Archive for live review

Anvil – Live Review – Café 611, Fredrick, MD (2/6/15)

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2015 by novametalreview

Lips w/Red Lips-O-Matic

Strangely I thought I had previously reviewed Anvil in a club setting, but now I’ve checked I see I’ve only reported on them once before as part of the bill of the “Heavy Metal Heaven” Sandy Hurricane benefit concert, so it definitely time to fix this. Now, I have to say this is the fourth time I’ve seen Anvil headline a venue, and all but one of these could have been a scene taken directly from the Anvil movie, “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend you take care of that immediately – it’s definitely worth a couple of hours of your time, and reveals the raw underbelly of the ins and outs of being in a band. The harsh reality that so many musicians have to deal with is brought sharply into focus. Obviously you need to make up your own mind, but one of my most enduring thoughts after seeing it was the incredible friendship-bond that exists between Steve “Lips” Kudlow (guitar/vocals) and Robb Reiner (drums), which has survived some 37 years of Anvil ups and downs.

I won’t drag the entire Anvil history out for a retrospective here, but the debut release, “Hard ‘n’ Heavy”, in 1981, still remains to this day one of my favorite heavy metal records. It’s raw, uncluttered and relatively unsophisticated (as it should be), and gets right to the core of what heavy metal should be all about. The next two albums, “Metal on Metal” and “Forged in Fire” are seen as seminal roots for many heavy metal/thrash bands, often cited as hugely influential, but during this time, the band was basically screwed due to management and record company wrangling’s that took all the momentum from the band and basically ship-wrecked them. In fact I think if you ever wanted to award a trophy for the band that looked to be on the brink of massive success and then had it all thrown away, you’d find it hard to not list Anvil as a candidate.

Anvil are currently fifteen albums in now, but I have to say the last album, “Hope In Hell”, was a bit of a disappointment. The previous two, “This Is Thirteen” and “Juggernaut of Justice” were quite entertaining, so there’s definitely still life in the old dog. One thing that is often forgotten is that Anvil was originally a four-piece, with a second guitarist, but the band has been a 3-piece since 2006, which is relatively recent. I don’t know why, but whenever I think of them, it always seems to be the power trio that comes to mind. Now, personnel have been changing, really meaning the bass player… Over the past years I’ve now seen three different faces behind the bass, with the most recent departure being Sal Italiano, who I assume left shortly prior to this most recent tour. In fact, I wasn’t aware of this at all, for this most recent gig, so I was caught by surprise, when he didn’t take to the stage… In his place is “new guy” Chris Robertson, who I believe has been the man behind some of the more recent studio efforts by the band, though I may have that a little mixed up. However that came about, I will say that Chris did a great job and the band sounded excellent, and definitely are firing on all cylinders.

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Turning to the show, this was taking place not far from the NoVAMetal home base, up in Fredrick, MD, some 30 miles to the North of base-camp, which was a nice change from some of the longer treks we’ve been on recently. However, there seemed to be about seven bands on the bill for the night, so we targeted the 10:30PM set time (I think it was) listed for Anvil, and headed up there arriving around 9PM or so. According to the website, there was an hint that food at the venue (which is listed as a Café) should be OK, but in actuality, the menu, at least in the bar, seemed pretty wanting, so we headed out and went over the road to another bar to eat. Once that was taken care of, we headed back and caught the last half-set by Lord Dying, which I have to say sounded a way lot better then they looked – not a band to draw you in visually at all, but they had some nice heavy metal going on. Once their set was done we bought their two CDs and both are a good listen. Check ‘em out if you get the chance. They hail from Portland, Oregon, and you can find more about them here: http://lorddying.bandcamp.com/

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So, the stage was cleared, Robb Reiner’s twin-kick drum kit was installed, and after a brief sound check, Lips ambled on stage and yelled into his very sharp-looking Oktober Guitars (http://www.oktoberguitars.com/) “Lips-O-Matic” Flying V (which is a hollow-body guitar) asking if we were ready to rock! We were of course, but as I looked around, despite obvious enthusiasm, the reality that there was only may be 40 people total in the audience was obvious. Now, this never phases Anvil and I’ve seen them play to less, but WHY? They are a great band live, and certainly deserve better support. I guess I just don’t get it? Where are all you metal fans? This was a Friday night, so you can’t pull that “Monday night and I’ve got work tomorrow…” line on me here. May be nostalgia is coloring my vision here, but when Anvil have a full venue to play to, there is heavy metal magic in the air. I know they sell out venues in New York and up North, so it’s a pity more folks don’t make an effort. I guess I should call it “your loss”…

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I didn’t keep a set list, but I think they opened with “666” from Metal On Metal, and then pulled one of my favorites from Hard ‘n’ Heavy out of the catalog with “School Love”. The band were sounding very sharp and the “new guy” on bass was holding the bottom-end together very nicely, also throwing in some on-point backing vocals. I did mange to get some video from later in the set, the first of which was “On Fire” which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q75HVXRi00 from Juggernaut Of Justice. This is a nice show case for Robb and Chris, with some tight work on this double-kick drum driven track.

This was followed by Thumb Hang (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69dxghFInA8) and then, what for me is a highlight of the evening, Swing Thing which includes one of the most entertaining drum solos you will hear in rock, from the mighty Robb Reiner (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BuOfJurL0s). At some point, I think before the start of Thumb Hang, Lips switched to a brand new, just delivered by the Oktober Guitars crew, beautiful red Lips-O-Matic Flying V – this was the most stunning looking guitar I have seen in a long time. Outstanding work there! Unfortunately, due to the poor light in the venue I don’t have a picture that does the guitar justice, but it is a great looking instrument.

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The set continued with a “Hope In Hell”, “Eat Your Words” (I think) and closed with “Metal On Metal”, which was an obvious crowd pleaser. There was a half-baked call for an encore, but it was fairly clear that the thinned out crowd would have to make a truck-load more noise to entice the fellas back out and the evening’s entertainment was done. After the show, the band did a paid meet’n’greet which I think was a $30 experience (or was it $40?), which seems a bit steep, but then again I understand the band is trying to make money, however, the very people that have already driven to see you, paid their entry money, bought food and drink and may be some merch, then gets screwed again… I think three people paid for this honor. However, we hung out and as I pretty much expected, Robb wandered out of the band area and we had a great chat with him, then spoke with Chris for a bit and finally talked guitars for few minutes with Lips. To be fair we’ve met Lips and Robb several times before so they know us, which helps, but bands might want to re-think this paid-for-meet-n-greet, because it’s not really a fan winner. I think I’d be much more inclined to spend more on merch if I knew the band would be out after the show to chat and sign stuff, without the $30 cost. When all’s said and done, I had a good time. I do think that Anvil would benefit from going out with an ‘equal’ on the bill, to draw a bigger combined crowd, which is no ‘disrespect’ to Lord Dying in this instance, but something like Anvil and Raven, or Anvil and The Rods for example, where the combined draw would double up and more in terms of audience. For now though, if you get the chance go see the mighty Anvil, they won’t disappoint. My score is a steady 8/10.

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Blue Oyster Cult – Live Review – Tally Ho, Leesburg (1/31/15)

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 13, 2015 by novametalreview

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There are very few metal/hard rock bands that somehow have managed to successfully miss my attention over the years and Blue Oyster Cult (BOC) is one of those in this elite. To be honest, aside from “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, I think I would be hard pushed to name any of their songs, let alone albums… Yep, I’m sure most of you just crossed me off your Christmas list and quit reading this about a sentence back. I know, I know, shame on me!

Well, fortunately I have been able to rectify this, with the recent BOC show at our fast-becoming-favorite-venue, the Tally Ho in Leesburg, VA. First a plug for the venue – if you haven’t been to a show at the Tally Ho yet, don’t be shy – this is a GREAT venue to see a band. The stage is nice and high, the sound system is loud and clear, and the main floor area slopes nicely from front to back, allowing pretty much anyone to get a decent view of the stage and parking is right next door. And, if you want to spend a little more, you can splurge on VIP tickets and enjoy a table and seats on the balcony, which I think gets you drinks service to boot.

BOC are one of those near ‘fixtures’ of the hardrock/metal world, having been around since 1967 (originally as Soft White Underbelly… catchy, eh?) and then BOC from 1969 on. Now it’s not surprising, given that period spans 48 years, that the band isn’t made up of all original members – that would be an almost miracle – but the band in fact does retain two originals who I regard as the core and roots – namely Eric Bloom (lead vocals and guitar) and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roser (lead guitar). One aspect that bothers me is it does seem disappointing that BOC have essentially been dormant on the recording side for a very long time now, with their last album release being back in 2001.

Anyway, pretty much as soon as the show was announced I snapped up a pair of tickets – a piece of advice – the Tally Ho seem to have a habit of notching up the price of tickets, the closer to the show date you purchase them, so if you can, be sure to get them at the “advance purchase” price, which seems to typically save you something like $5-$10 off the regular price and even more of the “day-of-show” door price.

Of course, I also had some listening to do, to catch-up on my lack of BOC album collection… thank you YouTube ‘complete album’ videos that seem to exist for nearly every band in the world now.

The opening band for this show… I think I better stop. As a young lad I was told, if you can’t say something nice, better to say nothing at all. Let’s just leave that I was glad when they stopped…

The moment BOC stepped on stage, there was magic to seen and heard. The sound was sharp from the opening number, backing vocals and harmonies were spot-on and most importantly, at least for me, the band genuinely looked like they were having a fun time. The crowd was immediately with the band and the venue was sold out and perhaps a little more, so it was full, but not unpleasantly so. I did notice toward the end it did thin out just a little, but then again this is suburban Leesburg (bites tongue!)!

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They opened with “OD’d on Life Itself”, which got it’s first live play back in 1973, which when you stop to think is quite amazing – this song has been making the rounds for over 40 years, which was then followed by “Before the Kiss, a Redcap” which reaches back one year earlier to 1972. Even I was a young kid when these songs were first played, which I think makes me feel somewhat old now. Uggh!, I need to shake that off sharpish. But, the great thing was none of these older tracks seemed to be carrying the years and sounded bright and cranking’ in a very rock’n’roll way. I think it was from the second song on that Buck switched to his “Cheeseberger” Steinberger guitar, which is cool looking.

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Initially my attention was focused on Buck and Eric, who both sounded great incidentally as they swapped lead vocal roles, but it wasn’t long before I started paying attention to Richie Castellano who I had initially pegged as the keyboard player (being a BOC newbie…), but was blown away by his lead guitar playing. Wow, can he shred! Obviously Buck takes the majority of the lead work, but Richie is a monster in his own right. Having figured that out, I then noticed the bass work was pretty damned awesome too – Kasim Sulton is the fella behind the four string (or was it five?) and here’s a chap with a musical history that would fill a fairly large book, and not a page would be anything other than mesmerizing – Meatloaf, Joan Jett, Patty Smyth, Todd Rundgren, Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys, Indigo Girls, and many more, fill his resume to the brim. Of course all this is tied together by the drummer and here Jules Radino does an excellent job. The following video from the show includes both Kasim and Jules being featured during their solo spots: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2UrEdXRTzo

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As you can see and hear from the video the band is sound amazing these days and there’s really not much to say other than if you ever get a chance to see them – DO IT. You can find the full set list here: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/blue-oyster-cult/2015/tally-ho-leesburg-va-3cad9ef.html

Here’s a couple more videos – ME262 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH3o7veAUr8) and the majority of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper which closed the set (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ier-czm7QKk&feature=youtu.be). I think anyone would be hard pushed to say they weren’t anything other than sounding amazing.

After a short break and a lot of yelling and stamping of feet from the crowd, the band were back on stage for another 3 tracks, which started with “In Thee” which I think was a crowd request and pretty much unplanned, given the band seemed to have to figure a few things out before getting started – it sounded killer. Overall I think they played for over 1.5 hours and I didn’t see a single person after the show with anything to say other then gushing greatness. Scoring such an iconic band is a little meaningless, but since that’s what I do, it’s simple – 10/10

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Extreme – Live Review – Baltimore Soundstage (1/25/15)

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , on January 29, 2015 by novametalreview

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The last time I saw Extreme was at the M3 Festival in Columbia MD, last year (see here for a reminder: http://wp.me/p2hj3p-6A), where they just about blew the place apart with a killer set and left the tattered remains for Kix to close the evening, which, in my humble opinion was a task far beyond their abilities. Why anyone would choose to follow Extreme still leaves me scratching my head to this day. I guess ego is a hard thing to swallow? Either way, Extreme were amazing last year and, as soon as I saw this show announced, I was ready for more. An extra enticement was the fact that this was the 25th anniversary of the epically good Pornograffitti record and the plan was to play the entire album end-to-end. So, off we set for Baltimore, despite dire warnings of grim weather and more. The good news was no support band, so the show time of 9PM meant we could have dinner before the show with no need to hang around waiting for some unknown support act to wrap up their set – with the added bonus of an anticipated reasonable finish time for whole evening. Despite the hour plus drive home a decent nights sleep seemed on the cards.

I wasn’t really sure what the turn out on a Sunday night might be, and previous shows at Baltimore Soundstage had what I will call a rather “soft” attendance, but as we turned into the very conveniently located parking lot (which is actually above the venue itself), there was a line that stretched from the entrance around the corner, so, despite the fact tickets were still for sale on the door, it was clear this was going to be a packed audience. After eating, despite the doors opening, the line was still around the corner, so interest in the show was high. As we entered, it was clear that the audience was almost exclusively of the older generation, presumably original fans from the 90’s. Apart from a few kids dragged along by their parents, I don’t think there was anyone in the audience under 30!

Once we made it inside, it was clear this was the biggest audience I’ve ever seen at Soundstage, so we shuffled our way all the way over to the far side and found a fairly decent spot wedged against the bar, maybe the equivalent of 6 or 7 rows from the front, which gave us a decent, if not optimum view. The only disadvantage of this was the fact that Nuno Bettencourt plays on stage left….the opposite side, but at least that would encourage me to tear my eyes off his fretboard and pay attention to the show.

A few minutes after the advertised start time of 9PM, the house lights dimmed and shortly followed by the background music from the PA, and before you could really draw a breath Gary, Nuno, Pat and Kevin were pedal to the metal into “Decadence Dance”. The advantage of not having to deal with a support-band messing up the sound was obvious from the get-go, with an almost perfect mix from the very first note. I say almost, because I did notice that Nuno’s guitar was a little buried in the mix for part of that first track, but that was quickly sorted, and I’m sure the difference between an empty venue and a near sold out one. From that point on the mix was as good as you could get.

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Obviously the track listing for this part of the show was no surprise, but the energy flowing off the stage was great to see and the band was simply on fire. It is easy to be distracted by Nuno Bettencourt’s blazing guitar playing, and rightly so, but from our stage-right vantage point I as able to soak in the equally virtuoso bass playing from Pat Badger and the quite exceptional drumming of Kevin Figueiredo. I’m not sure how Extreme manage this, but the drum sound is always exceptional, both live and on record, and tonight was no different. Equally impressive was the way all the instruments in the band had their own “space” to work within, which is less easy to achieve, but a good lesson for any band to think about. I was able to focus at will on the bass, guitar or drums, without at any time feeling they were stepping on each other, while still presenting a totally cohesive “sound”.

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Another most notable feature were the pin-sharp harmony backing vocals from Pat and Nuno, which is another art form that is getting harder to find these day. Of course, without the lead vocals from Gary Cherone the band wouldn’t be “Extreme” and Gary is in fine voice these days, but furthermore he is in fine frontman form and leads the inevitable crowd sign-a-long when they get to “More Than Words”. You can see my video of the track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHxTYLBZAoU&feature=youtu.be

Just to be sure you get a dose of the heavier side of Extreme, of which there was plenty on offer throughout the night, here’s a video of “Money (In God we trust)”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-Qrd1cp494&feature=youtu.be As you can see and hear the band is sounding amazing and even from our offset position, which of course is less than optimum relative to the sound desk, the clarity and overall great mix made this a great night for all in attendance.

Nuno Bettencourt delivered a ripping version of “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee” which of course is the intro to “He-Man Woman Hater”, and despite having seen this last year at M3, it never get’s old. He is such a natural player and never seems to struggle in the least. However, for me, it was Nuno’s masterful display on the acoustic guitar later in the set with a blinding version of “Midnight Express” from the Waiting for the Punchline album that had me spellbound. With some guitar players taking the spotlight for a solo is a bit like watching a high dive at the Olympics, with an intense sense of anticipation, a moment where you seem to hold your breath and then a short burst of concentrated energy, but with Nuno, the whole experience flows in a very organic, natural way – there’s much less drama, and way more involvement somehow. Ultimately he makes everything he does on a guitar look ridiculously easy, which, of course, it totally isn’t. I don’t really go for “best” lists, but I will say that Nuno is certainly in my top five when it comes to guitar players.

Once the Pornograffitti set was complete, the night was finished off with an “encore” of six additional tracks (including the afore mentioned “Midnight Express”), which opened with “Play With Me” and closed with personal favorite “Cupid’s Dead”. When all was said and done we had roughly 2 hours of excellent entertainment, from a band that clearly were enjoying themselves. So, to close this was a great evening, and I can only encourage anyone who has the chance to go and see Extreme to make the effort – you won’t be disappointed. If there is one negative I can think of bringing up, it would be the desire for new material. There was talk of a new album, originally slated for 2011, that was then delayed to 2012… I guess that is still a work-in-progress of sorts. Anyway, a great night and my score is close-to-perfect 9.5/10.

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Judas Priest – Live Review – Baltimore Pier Six Pavilion 10/24/14

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , on October 31, 2014 by novametalreview

Just writing the title to this article feels a little intimidating – Judas Priest are as close to heavy metal royalty as any band that are able to claim a legacy reaching back 40 years. There may be pretenders to that throne, but Priest have a legitimate claim. Trying to review a band like this feels a bit like writing an automobile review of a Ferrari – sure the same principles apply as writing something for a Honda, but the bar is raised to a completely different level here. However, there is plenty to talk about, so let’s set the scene here.

The future of Judas Priest at one point, not so long ago, looked to be in question. KK Downing, founding member and guitar maestro, had decided that his time was up and walked off into retirement, seemingly happy to run a golf course and most recently putting his name to a line of heavy metal perfumes… The latter has still got me scratching my head. For a while the very existence of the band seemed in question, but a replacement was announced in the shape of relatively unknown (at the time) Richie Faulkner. Any time someone new walks into the shoes of a rock icon there’s going to be some resistance, and even to this day, now a World tour and half into his membership of Priest, I still see people questioning “the new guy”.

Well, let me get this over with: Richie Faulkner has without doubt stepped up and brought new fuel to the fire that was beginning to splutter. Priest are ‘back’ and have a new energy that flows from the stage with every beat, every note, every scream. To put this in context, I last saw Priest back in 2005 on the Retribution tour and despite memories of a great show; there was a certain mechanical quality to the whole thing. Of course every song delivered; you can’t fail with material as strong as Priest’s, but I think the seeds of KK’s departure were already sown. Prior to this I’d seen JP perhaps two or three times before back in the 80’s and, without doubt, those are classic memories of the band at their peak. So I’ve seen the band over a good span of time and feel qualified to offer an opinion.

The first thing to think through is that Judas Priest are somewhat obviously not going to just hire “anyone”, so it is fairly safe to assume Richie has a resume that qualifies him. For those that don’t know, prior to Priest, Richie most recently was playing guitar for Lauren Harris’ band – yes, Steve Harris’ daughter. Yep, “the” Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. Lauren Harris had toured most of the World with Maiden and naturally all the members of the band got to know the members of Maiden really well.

When Priest started looking for a KK’s successor, it would be natural to look for recommendations from bands of similar statue. Now I don’t pretend to know all the in’s and out’s of the hiring process that brought Richie into the band, but it is clear that Rob Halford and crew are more than happy with the chap they brought into the ranks. In fact one of the things you can see on stage is an appreciation for Richie’s playing and overall stage presence. This is further reinforced by the fact that Richie gets to deliver the only solo spot of the night, but now I am getting well ahead of myself. The bottom line is this; open your ears and eyes, and judge on performance.

The “Redeemer of Souls” album was released back in early July and my review for this album scored a solid, if not outrageous 8/10 – you can read it here if you feel inclined: Redeemer Of Souls. My main beef, albeit relatively minor, after living with the album for a few more months now, is the production, which speaks to me of a Protools by numbers effort, recorded over a period of many months – in plain words, the record feels ‘bitty’, with some tracks working like monsters and others a little less so. It’s just not a cohesive smash-you-in-the-face experience. Good, but could do better sort of report card. However, I still stand by my good words relating to the initiation of Richie Faulker to the JP discography.

When the tour was announced I was pleased to see the Baltimore date on the list, since the previous time I had seen them was in my least favorite venue in the local area; the soulless “Jiffy Lube Live” (or as it was in 2005, Nissan Pavilion), which may be in distance closer, but sucks for many reasons, not least being outrageous beer prices and horrific parking. The Baltimore venue was listed as “The Pier 6 Pavilion” which I had never been to before, but saw good things written about it. We ended up with seats in the 4th row, which was excellent, even though we paid a good deal over face-value through a reseller. This was one of the few time when I believe this was worth spending the extra – Priest aren’t exactly touring on a regular basis so there are times when you have to grab opportunities as they come by.

Pier 6 Pavilion is actually more or less an outdoor venue, with an open view from the stage looking out over the Baltimore harbor, which makes this a pretty unique venue. I would estimate the capacity at about 10,000 and of course the venue was full for Priest, but from looking back at the crowd from the 4th row I would imagine this is a great venue to see a band, no matter where you are seated. One minor complaint; security isn’t exactly well enforced and at the start of Priest’s set a lot of ‘extra’ people had pushed to the front that clearly didn’t have seats which was kind of annoying. Eventually this was sorted out. I don’t know why they don’t have a barrier around the seated area and a couple of staff at the entrances to keep things a little more under control.

Support for the show was somewhat disjointedly listed as “Steel Panther” and while they can be amusing, I wasn’t really interested in them in the context of a Judas Priest show. We actually arrived about two-thirds of the way through their set, and I wasn’t at all bothered at missing what we did. In another setting I would probably write good things about them and I realize they are only having fun, but their irreverence seemed forced and hard work, at least compared to the times I seen them before. Fortunately we only had to sit through three songs or so and they were done.

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A large Judas Priest drape hid the preparations taking place on the stage and this only added to the sense of anticipation that was clearly building throughout the venue. After about 20 minutes, it was show time and before we could blink, the drape fell to the opening riff of “Dragonaut” and the twin guitar attack led by Glen Tipton and Richie Faulkner was sharp and sliced through the night air. Immediately I was impressed by the excellent sound mix – loud and powerful – and there he was, Rob Halford in impeccable voice. The opening line of Dragonaut was a perfect entrance, “Welcome to my world of steel, master of my domain…”. He couldn’t really have put it any better. Now, Rob Halford has not been shy about talking about various medical issues that are affecting him (his back problems perhaps being the most notable, but not the only thing), but blow me down, he sounded better than I remember from any time I’ve seen him previously. You can make up your own mind with the videos I took, which are linked below.

The second track up was the classic “Metal Gods” from British Steel and this gave me a chance to look at the “new guy” in the context of the stage show. Basically I can keep this pretty short – Richie Faulkner is critical part of the Priest lineup and was always up front and center, constantly interacting with the audience, launching guitar picks into the crowd and firing everyone up. Not only this, but it is clear Rob and the rest of the crew are entirely at ease with the role he has taken. This comment totally overlooks his musical contribution, which is massive. Richie is a guitar hero right up with the best and if anyone questions why he is up on stage with the rest of JP, all they need do is go see the band – the answer is more than obvious from the notes flowing from the fretboard from whichever one of his many Gibson’s he happens to have in his hand.

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Turning to the remaining members, Glen Tipton basically is up there doing what he has always done, solid and tight. He may have stepped down the showmanship a little and, to be honest, I have always thought he was team-player rather than the guitar virtuoso, but I also have to remind myself that like Rob and Ian, he is on the wrong side of 60 years old now, so charging round the stage like a scalded cat probably isn’t on the books any more.

Ian Hill has the right rear corner of the stage locked down, exactly as he has done for the past 40 years pretty much. I think Ian definitely deserves more credit than perhaps is sent his way. While not an “in your face” player, without the drive he gives the band, the power that is evident flowing off stage, would certainly be missing. I have to add, he is also a super-nice bloke – we met him after the show and spent quite some time chatting. Rounding out things we have Scott Travis on drums and he was sounding in brutal but sharp form throughout the show. We were fortunate to meet him after the show and I was completely unprepared for that fact that Scott is easily 6’6” tall. He was very humble when told just how much a fan Michelle is of Racer X, which is another of Scott’s projects.

The set continued with “Devil’s Child”, which you can see on video here: http://youtu.be/zqjw3CmT32A. As you can see and hear, the band was killing it live. There is no doubt in my mind that Judas Priest will continue to tour for a good many years based on this performance and the Redeemer Of Souls album – there is a lot of music still in these guys – no matter what might have been said back around the time Epitaph was released on video. Too many bands go through this farewell performance/tour/album thing. I remember attending the Status Quo farewell show in London in the mid 80’s… they are still touring, albeit limited to dates in Europe, some 30 years later.

The band is playing the same set list at each gig, but you can see the list here: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/judas-priest/2014/pier-six-concert-pavilion-baltimore-md-4bcccb6a.html

I am hard pushed to pick a favorite track of the night, since every song, be it new or old was delivered with such power and passion, but it might just have been to classic “Breaking The Law” simply from the energy you could fell both from the stage and audience together. I managed to snag part of it on video here: http://youtu.be/cN9fmR8w5K4. Another monster was the new track “Halls Of Valhalla” which is a favorite of mine from Redeemer Of Souls. It would be hard to ignore “Hell Bent For Leather” which of course opened with the arrival of Rob Halford sat astride a Harley. You can see this here: http://youtu.be/04B2RmQnLrg

Towards the end of the set, and I honestly can’t remember exactly where this fits exactly, Richie gets to take the spotlight with a brilliantly executed guitar solo, which is another commendation and affirmation of his position within the Priest ranks. This not only gives him a chance to shine musically, but also showmanship wise. We came to be entertained, not sit and politely clap, and Richie does not disappoint. I absolutely lost count of how many guitar picks he launched into the crowd with a flick of the wrist and a big smile every time. He is clearly having fun and wants to make sure everyone in he audience does too.

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The set closed with “Defenders Of The Faith” from the album of the same name and I know I could have sat through another hour or more without a tiny bit of a complaint, but the hour and half we were given was a definitive demonstration of why Judas Priest are in the top five metal bands of all time in my book. Some might argue that this or that track was missing from the set, but this is one of those cases where no matter what they picked, someone would find their particular favorite missing. When you have such a deep catalog of material, picking 16 songs from a 100+ possibles is always going to be a tough job. To close, this will go down in my book as one of my all time favorite shows. The band really gave off a great vibe – they were psyched to be up on stage, just as much as the audience was to be out in front of them. No doubt – 10/10.

– Neil Waterman

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King Diamond – Live Review – The Fillmore Silver Spring 10/13/14

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , on October 15, 2014 by novametalreview

King Diamond is one of the most iconically enigmatic characters of the metal scene and, until last night, was an experience that I had never had the opportunity to sample. In fact thinking about it, while always being keenly aware of both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond back in the mid 80’s, I just don’t recall ever seeing them pass my path. In fact it was the recent LP re-release of “Abigail” and “Them” on 180gram colored vinyl that inspired me to go out and buy the entire King Diamond back-catalog (or nearly so, I think I’m missing three out of the twelve studio releases), so this tour was perfectly timed.

As soon as the Silver Spring date was announced, I snapped up tickets since there was a definite buzz for the tour. Some of the shows sold out within a few hours (I think NY sold out in three), but by the time the Silver Spring doors opened all tickets for the show were gone, so this was definitely packed to the rafters and that was easy to see from just looking around the venue. The only other time I have seen The Fillmore this full was for Guns’N’Roses a year or two back, but this show may have topped that by a couple of hundred – I strongly suspect it was in fact over-sold. There were also some odd balcony seats sold on Ticketmaster that were not honored at the venue which added to the confusion, at least upstairs. Through a combination of circumstances we ended up watching the show from the balcony, which considering the crush on the main floor seemed like a good idea and certainly helped with the video I was able to take (see later).

Before we get to the King, first a quick word on the support band. Until some time after the gig I had no idea who the heck the band that took the stage first was, which probably isn’t too clever a move by the band themselves. I think the point of supporting a name act is to get exposure, which is a tough thing to claim you have achieved if no one knows the name of your band after you have finished your set. Anyway, after poking around the internet I figured it was a Finnish outfit by the name of “Jess and the Ancient Ones”, fronted by a female who was none other than someone called “Jess” (ah, clever these Finnish…). In total I counted three guitarists, a bass player, a keyboard player, drummer and of course “Jess”… quite a stage full.

They ambled onto the stage around 8PM or so and then some technical issue seemed to hold things up for what seemed like a long 5 minutes, following which we were treated to some rather unremarkable intro recording. I suppose that was the cause of the delay? I could have survived without it. Once things got going they sounded to me like an early 70’s cross between The Doors, some Deep Purple-influenced not quite hippy version of something that might have touched the edge of Lynyrd Skynyrd at times. Generally quite good, but certainly not remarkable and eventually I wished it was their last song, which arrived about one song too late. Perhaps the anticipation of seeing King Diamond had me a little edgy and I might be being a little unkind. Opening for King Diamond is probably not an easy thing to do no matter, so I’ll give them credit for pulling that off at least adequately.

So, Jess and crew cleared the stage and then constructions began on-stage, which were quickly hidden behind a full front-of-stage curtain… intriguingly! As time passed the tension in the air continued to build, as did the audience on the main floor space, which was packed. In fact every viewing spot was occupied upstairs and down. I found myself passing the time by scoring Kind Diamond make-up attempts out of 10; most were rather grim efforts that struggled to get past a 3, but there were a couple that were worthy of a 7 or 8 perhaps.

As the clock ticked past 9.30, the background music, which was largely 70’s Deep Purple and the like, faded and a momentary hush hit the crowd before the curtain obscuring the stage dropped to reveal a pretty adventurous stage set-up, with a full walkway all the way around the back of the drummer and most imposingly an 8-foot railing ‘fence’ all the way across the front of the stage, as if it were necessary to separate the band from the audience.

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The “King” had arrived! The opening keyboard intro of “The Candle” rang out, and then that voice… there’s no chance anyone can mistake King Diamond, and my immediate impression was he was nailing it. Now, as I confessed earlier, this was my first KD show, so I really don’t have anything to compare this to, other than the albums, but my first vibe was he was spot on. I’ve since read some reviews of previous shows from past tours where things perhaps weren’t always so good, but from start to finish he was basically as close to note perfect as makes no difference. Excellent.

The band, comprising original member Andy LaRocque on guitar, Mike Wead guitar (who we met after the show, nice guy), Pontus Egberg on bass (who wins some kind of prize for the name most likely to have been almost a Roman Emperor) and Matt Thompson on drums, were exceptional – tight, heavy and entertaining in their own right. In a way it must be hard to play in what must seem at times the dark shadows when you are in the presence of someone like King Diamond, who is clearly the center of all attention on stage, but these guys have it figured out and never seemed out of place or lost in the background. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised with how heavy they came across.

We were treated to a set comprising sixteen songs which spanned the breadth of the KD catalog and included two Mercyful Fate tracks, namely “Evil” and “Come To The Sabbath” both of which are more or less fixtures of the KD set and welcome additions. You can see the set list here: http://tinyurl.com/n56nufk. My personal favorite KD album is “The Puppet Master” and I took the following video of the title track: http://youtu.be/O7hHii1QPd8

I think everyone at the gig would say they would have happily had another hour or so added to the set, but the one and hour 40 minutes we got was all Grade A and the entertainment factor of the whole experience was exceptional. It made me remember that going to a concert is supposed to be a “show” in the biggest meaning of the word, and that is definitely something that King Diamond understands and delivers. Of course not all bands need or would make sense of the sort of elaborate stagecraft and additional actors used by KD, but there is a lesson for all bands here.

Since the show I’ve seen a number of somewhat disparaging comments from a few folks bemoaning the fact that a small proportion of the audience were “hipsters”, allegedly only there to have a “cool” story to tell their less-cool buddies about that “metal show” they went to during the week, but to be honest, I’d rather have a full venue, than the pathetic turn out I’ve seen at some shows recently. We need to encourage venues to get the bands through the load-in doors and as many people as possible through the entrance doors.

For me, this was one of the best ‘shows’ I’ve been to, especially in terms of the overall epic-ness of it all. In fact in the context of the material, the ‘fit’ was better than many other metal bands that drag around a big stage set – I think Alice Cooper is perhaps the only other I’ve seen that works truly in concert with the themes running through the music. Anyway, there really isn’t anything I can say negative about the show. Sure you can bemoan leaving out or including this or that song, and argue for a longer set, but the bottom line is King Diamond delivered 100% on the day and I can only score this a straight 10/10.

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Rubicon Cross – Live Review – H.O.M.E. Bar, Chicago (5/15/14)

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 23, 2014 by novametalreview

I think it fair to say if I had heard myself say I was going to take two days off work, fly 700 miles to see a band that hadn’t released it’s first record, for their debut gig, with a billing third on a bill out of three, I think I would have thought I’d been drinking at the very least! I mean even writing that down now it looks a little nutty! However, any of you regular readers of the blog here will know I have been following and promoting Rubicon Cross for quite a while now, so the fact that Michelle and I did exactly the trip described above will come as no surprise. I believe we witnessed a new chapter in metal history – not by turning a page, but by tearing the book open and shoving a whole wad of blank paper ready for the Rubicon Cross story to be written in large bold font!

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First a quick recap for those who have avoided my previous write-ups on Rubicon Cross. On vocals we have the incomparable CJ Snare (yes, the one and same from FireHouse), however in this setting CJ is reaching back to his metal roots that sit firmly on a foundation of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the Scorpions. On lead guitar we find Chris Green (Furyon, Pride and currently Tyketto) who must truly be regarded as a future candidate to anoint the cover of Guitar Player magazine, read on for more… The second guitar spot is admirably filled by Jeff Lerman-Bones, a new name and face, but able to hold his own with Chris, which is no mean feat. On bass Simon Farmery (Pride) fills the bottom end, with the line-up completed with Robert Behnke (Seventh Omen) on the drums.

The debut self-titled CD was due to drop on May 19th, just four short days following the gig, so the excitement and general buzz surrounding the band was already peaking, with a strong publicity campaign reaching out to radio, the internet and magazines. This gig was what I will call a creature of opportunity, with Fozzy headlining – Simon had previously stepped in on bass at relatively short notice for them, so a call to the very accommodating Chris Jehrico secured an opening slot at the Chicago date on the Fozzy country-wide tour. Chicago is essentially the Rubicon Cross hometown, so this was as close to perfect for the band as possible.

The gig took place at H.O.M.E Bar in Arlington Heights, Chicago, so first a word or two on the venue. This venue is some 30 minutes or so from Downtown, so a bit of hike from the city itself, and is somewhat innocuously hidden in a strip mall, so there was no great sense of anticipation walking through the door, into what on the surface seems like any one of thousands of other sports bars around the USA. However, at the rear of the bar area, a couple of doors lead into a very nicely sized performance venue, that I would guess at max capacity could hold 1500 people or so. The stage is a great size and a nice height (perhaps raised 4 feet from the floor level) with an excellent sound system.

The doors opened a little later than the scheduled 7PM, perhaps around 7.20PM or so, and we secured a spot just left of center stage. Over the next 40 minutes or so the venue continued to fill and by 8PM (kick-off time for Rubicon) I would estimate there were around 500 people ready to be rocked. I believe this was easily the most people present throughout the whole evening, and by the time Fozzy took the stage the crowd had dwindled to perhaps 300 or so (least anyone think I’m playing favorites here, I thought Fozzy delivered a great performance and Chris Jehrico is a great front-man, and really worked the crowd over). Of course the attendance for Rubicon was boosted by the fact it was their debut performance and they are essentially local, but there aren’t many openers that can draw the biggest crowd of the evening when put up against a national touring act.

 

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Shortly after 8PM, Rubicon Cross took to the stage and with a rumble from the bass, we saw Chris Green bent over the front of his amp stack from which he drew a harmonic howl of feedback from his PRS guitar that screamed business from the very first moment. With a four count from Robert on the high-hat, the band came off the starting grid like a Formula One race car, all cylinders firing, gas-pedal to the floor – they opened with “Locked & Loaded” which is also the opening track off the album, and with only 25 seconds having passed, Chris delivered the first lead-off solo with such fluid confidence and poise that it was hard to compute that this was their debut gig. In a clever piece of showmanship, the track drew to a hard stop at the climax of the solo, with CJ Snare leaping on to the stage, with a yell of “What’s up Chicago!” and they were into the track, sounding heavy, tight and melodic – and therein lies the crux that makes this band different. There is a crushing heaviness to the underlying songs, but this is more than offset by the “damn-that’s-catchy” melody that runs through the vocal lines. Many of you reading this who already have the CD will understand this, but this point is doubly evident in a live setting.

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CJ sounded instantly recognizable, but with a much harder, meaner edge to his vocal delivery. If anyone was under the impression that FireHouse is CJ’s wheelhouse comfort zone, they will have their illusions shattered at their first Rubicon Cross concert, because to my ears this is where CJ is at home. The songs sit in a lower register, giving him the ability to use his full vocal range.

In my review of the CD, those paying attention should recall my comment on the jaw-droppingly-wicked guitar run that followed the end of the first chorus in “Locked & Loaded” and I was intrigued to see what Chris would do – silly me – he just about melted the frets off with a twisting arppegiated run which totally had me grinning from ear to ear. Rubicon had brought their own sound engineer (Brendan Seven) and he had the venue rocking, despite only being given time for a short ½ song sound check pre-gig. At this point I was able to take a breath and take in the rest of the band. Simon on bass is just a bad-ass, locking down the rhythm with Robert on the drums – truth be told he is a monster behind the kit. There’s an element of caged animal about Robert back there to be honest. He hits so hard and with such a passion, you can literally see the energy he’s delivering. Jeff over on stage right, was also totally laying it down, and the twin-guitar attack, coupled with Simon’s gritty bass lines is where the core power behind the band comes from.

“Kill Or Be Killed” was the second track of the night and on the CD I think this comes over as the heaviest track on the album, and this has a killer riff which just tears at you. At this point I think the band themselves realized, debut gig or not, this was crushing, and you could sense the pure exhilaration flowing off the stage. Naturally any band delivering their debut performance has an element of nerves, but this was not a factor here – it was time to rock out. I must stop and acknowledge the knocked-me-off-my-feet solo that Chris delivered in this track. I swear it was note perfect to the solo that is on the CD which is nuts – if you’ve heard the CD you’ll see why I say this.

The third track we were treated to is the song that started it all; the first track CJ and Chris wrote together, “Moving On” and the verse definitely comes across as much heavier live. It comes over with a bit more swagger and sleaze, when compared directly to the album version and this may be down to the lack of the acoustic guitar parts when played live. By this point, those people in the crowd who didn’t know anything about Rubicon Cross were convinced – I heard many comments behind me saying things like “These guys are amazing”, “They are destroying” and “Where are they from? They’re so good!”.

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The fourth track is one of my personal favorites, “My Next Worst Enemy” and this is a seriously catchy song. I can’t get the image out of my mind of this being played at a large festival and seeing the whole crowd rocking out and singing along with this. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the backing vocals contributed by Jeff, Simon and Chris – these really add a lot to the melodic aspect in a live setting and it would be cool to see this brought more to the fore – but let’s not forgot this was their debut gig!

“Bleed With Me” was dedicated to the men and women of the US Armed Forces and is a killer song. I noticed a really nice arppegiated part under the second verse, which on the record is played on keyboards, I believe, but Chris ripped it on the guitar – very nice. I also really liked the way CJ got into it with the crowd as he introduced the band. This was definitely the heavy metal, ‘full-metal-jacket’ CJ Snare.

After some frivolities involving pints of Guinness that seemed to disappear in less than 3 seconds, the set closer was cleverly chosen to be “You Will Remember Me” which of course was the intended message. This track opens with a nice dual guitar harmony line from Chris and Jeff that kicks in and flows into a very nice lead off solo. In fact this song is a guitar players dream with the main solo that was truly blinder; there aren’t really words that could do it justice, so you will just have to witness it for yourself. The version on the CD is close, but the live version was stunning. CJ tore into this song with growl and closed with a classic heavy metal scream the tore the roof off – and with that it was done. With a set time that ran just about 40 minutes, Rubicon Cross had their first show under their belt.

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So, let me take a step back and gather myself for a moment of reflection. Individually every person on the stage acquitted themselves with honor. Jeff over on stage right brought power to each track that ensured the energy level never dropped through the solo sections when Chris was off doing his thing. Simon on bass was cranking it out and I was a big fan of his bass sound on the night. Robert was just a monster behind the drum kit and I stick by my caged animal statement of earlier. CJ Snare brought the voice to the band and there was an intensity to his whole being that I have never seen at a FireHouse show. Here, with Rubicon Cross, CJ was the hunter, armed and dangerous and looking for prey.

So am I forgetting someone? Not at all. If I draw back to the roots of melodic metal, there are nearly always characters that are the lynchpin to a band’s success – Deep Purple had Blackmore, for the Scorpions/UFO it was Michael Schenker, Ozzy Osbourne with Randy Rhoads, Dokken with George Lynch, and I could go on. In the case of Rubicon Cross I believe this is the role Chris Green has stepped into (Haha! No pressure, eh!). Clearly the writing partnership of Snare/Green is the fundamental to the existence of the band, so we should take that as read, but the performance contribution of Chris in a live setting is critical to delivering what can be found on the album. What we saw on the 15th was that expectation delivered.

Chris has talent and technique flowing through his very being, but without wanting to come across as too much of a fawning fanboy, as indicated previously, the very first feedback induced scream from his PRS was a statement of intent, and what followed was a jaw-dropping display of outstanding guitar playing. The icing on the cake is it isn’t overblown; there aren’t any widdle-widdle-look-at-me antics, just great guitar playing that sits in the context of the songs. I currently have a relatively short list of modern guitar players that I hold in high regards; Dario Lorina, Patrick Abbate and Rick Plester spring to mind, but I have to put Chris a good head and shoulders beyond these guys. I mentioned it earlier and will say it again – if we don’t see Chris on the cover of Guitar Player magazine in the next 24 months, then there is something seriously wrong with the world.

Quite simply, the gig was easily worth the trip and if we had missed it I think it is one of those I would have regretted for a very, very long time. During the gig, CJ noted that those in attendance were “…getting in on the ground floor”, and I absolutely agree. The thing is I believe there are many floors that Rubicon Cross will rise past on the way up from here out. Of course there is one obvious complaint: I wanted a longer set, but that was out of their hands. To score this is simple: 10/10

You can get the album at:

Best Buy: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/rubicon-cross-deluxe-only–best-buy-with-bonus-tracks-poster-cd/6017091.p?id=3220147&skuId=6017091
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rubicon-Cross/dp/B00JHPRIAE

– Neil Waterman

(Photo credits: Mostly Michelle Waterman and some me!)

 

 

 

 

 

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Grim Reaper – Live Review – Ragnarokkr @ Reggie’s Chicago

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , , on April 11, 2014 by novametalreview

It may seem strange to some, but the legend that is the heavy metal band “Grim Reaper” appears, to me at least, far greater now in 2014, than it did back in the midst of the NWOBHM hey-day itself. As a Brit, that experienced the peak of the NWOBHM first hand, I certainly was well aware of Grim Reaper, but to be honest, they were one of many fighting for my hard earned cash when it came to the end of the week and time to pick the next LP to join the collection. For all the coverage Kerrang! and Sounds may have given them, I think they were focused more on MTV and the USA, than back home in the UK.

Fast forward to about 2010, and something reignited that dormant seed – it might have been an appearance by Steve Grimmett as a guest vocalist on some other record, but holy cow, discovering the original three albums by GR was a bit like realizing there’s actually another couple of 6-packs in the back of the fridge – awesome! If you know Grim Reaper at all then you don’t need me to tell you what a superb combination of heavy riffage and melodic stuck-in-your-head tunes are contained on those records. Personally my favorite is the last album “Rock You To Hell”, but it’s very hard to pick. It’s actually getting somewhat tricky to find these on CD or vinyl, so my advice if you see a copy of any of the catalog and have any interest at all, don’t quibble, just buy them.

If you add the slightly strange and coincidental twist that Charles Grimaldi (GR bass player since 2008) happens to be a good friend of a friend, hailing from not so far away in Maryland… yes, the world is a lot smaller place than it seems. We happened to meet Chaz last year at a Lizzy Borden show when he popped back to the USA for a visit (he currently lives in the UK) – what a great chap he is indeed!

Enough preamble, as soon as the line-up for Ragnarokkr was announced a trip up to Chicago was almost a dead certainty; Grim Reaper headlining the Saturday, with Riot V (the remains of the mighty Riot following the passing of Mark Reale) headlining the Friday night. I’ll cover Riot V in another review to follow… haha, promise! This trip became a dead-certainty when it was announced that original guitarist Nick Bowcott would join the band for a special one-night reunion after 27 years away from the band. Ah, metal history in the making.

Reggie’s is a great venue to see a metal band – it’s not so big that you get lost in the place, but the sound is great and the stage high with a sloping floor that means no matter where you are in the crowd you will probably have a pretty decent view. Since this weekend was a bit of festival (I think something close to 20 bands played over the two days), the place was completely packed (I believe it was sold out and had to turn away over 100 people at the door).

It was about 11.30 when Grim Reaper hit the opening cords to “Rock You To Hell” and it was clear the crowd was 100% behind the band, and from that moment on every chorus was a sing-along. It’s always an experience when you’re at a show where the audience knows every word of pretty much every song. Despite the fact that Nick and the rest of the band had only limited time to rehearse everything just seemed to fall into place. Below you will see a picture of the set list from the night and yes, every song you might expect to see is there. What was a very nice surprise were the two new songs from the forthcoming album, which I believe is called “From Hell” (tracks were “From Hell” and “Blue Murder”). Also in the set was a very nicely executed version of the Dio classic “Don’t Talk To Strangers”.

A few comments – it seems that Ian Nash is a pretty tasty guitarist in his own right and despite taking the backseat to Nick (as might be expected). I can imagine if there was any chance of more dates as a five piece the twin guitar attack of both Nick and Ian would be a thing of beauty. Chaz Grimaldi totally locked down the bass parts and looked like he was having a veritable party on stage, and Mark Rumble, well he did exactly what his surname (real or otherwise…?) implies. Steve Grimmett of course carries a lot of the spotlight, as he well should, and vocally he’s still delivering fireworks, and deluxe helpings too. It’s always hard to fly in, do one date and leave, and I’d say that is perhaps even harder for a vocalist, but we got “grade A” prime Grim Reaper.

Currently there is a bit of an on-off chance of a US tour in June – the band desperately want to come back, and judging by the audience this past week there is a good demand to see the band, but promoters and all the other backroom stuff needs to fall into place. Hopefully this will happen. If it does, my advice is definitely go see them.

And yes, the show itself was just like realizing there’s actually another couple of 6-packs in the back of the fridge – awesome! My score for the Ragnarokkr show was a solid 9.5/10.

Signed LP - thanks you lot!

Nick Bowcott

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Set list from Ragnarokkr

Heavy Metal Heaven – Old Bridge Metal Militia Reunion Concert – Lords Of Mercy, The Rods, Raven, Twisted Sister, Anvil, T.T. Quick – Live Review 5/11/13

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2013 by novametalreview

When this show was first announced I believe it was just Raven, Anvil and Twisted Sister, and that in itself already seemed like a “can’t miss” event, so the final line-up as listed really was exceptional. A night that many heavy metal fans perhaps thought they would never see, particularly T.T. Quick and The Rods, who are playing almost never and rarely, respectively. First though I should point out that the cause behind this event, namely hurricane Sandy, and the devastation left behind, is still a horrible reality for many people, so the spirit and intent behind this show was a motivation of great passion – all the bands donated their time, the organizers, Eddie Trunk and the boys from That Metal Show, the various production companies, etc – everyone involved deserves great kudos and recognition for making this happen. The show was fully sold out the day before and, combined with the money raised through a raffle of donated guitars and basses, over $40,000 was raised, that will basically be going directly to people in dire need. Metal gives back, or just gives, since I don’t think it ever “took” anything in this case.

Now I don’t know the full back-story behind the Old Bridge Metal Militia or the Heavy Metal Heaven record store, but between them they were the organizers of this exceptional event, and they did a fine job considering everyone was basically a volunteer. Pulling off something like this is by no means a cake-walk and at the end of the day I’d like to offer my thanks for putting the event on – notwithstanding the good cause, this was a heavy metal night to remember, and this is likely one of those nights that becomes legendary, at least in rock history.

Rather than string this out in my usual fashion, with a little history lesson here and a tale from the “old days” there, I’ll try and keep to the meat’n’potatoes of the night as much as possible, but first a word on the venue. Hailing from Northern Virginia, the Encore Center in Freehold, NJ, meant absolutely nothing to me, and when we arrived it seemed we were at a rather non-descript strip mall… not very heavy metal at all. Fortunately the sheer amount of long-haired, leather clad metal fans confirmed we were in the right place. Entering the venue, we were greeted with a variety of guitars and basses up for raffle, a display from Oktober Guitars (http://www.oktoberguitars.com/), who had donated two of the raffle entries (an 8-string bass and a Raven MGT guitar), event t-shirt sales, plus a Raven merch stand. Despite all this, I suspect this hall was more used to wedding receptions, than metal shows. Not that mattered once we made our way into the main hall, which was dominated by a wide, high stage, flanked by a serious looking PA with a back-drop of two large video screens. I think the venue capacity was 1500 and at its peak the floor was packed, but not ridiculously so. In other words the organizers got it pretty much spot on.

The running order was Lords of Mercy, The Rods, Raven, Twisted Sister, ANVIL and topped off with T.T. Quick. I managed to snap a photo of the official running order and set-time list – see below. Basically everyone was scheduled with a run-time of 40 minutes, which seemed fair, even if didn’t seem to run quite like that later. I was surprised by the start time listed for Lords of Mercy as the tickets stated “Doors 7pm, Show 8pm”, so anyone taking a late entry probably missed what was an exceptional kick-off for the evening. I can’t claim to know anything about Lords of Mercy except they were the local team and came out swinging. Front-man ‘Brandon Sweeny’ is a power-house and despite only catching a couple of numbers from front-of-house, if there was any need of an energy injection to light the night off, he was the man to do it. They did plenty more than enough to be sure I will be in the audience if they make their way down south anytime soon. Thinking about it they would be a good addition to the Rock Harvest II bill, due to take place at The House Of Rock (White Marsh, MD) in November. Before we leave Lords of Mercy, I have to say Brandon is a very personable chap and we were fortunate to meet him back-stage, and he even insisted on taking some pictures with our kids (yes, we turned this into a family outing!). Great PR.

With the evening off and running, the energy level in the whole venue was raised to ‘11’ and this was further stoked by Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine, from That Metal Show, who were comparing, and next up they introduced The Rods. I had never seen The Rods before this night, but everything I had read told me to expect a much heavier show than their recordings, and boy, was that an understatement. It was interesting to me that tonight there were three true three-piece bands appearing, The Rods themselves, Raven and ANVIL, with each of them bring a serious slice of heavy. It’s somewhat poignant that I happen to be writing this on the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Ronnie James Dio, and that date was in my mind as I looked across the stage at the diminutive in height, but hugely talented guitarist, David “Rock” Feinstein, Ronnie’s cousin and band-mate during his time with ‘Elf’. I can’t help but think, had Ronnie been alive on this day, this would have been exactly the kind of benefit performance where we may have been blessed with a guest appearance. Somehow I know he was there in spirit, of that, I have no doubt. Their 40-minute set time passed way to fast and I was left wholly impressed with their power and overall heaviness. Again, another band to add to my list that I would travel a considerable distance to go see.

Now the venue was *really* heaving, and with the clock ticking past 9 o’clock, expectation was growing for the imminent arrival of rock legends ‘Raven’. Those who track the NoVAMetalReview blog will know I saw Raven a few short weeks past in Springfield, VA (Empire) and should recall I was raving (uhg, pun totally intended) about their raw energy and sheer outright musicianship. From the mighty Joe Hasselvander on the drums, who, for me, defines power and drive, to the outright insanity of Mark Gallagher on guitar (who, I swear, makes his instrument sound like there are two guitarists in the band) and incidentally easily wins the insane guitar face-pulling competition by several miles (sorry lads, thanks for playing…), to the hypersonic vocal abilities of John Gallagher, who I should also mention is easily capable of melting the frets off his bass, whether it has 4-, 8- or even 12-strings! Raven are one of those bands that don’t need written set-lists and use some kind of on-stage telepathy to know what song is up next. Looking round the hall, and not claiming any kind of science beyond “eye-balling it”, there seemed to be a very high percentage of the audience with Raven shirts on, so they either did a storm on the merch stand or they have some seriously loyal fans.

From the moment they opened with “Take Control”, the thing that struck me more than anything was the audience were singing along with every song, and heck, they knew every damn word. It was very cool to just stand there in the massive crowd and feel that happening. Up second was “Live at the Inferno” and the crowd went nuts. Personally, my favorite of the night was “Firepower” from the Wiped Out album, which I have previously stated is firmly in my top 10 records of all time, followed by “Rock Until You Drop” which perhaps was more appropriate this evening than many others, given the expect late close. Where The Rods scored with “heavy”, Raven went with “power”, just about evenly balanced with “energy”, and they brought it by the truck-load. Actually several silly-big trucks. Full trucks… Now, there was a little ‘odd moment’ at the tail-end of their set, when the stage manager (I assume that was his role?), basically ran onto the stage and announced ‘time’s up’ and cut the set short? WTF? I’ve never seen that at any show, at least as blatantly and just as it was clear that the lads were about to start what was presumably their last number, which I am guessing would have been “On and On”, since that hadn’t been played yet. We shall never know. I have a strange perception that Twisted Sister were getting slightly preferential treatment (more on that to follow) and this was a ploy to ensure T.S. got to hit the stage at their anointed set-time, but let me be clear, this is purely conjecture on my part. However, as Raven departed the stage, a huge chant broke out throughout the crowd: “RAVEN! RAVEN! RAVEN!…”, that echoed throughout the hall and far backstage I’m sure. Raven were the only band to receive this sort of adulation all evening.

Backstage, not one of the Twisted Sister members had ventured into the hospitality area, which certainly set them apart from all the other bands. If you look below you will see a photo of a poster that I bought to commemorate the evening, and every member of every other band signed that poster, but there are no T.S. signatures to be found. For me, as a fan of metal and wanting to be part of an evening that wasn’t about any one band or performance, T.S. did not enamor me one little bit and later this only got worse. But I am getting ahead of myself by about 40 minutes.

When TS hit the stage they certainly delivered musically and Dee Snider appears quite disturbingly the exact same as he was 30 years ago, vocally and appearance-wise, less the make-up. I’m not going to try to pretend I’m a fan and know any more than the standard TS MTV hits, but basically that was their exact set last Saturday. Good stuff, well played and, not surprisingly, the audience knew every song. We got several feel good moments just listening to the audience singing along to music they grew up to. A very well received little extra came in the form of Dave “The Snake” Sabo from Skid Row, who joined the band for a ripping version of “Under The Blade”. I couldn’t hope to captured this verbatim, but during one of the song interludes, when in times past Dee Snider has been know to let rip at the crowd, he turned this around and tore into the “authorities” for the situation left behind in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, and based on the intensity and sincerity in his voice I really felt his passion. Of that, I have no doubt. Their set closed with ‘I Wanna Rock” and this had the crowd totally hooked, belting it out and loving every moment – it was amazing to be part of this.

At that point, I was headed backstage and despite a badge that said “All Access” apparently this didn’t mean “all” when T.S. are leaving the stage area, and security were blocking everyone, no matter what badge or reason. Something about this ‘privileged’ behavior left a bit of sour taste and it wasn’t only me that noticed this. Where every other performer worked around the chaos, little that it may have been, it seems T.S. were above all this. So, this ‘fuss’ and the rather obvious “get Raven off the stage, or Twisted are going to have a hissy…” were perhaps the only two downers throughout a wickedly good evening. Well that and the fact that the venue ran out of alcohol at some point…

Up next we got the mighty ANVIL, a band I have a particular soft-spot for, having been a fan since “Hard ‘n’ Heavy”, with that particular signed album cover taking pride of place in our ‘music room’ up on the wall, alongside an ever growing collection of memorabilia. I’ve seen ANVIL several times in the past 2 years, ranging from a terribly advertised show at Jaxx (Springfield, VA), where there were perhaps 25 or so people in the whole place, to sold out shows in Vienna (VA). The one thing you can never say is they don’t deliver, no matter what size crowd. Of course, that was not a problem for this show.

However, following TS was not perhaps the easiest and opening with ‘March of the Crabs”, they simply did what ANVIL does. While they may have closed with “Metal on Metal”, in many ways this is the band mantra. Turn it up to ’11’, feel the power and go with the metal. If you ‘get it’ you’ll be head-banging with the best of them, otherwise go find a spot at the bar and chill. Robb Reiner is a monster on the drum kit and in many ways I have felt he is the power-plant of the band – he is the musical master, from which everything flows. While Lips is no doubt a showman, he is certainly not the most technically appointed player and there are times when I wonder what a few less ‘weed sessions’ might have given us? On any other day that thought probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but when you’ve got master musicians like Mark Gallagher, Dave Feinstein and Dave DePietro to measure up to, it isn’t hard to see who’s got the chops. However, Robb, on the kit, is more than a match for anyone on any given day, and for me it was his performance I noticed.

It was great to see Sal Italiano pumping it out on bass. Even though he is truly the “new guy”, he brings more to the band than previous bassist, Glenn Gyorffy, ever did in my opinion. I am very pumped for the new ANVIL album, “Hope In Hell”, due to hit the streets at the very end of May, which will be the first to feature the current line-up. From what the guys were able to tell me and from the few pre-release reviews I have read, we are in for a treat, taking us back to the true roots that brought us “Metal on Metal” and “Forged In Fire”.

At this point it was noticeable that the crowd had begun to thin a little and I’m sure the combination of TS having been on relatively early and the fact the venue was out of beer at this point, and perhaps not everyone present knew who T.T.Quick are, was to blame, but, for me at least, I was pumped at this point. Mark Tornillo has been doing a fantastic job with Accept and I have been fortunate to see them twice in the past 2 years or so. I know many Accept fans find the lack of Udo up front a problem, but Blood of the Nations (2010) was an exceptional heavy metal record and Mark does a fine job on the older Accept material. The idea that we were about to see T.T.Quick was now almost reality, something that I never thought I would see.

After a few more words from Eddie Trunk, T.T.Quick hit the stage and despite some initial mic issues (which were not the first of the night; we had witnessed at least two other instances where a mic ended up being thrown across the stage because it wasn’t working), the band hit the stage with a power and bite that showed they were here to deliver some serious metal. David DePietro is a guitar monster and I had been primed to pay attention – anyone that was involved with teaching Zakk Wylde must have some serious chops and from what I saw in the first couple of numbers had me convinced! Revisiting “Metal of Honor” after the show really had me wondering why T.T.Quick never achieved more success? Sometimes the music industry just has me shaking my head. The entire set was a power-play and for me I think it was ‘Front Burner’ and ‘Metal of Honor’ toward the end of the set that really had me doing my nut, but there wasn’t a weak number in any of the seven numbers they delivered. Eddie jumped up on stage and incited the audience to call them back for more and we were treated to “Go For The Throat” and then a crushing version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” that included an impromptu ‘all-star’ appearance by John Gallagher from Raven who delivered a couple of lines and was off again! And then we were done. I don’t remember looking at the time but it must have been around 1.30AM and one of my most memorable moments in my heavy metal life was over, but the memories will live on.

Since the show I have seen many great pictures of the night, but I have yet to see any really good quality video footage – hopefully there is some. Overall I had a blast and I have only seen good things said about the show. Scoring this seems a little pointless, since how do you score something that is unique? But for completeness this was a straight 10/10.

Running order for the show

Running order for the show

Backstage there was cake! Metal cake!

Backstage there was cake! Metal cake!

The Rods

The Rods

Raven doing crazy Raven-things!

Raven doing crazy Raven-things!

Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister

ANVIL from side of stage

ANVIL from side of stage

T.T.Quick

T.T.Quick

The 'Poster'

The ‘Poster’

Queensryche – Live Review – The Longbranch, Raleigh, NC – 3/23/13

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by novametalreview

The “Queensryche” story took a nasty turn last year, leading to an acrimonious split leaving Geoff Tate standing on one side of a courtroom, facing his three former corporation partners and band-mates, Scott Rockenfield, Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson. I don’t intend to reiterate the story here, except to note for now there are two versions of Queensryche, one with Tate and a collection of hired hands, and the other with the original three members, plus Parker Lundgren who joined in 2009, and the most recent member, Todd La Torre on vocals. While the story will remain unsaid here, it would be impossible to ignore the situation, but trust me; I have tried to keep the animosity out of what follows.

Queensryche fans are a passionate bunch, with some falling hard on the side of Tate, while others have thrown their support behind the La Torre fronted version (from here onwards referred to simply as Queensryche in this article). The true diehard fans reading this will know that Tate was not an ‘original’ member and basically was brought in as a session singer for the self-funded/self-titled EP that broke the band. It was only after the EP had sold a significant number of copies and received worldwide praise that Tate would leave his band “Myth” and join Queensryche as a full member. Shortly after this the band were signed to a 15-year/7-album deal with EMI. My point here is that Queensryche were never the “Geoff Tate band” which the impression you get from some people when they discuss the current situation.

However you view it, the first five albums put out in the period 1984 through 1994 are classic metal albums that should have a home in every rock fans collection. Following this period and perhaps facilitated by Chris DeGarmo’s departure in 1997, the bands releases have become increasingly inconsistent, as have the live performances from the band. My opinion on this is that Geoff Tate was never a “metal-head” rocker at his core, and I think some of his solo work really takes us to a place he is more comfortable with, but that’s pure speculation on my part.

Anyway, Queensryche have been gigging consistently since the split with Todd La Torre out front, and have been receiving much praise and solid support. Despite a pretty busy schedule they also found time in the past 12 months to record a new album due for release this coming June. As soon as I heard my favorite promoter, Marty Burns, had booked Queensryche to play The Longbranch in Raleigh, NC, I was ready to hit the road and find out for myself. So, this is where we found ourselves last Saturday, making the 300 mile ride down I-95 to see what I hoped would be the re-born Queensryche.

Also on the bill were three other local bands, Devyce, Dark Design and Widow, but I’m going to save reviews for these for another time, since I think I have plenty to cover with Queensryche alone, however I will say they all did a fine job of warming up the crowd and by the time Widow left the stage The Longbranch was fired up and ready to rock.

Just to set the scene, I feel it’s only right to let you all in on a little background here – Queensryche have been consistently in my top 10 bands ever since I first discovered them in the pages of Kerrang! magazine back in 1984, and saw them on their first ever tour of the UK supporting Dio in October ’84. I vividly remember walking into Hammersmith Odeon a few minutes into their set and being totally stunned by how good the band was, the guitar harmonies and searing vocals. However, this is not to say that this is a blind addiction and with the exception of Mindcrime II (2006) I have been increasingly frustrated with the album releases starting with “Hear In The Now Frontier” in 1997. I’m not saying there isn’t some good music in this period, but you have to work much harder to find it.

Just prior to writing this review I revisited the most recent album from the Tate era, “Dedicated To Chaos” and it’s a good record… but it seems to have come from a different band entirely when you stand it up against “Rage For Order” or “Empire” for example. And I don’t think this is just 30 years of evolution – you only have to look at other contemporaries such as Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Y&T, etc, to see that a band can still grow, but not grow away from what made them successful.

Looking back, particularly to the show at the M3 Festival last year, which was the last time I saw Queensryche live, the writing was on the wall, and while the ructions were being contained below the surface, there was a painful vibe from the band that just couldn’t be hidden.

When I read all the details following the split, it all seemed to fit together, and I will close with the thought that I sincerely hope that Geoff Tate finds his place in the music industry – he is one amazingly talented vocalist – however the animosity and vitriol that continues to leak out to the press isn’t helping his case (at least for me) and trying to ‘compete’ the two versions of Queensryche is just sour grapes.

So, we turn to Todd La Torre. What I knew about Todd prior to him joining QR could have been written in one sentence: “Current vocalist for Crimson Glory”. End. So, clearly he was an entity unknown, but when I heard about the Rising West project (which was essentially Queensryche without Tate), and that they were playing only material from the first five QR records, I started a little digging. Given that a lot of Crimson Glory material has similar underpinnings to QR, it wasn’t surprising to me that Todd could handle the QR vocals, but the question was how well? That question was answered emphatically in the first YouTube video I saw – he NAILED IT! Life was back in the QR ranks… What has happened in the past 10 months or so, and the transition from Rising West into the full-time position of Queensryche vocalist continues to be a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but it is great to see the members of Queensryche bind together and move forward, no matter what Geoff Tate might get up to.

So, back to The Longbranch and as Widow cleared the stage we get the first glimpse of the new QR. The stage backdrop was cool with a new skull logo covering both sides of the stage, and anticipation grew as the stage crew knocked off a quick sound check. You could feel the audience was charged with energy and it seemed these few minutes took far longer to pass. I managed to snap a picture of the set list taped to the stage and what a great list it was – see the photo of the signed list below (along with other goodies the band signed…).

So, the wait was over and the night opened with “Queen Of The Reich”, and immediately two things struck me; the first was how comfortable Todd La Torre was, and the second how relaxed the band was – wait a minute? They almost look as if they are enjoying this! In the past this was one of my biggest gripes, particularly in the last 10 years, where I can’t honestly recall anyone except perhaps Geoff Tate smiling. It was all so serious. But tonight there was a different vide altogether. Todd took command of the center stage and just nailed the song and it was hard not find myself drawn back to that first concert, back in 1984 and that feeling of experiencing something very special.

Next up was “Speak” from Mindcrime and at this point the ride was off and running, and it was clear the band were energized and firing on all cylinders, no holds barred. Anyone that had reservations about just how well Todd La Torre could fill Geoff Tate’s shoes should have just forgotten the question at this point since it is a question of no value. Todd is the real deal and the band in front of us is the Queensryche no questions asked.

Over the course of the following 15 songs we were treated to a showcase exclusively from the first five releases of the band that in total broke down as follows: EP 1 track, Rage for Order 2 tracks, The Warning 6 tracks, Mindcrime 5 tracks and 3 from Empire. Despite the new record being “in the can” and listed for a June release we’re going to have to wait for those to debut live. Overall I would say this was a very unique set list since in the future it is inevitable that fewer of the oldies will make it to the stage, so I for one feel privileged to have experienced this.

A few notes on the performances from the band. Scott Rockenfield has always been an exceptional drummer, but I think this show was the best I have ever seen him. There was an energy and dynamic that seemed to bring a particular snap to his snare drum and punch to the kicks. I’m going to lump Eddie Jackson and Michael Wilton together and say one thing – I saw them both SMILE. Not something I could have ever written from any previous QR concert, but they were clearly enjoying the new spirit of the band and what they were feeling from the audience. Nice.

And, last, but not least, for those with instruments on stage, Parker Lundgren. Now, I have to admit, previously I have not really been 100% convinced with regards to Parker in the band. The story regarding how he ended up in the band seemed to be more of the Geoff Tate shenanigans, having something to do with dating and subsequently marrying (and then later divorcing) Tate’s step-daughter, and lo, behold, Parker is in the band… but I was converted at The Longbranch. In the past, he seemed to operate in his own little space over on the left side of the stage, but for this show he was far more integrated into the show and his playing was spot on, perfectly complementing Michael Wilton.

So, this leaves Todd La Torre. Basically there is little to say. He already has become and integral part of Queensryche and I would attribute the energy and passion that the band is now displaying almost entirely to Todd and what he has brought to the band. Revitalized is the word I would use. His vocals were spot on all night and he never missed a note. Check out the video below – my wife was down at the very front of the stage and had the trusty iPhone out and was videoing as the band started “Eye’s Of A Stranger”. Todd noticed her, checked the camera was running and took it for a walk around the stage before carefully returning it to her. What a priceless moment.

At the end of the evening all I could think was this was by far the best I had ever seen the band since that very first time in 1984. Back then everything was new and the energy running through the band was brought about by the discovery that the music the band was bringing was being soaked up by the fans – a young band that was about to make it big. This time around we had that same energy back, with the band rediscovering that the music that launched them was still as vital and enthralling as it was nearly 30 years ago, but with the added bonus that nearly everyone in the audience knew almost every word of every song!

I will go and see the Geoff Tate band in a couple of months when they make it through the D.C. area, because to judge without witnessing would be hypocritical, but it will be an incredibly tall order to get anywhere near what Queensryche managed to bring last weekend. I do wish Geoff Tate the best of luck, but Queensryche are back, they are on fire and I anticipate the new record with great expectation. My score for the show 10/10.

QR_Swag

Swag signed by the band after the show

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Live Review – Lexx Luthor – The Berkley Café, Raleigh, NC – 3/16/13

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , on March 20, 2013 by novametalreview

With Dark Design

Occasionally I stumble upon a band that I just cannot understand why great things have not happened to them and that is exactly what I feel about Lexx Luthor. However, there is one important point about Lexx (we’ll keep it short ‘cause we’re friends ok?), and that would be they are a cover band. Uhggg! Normally I would stop right there but let me explain…

I’ve hinted at my disdain for tribute bands in previous reviews and it might be hard to see why that might be any different for a band playing exclusively covers, right? Well, for me, a tribute band is a bit like taking a Toyota Corolla and tearing off all the bodywork and grafting a Ferrari-like body kit on top. Give a quick glance and it seems about right, but any closer inspection reveals the truth. Sure, it’s fun party-time entertainment, but even if done extremely well, it doesn’t excite me. The necessary horsepower just isn’t there. I’m surely not going to drive 600 mile round-trip for that. However, I’ve seen Lexx Luthor three times now and for the most recent show they were the headline act. To be fair there was another good reason to make that trip, but I surely wouldn’t be writing this review if the band headlining had been one of the tribute acts making the rounds.

So, that still doesn’t explain why a “cover band” might be treated any differently? Well, to continue my car analogy, what we have here with Lexx is a home-built sports car, but in this case every bit as good as a Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, you name it, and in fact appears to be any one of those cars depending on when you happen to look at it, horsepower and all! Now, I will grant you there is one aspect missing and that is the home grown creativity you find in a original act, but, kind of like iTunes, sometimes ‘shuffle-mode’ is just what you’re looking for. That’s what Lexx delivers and they deliver with style.

But, before we continue with Lexx, a quick mention for the opening act, “Dark Design”. This was my first introduction to them, and the sum total of my knowledge about them was that I will be seeing them again in a few short days when they on the bill to support Queensryche when they play Raleigh, NC on March 23rd. My first impression of them was a good one, with the band being a tight technical thrash/power-thrash sort-of-thing. At times some of the guitar interplay reminded me of Iron Maiden on mega-steroids. Their singer, Andrew Bertrand was energetic and powerful, and at one point was off the stage into the crowd singing and then sprinted off to the bar to fetch the bass player a much-needed Rolling Rock. That’s taking care of your band-mates! Since this was such a quick intro to them, I’ll reserve a few more column inches when I write the Queensryche review for the coming show this weekend.

Turning back to Lexx now, this band has existed for almost 30 years, having originally formed back in 1984! That’s some history for a band of this type. Now, I’m far from qualified to write Lexx’s bio, having come very late to this particular party, but my understanding is that Todd Jackson is the surviving original member in the current line-up, and it may be that for some part of the last 29 years Lexx didn’t exist or was dormant. Anyway the current line-up is a killer one comprising, Tony Rock (lead-vocals), Todd Jackson (guitar and part-time lead-vocals), Danny O’Rourke (guitar), Scott Davis (bass and part-time lead-vocals) and Greg Evans (drums). The life-blood that runs through the heart of Lexx is extremely well played heavy metal covers – anything from Metallica, Motorhead, Metal Church, Megadeth… wait, it’s not just bands beginning with the letter ‘M’! Throw in some Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Saxon, Dio, Thin Lizzy, Queensryche, Judas Priest and more. You get the idea, right?

If I had to write a one-line sentence to explain Lexx Luthor it would be this: “Seeing Lexx Luthor is like going to a concert where 20 of your favorite bands all get to play one killer song”. If I was allowed a second sentence I would add: “You’ll walk out of the gig with a big smile, a sore neck and have lost half your voice from singing along, but man, you will have had a blast!” And that in a nutshell sums up last Saturday. Now I have the setlist from the gig, well actually it is two setlists since all the songs wouldn’t fit on one sheet of paper, but it’s not to hand as I am writing this (I’ll add a picture to this article when I get a chance), but unless I’m mistaken they played for some 2 hours or perhaps it was more and every song was awesome. The band is tight, heavy and smacks you straight between the eyes with power and passion. It’s hard to explain, but many bands playing covers seem to defer to the original in a way that just comes over as timid, but Lexx have none of that, and deliver great versions of everything they tackle. Below you will find some links with video taken by our good friend David McGowan from the show, so you can see what I mean.

A quick word on vocals with this band. You will have noticed that I listed three vocalists and this is one of the exceptional things about the band. All three are A-list vocalists, but the band cleverly fits the songs to the style best suited to one of the three, so for a Queensryche number Tony will take center-stage, while Todd will take Metallica and Scott Megadeth for example. Now, I have to say that Tony is an exceptional vocalist and is one of the few vocalists I have ever seen that can nail “Queen of the Ryche” by Queensryche for example. Not an easy song to pull off. However, as you will see from the videos, it doesn’t matter who is taking the vocal, they all are excellent.

Another highlight for me is the gentleman on the lead guitar – Danny O’Rourke. If he would just stand still long enough I’d take and post a picture (actually I might have a couple I managed to sneak), but Danny is a superb guitarist and nails so many solos from bands and guitarists with a wide variety of styles. That’s not to say Todd is any slouch when it comes to the guitar either and they trade licks across the stage in songs like “2 Minutes To Midnight” in perfect balance. Holding down the rhythm section is Scott Davis on bass and the exceptional Greg Evans on drums. With Scott on vocals I particularly like his version of ‘Dave Mustaine’ on “Peace Sells, Who’s Buying”, complete with Mustain ‘snarl’, and I have to say he’s a wicked bass player to go with it.

As I sit here writing this, I’m trying to find any negatives, but this lot are one of those rare breeds that simply are what they are. There’s no pretension or expectation of greater things, there’s no ego (in fact you would be very hard pushed to find a nicer bunch of people in ANY band) and a genuine desire to entertain to the maximum. About the only thing anyone could complain about is that they didn’t do a song from a band that they particularly wanted to hear. My response to that would be “go ask them!” Lexx have a set list that, if they played every song, would run about 4 hours or so, and it’s my bet they probably do know something by that band you so desperately want to hear, at least if you can legitimately call it heavy metal. Anyway, to close, if you ever get the chance to see Lexx Luthor my recommendation is GO SEE THEM. I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed. Currently Lexx Luthor really only play around the Raleigh, NC, area so your options to see them might be limited, but they are surely worth it. My score for the show this weekend: 9/10

Tony Rock - lead vocals

Tony Rock – lead vocals