When Disturbed was forced to back out the night before headlining the Illusions Theater at the Alamodome on Feb. 9, 2011, due to vocal problems for singer David Draiman, San Antonians didn't count on the group going on a 3 1/2 year-plus hiatus before scheduling a "makeup" date. Or that it would take five years in all for the band's South Texas fans to receive their raincheck.
Disturbed made it count in a big way.
Headlining the 20-band fourth annual River City Rockfest on Memorial Day Sunday outside the AT&T Center, Draiman and Co. were mindful of the fact many in the festival's largest official attendance of "more than 27,800" felt the band had a favor to pay up. Sure, stuff happens, and that prior cancellation may have been outside of his control. But Draiman acknowledged as much on a couple of occasions.
"San Antonio, it has been far too long, has it not?" Draiman asked early in the set. Prior to the encores, he elaborated: "I'm sorry it took us so long to come back, San Antonio. I know we owed you a show."
In between those remarks, Disturbed provided a bombastic concert worthy of a long-awaited return. Opening with the title track to 2005's Ten Thousand Fists, Draiman, guitarist Dan Donegan, bassist John Moyer and drummer Mike Wengren unleashed a fiery display of pyrotechnics that melted the first several rows of fans, many of whom had already withstood an 11-hour, non-rainy, muggy afternoon standing on asphalt with only $9 beer and $5 bottled water and soda at their disposal.
The Chicago band, half comprised of Texas residents up the road in Austin in Draiman and Moyer, slayed the evening sky as the featured attraction of the Rockfest's most loaded lineup in its four years, performing older tunes "The Game," "Prayer" and "Liberate" along with latest album Immortalized's first single "The Vengeful One." Draiman exhibited another brilliant rendition of Disturbed's latest cover, Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," as the crowd took a breather from the pyro and intense rock during a brief slowdown in the set.
But the gas pedals were pressed again soon thereafter.
"Inside the Fire" literally re-amped the heat before Draiman commanded the audience to brighten up the night with its lighters and cell phones on new tune "The Light." Crowd favorite "Stricken" had the audience rockin' as well, though it would be great to hear Disturbed put "Guarded" -- arguably its fastest and heaviest tune -- and/or "Deceiver" and "The Night" into the set too.
The members of Disturbed were plenty active during their sabbatical between 2011-15. Donegan and Wengren remained in Chicago and formed the side project Fight Or Flight. Draiman moved to Austin, became a father and formed his own group, Device, which leaned toward the industrial side of metal and played Megadeth's Gigantour in Corpus Christi in 2013 (coverage here). Draiman also provided vocal work on Megadeth's "Dance in the Rain" off their 2013 CD Super Collider, but not even Megadeth's inclusion on the Rockfest could result in a collaboration between the two on this evening (though Wengren did join Sixx A.M. on drums during their afternoon performance of "Life is Beautiful"). Moyer, meanwhile, played in several bands including Geoff Tate's Queensryche/Operation: Mindcrime, Art Of Anarchy with the late Scott Weiland on vocals, and one-time Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley's outfit The Foundry (coverage here). He also accompanied fellow Austin natives One-Eyed Doll on stage during their 2015 South By Southwest appearance (more here).
Disturbed has made a tradition of covering songs on nearly each of its albums, starting with 2000's version of "Shout" by Tears For Fears and its most popular one, "Land of Confusion" by Genesis. While "The Sound of Silence" is its most striking cover yet thanks to Draiman's brilliant vocal work, the group went overboard at the Rockfest by providing a medley of covers that could've been taken up by one or two more originals, especially given Disturbed's long absence from the Alamo City. Still, there were those in the crowd who enjoyed non-album versions of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," The Who's "Baba O Riley" and Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name" to go with the rendition of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," found on 2010's Asylum.
Following his second acknowledgement of the group's return, Draiman bellowed, "Put this in your pipe and smoke it" as Disturbed launched into first encore "Voices" -- which Draiman sang in a less menacing octave than usual -- before the song they'll likely end with from here to a more permanent hiatus: "Down With the Sickness."
Disturbed came, conquered and satisfied the thousands on hand. Just being able to hear "Stupify" live again was well worth the wait. In return, metalheads stretching throughout the AT&T Center's grounds had their appetites more than whetted by 11 hours of heavy Rock N' Roll. And the festivities ended in style, capped by a band that left no doubt it's still got it.
Setlist: "Ten Thousand Fists," "The Game," "The Vengeful One," "Prayer," "Liberate," "Stupify," "The Sound of Silence," "Inside the Fire," "The Light," "Stricken," covers medley ("Closer," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Baba O'Riley," Killing in the Name"), "Indestructible." Encores: "Voices," "Down With the Sickness"
To watch a River City Rockfest interview with Hatebreed, click here. Click the appropriate links for coverage of Megadeth, Scorpions, Bullet For My Valentine, Sixx A.M., Hellyeah, DevilDriver, Avatar and Red Sun Rising and The Sword. Stay tuned for coverage of Sevendust, Hatebreed, and Pop Evil. For a 2011 interview with Moyer prior to the band's postponed previous visit, click here.