It’s been six years since their last studio album, Dear Agony, but Pennsylvania natives Breaking Benjamin are on the road again with their newest offering, Dark Before Dawn. Already an American chart-topper since its June release, the new material boasts Breaking Benjamin’s signature alternative rock-cum-mainstream sound even though the band’s lineup has changed dramatically. Due to legal conflicts after the unapproved release of Shallow Bay: The Best of Breaking Benjamin in 2011, lead vocalist and namesake Benjamin Burnley is the only original member remaining. Former guitarists Aaron Fink and bassist Mark Klepaski were fired as a result and the current lineup was recruited in 2014 for the recording of Dark Before Dawn (written almost entirely by Burnley.)
Breaking Benjamin now consists of Burnley, Aaron Bruch on bass and backing vocals, Keith Wallen on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Jasen Rauch on lead guitar, and Shaun Foist on drums. They played to a packed house in Huntington, NY’s historic The Paramount, and while they may have been apart from the major scene since 2010 (minus a brief few dates in 2014), the scene was most definitely happy to have them back.
Having never experienced them live before, I cannot speak specifically to the lineup changes by way of any comparison, but the current quintet plays with the passion and cohesion of a band that’s been playing together for years. There was no shortage of energy and excitement in their presence, and from the moment the opening riff of We Are Not Alone’s “So Cold” kicked in, the audience was a chorus of elation slamming back at them. And it went that way song after song. There was a deafening reception on hits like “Breath,” “Until the End,” and “I Will Not Bow,” and equal thriving enthusiasm for their newer outings “Failure” and “Angels Fall,” the first two singles off Dark Before Dawn, neither of which took long to climb up the Billboard rock charts.
Despite their rampant success, Breaking Benjamin comes off as a self-aware and grateful band, and front man Burnley was more than happy to share the spotlight on two of several covers during the set. Guitarist Wallen impressively tackled Queen’s classic (and Highlander homage)“Who Wants To Live Forever,” while Bassist Bruch’s emulation of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on a cover of “Ænima” was pretty flawless. They also threw in a slick shout-out to the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII with a rock rendition of “the Imperial March,” that wound its way into a montage of Tool’s “Schism,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Pantera’s “Walk.” The audience was with them through every note.
In a poignant and patriotic moment, Burnley dedicated “Unknown Soldier” to all the American vets who ever served and fought and died for our country. And in a proving moment for the audience, he had the venue shut all house lights so the crowd could light the room with cellphones in a show of unity.
Breaking Benjamin is too aware that their fans are the reason they’re still going strong sixteen years later, through trial and tribulation, stardom and success. Their humble and raw performance was a testament to that and judging from Saturday’s crowd, the fans are every bit aware and willing to return that appreciation with their eager support.
Check out our photo gallery from the show!
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