Shinedown at Bryce Jordan Center

On the week when “Dead Don’t Die” became their 20th number-one Active Rock single, Shinedown stormed into the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania, and delivered a performance that showed exactly why they’re one of the most accomplished bands in rock music today.

Within seconds of taking the stage, it was evident that singer Brent Smith, guitarist Zach Myers, bassist Eric Bass and drummer Barry Kerch were a well-oiled machine. After appearing from within a giant futuristic-looking video board, the quartet displayed a commanding stage presence made all the more impressive by the sheer size of the massive stage itself.

When Smith sang “the story is just beginning” during the chorus of “Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom),” the band’s opener for the evening, it served as not-so-subtle message of what was to come for the roughly 15,000 fans in attendance. At various points throughout the nearly two-hour spectacle, sparklers cascaded down from the rafters like a waterfall. Plumes of fire erupted from the catwalk. Pyrotechnics featured early and often. As someone experiencing Shinedown in person for the first time, it’s safe to say the visuals absolutely lived up to the exceptional soundtrack of the evening.

State College marked the fourth stop of the “Revolutions Live Tour,” with the Jacksonville, Florida, based band performing 21 shows across the country in support of their latest album, 2022’s Planet Zero. While this particular tour is new, the band and their particular brand of music is well established. All seven of their studio albums have earned platinum or gold certification, along with 15 platinum and gold singles, providing an abundance of quality music to choose from on the road.

For their second track of this particular show, Shinedown dove into another uptempo track, the aforementioned “Dead Don’t Die” before slowing things down with a beautiful rendition of “I’ll Follow You” that featured Bass on a neon piano that was lowered from the ceiling.

With more than 6.5 billion global streams and 10 million albums sold, Shinedown’s body of work speaks for itself — which is just fine with the band. They’ve got much more important things on their mind than patting themselves on the back. For this tour, Shinedown has partnered with the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention to donate one dollar for every ticket sold.

As Smith said during the show, they’re not shy about talking about mental health. They’ve been ambassadors for suicide prevention for more than a decade to bring out awareness and lesson the fear of the topic.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about people who have suicidal thoughts. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Give them reassurance. Give them love. You can potentially save someone’s life,” Smith said before diving into the band’s next single, “Symptom of Being Human” roughly halfway into their extensive set.

May 27th will be the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Leave A Whisper. In honor of that impending occasion, Smith and friends took it all the way back to the beginning with an inspired performance of “45” which had the entire building swaying and singing along. Another joyous sing-along moment came when the front man was off stage, taking a well-deserved break while the rest of the band delivered an acoustic rendition of “Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis that would make the dynamic duo of Smith & Myers proud.

As the show began to wind down, the boys once again embraced the softer side of rock, with a medley of “Daylight/Get Up” followed by “Simple Man.” As the band paid homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s smash hit, Smith’s powerful voice reverberating throughout the venue, accompanied only by Myers on an acoustic guitar. They then closed out the show with “Monsters” and “Cut The Cord.” After 20 songs over an hour and 45 minutes, Shinedown ended the way they began — with fireworks, flames and explosions — literally and figuratively leaving it all on stage.


Disappointing Capitals continue to sputter towards finish line

Let’s say this up front, the Washington Capitals have missed the playoffs just once in the last 15 seasons. They’ve been remarkably consistent in a town where heartbreak and despair typically rule the local sports landscape.

Sadly, the Caps will miss the postseason for the first time since 2014, and many of the names and faces that fans have grown accustomed to over the last several years might be elsewhere when the puck drops next season. 

Washington’s general manager Brian MacLellan has some difficult decision to make — first and foremost, whether or not to re-sign coach Peter Laviolette. Once he figures out who will be behind the bench, MacLellan can turn his attention to which players have earned the chance to stick around for the last few seasons of Alex Ovechkin’s illustrious career. Players like Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and John Carlson will almost assuredly return next season, but many others currently on the roster are on far less-stable footing. 

That’s why the last two weeks of this disappointing season remain so vital … and so infuriating. Each loss might help the Capitals secure a better draft pick, but it also exposes more potential problems with the roster as presented constructed. With an offense that struggles to score consistently and a defense that’s seemingly incapable of allowing less than four or five goals per game, despite a strong statistical season by Darcy Kuemper in net, it’s looking more and more like radical changes are needed to return to the postseason.

All of these flaws were on display for a disappointing 5-2 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers. Washington fell behind early and never really threatened to make it much of a contest as they dropped a fourth-consecutive game. More Capitals players fought (three) than scored (two) during this matinee matchup, which sums up an otherwise forgettable afternoon perfectly.


Led by Pepi, U.S. Men’s National Team outlasts El Salvador

After an eight year absence, the U.S. Men’s National Team returned to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and performed admirably. 

Boasting one of the youngest squads in the tournament, with an average age of 25, the USMNT advanced through the group stage and to the Round of 16 before being eliminated by the Netherlands, 3-1. 

The hope moving forward is this collection of young talent comes into its own in the next four years and excels in the 2026 World Cup, which will conveniently take place here in the states. 

With that in mind, the Americans — led by Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna — hosted El Salvador in a Nations League match in Orlando, Florida. Interim manager Anthony Hudson utilized a lineup that leaned heavily on the Americans’ most recent World Cup experience, but it was striker Ricardo Pepi who proved to be the difference maker. The talented 20-year-old, who didn’t make manager Gregg Berhalter’s 26-man World Cup squad, scored two minutes after entering the match against El Salvador to spark a 1-0 victory for the USMNT. 

From midfield, McKennie initiated the play with a beautifully crafted through ball perfectly placed in the path of Pepi, who calmly held off the defender and chipped the ball over the helpless El Salvador goalie, Mario González, in the 62nd minute for his third goal in two games for the U.S.

With the win, the USMNT advances to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals in Las Vegas this June, where they attempt to defend their title after defeating Mexico in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final 3-2 in 2021.


Caps’ playoff hopes dealt devastating blow in loss to Blues

With Jordan Binnington suspended two games for acting like a crazy person, the St. Louis Blues turned to 22-year-old goalie Joel Hofer. The emergency call-up responded by stopping 32 of 34 shots in his season debut and dealt the Washington Capitals a demoralizing 5-2 loss on St. Patrick’s Day.

While Hofer was clearing seizing the moment on one end of the ice, the Capitals too often hung their veteran netminder, Darcy Kuemper, out to dry on the opposite side of the rink. Washington allowed a goal on the first shot attempt allowed, less than two minutes into the contest and never recovered. Amazingly, the Caps have now allowed a goal on the first shot they’ve faced in three-straight games.

The team’s struggles aren’t just about starting slowly, however. Thanks to a bevy of missed assignments, defensive miscues and breakaways allowed, St. Louis jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the second period concluded, all but killing any lingering hopes of sneaking into the postseason. Defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who has looked great offensively and has provided a spark on the power play since joining the Capitals at the trade deadline, was on the ice for four Blues goals on the night.

Third-period goals from defenseman Martin Fehervary and center Nicklas Backstrom made the final score line look closer than the game actually was, and the Caps now finds themselves in a situation where they need to essentially win their final 12 games of the regular season to have any real chance to qualify for the playoffs.

That sobering reality killed the buzz in what should have been a festive atmosphere at Capital One Arena. Even the most optimistic fans are going to have trouble keeping the faith after this loss.


Devils deliver baptism by fire to new-look Capitals

In a refreshing moment of honesty and self-reflection rarely seen in professional sports, the Washington Capitals shipped away five key veterans from an over-the-hill and underperforming lineup in an attempt to restock and retool on the fly.

After weeks of speculation over whether the Capitals fancied themselves buyers or sellers as the regular season winds down, general manager Brian MacLellan made the difficult decision to part with a number of good guys and fan favorites as Washington was one of the league’s busiest teams at the trade deadline.

The Capitals moved on from defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Erik Gustafsson, as well as forwards Garnet Hathaway, Marcus Johansson and Lars Eller, which essentially killed any of the admittedly diminished hopes of sneaking into the postseason as a wild-card team. Now, the front office will spend the rest of the season evaluating what the roster has, and just as importantly, what the roster lacks.

While MacLellan has his eyes on the future, Washington still has weeks of games remaining on the schedule. Capitals coach Peter Laviolette’s task down the stretch is to keep the locker room focused and motivated. Included in that mix are defenseman 23-year-old Rasmus Sandin, acquired from Toronto, and 33-year-old forward Craig Smith, acquired from Boston. A trio of young blue-liners — Vincent Iorio, Gabriel Carlsson, Alexander Alexeyev — have also been thrust into action thanks to trades and injuries. 

With so many changes, it’s probably a good thing that everyone wears their names on their sweaters. Getting to know a half dozen new teammates and developing chemistry with new linemates won’t happen over night, but that’s okay. Might as well throw all of the kids into live action and see if they’re able to sink or swim. On this night, the Caps lost to the New Jersey Devils via shootout, 3-2. But the hope is that a few of these fresh, new faces will ultimately usher in another era of respectability.


WWE lays the SmackDown on Washington, D.C.

On the road to WrestleMania, the biggest names in WWE visited our nation’s capital for an episode of Friday Night SmackDown at Capital One Arena, March 3. The sellout show in Washington, D.C., came just weeks before the company’s biggest event of the year, WrestleMania 39 — a two-night extravaganza in Inglewood, California, April 1-2.

Before the television cameras started rolling, those in attendance were treated to an untelevised match in which the Brawling Brutes (Butch and Ridge Holland) defeated Hit Row (Ashante “Thee” Adonis and Top Dolla w/ B-Fab). Prior to joining the WWE, Top Dolla was known as University of Maryland and Washington Redskins defensive lineman A.J. Francis, so it made sense that he kicked off the night by berating the locals while referring his “close and personal friend Daniel Snyder.” He hasn’t been in the world of sports entertainment for very long, but Top Dolla clearly knows what buttons to push to get instant heat in D.C.

With the warm-up match complete, SmackDown kicked off with a face-to-face meeting between champion Roman Reigns and challenger Cody Rhodes, who earned a shot at Reigns’ WWE and Universal championships by winning the Royal Rumble. The Rock’s cousin and the son of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes did a fantastic job of hyping their upcoming headlining match and set the tone for an action-packed episode.

Rhea Ripley (w/ Dominik Mysterio) defeated Liv Morgan and then Dominik Mysterio (w/ Rhea Ripley) defeated Santos Escobar. As members of the Judgement Day faction, Ripley and Mysterio, are two of the bigger “bad guys” on the roster. That means they’re more than willing to bend the rules, from time to time. In related news, Ripley won her match against the much-smaller Morgan and then tipped the scales in favor of Mysterio.

Shayna Baszler (w/ Ronda Rousey) defeated Tegan Nox (w/ Natalya) in a match that barely lasted longer than it took me to type this sentence. In a much more compelling segment, the All Mighty Bobby Lashley came out to the ring to confront Bray Wyatt but was attacked from behind by a mysterious masked man named Uncle Howdy instead.

In the main event of the evening, Solo Sikoa (w/ Jimmy Uso) defeated Sami Zayn in a physical and highly-entertaining match. For months, Zayn was a loyal member of the Bloodline for months, but after turning on Reigns at Royal Rumble, the Tribal Chief has ordered Sikoa and The Usos to take out Zayn once and for all. While Sikoa was able to exact some revenge in this match, the feud remains alive and heated as ever.

After the TV cameras stopped rolling, the WWE treated fans to two additional dark matches. In the first bout, Women’s SmackDown champion Charlotte Flair defeated Sonya Deville, followed by Cody Rhodes besting Finn Balor in a pair of matches designed to send everyone home happy after a downright enjoyable evening.


Caps continue to stumble at worst-possible time

With their season on the line and playoffs hopes rapidly fading, the Washington Capitals have gone cold at the worst-possible time. After no-showing the outdoor game, the Capitals returned home and showed many of the troubling signs that have plagued the franchise since the all-star break. 

For the fifth-consecutive game, Washington allowed the first goal and spent the rest of the evening in an uphill battle. And for the fifth-straight game, they were unable to overcome that early deficit and lost in regulation. With the trade deadline just days away, it’s difficult to see the team’s front office realistically viewing the Capitals, in present form, as capable of qualifying for the postseason — let alone being competitive in a seven-game series with the league’s elite.

If that’s the case, then general manager Brian MacLellan could find himself as a seller at the trade deadline for the first time, which could result in many aging veterans, underperforming players and/or pending free agents being shown the door. That could pave the way to center Lars Eller, ring wing Anthony Mantha and any defenseman not named John Carlson leaving town in the next few days, which would radically alter the Caps as presently constructed.

While potentially losing key contributors to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup winning season would be difficult for many, losing five-straight must-win games should open the door to some serious soul searching. And if/when MacLellan reaches the conclusion that this current group of players is no longer good enough to get the job done, he owes it to everyone involved to make the necessary changes.

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