MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
In the daylight, Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field looked empty, with a stage set in front of it. As night began to fall, the field swarmed with screaming fans, waiting in anticipation of a platinum-selling band.
The rock group known as Shinedown has traveled around the world for more than a year and after nearly 300 shows, they ended their Amaryllis tour with the Sounds of Freedom Concert held at the Combat Center Saturday.
“We’ve had the privilege of going to a lot of countries, but tonight we are in Twentynine Palms,” said Brent Smith, lead vocalist, Shinedown. “You have no idea what an extraordinary honor it is to be here.”
The band’s performance was a welcomed break from the typical weekend routine aboard the Combat Center. Whether residents choose to leave the high desert to find entertainment or they seek it out in the local community, a top-selling rock band paying tribute to the military in the Combat Center’s back yard is a unique experience.
“Sometimes our Marines have to travel a little ways to get to something that entertains them,” said Lt. Col. Steven De Lazaro, commanding officer, Company C, Headquarters Battalion. “Our demographic is (18 to 25-year-olds), so to have a band of this stature come on base and perform for us is just tremendous. They’ve been on tour for 20 months and they wanted this performance tonight to be their last U.S. tour date. That says a tremendous amount about them.”
The eager crowd spent much of their time screaming, “Shinedown!” before the band’s 8 o’clock appearance. The band ended the crowd’s delay, as they stepped on stage to play the first song of their two-hour performance.
Hundreds of hands, cellphones and butane lighters hovered over the crowd. The stage lights lit up the faces of everyone in attendance, reaching to the back row as the experience was enhanced by pyrotechnics bursting into the air throughout their set.
For the two original members of Shinedown, Smith and Barry Kerch ,drummer, the concert hit closer to home. Both come from a military family and are familiar with the sacrifices made not only by service members, but their families as well.
“My father was my hero when I grew up; Throughout my entire life,” Smith said, addressing the crowd. “You have absolutely no idea what you mean to this country and not only to this country, but what you mean to your families, to your kids, to your future grand kids. It’s an absolute honor for us to stand up here tonight.”
During Shinedown’s meet-and-greet at Hashmarks prior to their performance, the band was able to meet some of the Marines and sailors who serve at the Combat Center as well as their families.
The band members seemed humbled to be there.
They were happy to take pictures with their fans and made sure to shake hands and thank every service and family member they spoke with. These gestures of appreciation extended to their crew, who followed in suit, shaking hands and thanking Marines and sailors for their service, sometimes thanking individuals more than once just to be sure they didn’t miss anyone.
When the band stepped on stage, however, they showed their appreciation with more than just thanks and praise. They were there to make sure everyone had a great time and that for the Combat Center, Shinedown would be a name to remember.
Smith challenged the crowd to scream loud enough to be heard by the whole state of California.
“We’ve done this in front of five people before and we’ve done this in front of five thousand people before,” Smith said. “The higher my hand goes up, the louder you scream.”
The vocalist’s hand started at knee-level and as it rose, so did the roar of the crowd.
“We’ve done almost 300 shows in the entire touring cycle for Amarlyis,” Smith said. “We finished in the United States, here, tonight. We’re the band that doesn’t say goodbye. It’s always until next time.”