Saturday, September 19, 2015

Breaking Benjamin at the Best Buy Theater

Benjamin Burnley
Vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Burnley originally formed a soft rock band named Breaking Benjamin in 1998 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The moniker originated when Burnley broke a borrowed microphone. The original band disbanded when Burnley moved to California. After returning to Pennsylvania in 1999, Burnley formed the hard rocking Plan 9, but the group soon reclaimed the name Breaking Benjamin from the previous band. This second Breaking Benjamin sold millions of units, but went on hiatus in 2010 due to Burnley's still-undiagnosed illness. In 2014, Burnley formed a third band and once again adopted the name Breaking Benjamin. The current lineup consists of Burnley, lead guitarist Jasen Rauch (of Red), rhythm guitarist Keith Wallen (of Adelitas Way), bassist Aaron Bruch, and drummer Shaun Foist (of Picture Me Broken). Breaking Benjamin released its fifth and most recent album, Dark Before Dawn, on June 23, 2015.

At the Best Buy Theater tonight, the new Breaking Benjamin performed songs from the previous band's catalog as well as songs from the new album. The new songs were knit from the same threads, however, as radio-friendly hard rock tunes that each built to crescendos in quickly arriving choruses. Burnley has lived through many battles and perhaps his emo-oriented angst set apart Breaking Benjamin from similar commercial rock bands. In the end, the concert's weakness was its homogeneity; most song arrangements sounded predictably similar to the other predictable songs. Construction was  uniformly led by tortured lead vocals, crunching guitar riffs, vocal harmonies on the swelling choruses, and Burnley's frivolous potty-mouth messages between songs. Burnley branded the formula, and his band was taught to burnish it well. The surprises included the occasional sharing of lead vocals among the front line musicians, Rauch playing synthesizer on several songs, and several covers: Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever," Tool's "Aenema," and a medley of snippets from Star War’s "Imperial March," Tool’s "Schism," Nirvana’s "Smell Like Teen Spirit" and Pantera’s "Walk." The 15-year regiment of Breaking Benjamin was executed well and profoundly pointed to a previous decade; the concluding question was whether the new band will be allowed to evolve beyond the long-confining walls it inherited and blossom with new potential.

Visit Breaking Benjamin at