Sick Puppies are a confident band with a walking, natural swagger that pours out from the stage to their audience.
Their stage presence is interesting, as the band takes a different and lesser used approach to interacting with their audience. Rather than exhorting the crowd to perform different actions by taking the image of the stern, swearing taskmaster, Shimon Moore approaches the crowd as his personal friends, seemingly addressing them individually. It's a curios take, but one that crowd seems to lock in to in the early going of the show. Before too long, there are group high-fives, and the man you were bashing into the mosh pit one minute has you arm in arm and singing along the next. While different, the approach espouses a certain universal truth of music and concerts in general; in all honesty, do we really go to concerts to hurt each other? Probably not. Rather, we do find a certain (sometimes grudging) kinship with our fellow patrons.
Emma Anzai, for a woman who says nearly nothing while on stage, draws a lot of attention, all of it deserved. She is all things metal and all things womanly rolled into one graceful and yet powerful slap-bassing package. The fan placed in front of the stage that constantly blows her hair away from her face and splays it out like a model in a windstorm is a clever touch that only serves to give her a bolder image. Whether she is viciously headbanging or wending a sinewy path across the stage, Emma draws eyes from one end to the other.
The muddied nature of concert audio meant that it was difficult to faithfully recreate every nuance of the cleaner sound offered by "Tri-Polar" on CD. It was at times tough to make out Anzai's bass in the morass of a venue that has very sound reflective surfaces. As such, some of the grandeur of set closer "You're Going Down" was eroded, as her skillful pacing and articulate playing ability got drowned into the mix.
I feel like I’m leaving out Mark Goodwin. He’s a focused and talented drummer who’s always on time, but there’s not much opportunity for him to come forward to cause a scene. So, he stays in the shadows.
But that is a small speck on what otherwise was an exemplary performance. Sick Puppies creates a unique connection with their audience which results in the kind of crowd participation you just don't see very often. Surging bounce-ups, waves of mosh pit mayhem, group sing alongs for "All The Same," clapping, cheering, chanting, every one of those was present in amounts I haven't ever seen at a club show with the exception of Dropkick Murphys and Fear Factory (back when Fear Factory was, you know, good.)
The set list packed both power and emotion, from the first starting strains of heavy hitters like “War,” to the more placid and genuinely hopeful “Odd One.” The set was highlighted by a staggering “Riptide” and a much more potent “Maybe” than the recorded album offers. A few old favorites like “My World” and “Pitiful” had the long time fans cheering loudly.
Without question though, the single best moment of the set belongs to a song not written by Sick Puppies. Originally intended to be tracked onto the first album in Australia, but withdrawn due to the fear of a lawsuit, the Sick Puppies put on their over-the-top but ass-kicking cover of Destiny’s Child hit “Say My Name.” The song also bears a striking resemblance in tempo and rhythm to Green Day’s “Brain Stew,” but that might just be coincidence. In any event, the mosh pit could not resist the chance to get roiling to Destiny’s Child, and the party was on.
If you truly have no stomach for more mainstream alternative metal, then perhaps this wouldn’t be for you. The crowd did give an uproarious cheer when Moore mentioned touring with Breaking Benjamin (which, for the record, elicited a sigh from me.) Still, in pound for pound concert experience, Sick Puppies put on a hell of a show. The tickets are pretty cheap, and in my estimation, well worth the investment.