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Hellyeah delivers heavy metal memorial for the late Vinnie Paul

Chad Gray of Hellyeah performs during the 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at San Manuel Amphitheater on June 27, 2015, in San Bernardino, California. (Paul A. Hebert / Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
Chad Gray of Hellyeah performs during the 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at San Manuel Amphitheater on June 27, 2015, in San Bernardino, California. (Paul A. Hebert / Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)
By Johnathan Curley The Spokesman-Review

Hellyeah’s performance at the Knitting Factory on Wednesday night featured all of the melodic brutality that established the Dallas-born thrashers as metal mainstays, but, beyond that, the show also was just as much about celebrating the living as honoring the departed.

The band, in the winter leg of its “Celebration of the Life of Vinnie Paul” tour, delivered a nearly 2-hour set that stretched until midnight for a heavy metal memorial that saluted the founding member and former Pantera drummer who died in 2018.

The 15-song setlist traced the band’s genesis from its self-titled debut in 2007 to its September release “Welcome Home” while also featuring a pair of Pantera covers (“I’m Broken” and “Walk.”)

In the wake of Paul’s death, Hellyeah recruited Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga, who did justice to the departed drummer’s fiery groove.

The heavy metal spirit of Paul also was evident in the group’s presence and attack, churning its way through hits like “Moth” and “Love Falls” for the first time since the last visit to the Knitting Factory in 2017.

“Welcome Home,” the title track from the latest release whose airy chorus shot the song to No. 4 on the Billboard mainstream rock charts in August, was a late highlight in the group’s set.

The tight timekeeping of guitarist Tom Maxwell, bassist Kyle Sanders and Mayorga held the groove together while the articulate aggression of Christian Brady’s lead guitar lines and surging vocals from Chad Gray rounded out the group’s signature intensity.

The pacing only suffered when Gray addressed the crowd in various 10-minute-long sermons, which generally pacified a crowd that came to mosh.

Still, whatever energy Gray lost in the crowd from his heavy metal lectures was regained with a little crowd-surfing from the seat of his black Chuck Taylor’s.

Nonpoint

With dreadlocks flying as fast as its riffs, opening act Nonpoint delivered its marriage of sludgy riffs and halftime breakdowns that crowned the band as an easy choice for Hellyeah’s opener.

Hailing from the ’90’s metal scene in South Florida, the group gave the Spokane crowd a sound steeped in the straightforward stomp that calls back to early Rage Against the Machine.

“Chaos and Earthquakes” punctuated the first half of the set, while the fan-requested “That Day” highlighted the latter half.

Nonpoint and Hellyeah also share similar tastes in artists to cover, with the opening act’s reworking of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” answering the main act’s cover of “I Don’t Care Anymore,” which was excluded from the set on Wednesday night.

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