Story and photos by Scott A. Smith
Acting as some species of rock-and-roll phoenix, Audio Adrenaline has resurrected itself and is creating some terrific, hard-hitting music. With original bassist Will McGinniss and former DC Talk singer Kevin Max at the front of the stage, Audio Adrenaline won a hero’s welcome from fans of all ages April 20 at the 180 Remix Youth Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The excellent set list was crammed with Audio A’s still-wonderful hits from yesteryear like “Ocean Floor” and “Hands and Feet,” with plenty of room given to cuts from the band’s new album, “Kings & Queens.”
Dressed in black from head to toe, Kevin Max sounded muscular and invigorated on the mic, singing throughout the night as if he was a co-creator of the back catalog. (Original singer Mark Stuart lost his voice about eight years ago, which resulted in Audio Adrenaline’s hiatus; Stuart and McGinniss both oversee the Hands and Feet Project, which cares for more than 100 orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti.)
The concert’s nervy, punkish set-opener “Clap Your Hands” erupted from the sound system, signaling that Audio Adrenaline are back with all pistons firing. Also boasting guitarist Dave Ghazarian, drummer Jared Byers and keyboardist-singer Jason Walker, the group gave a raw edge to the new, bouncy song, “He Moves You Move.” “Fire Never Sleeps,” “King of the Comebacks” and “Believer,” also brand-new offerings from Audio Adrenaline, undoubtedly were among the show’s high-water marks.
With his curly hair often a black-colored blur, Ghazarian made all of his six-string moments count. His efforts alternated between thick-sounding rhythm chords and distorted, wild-man solos, while Byers, who resembles a young George Harrison, made his four-piece drum set sound like a percussion-playing army. The frequent laughs and grins exchanged between Byers and McGinniss gave the concert a living-room feel, while adults mouthed the songs’ words and children used purple- and blue-colored light sticks as miniature light sabers.
Tour-openers Group 1 Crew, Seventh Day Slumber and Manic Drive also gave all on the Fort Smith stage. Manic Drive impressed with a melodic slot that ventured into rock-trio format, and Seventh Day Slumber bassist Ken Reed won a tearful, joyous “yes!” when he proposed to his long-time girlfriend in mid-set.
Fans also couldn’t take their eyes off Blanca Reyes Callahan, one of Group 1 Crew’s lead singers, who seemingly defied physics when she bounced around the stage and never missed a vocal cue. Callahan’s performance was almost miraculous, considering that she is six months pregnant.