Times of Grace - February 25, 2011 - Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
By: David E. Gehlke
Leach and Dutkiewicz...it's 2002 all over again
Generally, new bands comprised of "name" dudes from other bands go out with an established act to build a fanbase, live experience, etc. It's common practice in metal, unless you're pretentious enough to think otherwise. Considering Killswitch Engage's current standing as the preeminent modern metal band, the off-shoot Times of Grace gets a free pass. Or the benefit of the doubt. Either way, the appropriately-filled Mr. Smalls Theater suggested there was genuine interest in the Jesse Leach/Adam Dutkiewicz pairing.
By the time Blistering strolled in, Straight Line Stitch were a few songs into their set. Frontwoman Alexis Brown is a whirling dervish onstage, displaying the intensity that would rival any of her male counterparts. Naturally, a pair of people asked yours truly if that were a dude onstage, but beer goggles usually obstruct normal viewing anyway. Nevertheless, the band's set relied heavily upon 2008's When Skies Wash Ashore, with their trademark song "Black Veil" closing a frenzied, but workmanlike set that proves that metalcore is awfully tough to disguise, even with a good chick singer.
Christian hardcore titans War of Ages were up next, who engaged in the total faux pas of playing other band's songs during soundcheck. Case in point, the unnecessary hauling out of "Paranoid" and "Walk," two songs that could never be aired again and it still would be overkill. But hey, the kids got their kicks out of it, so point taken. The band's set was predictable as it was sterile, with telegraphed beatdowns, some brief neo-shredding, and girly clean vocals to boot. Upon completion of their set, the surprising chant of "One more song!" echoed in the front rows, but Blistering chalked that up to the band stating Pittsburgh was their real home now that Erie's (the band's actual hometown) venues have closed. Wonder if they said the same thing in Cleveland or Buffalo...
"Goofball metal" was in the house for Times of Grace, with Adam D. and bassist Daniel Struble doing the ever-annoying prance-and-run pose Dutkiewicz is so privy to during KSE's live performances. All the while, Leach played it straight and close to the vest, probably because he was wearing an actual vest. He looked sharp. Dutkiewicz's KSE guitar pal Joel Stroezel was also onboard, although he demonstrated a subtle disinterest to his surroundings, but the pair still forms a formidable guitar team.
The cavernous Mr. Smalls offered a muddy sound mix, as the band ran through the entire Hymn of A Broken Man effort, including lead single "Strength In Numbers," the anthemic "For for Life" and set highlight "Live In Love." In a head-scratching move, no classic KSE songs were aired, which in the end, was probably wise considering the strides made for Times of Grace not to be classic KSE. Frankly, there was no need to hear "Fixation on Darkness" or "My Last Serenade." Those songs have been done to death. Such maneuvers can be made when you have a handful of beloved albums under your belt and street cred with the kids. That probably won't be the case with Times of Grace, but they'll be damned for not trying...