Written by Tom Collins
Edited by Scott Johnson
It’s known in Philadelphia as the official kickoff to the Summer Concert Season at the BBT Pavilion. Rock radio station 93.3 WMMR celebrating it’s astounding 49th year, turned it up to “11” with it’s MMRBQ 2017! Initiated in 2007, the MMRBQ has year after year brought a selection of Rock & Roll’s top bands both old and new. This years lineup was no different featuring heavy hitters like Rival Sons, Zakk Sabbath, The Struts, The Pretty Reckless, Bush, the reunited band Live with Ed Kowalczyk back on vocals and headliner, GODSMACK!!!
One of the bands that played RBQ in the recent past was Soundgarden. Despite having a day without rain, a dark cloud hung over the entire crowd and musicians still in shock and deep sorrow at the loss of Chris Cornell. It was obvious that Cornell’s passing was on everyones mind. The day started with Local Shots Band, Stolen Rhodes and was followed by Dinosaur Pile-Up. The crowd suddenly grew and heated up when Rival Sons hit the stage! They were on a previous RBQ but had to stop their set just a few songs in. Singer, Jay Buchanan was extremely ill before the show. Try as he did, Jay just could not get his voice to stay with him. He apologized to the large audience and promised to come back again and give his all. This year he and Rival Sons came back with a vengeance!!! Healthy and strong Buchanon belted out their hits, much to the delight of the concert goers! You might wonder just who or “what, in this case” could follow such a strong performance??? How about the big bad bearded Zakk Wylde and his Zakk Sabbath!!!
Zakk Wylde, of course, is best known as guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and his own band Black Label Society. Zakk Sabbath is his tribute to the legendary Black Sabbath. When Zakk hits the stage, you haven’t a clue if he’s coming or going because you can’t tell the front of his head from the back for all the Viking like hair all over it!!! He’s a pure beast of a man as well as guitarist. Playing many of Sabbath’s greatest hits, his guitar work was super sonic and bone crushing! By appearance he’s a intimidating figure. But in person you’ll be hard pressed to meet a kinder, humorous individual.
The first portion of the event was all General Admission, so you could go as close to the stage as you liked even if you had a lawn ticket. Now it was time for everyone to get to their respective seats and get ready for a barrage of more great bands, starting with The Struts!!! Out of England, The Struts struggled for recognition. But, these British rockers have found huge success in the United States. They bring a fresh but classic sound back to Rock & Roll! Singer, Luke Spiller is a flamboyant mashup of legends like Mick Jagger, David Bowie and most notably Freddie Mercury, all rolled in to one! The Struts are all about fun, sing along, and “move your body” Rock & Roll. Luke’s energy and charisma on stage are absolutely captivating! If you had never seen or heard of The Struts before now, I’m willing to be you became an instant fan. I think we all needed a band like The Struts to help lighten some of the somberness of the day remembering Cornell.
The next band up was The Pretty Reckless. It had to be a difficult set as they had just opened up for Soundgarden the night of his tragic passing. They considered canceling their performance at MMRBQ which would have been completely understandable. Instead, they decided to go on and give the best set that they could under such heavy circumstances. Taylor Momsen soldiered on, trying to muster a quick smile for the crowd when she could. She ended their set with a truly beautiful and very emotional tribute to Chris by singing “Like a Stone”. Choking back the tears, she barely made it through the song. Momsen then left the stage sobbing to be comforted by her guitarist who hugged her as they walked off. Everyone in attendance teared up as well, but cheered loudly to let her know they appreciated her strength and her tribute.
Bush, is a bands who’s has been around for a long time. Still, I heard many people saying they didn’t know if they liked the band or even what to expect from their performance? Lead by Gavin Rossdale, aka “Heartthrob” to all the women, came out with boundless energy and blasted into the many of Bush’s hit songs! It was only a few songs into the set before he had the entire BBT Pavillion under his control! If there was any doubt he neglected anyone in the crowd, Gavin jumped down from the stage and journeyed all the way to the depths of the GA lawn!!! Singing with fans, hugging and high-fiving his way through the crowd, he eventually made his way back on to the stage in one piece! After working the crowd into a complete frenzy, Gavin then brought it back down some by singing R.E.M’s, “This One Goes Out To The One I Love”. He slowed the song down at one point to where it was just him on echoing vocals and mixed in the lyrics to “Black Hole Sun” as his tribute to fallen hero, Chris Cornell. Lighters and cell phones glowed through the darkness over the audience like brilliant stars in the night. The greatness of Chris Cornell’s loss was not lost on anyone.
One of my favorite songs by Cornell was sung as a tribute by Live. This was the first official show when the band reunited with original lead singer, Ed Kowalczyk. The fact that Live is a Pennsylvania based band had everyone excited before they even hit the stage! Large LED lights and “Live” lit up the back of the stage as the members casually walked on to cheers from the sea of fans. They genuinely looked happy to be back together again and it showed in their performance.
If any MMRBQ goers starting to show signs of fatigue, there’s nothing like a highly caffeinated jolt of GODSMACK to wake everyone back up! Godsmack is another powerhouse veteran of the MMRBQ. With speakers thumping louder than they had all day, Godsmack brought more of the Metal side of Rock to Camden!!! Sully Erna seemed in quite a good mood and often joked with the massive crowd in front of him. In fact, he was having so much fun that Godsmack brought enough pyro technics on the stage to make it feel like a giant bonfire! Flames towered high from the stage through their many hit songs. What has become a staple in their performances was a legendary Drum Battle between Sully and drummer Shannon Larkin! The contest comes to a thunderous end with a huge blast of flames above the stage. This most certainly got everyone’s blood rushing and ready for the ride home after a long day of great music. Even if you didn’t like one band, you likely loved the next. It’s safe to say that nobody left the MMRBQ 2017 disappointed.
The Pretty Reckless