The Alliant Energy Center was a popular destination for Madisonians looking for a night out on Friday, Dec. 2. The arena was nearly full by the time the show kicked off, with seats packed all the way to the back of the venue. The double-feature tour that passed through Madison brings together two unassuming acts — bro-country star Brantley Gilbert and metal legends Five Finger Death Punch.
It was a strange sight to see men in flannels and Carhartt sweatshirts mingling with emos with tattoo sleeves and green hair in the pit, but the two groups of fans were brought together by their shared love of music. By the end of the night, metal fans were headbanging to Brantley Gilbert’s country anthems, and country fans were moshing to Five Finger Death Punch’s crowd-pleasing bangers.
The show was underway right on time as the opener Cory Marks took the stage. The country-hard rock fusionist was the perfect artist to excite the seemingly divided audience before the main acts.
Cory Marks and his bandmates stormed the stage to “Devil’s Grin,” a party anthem that featured timeless country twang vocals supported by high-energy guitar riffs. His set included a fresh take on Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner,” that was a big hit with older members of the crowd, as well as the brand-new “Burn it Up.”
The track draws the most from metal influences with a mosh-worthy breakdown and intense guitar solo. Cory Marks finished with his biggest hit “Outlaws & Outsiders” inspiring fans to stomp their boots and sing along.
After a brief transition, the stage setup for Brantley Gilbert was revealed. The centerpiece was a pickup truck tailgate that the drummer sat on like a redneck throne, laying down a beat to build suspense before Gilbert stormed the stage.
Gilbert’s opener “Kick it in the Sticks” set the tone for his performance with some crowd call and response in the chorus. After finishing the song, the singer shouted out his favorite Wisconsin export Harley Davidson in a vintage tank top that paid homage to the motorcycle manufacturers.
Gilbert’s set felt like a summer night spent slamming beers in the bed of a truck in a cornfield, featuring party classics like “The Weekend” and “My Kinda Party.” It was clear from the energy in the arena that these songs have been the soundtrack to many fans’ wild nights.
Next, he incorporated some special guests into the show. Gilbert brought his brother onstage for his new single “Son of the Dirty South” to spit bars in the song’s rap section. He was soaking in the moment as he nailed the verse with Gilbert acting as his hype man. The next special guest was none other than Five Finger Deathpunch frontman Ivan Moody, who joined Gilbert onstage for their hit collaboration “Blue on Black.”
Winding down, Gilbert saluted our troops with “One Hell of an Amen.” He dedicated the song to veterans and those currently serving overseas in the military. After the emotional moment, he brought it home with the rowdy banger “Read Me My Rights.” Gilbert got up close and personal with the crowd, jumping into the pit to finish his set among clamoring fans.
After a lengthy intermission, a giant curtain dropped to reveal a gigantic self-devouring snake sculpture that backed the stage for Five Finger Death Punch. The rockers’ set was off to a literally explosive start when they took the stage to impressive pyrotechnics featured in their opening song “Lift Me Up.” Lead singer Ivan Moody got the crowd pumped up, encouraging them to mosh right away.
The band wasted no time getting to their biggest hit “Jekyll and Hyde” energizing the crowd even more. It was difficult to hear Ivan Moody’s vocals over the fans screaming along with him. Five Finger Death Punch followed up the hit with a deeper cut “Sham Pain.” Moody threw money into the crowd as he rapped about the troubles of fame.
Next, opener Cory Marks returned to the stage to join the band for “Bad Company.” His unique country style added a new dimension to the song’s sound. At this point in the performance, the crowd was starting to get a bit out of hand. After “IOU,” several belligerent fans were removed from the crowd, and one was personally kicked out by Moody himself.
To finish off their set, Five Finger Death Punch played “Under and Over It.” Moody continued the band’s tradition of smashing aluminum baseball bats on stage, taking out his rage to the band members’ thrash-worthy riffs. He gave one baseball bat to a young fan, and he gave the other to a fan overcoming addiction. Finally, the metal icons concluded with “The Bleeding,” an anthem that featured an intense breakdown and insane drum work by Charlie Engen.
The joint tour will be making its rounds in the Midwest, with upcoming performances in Minnesota and Iowa, before heading to the West Coast. Check out one of their performances for a concert that feels like a party.