Shinedown - 'Somewhere In The Stratosphere'

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Shinedown - 'Somewhere In The Stratosphere'

A great set.

Despite the critical acclaim heaped upon the first two Shinedown studio albums, it was the 2008’s 'Sound Of Madness' that brought the four-piece careering into sharp focus. Many proclaimed it to be a masterpiece yet it had spent barely any time in the marketplace. Constant touring on the back of the CD has culminated in this live 2CD & 2DVD......with a difference. The 'Somewhere In The Stratosphere' set actually contains two full shows, one acoustic and one 'electric'. Having seen Shinedown in the live environment twice myself I can testify to the band's natural affinity in front of an audience and also their obvious musical qualities.

The first thing that strikes me on watching/listening these shows is how comfortable Shinedown are utilising the acoustic format. They still manage to generate the same energy as they do in a less intimate setting without losing any sense of rapport with the crowd. Brent Smith has a commanding stage presence and though I still have one or two reservations about the 'live' validity of his vocals at times during the shows it is virtually impossible to be anything less than impressed when he steps up to the microphone. Drummer Barry Kerch, bass player Eric Bass and guitarist Zach Myers are perfect foils for Smith's lyrical observations and that they never let the singer overshadow their own performances is testament to their genuine abilities. The 'electric' concert recorded in Washington State features a blistering run through some of 'The Sound Of Madness' finer moments alongside some of the favourites from 'Leave A Whisper' and 'Us and Them'.

The audio packs a real punch and visually we are thankfully spared any headache-inducing editing. It is also good to hear the relatively new songs 'Diamond Eyes' and 'Her Name Is Alice' (both featured on soundtracks from two high profile 2010 films). Smith's legendary between-song banter is kept to a minimum with the focus squarely on the music. At 75 minutes the running time is lean, but spellbinding nevertheless.The acoustic show from Kansas City - despite the grandeur of the setting and the formal attire of both band and audience - is relatively intimate and relaxed and the Shinedown sound is augmented by a handful of extra musicians. It comes across a little like a VH1 Storyteller gig as Smith explains the origins of each song and the ideas leading to their creation. It has a tendency to interrupt the flow a little but anyone who is familiar with the singer will no doubt be used to his ways by now. The covers of Foo Fighters 'Times Like These' and The Beatles 'With A Little Help From My Friends' are nice additions to the original material and surprisingly everything seems to work regardless of the alternative arrangements.

After two months I still have no preference for one show over the other and being a fan of the band this great set will do nicely until the new album.

Dave Bott

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