Disturbed Scotiabank Arena, Toronto ON, March 4

Disturbed Scotiabank Arena, Toronto ON, March 4
Photo: Stephen McGill
"When the music is a weapon, we must evolve."
So said the action-packed trailer that preceded Disturbed's Monday night concert at Scotiabank Arena, and Disturbed certainly have evolved recently. October's Evolution was ballad-saturated and ended an unprecedented run of chart-topping albums. You'd never notice this at first, because opener "Are You Ready" is one of the heaviest songs in the band's catalogue.
Disturbed have always been one of hard rock's unlikeliest success stories. Despite having six #1 albums, it's amazing how many people still refer to them as a one-hit band. Disturbed dispelled that notion right away by serving up cuts from throughout their two-decade career. "The Vengeful One" hit particularly hard, as did "Stupify" and "Voices," performed gloriously back-to-back.
A gigantic LED screen dominated the stage setup. Along with fire jets and a drum kit that could easily be rented out as an Airbnb, it looked like every rock kid's dream. Disturbed, it seems, don't do small.
An early highlight of the show was an extended guitar break by Dan Donegan. He's always been an underrated player, but here, draped in blue and purple light, he let his instrument overtake him. It was the first "rock god" moment in a night packed with them. Others included the fiery bug-paper from "Inside the Fire," John Moyer's tasty bass solo, multiple audience glow-ups during "The Light" and mega-single "The Sounds of Silence" being played on a flaming piano as fireworks streamed from the sky. There are few sights in the world more metal then that.
But even rock'n'roll has its limits. Fireworks and guitar solos are rock'n'roll. Even power ballads can be inspiring. Smarmy acoustic songs that come with high school graduation-type montage videos definitely are not. "Hold On to the Memories" felt like an unnecessary addition and another sign of Disturbed's (um) disturbing trend toward a U2-inspired sound.
Fortunately, it was this change that led to the night's most memorable moment. Surrounded by candles on the island stage, David Draiman broke form to deliver an impassioned speech about suicide, depression, addiction and helping those struggling with mental illness. With genuine tears in his eyes, Draiman dedicated "A Reason to Fight" and "Watch You Burn" to the Prodigy's Keith Flint, who, it was revealed earlier that day, had died by suicide.
"Who here has suffered from depression or mental illness?" asked Draiman, to an army of raised hands, "You see, my friends? You are not alone."
Of course, a Disturbed concert cannot be over until that song is played. "Down With the Sickness" is one of heavy music's unquestionable classics, capable of producing joyous shrieks from millennial metalheads worldwide. But tonight, it seemed almost like a pleasant afterthought. Disturbed have reached the point where they can be a world-class act even without their signature song. This is as it should be. There are so many more areas where one can evolve.

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