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Live Review + Photos: Disturbed, Sydney 2016

Disturbed
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 13/11/2016
Review & Photos: Peter Zaluzny

David Draiman is a commanding presence on stage. Where other bands hold your attention with a frenzied performance, he calmly walks back and forward, mic in hand, spreading gospel to the Sydney church of Disturbed. Cheesy? Maybe, but his powerful voice, long gothic garbs and searing confidence exude a priestly air. And the image isn’t quite so farfetched when you see him throw his hand to the sky amidst columns of flames on stage, sing “10000 fists in the air,” and watch 5000 fans follow suit.

The thing is, that wasn’t even the best part of their sold out show at The Hordern Pavilion. It had been a long, long time between visits, thanks to a four year hiatus. But Disturbed were back, and they had every reason to be excited about the show. Their latest record, Immortalized, had gone platinum during the week, and not only did they hear news hours before the show, they had thousands of friends to celebrate with.

It was a wild scene. Row after row of hardcore fans that knew the words to every single song, a massive stage production complete with pipes blasting pyro around drummer Mike Wengren (side note – Mike, do you still have eyebrows?), and an incredibly eager group of guys who, aside from Draiman, busted out every classic rock pose in the book. It was designed to make the band look huge, to make the performance feel epic – and it worked, the audience lapped it up.

19 songs, some of them new, most of them old. Disturbed had a new record to plug but they knew that they had to make up for their absence. Boy did they, cranking out classics like “The Game,” “Stricken” and the delightfully groovy, f-bomb heavy “Stupify.” Contrary to typical practice at shows, most of the new stuff went down just as well the vintage tunes. Possibly because Disturbed haven’t deviated from their style since day one, but mostly because they’re brilliant performers.

Draiman, especially, knows how to work a room. Standing on stage, singing their cover of “Land of Confusion,” he lead the crowd with one hand, slowly raising it in time with the song’s longest vocal lines. It was hypnotic in a way, Draiman doesn’t need to scream and shout, he can do so much with so little, and do it well. And let’s be honest here, whether you’re still a Disturbed tragic, or someone who drifted away from fandom long ago, there’s still a little part of you that loves planting both feet, flashing the horns and screaming “how can you say that you don’t give a, fuck!”

But it’s hardly a one man show. Disturbed do everything they can to bring their songs to life on stage, including rolling out strings, timpanis and a piano for their cover of “Sound of Silence.” Moments like this were gently positioned between louder heavy tracks, as a comfortable antithesis to the turbulent moshpits that exploded during every chugging riff.  It was a nice relief, and one that the audience respected. Phones, for the most part, stayed in pockets, unless Draiman told everyone to bring them out during a particular song, like “The Light.”

There’s a certain sentiment that surrounds Disturbed, one that otherwise borders on clichéd sap but in this case, fits perfectly. These guys could have become a relic. Some of their most popular songs are more than ten or 15 years old at this point, and their sound hasn’t gone through any dramatic changes since day one. They could have easily slipped into obscurity during their hiatus. But people came back and new people arrived, including now internet famous Adele, the 55-year-old newcomer who scored a mid-show one-on-one with Draiman after he spotted her rocking at the barrier all night. These dedicated fans are in it for the long-haul, and while you could easily be blown away by the band’s show night after night, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to sit back, grab a beer, and watch 5000 fanatics get down with the sickness.

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