The Transformation Of Three Days GraceMonday, February 25th, 2013
Frequent CM contributor Kristian Partington recently travelled south of the border to catch a show by the new-look Three Days Grace, one of Canada’s most revered mainstream rock acts and close childhood friends to Partington. Here’s his story!
In a sparse dressing room backstage at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York, I stood beside a cooler rammed with ice and American beer talking with a close circle of friends about what most of us had just witnessed for the first time: the latest transformation in the evolution of Three Days Grace.
Our minds had just been blown, and the cooler was the logical place to converge and digest what we had just experienced.
When Adam Gontier abruptly announced in January he was no longer able to commit to the band he helped launch out of high school with bassist Brad Walst and drummer Neil Sanderson, it was hard for many to imagine how the band would continue without that signature voice.
Rochester left no doubt in my mind that these guys will continue to impact the world of rock music with the same veracity that launched them onto the big stages more than 10 years ago.
In short, they didn’t miss a beat, and it could easily be argued that the combination of voices, harmonies, and renewed chemistry of friendship among the band members added a depth to the music that didn’t always emerge in every live show of late.
“Life is all about chapters, period,” Neil told me, vibrating with the adrenaline that pumps through the veins of every impassioned performer after a raucous crowd sends them on their way.
The new chapter the band is writing, one day at a time, one show at a time, one song at a time, is unfolding with brilliance. Matt Walst, the front man for My Darkest Days and Brad’s younger brother, stepped onto the front of the Three Days stage at the beginning of February, and immediately owned it.
This is the band he’s admired since he was a kid when he’d hover in his parents’ basement watching the guys jam, always looking up to the high school heroes, as little brothers do.
This is the band that inspired him to pick up a guitar and eventually combat the shyness that kept his voice a secret for so long. He’s got writing credits on a series of Three Days Grace songs going back to the self-titled debut, so when the band needed a replacement singer to meet their obligations to fans along the current tour path, Matt was the logical choice, despite the skepticism that swept over the social media channels in those tense first days after the bomb dropped.
By the beer cooler in Rochester, Brad described how tense it was the first night they took the stage in Moline, Illinois on Feb 1. As a band they hadn’t been truly nervous before a show in years but this night, not knowing how a crowd of fans would react to the new reality had them pacing with the same intensity their first big shows instilled years ago.
After a slow intro swirling with bended notes and synthesized eeriness, the band busts into “Chalk Outline,” the first hit off their latest album, Transit of Venus. A few bars in Brad senses the crowd’s reaction, and it’s good. He looks to his brother, nods encouragement, and Matt digs down to the deep places from where strong singers draw power, and he owns that song. By the time Neil and Dani Rosenoer on keys lend their voices to the chorus, the crowd is all-in.
With each song, any skepticism people may have held seems to wane. These are the songs they know and the sound is as full as it has ever been.
“It keeps getting better every song, every show,” Brad told me after the Rochester gig. He says that night was the best one yet, “and the next one will be even better.”
Between Dani, Neil and Matt, there’s a new depth to the vocals that guitarist Barry Stock and Brad on bass feed off of with force as the sets progress.
What I saw in Rochester was as inspired as anything I’ve ever seen from this band, and I’ve been beside them since they played their first notes together.
Barry stepped to the mic that night towards the end of the show to introduce Dani and thank Matt for stepping into a situation that couldn’t have been easy, and Matt and Brad were beaming as they shared a brotherly embrace.
From Neil’s intense drum solo to the interlude filled with clouds of smoke, men in hazmat suits, and Matt channeling Maynard James Keenan through the haunting notes of Tool’s “Parabola” as the lead-in to “World So Cold,” it was clear these guys are having fun.
The chapter this band is writing today unfolds in a space beyond the negativity that threatened to infect it when change was forced a short time ago. Things change – this is one of the few constants we can rely upon in life. It’s all about how you choose to react.
Kristian Partington is a regular contributor to Canadian Musician Magazine and writes from a point of passion for the good things in life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Nicole Zinn, Glimpse Imaging – www.glimpseimaging.ca