Supporting their new album “Ember,” Northeastern Pennsylvania’s biggest band, Breaking Benjamin, returned home to perform at the area’s biggest music venue, The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton, on Friday, Aug. 17 with multi-platinum metal band Five Finger Death Punch and up-and-coming heavy metal group Bad Wolves.
Proving, in their own words, that “rock is not dead,” Breaking Benjamin’s sixth studio album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums, Alternative Albums, and Hard Rock Albums charts when it was released in April, accompanied by a hometown visit and signing at the Gallery of Sound in Wilkes-Barre. “Ember” came in at No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, just behind Jason Aldean’s “Rearview Town” and Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy.” By April 19, it had sold 88,000 equivalent album units, or 80,000 in traditional album sales, according to Billboard.
In an age where musicians are struggling to sell records and rock acts are losing ground to other genres on the charts, this is no easy feat, but with every one of their albums either certified platinum or gold by the RIAA, it’s expected since they’ve amassed such a dedicated fan base worldwide. It seems to remain the strongest in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region, where it all began in 1998 with vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Burnley and a much different lineup.
“We love you Scranton,” Burnley told the crowd at at Montage Mountain. “We love to hear you guys singing along. I’ll tell you what, you guys have supported us from day number one, and that’s so goddamn awesome. We’re so grateful for that. Thank you so much. We’ve been able to do this a lot of years and that’s because of the support of each and every one of you guys. There’s no words to describe it.”
He also took time to praise each member of the group’s current lineup, particularly bassist and longtime friend Aaron Bruch.
“Aaron is from NEPA. You guys might not know that,” Burnley noted from the stage. “He’s extremely talented, and he belongs up on this stage with us tonight. And I’ll tell you what, man, he’s living proof that … your dreams can come true and you can achieve whatever the fuck you want in your life.”
Breaking Benjamin played three songs each from “Ember,” “Dark Before Dawn,” “Phobia,” and “We Are Not Alone,” along with one song from “Dear Agony” and a medley of “The Imperial March” from “Star Wars,” Tool’s “Schism,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Pantera’s “Walk,” and Metallica’s “Sad But True,” followed by a Shaun Foist drum solo.
While those who saw the show walked away happy, The Pavilion at Montage Mountain has since received criticism for how they handled the large crowds and traffic during the inclement weather that forced the venue to temporarily shut down and Texas rock band Nothing More to cancel their scheduled opening set. Starting a Facebook group called “Music Lovers Against The Pavilion at Montage” after the debacle, many fans say they spent hours in their vehicles waiting to get up the mountain and into the parking lot, only to be turned away after being told that the venue was oversold. They also claim that those who bought seats had trouble keeping them after concertgoers from the lawn seeking shelter were allowed to take them or stand in front of them.
After some fans demanded refunds and threatened to file a class action lawsuit, Live Nation responded with a statement saying that “fans received misinformation about the show being oversold and experienced difficulties entering the venue due to severe weather” and has since offered free tickets and Live Nation Concert Cash for upcoming shows to those who contacted them. Some filed further complaints and said that wasn’t enough; other concertgoers said that they eventually received refunds after pressing further, but the issue is still not resolved for many ardent fans who missed their hometown band, according to posts in the Facebook group.
Breaking Benjamin setlist, Aug. 17, 2018, The Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton:
Red Cold River
I Will Not Bow
The Imperial March/Schism/Smells Like Teen Spirit/Walk/Sad But True medley
Sooner or Later
Blow Me Away
Until the End
Torn in Two
The Diary of Jane
See NEPA Scene’s photos of the Breaking Benjamin meet and greet in Wilkes-Barre back in April here. Read an exclusive review of their surprise show in Luzerne last year with photos and video here and read another review of their last concert at Montage Mountain with Disturbed here.
Photos by Ryan Mullaney Photography
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, adequate photographer, podcast co-host, and practicing poet. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.