Following in the footsteps of its fellow post-grunge compatriots like Creed, Staind, and Nickelback, Shinedown came together in 2001 to keep the American hard rock flag flying high and proud. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, their 2003 debut album Leave A Whisper also showed off their southern rock roots a bit with the hit songs “45,” and the Lynyrd Skynyrd cover “Simple Man,” which would eventually elevate the album to platinum sales status. They followed with Us and Them in 2005, and The Sound Of Madness in 2008, which have sold over 8 million albums combined.
Somewhere In The Stratosphere is the latest live release from Shinedown, and it comes in a 2CD/2DVD set that can be picked up for the reasonable price of about $20. The package captures live sets from its Carnival of Madness (electric) and Anything and Everything (acoustic) tours. The acoustic set is the longest and better of the two, with a running time of about 118 minutes, and the electric set covers about 72 minutes. The CD and DVD audio sounds pretty much the same, other than the fact that they edited out all of the between-song storytelling on the acoustic CD.
The first album I bought from Shinedown was their sophomore release Us And Them when it first came out in 2005, and I thought it was one of the best melodic, hard rock albums of the year. Every song has a completely different vibe and all but a couple of the album’s 13 songs are exceptional. On the strength of that album, I picked up their debut album, Leave A Whisper, and although it has several outstanding moments, I didn’t find it to be nearly as strong as Us And Them.
Shinedown’s follow-up to Us And Them took nearly three years to make, and I was quite eager for its release after having their previous album in regular rotation in my car stereo. But the album really fell flat for me after the first few listens. The songs were either relentlessly heavy like the opening track and first single, “Devour,” or one of many radio-friendly power ballads that dominate the album. The Sound Of Madness has since grown on me somewhat, so I was looking forward to seeing and hearing this new live release from the masters of radio-friendly rock.
Somewhere In The Stratosphere: Madness Live from Washington State (Electric) is the name of the electric concert featured on this DVD, and it captures the band’s August 27, 2010 show at the Toyota Center, in Kennewick, WA. The video starts off showing the band preparing to hit the stage as the intro music, “Scary Fairy,” and darkened arena, signal the start of the show. The front of the stage was covered by a large curtain and spotlights occasionally threw shadows of the band members behind the curtain, creating an element of frenzied anticipation for the psyched up crowd. Just as the second verse of the opening track, “Sound Of Madness” kicks in, the curtain drops and we are off to the races. I’ve always thought that that was the coolest way to open a rock concert, ever since the first time I saw Aerosmith do it back in the ’80s.
“Devour” keeps the energy level high, to where even the much more melodic “I Dare You” did not even deter the mosh pit one bit. After another one of their heaviest tracks, “Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide,” they eventually start breaking out some of their hit singles like “If You Only Knew,” “The Crow & The Butterfly,” and “Save Me,” on the way to completing their 16-song set. The encore began with an acoustic performance of “Simple Man,” before closing with, first, the song that put them on the map, “Fly From The Inside,” from their debut album, and then “Second Chance,” their biggest hit off The Sound Of Madness.