Photography & Words: Adam R. Harrison
A powerful sickness plagued Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena on Monday night, March 4. This was not the type of sickness brought on by the cold Canadian winter. No, this was the type of sickness caused by loud noises, blazing lights, pyrotechnics, and thousands of fists being pummelled through the air in unison. Heavy metal experts, Disturbed, made sure that this arena full of victims, young and old, were “Down with The Sickness.”
Kicking of the evening were local hard rock band, Three Days Grace. Promoting their sixth studio album Outsider, almost a year to the day from its release, and the second album with singer Matt Walst. The hometown heroes opened their hour-long set with “The Mountain” from said album. Walst controlled the uniquely-spearhead-shaped stage with confidence and energy. He has obviously found himself within the band and comfortable performing both new material and classics from the Adam Gontier era. As much of the audience were growing up during the emergence of Three Days Grace, songs like “The Good Life,” “Never Too late,” and “I Hate Everything About You,” got the biggest pops from their fans, who were out of their seats and in the air almost as much as Walst.
A video reminiscing over Distubed’s two-decade history indicated it was time for everyone to get… well, disturbed. From the first thundering drum and heavy opening riff of “Are You Ready,” the appropriately-named single from their new album, Evolution, Disturbed fans threw their ten thousand fists in the air, and held them there for the next two hours. The packed set would feature a wealth of songs spanning the Chicago band’s impressive seven album discography, as well as a few of their iconic covers.
“The media, the powers that be, the godforsaken internet, want us to believe we are more divided than ever,” commented David Draiman. The outspoken, bald-headed, chin ring-wearing, iconic front man reacted, “I agree, that’s bullshit. I look around this arena. I see all colours of skin, all walks of life. I can’t promise we’ll solve the world’s problems tonight. But I promise you’ll leave here feeling stronger than when you came in.”
Draiman also commands attention on stage. But not in the same way as Walst from Three Days Grace. Draiman owns the stage with a powerful and demanding presence. His posture is recognizably picturesque, especially in a backdrop of fire and lights.
The band powered through fan favourites like “Stupify,” “Ten Thousand Fists,” and their epic cover of Genesis’ “Land of Confusion,” complete with Draiman’s quintessential deep-throaty noises. Evolution also featured a collection of acoustic songs, something Disturbed fans weren’t used to previously. A small stage, set up in the middle of the arena, would be used to showcase a couple of these songs.
It was a special moment for the band to be that much closer to their beloved fans for songs like “A Reason to Fight” and “Watch You Burn.” These are songs about depression and addiction awareness, something Disturbed advocate for. “We lost another soldier today,” stated Draiman. A phone number for a helpline was displayed on the large screen as he dedicated this part of their show to Keith Flint of The Prodigy, who lost his battle with depression earlier that day. “What people don’t understand is that money and fame are not a cure for depression and addiction. These are diseases. It’s not because of a choice you made, it happens upon someone.” Draiman then asked everyone to raise their hand if they have ever suffered, or knew someone who has suffered from depression or addiction. As 90% of the audience raised their hand, Draiman comforted, “Look around this arena. You are not alone.”
Draiman’s tough exterior and vocal prowess can often mislead from the soft heart that seems to lie inside. “As we head back to the stage, please come give us bumps and say hello to us. We’d love to meet you all.” He is also very good with children. He selected three kids, between the ages 8-12, onto the stage with their parent, sat them in front of the drum kit, and rocked out with them for an entire song before dubbing them “the future of rock n’ roll.”
Before wrapping the main set, Disturbed performed a hauntingly beautiful cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” Draiman’s voice echoed throughout the arena, torturing us to our very soul while guitarist Dan Donegan played a piano that went up in flames. The set closed with “Inside the Fire,” concluding with Draiman’s maniacal laugh, leaving us with chills for an encore.
As Disturbed returned to stage, Draiman voiced his opinion, “… And people are so quick to say rock is dead. Look around the arena. Does this look dead to you? Rock is never dead because it lives here. Inside us.” The encore included the massive single “Stricken,” as well as “No More” from Evolution. Before ending the night with their original breakthrough anthem, “Down with The Sickness.”
Even after two decades of being disturbed, these heavy metal gurus still have us stupified. If you weren’t feeling the sickness at the end of the night, you either lost your hearing mid-concert, or you were cured by the communal hum-along to The Muppet’s “Mahna Mahna” on the way out.