The first time I saw Parkway Drive was in my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand at The Civic Theatre to a crowd of maybe 500 people. It was great show and it was easy to see that the band was destined for bigger rooms and enormous crowds. With that said, I never could’ve foreseen that a decade later they would be selling out some of the biggest arenas Australia has to offer.
When I sat down with frontman Winston McCall a few months ago for an interview, he told me what the band had in store for the tour, but there is no way I could’ve prepared for the utter insanity that I witnessed on Friday night at Margaret Court Arena.
Sadly, I missed Thy Art Is Murder’s set as I was being a responsible magazine editor and signing off on the new issue. I arrived at the venue just in time to catch Killswitch Engage in all of their metalcore might. It was instantly obvious that they’re a band accustomed to rooms this size as they hit the stage with a mountain of energy and confidence. Frontman Jesse Leach sang his heart out, and the crowd gave it back to him in spades. Classic cuts ‘A Bid Farewell’, ‘My Last Serenade’ and ‘The End of Heartache’ elicited enormous sing-alongs, while newer songs ‘Strength of the Mind’ and ‘Hate By Design’ got the crowd moving. The room was teeming with excitement at the end of their set, proving they were the perfect band to set the stage for the main act.
I’ve seen Parkway Drive dozens of times over the last decade and each time they have proven to be a world class act unlike any other. This time, however, was something so absolutely enormous and enveloping that I don’t even know where to begin. From the moment the band kicked in with ‘Wishing Wells’, it was clear that this was so much more than a band of five people playing songs – this was a show on a level that I never could’ve anticipated. The set was primarily comprised of tracks from the band’s most recent records Reverence and Ire, and it was easy to understand why. These songs were made for arenas and for thousands of people to sing along to. I was absolutely overwhelmed by 7,000 plus people singing along to songs like ‘Vice Grip’, ‘Wild Eyes’ and ‘Bottom Feeder’. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing at the sheer enormity of these moments and I don’t think they’ll ever be scrubbed from my memory.
Songs aside, the production Parkway brought in was simply unbelievable. The lighting show, pyrotechnics and revolving drum kit (yes, the thing you saw in that Slipknot DVD) were just utterly insane. The band even enlisted a string quartet to join them mid-set for ‘Cemetery Bloom’, a brief moment of refrain amongst a set of high octane fury. Parkway closed out the night with the powerful encore of ‘Crushed’ and ‘Bottom Feeder’, two huge songs that left the audience riled up and elated.
What blew me away was just how much this band has grown as performers and how they have perfected their show down to every minor detail, without becoming pompous rock stars. Winston McCall always has been the nicest guy in metal, and he remains that same guy to this day. There were key moments throughout the set where he just stood at the centre of the stage in disbelief that the show was even real. On a related note, huge kudos to drummer Ben Gordon for being able to hit every note while upside down on his drum kit.
When the set came to a close, I sat in my seat for a while and just pondered how insane the evening had been. I saw Parkway Drive at the start of this year on their Horizons anniversary tour, and while those shows were fun, I have to say that this was one of the best shows I’ve seen in my entire life. This wasn’t Mötley Crüe, this wasn’t KISS – it was Parkway Drive from Byron Bay, the metalcore underdogs that took over the world. They have smashed through every glass ceiling they have ever come up against and have cemented themselves as a one-in-a-million band. Goodness me, what a time to be alive.
Images via Clinton Hatfield.