By Scott Raymer
One of the benefits of photographing and reviewing concerts is being exposed to artists and music for which you are not familiar. Skillet was one of these bands for me. I had heard the name Skillet before but had never seen them on stage and knew little of their music. The band made a stop at the Mobile Civic Center in Mobile, Alabama on October 16th as part of their Victorious Sky Tour co-headlining with Alter Bridge.
Skillet is a Christian Rock band which was formed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1996. The band is composed of John Cooper - lead vocals and bass, wife Korey Cooper - rhythm guitar and keyboards, Jen Ledger - drums and lead vocals, and Seth Morrison - lead guitar. They have recorded ten studio albums with their last four, Awake, Rise, Unleashed, and Victorious, reaching number one on the Billboard US Christian chart. These albums have also achieved cross-over success with each breaking into the top 5 on the Billboard US Rock chart and Rise reaching number one.
The concert took place in the Mobile Civic Center’s 2,000 seat theatre, which is an all seat, two level venue with no open floor space. Consequently, there was no mosh pit or crowd surfing that you might see at some rock shows, but forget about seats, fans were on their feet from the start. Skillet’s first song of the night was “Feel Invincible” from their album, “Unleashed”. Ledger started the song off with a pounding machine gun drum rhythm with J. Cooper joining in on vocals, bouncing up and down along with K. Cooper and Morrison. Ledger jumped in on vocals throughout the song. Morrison threw in a tremolo picking solo followed by a short interlude with K. Cooper switching from rhythm guitar to keyboards. Cooper and Ledger traded lead vocals throughout the night but unlike most bands with multiple lead vocalists, like the Beatle’s McCartney and Lennon, where only one sang lead on a given song, Cooper and Ledger traded leads within each of their songs.
The show was more than just a musical performance. It was a theatrical experience keeping the interest of the audience throughout. “You Ain’t Ready” saw J. Cooper don arm devices which he used to spew smoke throughout the song. My favourite song of the night was “Awake and Alive”. The song started with a somber cello solo by touring member, Tate Olsen, with Cooper joining in on keyboards. Ledger left her drum set and moved to the front of the stage to sing alongside J. Cooper. Later in the song, Ledger went back to her drums and the song went more up tempo. K. Cooper grabbed her guitar and both her and Morrison took their place on platforms, to the left and right of Ledger, which ascended up and down fifteen or more feet in the air while the two played their guitars.
While some Christian rock bands stop mentioning their faith on stage and become more secular in their performances as they achieve crossover success, Skillet has maintained and is not afraid to share their faith in God. Before performing their hit “Hero”, Cooper talked about how he “wrote this song for the one person who has never, ever, let me down and that is the person that gives me hope when I have no hope, that is my hero, Jesus Christ”.
The most emotional part of the night is when the band sang “Victorious”. Prior to the song, Cooper shared how he loved the lyrics and voice of Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park who committed suicide in 2017. He was motivated to write the song, not just for Bennington, but for the people like him that he meets at every concert who tells him “I just don’t know if I want to keep living. I don’t know if this world would be a better place without me. I feel all alone”. “Victorious” was Skillet’s way of letting them “know that no matter where you are, where you come from, what you look like, the color of your skin, what you believe, whatever your feel is, that you matter to God and you are special”. The performance was inspiring.
I have watched over forty bands perform this year. While I don’t want to single out any one as my favorite, I will say that Skillet definitely makes my top three. One fan spent her 60th birthday at a Skillet show and as J. Cooper said, “I love it…Skillet fans range from 4 to 104”. Whether you are young or old, Skillet puts on a show that anyone can enjoy.!