One of the odder tour packages hit the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week. Metal veterans Five Finger Death headlined the bill that also featured two country acts, Brantley Gilbert and Cory Marks. I was interested to see how this would play out and how the fans would react to each act. I honestly had never heard of the two country acts and couldn’t name a song they would play but the performances of all three were memorable and made for a great evening.
Cory Marks would be tasked to open the show and get people going. From the opening song, and after consulting setlist.fm, that song was “Devil’s Grin,” it was clear that this was not your average country artist. Despite the southern drawl to his voice and some country trappings in the music, he had a harder edge laced within his songs that really played well to the crowd. The band he has assembled around him were fantastic and the energy Marks summoned up as he worked the crowd won fans over during his short set. One song that really stood out to me was the third song in the set called “In Me I Trust” which comes off his latest release ‘I rise.’ The riff in that song is just dirty in the verses and instantly grabbed my attention. He also did a fun cover of Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner.”
Clearly, I was in the minority by not having any idea who or what Brantley Gilbert was. Fans went nuts as the lights dropped as he and his band took to the stage. He kicked into a song called “Kick it in the Sticks” and from that moment on he held the Target Center captive through his entire set. Although I could definitely hear the country elements, I had expected to be present, like Cory Marks, there was harder element to his music and the vibe that came off that stage played very well to fans that may have been there for just the headliner. The stage along with constant fire pyro sucked even the purest metalheads into the show and won even the cynics like myself over. Even Gilbert himself said he was confused on how he ended up supporting Five Finger Death Punch but he took advantage of every minute of it as he played to his fans and people hearing him for the first time. I nice touch came when they played a piece of an Eagles song and then pieces of Pantera. It showed the wide variety of musical influences he comes from and all those elements are found within his catalog of music. I began to wonder how much of this crowd is actually here for Brantley Gilbert and if there would a mass exit after he was done. Maybe this was more a country crowd than a metal crowd but the answer quickly showed itself as nobody left and people were getting ready for a death punch. This venue was full of music fans and it was great to see different genres playing to the same crowd and having success.
As soon as the curtain dropped and the pyro and explosion went off, I knew we had entered the metal part of the evening. “Lift Me Up” opened the set for Five Finger Death Punch and the band would flex their muscles through an onslaught of power riffs and precision shredding with a venomous vocal attack. The band has been kicking around since 2005 and even though the faces have changed over the years, the band has never lost its identity and focus of crafting metal anthems that have endeared them to the metal community. Vocalist Ivan Moody has always set the table and this show was no different. He played to the crowd and challenged them to meet his intensity and the musical force coming at them from the stage. Zoltan Bathory and Andy James carried the six-strings while Chris Kael took care of the bass. Minnesota’s own Charlie Engen handled the drums and got a lot of cheers from the crowd. The band dropped a brand-new record in 2022 called ‘Afterlife’ and hit on a couple tracks from it that included “IOU” and “Welcome to the Circus.” The highlights from the set for me were “Wash It All Way,” Sham Pain,” and “Under and Over it.” The most aggressive part of the night was brutal “Burn MF” as the energy in the crowd amped into a frenzy. I also really enjoyed Moody singing A cappella. Just him and the crowd interacting and singing together, it was as if the Target Center was shrunk into a small club at that moment and it felt more intimate. There is no question Five Finger Death Punch has built up a tremendous loyal fanbase and you could see it, feel it and hear it throughout the night. The closing number was the classic “The Bleeding” which was released back on July 10, 2007 and introduced the world to the band and more than a decade later the fans are still filling the venues and throwing down with Five Finger Death Punch.