked, introducing the overdriven melodies of the group’s first big hit, "Stupify." The compressed and shimmering harmonics of the song worked well live and had many in the seated portion of the arena rushing to the floor to join in the mass of colliding sweaty bodies.
Without mention that it was the last song, the band launched into "Prayer," the first single released off of Believe. By this time, it was clear that fatigue had begun to set in and Draiman seemed more confined in his performance quarters. The singer sucked it up though, pounding the microphone on his chest as the band rolled through the angular, guitar-driven track. At the conclusion of "Prayer," Draiman raised his arms to the sky, feeling the warmth of the crowd's energy. "Thank you. We'll see you again, Green Bay," the Disturbed frontman told the crowd before walking offstage.
While the rest of the night's performances never quite matched the energy and intensity of the Disturbed set, Taproot and Chevelle were definitely no slouches. Earlier in the evening, Chevelle frontman Pete Loeffler attacked his PRS guitar with a ferocity that would make ex-Helmet frontman Page Hamilton proud. The band took to the stark stage — backed by a simple red flag with a white Chevelle logo as well as a large black trademark symbol — wasting no time before launching into a pulsing version of "Family System," the leading cut from their major-label debut, Wonder What's Next.
The band also injected a little bit of humor into its set by sprinkling comedic audio clips from various films between songs. In between "Send the Pain Below" and "Closure," for example, a clip of Captain Oveur and Joey from "Airplane!" played, with the pilot discussing the merits of gladiator films with the young boy. "We're Chevelle from Chicago and these are my two real brothers with me right here, in case you didn't know," the singer said, introducing his brothers, Joe and Sam. The trio then ripped into a studio-faithful version of "Comfortable Liar," a song that Pete told the crowd is "one of my favorite songs to play live."
The opening to "Don't Fake This" then cascaded over the crowd, and fans jumped in unison as the opening riff pushed its way to the back of the arena. While Sam confidently strode the stage shirtless, Pete stood in his trademark stance, left leg on the vocal monitor, closely guarding his guitar as he rattled off chunky riffs that increased the activity of the crowd.
But the trio elicited its biggest crowd reaction of the night with a spotless version of "The Red." Despite its popularity, Chevelle still approach the track with the vigor of a group that hasn't tired of the tune, even though Pete backed off by its conclusion, opting for a gentler repetition of "seeing red again," rather than the barrage of screams that are layered on the studio version. It’s possible that Pete may have chosen to save his voice for the intense two-month touring schedule that lay ahead.
On the other hand, Taproot took no precautions, fully exerting themselves with a physical performance that tested vocalist Stephen Richards' vocal cords. The band bludgeoned the crowd with dense blasts of guitar-driven energy throughout their nine-song, 30-minute set, opening with an intense rendition of "Mirror's Reflection." The fan favorite from their album, Gift, opened with clean guitar strumming before exploding into relentless riffs soaked in fuzz. Richards made his way back and forth across the stage, rattling off the rapid-fire lyrics of the song, clutching himself as he added melodic screams to the song. The intensity of "Mirror’s Reflection" was alleviated by Richards' earnest crooning during the chorus, as he sang, "Sometimes I would give anything just to be something more."
During another Gift track, "I," Richards took the opportunity to get up close and personal with the crowd by taking a guided tour around the arena, shaking hands and shrugging off hugs as he delivered his lyrics without interruption. The crowd appreciated this maneuver that he is notorious for, and it seemed that the Taproot vocalist could do no wrong. However, little did he know, he would eventually push his luck. As a Michigan resident, Richards didn't get any cheers when he asked the loyal Packers crowd, "Are there any Lions fans in the house?" He quickly muted their boos, noting, "I was joking, I swear to God."
Taproot's set concluded with a raucous, sing-along version of their current hit, "Poem," with guitarist Mike DeWolf drawing out his notes on the chorus to give the crowd an opportunity to join in, illuminating the importance of bringing together enthusiastic fans and energized performers for the greater good of the genre.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.