By Isabella Dionne
On February 11, Breaking Benjamin kicked off their first tour of 2015 with a sold-out show at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. The four-date winter tour is the band’s first electric tour with its new lineup, as their East Coast tour last October was strictly acoustic. The show had no opening act, but longtime fans piled into the club and filled both the floor and mezzanine quickly, ready to hear the music of a band they’d fallen in love with as long as fourteen years ago when Breaking Benjamin released their debut self-titled EP.
The show opened with “So Cold,” a concert staple since its release as the first single on the band’s second album, We Are Not Alone. The song’s gradual instrumental introduction allowed the crowd to see what for most fans was their first glimpse of the revamped lineup, with the exception of its founder and namesake, lead singer Ben Burnley. Guitarists Keith Wallen (rhythm) and Jasen Rauch (lead) began with the song’s opening riffs and were met with roaring cheers from the full-to-capacity audience. They were soon joined by bassist Aaron Bruch and drummer Shaun Foist on drums. To the crowd’s delight, Burnley finally took the stage in time for the vocals to begin.
“So Cold” was followed by two more songs from We Are Not Alone before the band played Phobia’s “Unknown Soldier.” Several times early on in the show, Burnley would pause to express his thanks to the audience, which was almost entirely made up of fans who’d stayed faithful to the band since its first albums. It had to be an emotional tour for Burnley, who, as the band’s sole constant member, spent the last few years performing solo or not at all. Following the release of Dear Agony in 2009, Burney fired former guitarist Aaron Fink and former bassist Mark Klepaski over their unauthorized release of a greatest hits album featuring remixed content of which Burnley had not approved. Shortly after Burnley took legal action regarding this, former drummer Chad Szeglia also left the band due to creative differences, leading Burnley to reform Breaking Benjamin with a new lineup.
The band then played “Simple Design” and “Blow Me Away,” a longtime fan favorite despite never having appeared on an album. Burnley then exchanged his guitar for a set of bongos and began the intro to “Phase,” which was quickly recognizable to the most devoted fans, as the song is from the band’s first album, Saturate.
The band moved onto “Away” before playing a five-song block of music from Saturate, which included “Polyamorous,” the band’s most-performed song. They broke off from the angsty and heavy-hitting “Shallow Bay” to play “Give Me a Sign,” a raw and emotional track from Dear Agony. As soon as the song ended, Foist began an impressive drum intro that gave way to “Evil Angel.” The band played a few more songs before Burnley paused to thank the audience once more, prompting the final song, “The Diary of Jane.”
The five members took their bows and were met with resounding cheers from an audience that was clearly not ready to see the group go. But after many chants of “one more song!” the band took the stage again to play not one more, but four more in an excellent encore of “You,” “Breath,” “Here We Are,” and “Sooner or Later.”
Any potential doubts from fans wary of the new lineup had to have been erased, as every member brought an unmistakable amount of unique talent that fused perfectly with the rest of the band. The live performance was arguably better than any from a previous lineup. Fans were sure to voice their praise and admiration throughout the show, most knowing every word to the entire twenty-four song set. At one point during the show, Burnley paused to reflect on a Facebook comment that praised not the band, but the band’s fans. And indeed, the entire crowd of the sold-out show—a group of people who’d lined the street hours in advance in wind and frigid temperatures—was hooked from the opening riff of “So Cold” to the last picks, drumsticks, and setlists thrown from the stage at the close of the show. Breaking Benjamin’s performance was emotional, powerful, and raw throughout its entirety. Fans in the New England area had waited five years since the band last toured the region, and as devoted as they are, they would wait five more. Hopefully, however, that will not be necessary, as Breaking Benjamin’s show in Providence left fans eagerly anticipating their return.
Breaking Benjamin finished the tour with shows in Portland, Maine; Wallingford, Connecticut; and Rochester, New York. The band will appear in several spring festivals as part of their Spring 2015 tour, which begins in April.