Disturbed showed off its anthems and chops on Saturday at the Austin City Limits Music Festival — proving it was worthy of this fest’s vaunted tradition of honoring monsters of rock.
Seventeen-plus years ago, the metal band offered bold and muscular anthems for the Ozfest crowd. I’ll never forget the summer of 2001, when the band graduated onto a bill that included goon-rock icons Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, Linkin Park, Crazytown at the height of “Butterfly” mania, and Black Sabbath. Its Selma, Texas, date saw the quartet wheel out singer David Draiman in a straight jacket, Hannibal Lecter-style. Many moshed with vigor.
It’s been diminishing Billboard chart returns since, but at the American Express stage Draiman leaned on the good stuff.
Following a dated hype video, which showed fandom and a highlight reel of the rap-metal good ol’ days, an eager band held court with shirtless men and their back tattoos. Central Texas’ historic metal scenesters — the people who saw Unloco fill the Back Room — seemed well accounted for.
There were many Rick Flair-like “woohs” in approval of legacy gems like “Stupefy.”
“My brothers and sisters. My blood: Speak to me,” Draiman said, enjoying Metallica’s catwalk. “Let’s see those hands.”
He asked us for hands and fists often, keeping in line with the pregame mission statement flashed on-screen: “When music is the weapon, no one is safe ... When music is the weapon, every fist has a voice.”
But this appearance seemed special for Draiman. He said he lived in Austin for eight years and that his family moved because his son struggled with allergies here.
He paused to honor deceased colleagues: “I miss Chester, I miss Chris,” he said, referencing the singers of Linkin Park and Soundgarden, respectively, who both died by suicide last year. The band proved that its theatrical metal wasn’t just vaguely written and juiced for radio. It has a healing quality and a gooey heart.
When Disturbed covered Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” with onstage tympanis, even disinterested parties recognized the effort.
In the end, absurd football anthem “The Sickness” netted many fists. The band came at a mean and dude-centric period of rock, but almost two decades later, there’s lots to love here.
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