HomeMusicCandlebox Commemorates 25th Anniversary at The Wellmont

Candlebox Commemorates 25th Anniversary at The Wellmont


Pop Break Live: Candlebox at The Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey


The beauty of capturing an authentic, indescribable moment of artistic brilliance, especially when the material possesses some of the most personal displays of heartfelt honesty imaginable through the context of songwriting, is how that portrait of emotional expression could truly last a lifetime.

On a warm Friday night in northern New Jersey, Candlebox commemorated the 25th anniversary of their genre-defying, self-titled LP at the Wellmont Theater; the latest date of a highly-anticipated tour that has seen them pack out some of the country’s most noteworthy venues.

Take a second and try to imagine the full-scope of that accomplishment. Think back to 25-years-ago (age-permitting) and compare the state of the world in 1993/1994 to the present, which bares very little semblance, and how bands from Seattle like Candlebox continue to resonate and transcend the digital manifestation and massive cultural shifts in music that have taken place in the following decades.

As I often like to say, the groove is always eternal. From the opening drum pattern of “Don’t You,” Candlebox unleashed such a heart-throttling attack of groove-ridden virtuosity, breathtaking musicality, and unrelenting passion. As the first track off their acclaimed-debut, “Don’t You” absolutely caused this crowd to lose its mind and sing with the purest jubilance in their voices. Top-to-bottom, the up-tempo, riff-rattling thrills and stop-and-go rests led to such a suspenseful buildup in the song’s conclusion that kicked off this night on the highest possible note.

Staying true to the back-to-back attack of their debut, the massive hooks and intensity of Kevin Martin’s vocals were on full-display during “Change,” as he screamed the lyrics with every ounce of heart and anguish in his soul, “I feel so alive now / And I feel that a change is / A change is gonna come.” This song displayed the diverse skillset of the band’s new guitarist Island Styles, as he summoned blues-worthy solo’s in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughan; a highly-impressive blend of melodic precision and soaring notes that echoed off the fretboard.

To keep the element of surprise alive, the band did not play the album in consecutive order. As they shifted towards the latter half of their debut with “Blossom,” it was highly-evident to recognize how the dynamics of these songs were built to be maximized in a live setting. Truth be told, it’s almost insane to comprehend how this all started with four young musicians in their early 20s, and how the distorted intensity in the chorus of “Blossom” hits harder than ever before.

This entire show surmised the term “celebration” and Martin possesses an admirable level of transparency with his ability to naturally engage in a one-on-one style with the crowd. He hilariously pointed to the band’s banner and acknowledged how the 5 in “Candlebox’s 25th Anniversary” had faded into oblivion (through obvious wear-and-tear on the road), and that he was excited to celebrate the band’s two-year anniversary.

From the beginning till the end, this setlist chronicled Candlebox’s entire discography with consecutive tracks from 1995’s Lucy, 1998’s Happy Pills, 2008’s Into the Sun Now, 2012’s Love Stories & Other Musings, and 2016’s Disappearing in Airports, before they returned to Candlebox.

In regards to Lucy, the band kicked into their masterpiece single “Simple Lessons,” and commandeered the stage with such an unforgiving, stampeding march; highlighted by the pulsing distortion ringing from the amps of longtime bassist Adam Kury and guitarists Brian Quinn and Island Styles.

And steadying the beat to perfection was the one-and-only Dave Krusen (Pearl Jam – Ten); this show is worth it alone just to see this Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall-of-Famer sit behind the drumkit and execute his craft to perfection like a beloved renaissance painter. Throughout the set and during “Simple Lessons” in particular, his hands were free-flowing with such a heart-throttling trifecta of creative patterns, feel-good snare hits, and unforgiving cymbal crashes.

A surprise of the night, the band revisited their single “It’s Alright” from 1998’s Happy Pills; a highly-underrated release in their catalog. This song isn’t played as often as one might imagine, which made it such a cool treat for the longtime fans in-attendance and it received the loudest cheer of night outside of their first album.

This next part of the set is where I believe Martin deserves a lot of props for his transparency. Point blank, he mentioned how some of the audience members had probably never listened to anything off their last three albums, the post-reunion material, and not in a confrontational manner whatsoever. He wasn’t shying away from the fans wanting to hear the old stuff and possibly being disinterested in the later material. Most importantly, he was going to give them everything he had and hoped they would partake in the journey. He genuinely expressed, “Thank you for continuing to allow me to write music for 25-years.”

Going off my last point, the band kicked into “Surrendering” from 2008’s Into the Sun, and Martin mentioned how this song was written after he fell in love with his wife and what she has meant to him. Some of the fans in the crowd who were strictly there for the nostalgia, you could see their heads turn and how the emotional outpouring from Martin’s vocals won them over. He performed like a frontman with everything to prove during “Surrendering,” “Turn Your Head Around,” and “Crazy” and I believe that level of hunger deserves to be commended and captures the authentic energy of Candlebox’s live performance.

From here on forward, this show tapped into the cultural zenith of the Seattle music scene and how the emotive, poetic depth of Candlebox’s material speaks to the very core of what songwriting is meant to inspire.

Case in point, “Cover Me” was the most haunting performance of the entire night, as the dynamics of that song, the sentimental peaks and valleys in the chorus, were orchestrated to perfection. The lights on stage were very dim, which created an Unplugged style of intimacy, especially as Martin played an acoustic guitar. One of the pivotal highlights of the night, hearing Martin’s voice echo across this vintage theater, especially as he yelled “Don’t you cover me/ Cover me/ Won’t you/ Cover me,” while the band transitioned into the riff-bending, devastating riffs during the song’s breakdown; that moment itself needs to be experienced in a live setting.

During “Mother’s Dream,” the slow-tempoed grooves and hanging notes that reverberated from the guitar riffs were so intense; the feedback itself struck the chest with its immense ringing and everyone in this band was completely in the zone. Martin tapped into the potent depths of his lyrics and unleashed his full-range, which proved he could still wail away at the same elite level like he has since 1993. And not only did he hit those notes; he even extended those unforgiving screams for countless measures, which is beyond commendable. In a modern age where so many rock bands and young vocalists use backing tracks to cover up their flaws, they should take note of Martin, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, and how his unyielding passion guides him to still reach those peaks.

There was a tidal wave of body movement where fans of all ages – longtime fans and younger fans alike – rocked out and sang together in harmony as Candlebox performed “You.” The uncompromising energy and nonstop, adrenaline-infused buildup throughout this all-time classic makes it such a suspenseful experience live and it’s the musical equivalent of climbing a mountain; the emotional dynamics and pissed-off intensity constantly goes “higher and higher.”

Alongside Rage Against The Machine, I’d argue this song utilizes “Fuck you” to its absolute best and most impactful fashion. When that iconic moment in the song finally hits, it’s a surreal sight to see a sold-out crowd throw their middle fingers up in the air and scream, “Fuck you! I don’t want it no more.” And guitarist Brian Quinn absolutely ripped through this solo; he stayed true to the gritty vibrato and hanging notes of Peter Klett’s most beloved work, and added some additional flair of his own with extended bends that made his Les Paul scream.

The energy in the room reached peaks levels of euphoria as Quinn and Styles played the opening chords of Candlebox’s most-beloved single, “Far Behind.” Without question, Candlebox possesses one of the all-time definitive songs, beyond the genre of rock itself, across the entire ‘90s music landscape and one cannot underestimate the magnitude of holding such an ace in their deck.

There was such a captivating back-and-forth between the band and crowd who shouted the lyrics with every ounce of air in their lungs. The infinite goodwill and positive energy, which could be felt throughout the venue during “Far Behind” was a picture-perfect moment, and it felt like everyone in the crowd was a member of Candlebox. And being a huge fan of Andrew Wood and Mother Love Bone myself, I love that Kevin Martin always takes a few moments to pay homage to Andy and the impact he had on the entire Seattle music scene; the unsung hero of the ‘90s alternative moment.

Candlebox closed the show with “Rain,” and if there were ever a song title that properly encapsulated the city of Seattle; this song is packed with that genuine sense of blue-ridden soul, which was paramount to Seattle’s core sound. Candlebox took this crowd to the crossroads; Islands Styles’ guitar tone distinctly stood out for the way his note phrasings complimented the vibrato of Martin’s vocals. The same compliment applies to Brian Quinn and right after he concluded a very tasteful guitar solo, the band shifted into the funk-ridden outburst of “Rain.”

Again, one has to commend Candlebox for their stage presence as they rocked out with the unrelenting energy of a young metal band. In particular, bassist Adam Kury’s unabashedly threw his body around and still managed to play some contagious basslines that rattled the heart. All the meanwhile, Dave Krusen commandeered the musical forefront like a big band jazz drummer; as his natural sense of swing maximized the sonic fortitude of the band’s attack.

To properly surmise the ethereal aura of Candlebox’s self-titled LP, this performance proves that their work continues to have such a monumental impact and long-term positive influence that has unequivocally resonated with Generation X and beyond. Perfection is subjective when it comes to music, however, the stunning delicacy, musical integrity, and universal subject manner throughout these eleven songs produced such a heartwarming atmosphere that unified this crowd in a fashion that very few bands could ever achieve. The Seattle scene continues to transcend for a multitude of reasons; one being how its musical integrity will forever impact those who yearn for emotional authenticity in its purest form. All five members of Candlebox absolutely live and breathe for performing these songs, and if you’re looking to feel a sense of re-invigoration from a band that will give you everything they possibly have, every single night; this show is for “You.”

Anthony Toto
Anthony Totohttps://pathbrite.com/AnthonyMToto/profile
Anthony Toto is a senior writer and social media manager for The Pop Break. Works in the music industry and interviews prominent artists, bands, and musicians. Longtime guitarist, Rutgers Graduate, and wholeheartedly believes in the ethereal power of music.

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