[LIVE REVIEW] Skillet @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 18/11/2018

Skillet entered my house a couple of years ago, via my then 11-year-old who came across Monster and played it incessantly.  And that’s all I knew about them until I was given the review.  My now 13 year old says “You know they’re a Christian band, right?”  Well no, I didn’t know they were a Christian band.  I had visions of every church youth group in Melbourne having an outing to the Forum to see them and this rather put a damper on my anticipation for the gig.  I joined the exceptionally long queue outside the Forum last night and had a look around.  Looked like a normal rock crowd to me.  Wait, that guy’s wearing what looks like a Star Wars T-Shirt but on closer inspection, it says “May the Lord be with you.”   God is obviously exempt from breaches of copyright.  But there was a really nice buzz of anticipation amongst the assembled so I decided to relax and enjoy myself (while avoiding eye contact.  I’m not ripe for conversion).

Opening for Skillet was Terra a local 5 piece.  Pop Punk is how they are described by Triple J.  I’d say more on the pop side but they gave a 30 minute set of boppy, danceable and catchy tunes.  Pint-sized Cassie Sutton has lovely clean vocals and the 3 guitarists were animated and skillful.  I was reminded a bit of Tonight Alive and there are a lot of bands that sound similar.  I really hope these guys can come up with that tune that will help them break out of the pubs and onto the next level.

Skillet came on to a rowdy reception from the congregation (I mean crowd).  I had known that there were 2 ladies in the band but was surprised when one of them took her place behind the drum kit.  And Jen Ledger can only be described as “badass” on those drums, having clearly gone to the Dave Grohl school of drumming, hair, and sticks everywhere.  And also providing the backing vocals.  I’m told it is extremely hard to drum and sing at the same time but she managed this beautifully.  Her voice has a “little girl” quality and I could not help thinking about watching Rugrats years ago.

Lead singer John Cooper is a very engaging individual.  He worked the front of the stage covering the full width and making sure everyone was on board the Skillet train.  I would reckon 70%+ of the audience were word perfect and there were plenty of sing-along opportunities.  They opened with Feel Invincible from 2016’s Unleashed followed by Whispers in the Dark.  From my atheist’s perspective, I was listening to the lyrics searching for the subliminal attempts to turn me from the dark side.  But truly, other than two songs, Lion and Watching for Comets, which sounded like modern songs of worship, this was just an entertaining, good old rock and roll show with a touch of the Electronic and Symphonic.

Sick of it was a highlight for me.  “Are you sick of it?” asks John.  “Sick of the stress, of the doubt, of everything?  Raise your hands up and let it go.  Take control, it’s now or never.”  I am all about personal responsibility and this song sounded like a message to the millennials.  “Take a stand and raise your hand, if you’re sick of it.

As with every American act I have seen this year, an apology was made for their president.  “The atmosphere in my country is so divisive at the moment.”  Says John.  “People fight because they look different, they vote differently, they dress differently.  I love that rock and roll brings people together, no matter who they vote for, the colour of their skin or how much they have.”   And I will give that a great big Amen!  One of my favourite things about music is sharing the experience with others who are prepared to pay their money, get off the couch and go out and really live for a few hours.

Hero brought Jen out from behind the drum kit to share the lead vocals and they finished their main set with Monster.  The Forum reverberated with the call for one more song.  An extended rendition of The Resistance ended their set and the crowd showed their appreciation with their hands, their feet, and their hearts.  There was a lot of love for this band that could be felt in the air last night.

So this night was a bit of a revelation for me, with two of my long-held beliefs dispelled.

  1. Not all Christian music is daggy
  2. Chicks do rock (I’ll explain that more some other time)

I loved this show.   Skillet has not visited Australia since 2011 but hopefully, the reception they received at the Forum last night will encourage them to make the trip more often.

Review Contributed by Wendy Smith

Gallery by Jose Sanchez