The night of December 19th was the culmination of the late fall tour that was scheduled after Hellyeah had to cancel the remaining dates of their summer tour due to the “trigger finger” injury that Tom Maxwell had sustained earlier in the year during an automobile accident. HELLYEAH: A Celebration Of The Life Of Vinnie Paul came to The Van Buren in Phoenix, Arizona with special guests Nonpoint and Deepfall. The night was filled with a range of fans local to Phoenix, such as Steve Ramirez who is now on his 12th Hellyeah show, with some from neighboring states who traveled just to see the Vinnie Paul tribute. Amy Whetham traveled from New Mexico to have a chance to see Hellyeah as well as the other supporting bands. “My boyfriend is sick and couldn’t come”, explains Amy. “Seeing this show is an important opportunity for me and my friends. We wouldn’t miss it for anything!”
Deepfall hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan and after seeing them live and hearing the reaction of the crowd around me, they are poised to take up a position near the front lines of the metal nation. As an opening act, Rich Hopkins came out and delivered a harmonically intense vocal performance, dueling lead guitarists Anthony Battista and Max Carrillo provided an energy that got the early crowd jamming. The rhythms and beats were provided by an explosive trio of performers that I will call TNT (Taylor Brandt on Bass, Nick Gray on percussion, Tim King on keyboard).
Nonpoint came out next with Elias Soriano, Robb Rivera, Rasheed Thomas, Adam Woloszyn, and newest member Jason Zeilstra coming on stage intent on delivering a performance to be remembered. They have been doing this for over twenty years and didn’t disappoint. The rail was filled with a fan base that varied across all the demographics, with newer fans and tour worn veterans mixing seamlessly. Even the security guards in the photographers’ pit were jamming along to classics like “Chaos and Earthquakes” to the last song “Bullet With A Name On It”.
Hellyeah came on the stage and provided the additional energy required to take the crowd over the top. This was not a somber affair; we are not meant to be a glum lot when it comes to celebrating the life of Vinnie Paul. Frontman Chad Gray spent most of the show performing while either standing on the rail with two security guards holding his legs or being held aloft by the uplifted hands of the crowd. The interaction left a lasting impact on everyone involved. Tom Maxwell, Christian Brady, and Kyle Sanders had their fingers flying as if they had axes to grind and in addition, their backing vocals supported the mission of playing for Vinnie. Chad announces his gratitude for true heavy metal fans joining together on a Thursday night with the crowd and The Van Buren’s security guards all cheering in applause. Chad continues to talk about how metal music is not mainstream, how it is an outcast, and with honorable mentions of artists, we have lost such as Cliff Burton, Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, and Lemmy from Motorhead just to name a few, saved our lives. “Despite how old you are, how old I am, we are all truly heavy metal kids”, says Chad as he continues the intimate talk with the crowd. “Here’s what we are going to do, we are going to continue to carry the torch and support heavy metal as we know it, because that is what we do. Heavy metal is not competitive, it is ok to like more than one band. Support all metal! Most of all, support each other!” As Gray acknowledges the fans in the crowd, we learn there are metal kids as young as 9 years old at the rail, perhaps some even younger throughout the crowd. Chad notes the fans Gilbert and Jason who made a Hellyeah banner in honor of Vinnie and holds up the banner for everyone to see. True humility showed when Chad referred to himself as “Vinnie’s Singer” for the past twelve years.
Roy Mayorga from Stonesour truly honored Vinnie Paul as he beat those skins into submission and was visibly spent by the end of the show. Speaking of the end of the show, a notable highlight was the emotional tribute video to Vinnie Paul followed by Pantera tracks “I’m Broken” and “Walk”, which included performances from Hellyeah, Nonpoint, and Deepfall. Seeing all three bands perform together definitely made it a night to remember, and no doubt Vinnie would be proud.
*Sky Video (tribute for Vinnie Paul)
I’m Broken (Pantera Cover)
Walk (Pantera Cover)
Chaos and Earthquakes
Dodge Your Destiny
In The Air Tonight
What A Day
Bullet With A Name On It
M.F.K.S (Voice of the Broken)