Disturbed and Lamb of God bring intensity to a largely empty American Family Insurance Amphitheater

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Summerfest offered a practical feast for hard rock fans Thursday night, with four bands — co-headliners Disturbed and Lamb of God, and openers Chevelle and New Medicine — playing across five and a half hours at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater.

It's a pity more people didn’t show up, with the amphitheater at less than 50% capacity, despite WHQG-FM (102.9) giving away free tickets at Summerfest Thursday.

No stranger to hard rock, Summerfest nevertheless isn’t any diehard fan’s optimal destination (curse those picnic benches in front of the grounds stages). But the bands gave it their all despite the empty rows, while the amphitheater accommodated with a large mosh pit on the floor that was put to especially good use for Lamb of God, who emerged the heavyweight champs for this hard-rock doubleheader.

It was Disturbed, though, that got the closing slot, even though Lamb of God shirts greatly outnumbered Disturbed tees Thursday. Not that the Chicago quartet's frontman David Draiman wanted to view the evening as a competition.

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Disturbed co-headlines the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at Summerfest on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Disturbed co-headlines the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at Summerfest on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

"We need something like this right now, don't we?" Draiman said early in the 90-minute set. "Because what's happening in this country and in this world for that matter is just a little bit too (expletive) up for my liking."

"All of those people in their positions of power are sitting very, very comfortably … and looking at all of us and pitting us against each other for their own gain. … And it takes coming to a concert like this for everybody to be reminded that, at the end of the day, we're all family."

Disturbed proceeded to unite the crowd with dystopian hard-rock anthems, with guitarist Dan Donegan offering a little extra flourish for "Ten Thousand Fists" at the start and "Indestructible" near the end, and Draiman consistently delivering grandiose vocals reminiscent at times of Steve Perry — occasionally slipping into hamminess, like a Bond villain-esque laugh for "Inside the Fire."

After so much show, the crowd unfortunately lost steam by set closer "Down With the Sickness," robbing it of the amp-exploding power it should have provided. But it was preceded by two covers that proved the highlight of the night: Genesis' "Land of Confusion," which drew some of the most visceral reactions in the pit during Disturbed's set; and a sparse and striking "The Sound of Silence," with drummer Mike Wengren's daughter joining the band as part of a two-piece string section for the Simon & Garfunkel classic.

Lamb of God

Lamb of God co-headlines the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at Summerfest on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Lamb of God co-headlines the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at Summerfest on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

Thursday was Lamb of God’s first Summerfest show, and Randy Blythe and company ensured it was a memorable debut.

With temps still in the 80s as evening began, the pit was sweltering from the start of their 75-minute set, as fans thrashed and shoved for opening number “Memento Mori.” But the band quickly turned up the heat, literally and figuratively, introducing flame throwers for “Walk With Me in Hell.” Frontman Blythe greeted the pyro by jumping around, whipping his dreads and swinging his mic, as guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler accelerated their riffs, the mosh circle spinning faster and faster, before drummer Art Cruz and bassist John Campbell brought in a sludgy low end to give the moshers a steady, head-banging respite.

“Laid to Rest” and “Redneck” at the end increased the intensity, but it’s a credit to the band, and their fans' devotion, that an unheard song performed for the very first time didn’t trip up the momentum.

“This song is not about speaking truth to power,” Blythe said. “It’s about jamming it down their (expletive) throats.”

Fans wouldn’t expect anything less.

Chevelle

Chevelle opens for Disturbed and Lamb of God at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater for Summerfest on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Chevelle opens for Disturbed and Lamb of God at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater for Summerfest on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

Chevelle went with a Martian theme during their opening set, but they practically walk among us, hailing just an hour's drive away from Grayslake, Illinois.

And while the amphitheater was largely empty for their 45-minute set, there was a hearty (almost) hometown reception by the stage, with several people in the pit wearing band guest stickers, and drummer Sam Loeffler’s young son coming out at the end (appropriately, wearing noise-canceling headphones) to help toss drum sticks into the crowd.

The band meanwhile tried to play loud enough so the folks at the Freeze in downtown Grayslake could hear them, with Sam’s younger brother Pete maintaining a sharp tension with restrained, angst-drenched vocals and aggressive guitar through hard rockers “Self Destructor,” “Send The Pain Below” and an initially solo “The Red.”

New Medicine

Minnesota-based hard-rock band New Medicine (with Cumberland, Wisconsin, native Ryan Guanzon on drums) kicked off the show with their first gig in more than five years. The lyrics can be pretty painful — “One day we’re gonna kick the bucket/So until then just say (expletive) it,” Jake Scherer sang during recent single “(Expletive) It” — but the sparse crowd was receptive, and the polished New Medicine clearly relished being on a stage again.

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Disturbed setlist

1. "Ten Thousand Fists"

2. "Inside the Fire"

3. "Stupify"

4. "Remember"

5. "Are You Ready"

6. "The Vengeful One"

7. "Stricken"

8. "Voices"

9. "Prayer"

10. "Land of Confusion" (Genesis cover)

11. "Fear"

12. "The Game"

13. "The Sound of Silence" (Simon & Garfunkel cover)

14. "Indestructible"

Encore

15. "The Light"

16. "Down With the Sickness"

Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or plevy@journalsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at facebook.com/PietLevyMJS.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Disturbed, Lamb of God rock largely empty amphitheater at Summerfest