With a No. 2 rock single (“I Will Not Bow”) under their collective belts, the members of Breaking Benjamin headlined 98.9 KQRC’s Twisted Christmas celebration Friday night in Kansas City.
Backed by a lineup including Sick Puppies and Papa Roach, the Pennsylvania hard-rockers plodded their way through a surprisingly short 12-song set that left the sold-out crowd screaming for more. Frontman Benjamin Burnley, who complained of a sore throat early on, relied on the crowd for vocal assistance as he croaked his way through songs. He frequently ventured from behind the microphone, prowling the entirety of the stage while playing guitar one-handed.
Breaking Benjamin’s set was unsurprisingly heavy on newer material, mostly culled from 2007’s “Phobia” and this year’s “Dear Agony,” and the band was tight, especially on the hits “So Cold” and “The Diary of Jane.” The latter had the 3,000-plus in the audience singing louder than Burnley. “Holy shit, you guys are loud,” he exclaimed at one point.
Elsewhere, the band put the blistering guitar riffs on hold for a poignant cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and a little crowd-building exercise. Burnley offered a free T-shirt to “the loudest motherfucker in the building.” After a few minutes of competition, the challenge ended with two topless girls engaged in a furious make-out session. “I’m gonna need more shirts,” Burnley joked.
Papa Roach prepared the crowd with a smattering of newer hits, including “Lifeline,” “Scars” and “Hollywood Whore.” It’s clear from this new material that the band has fully distanced itself from its rap-rock early days. When the group reached into its back catalog for tracks like “Broken Home” and “Between Angels and Insects,” the immaturity and kitsch was on full display. It was like looking through an old high-school yearbook: that haircut and shirt probably looked really cool at the time, but now they’re just downright embarrassing.
Vocalist Jacoby Shaddix cried for an end to violence on the heavy-handed “Had Enough,” but it felt too insincere to resonate. It was hard to take him seriously given that minutes earlier, he was singing about getting away with murder and sexual dominance over women. The irony was seemingly lost on the crowd.
Here is Breaking Benjamin’s setlist:
“I Will Not Bow”
“Until the End”
“Blow Me Away”
“Sooner or Later”
“Into the Nothing”
“The Diary of Jane”