As my 11 year old son and I stood in line outside the Chameleon Club in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, interacting with fellow concert goers, I was taken back to the first experience I had seeing RED perform live.
In 2006, before RED released their freshman album End of Silence, I had the privilege of being introduced to them as they toured in support of Day of Fire. I was a youth leader before having kids of our own, and I was passionate about sharing my love of rock and roll with teens– some of whom otherwise may not be exposed to a positive message of hope and love. Rock and roll bands have a unique way of relating to the most vulnerable among us, young and old alike.
Fast forward 12 years to this chilly fall evening in Central Pennsylvania as we wait for the doors to open for the Fall 2018 Unstoppable Tour. My son, who was the youngest at this all ages club show, was spending his wait time laughing it up with the adults in line. Kids have a way of bringing out the best in strangers, which made this particular wait memorable for me.
Two members of Portland, Oregon based Veio (one of the opening acts) came out to chat with fans, introducing themselves to my son and I. I appreciate smaller hometown shows because artists are more accessible to fans than at festivals and arena tours.
Finally the doors opened and we entered the venue– a multiple story open floor plan (standing only) club, with the 21-and-over crowd allowed on the floor while the under-21 crowd was directed upstairs to a balcony, away from the bar. The Chameleon Club offers an intimate setting in which to see a concert with great views from anywhere. We got there early, so we were able to head up the stairs to find a great spot along the front railing with a perfect view of the stage from above.
The aforementioned Veio opened up the show with a hard-hitting four song set that will definitely lead me to explore their music further. I learned from mixing with fans before the show that “The Revery” is a nearly ten minute track that is a must-listen.
Veio was followed by international rockers Skyharbor, comprised of members from India and the United States. Their sound was raw yet melodic, featuring the impressive vocals of Eric Emery.
Our favorite of the supporting acts was The Veer Union, a Vancouver based band with a heavy vibe for fans of Spoken and Seventh Day Slumber. They provided one of the highlights of the evening during their final song “Numb,” a Linkin Park cover dedicated to Chester Bennington.
Finally it was time for the main event as the RED crew set up a cemetery-themed stage for the Pennsylvania native hard rock veterans.
As the track for “Still Alive” began playing, lead singer Michael Barnes and brothers Anthony and Randy Armstrong took the stage along with their touring drummer Dan Johnson, who was perched atop a gated crypt on the back of center stage. The band entered on cue with fire and smoke blasting from the towers of the graveyard, electrifying the capacity crowd and kicking off a 17-song, nearly two hour set.
The opener transitioned seamlessly into “Faceless,” during which I came to appreciate the energy and passion of the young fans surrounding me. It was a refreshing night to be joined by so many fans rocking so hard along with the band. I have always been the one jumping up and down and giving every fiber of my being, singing along with my favorite songs.
After tight renditions of “Lie To Me (Denial)” and “Fracture,” RED launched into what was for me a spiritually moving throwback set. I remember listening through End of Silence when it was released, during dark periods and challenges early in my adult life. “Lost in You” and “Let Go” were songs that comforted me during a difficult season. Music has a way of bringing back memories, good and bad, while reminding us that we serve a God who will always love us and hold us close. I sang these two songs followed by “Already Over” as my prayer during this show, my soul overflowing and my heart full to be able to sit alongside my son as a reminder of God’s goodness.
After this set, it was time to ramp it up with hard hitting tracks like “Feed the Machine” and “Release the Panic,” which represent a time to just rock out until all the anxiety and stress built up from life is washed away by the sweat dripping off my forehead.
In a fun twist, RED upped the anti on “Breathe Into Me,” creating an edgier moment than the recording. After this song, RED said thanks to the Lancaster fans and left the stage– but no one in the house was leaving as chants for one more song filled the room.
Drummer Dan Johnson took his place on stage first, treating us to a wild and fun drum solo that captivated my son as we approached midnight. After a minute or two, he was joined on stage by the rest of the group as they launched into their final song. They capped a fantastic night with “Unstoppable,” a Sia cover and one of the best tunes on their latest album Gone.
After the show, we chatted with our new friends on the way to the parking garage and said goodnight.
My son and I have come toe to toe with depression and anxiety, with rock music being our shared refuge. It was exciting that he expressed how much he enjoyed RED, along with the supporting artists joining them on stage. I agree that it was a great night, given the superior quality of all the bands, and I hope that he continues lean on positive music to help him overcome the challenges sure to come his way as he enters his teenage years.
RED continues to demonstrate how musically tight and in sync they are as they present one of the most exciting and technically sound live shows, night in and night out. On this raw and cool autumn night, this was everything that my soul was craving, and I left fulfilled.