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3 Doors Down are that kind of band that are still capable of packing venues like the Academy in Bristol without most people really knowing who they are. It’s been a good few years now since 3DD topped the American billboard charts with the hits that made them popular with a generation of Kerrang! album buyers. So rustled up into the venue tonight is an eclectic mix of people, most of them its clear to see are into their rock music, as you look around the room with the amount of head-banging and air guitar that is occurring.

The set starts all fire and thunder as vocalist Brad Arnold leaps and bounds around the stage, the band work their way through a series of songs from their back catalogue, kicking off with ‘Time Of My Life’ the opening track from their 2011 release of the same name, before slowing down for one of their ballad numbers from 2004, ‘Away From The Sun’ one of the characteristics that has made them so popular with many. Dressed all in sweat bands, caps not unlike the teenage punk-rockers that would have been buying or illegally downloading their tracks 10 years ago the band are comfortable in their own skins despite now being well in to their thirties.

Mid-set the band step away from the stage for a moment in order to screen a video on the back LED screens surround the stage, it is a brief ‘about’ telling 3DD’s history, where they started and a summary of their 15 years as a band. It’s a bold move and an all-together strange one, surely the fans came to see them play live, not watch You-Tube? Anyway this small lull in the set gives the night a strange pause, unlike that of an encore. As the drummer gets back behind the unique Clock Tower themed drum kit, the stage is re-lit and the band begin to charm the crowd again with some light banter, breaking back in with some heavy riffing, re-opening with reminiscing track ‘When You’re Young’.

The best song and a highlight of the night is of course 3DD’s biggest hit ‘Kryptonite’, which strangely was their first single back in 2000, it’s a moment that just makes you wish more of their songs were like this; meaty and direct. 3 Doors Down are certainly an enigma at times it’s hard to know what kind of band they are, they’re enjoying a sort of cult status that keeps them well away from the UK charts and the mainstream yet still successful not unlike Brand New who played here a few weeks ago but at the same time without being as cool. One things for sure the band know this couldn’t happen without the cultists, as they end the night with some sincere words: “This Tour has happened without one radio spam – it’s all you, we love you, thanks for your support over the years.” They may not be Nickelback, but at least they know it.

Words and photo: Laura Palmer