By Gene Axton - gaxton@timesleader.com

Breaking Benjamin and Sevendust rock The Pavilion at Montage Mountain

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Ben Burnley of Breaking Benjamin walks onto stage, showing love for the hometown crowd on Friday.
Amanda Hrycyna|For Weekender
Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin performing at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Friday.
Amanda Hrycyna|For Weekender
Breaking Benjamin performing at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Friday.
Amanda Hrycyna|For Weekender

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    SCRANTON — When Weekender spoke to Breaking Benjamin lead singer Benjamin Burnley about returning to The Pavilion at Montage Mountain to perform in front of the band’s hometown crowd, the Wilkes-Barre native practically predicted the future.

    Burnley said fans during the “Dark Before Dawn” tour have been “more frantic than they’ve ever been,” but he knew that Northeastern Pennsylvania would be “the best of them all because the people there have always been so amazing and such an incredible fan base.” NEPA didn’t disappoint Burnley and, if the roar of the crowd Sept. 18 was any indication, he didn’t disappoint them either.

    The night at Montage Mountain began with a set from Atlanta-based band Sevendust. According to Burnley, the group was chosen because they’re popular in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area. According to Scranton resident Tara Kojsza, Burnley was right.

    “Sevendust killed it,” Kojsza said. “Beyond overwhelming; an amazing bonus. They engaged the audience so well and kept everybody focused.”

    The seats that hadn’t been filled during Sevendust’s set were quickly occupied before Breaking Benjamin took the stage and, after a few sound check moments had the crowd roaring with anticipation, the Billboard chart champions took the stage.

    The band’s set started with “So Cold,” the first single from its sophomore effort “We Are Not Alone,” and lasted for another 26 songs. That’s a long set by any act’s standards, but Burnley and company have five albums of material to cull their setlist from. Breaking Benjamin’s first album, “Saturate,” lended the most songs to the playlist, but the biggest treat for long-haul fans was “Blow Me Away,” a track from the band’s “So Cold” EP. There were even a few covers thrown into the mix from Queen and Tool.

    “I brought my 17-year-old son here; they’re his favorite band,” Rosemary McCloskey of West Pittston said. “They’re amazing. I’ve listened to them all during my teenage years.”

    The age range in the crowd was a testament to Breaking Benjamin’s staying power, and that staying power has been strengthened with the band’s new additions. Burnley is quick to note the overall vocal quality of the band has gone up since its return and that rings true live.

    Every piece of the new Breaking Benjamin lineup was given a chance to shine on stage and the group looks like a cohesive unit with everyone contributing a necessary piece to the whole. There were moments when we were reminded the current members have only been playing together for a year, but the album-quality sound is there; the stage presence will assumingly improve as the band continues to play together live.

    This was Scranton resident Ryan Clarkson’s third time seeing Breaking Benjamin and, he said the best live performance he’s seen from the band thus far.

    “I absolutely loved it,” Clarkson said. “Every show they keep getting better and better. The energy was unbelievable.”

    Breaking Benjamin’s return to Montage Mountain was met with clapping hands and screaming fans who created an impressive roar when they weren’t being treated to the band’s 27-track setlist. It was like Breaking Benjamin never left— Burnley has picked right back up from where he left off — and if the crowd at Montage Mountain was any indication, his fans have done the same.

    Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts

    By Gene Axton

    gaxton@timesleader.com

    Ben Burnley of Breaking Benjamin walks onto stage, showing love for the hometown crowd on Friday.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_ben11.jpgBen Burnley of Breaking Benjamin walks onto stage, showing love for the hometown crowd on Friday. Amanda Hrycyna|For Weekender

    Benjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin performing at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Friday.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_ben41.jpgBenjamin Burnley of Breaking Benjamin performing at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Friday. Amanda Hrycyna|For Weekender

    Breaking Benjamin performing at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Friday.
    http://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_ben51.jpgBreaking Benjamin performing at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Friday. Amanda Hrycyna|For Weekender

    Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts