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REVIEW: Postmodern Jukebox Welcomes the 20s with Glamour and Jazz in Mesa 4-17-19

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Mesa, AZ — The 2020s are eight months away, and what better way to usher in a new decade than by paying homage to the former that gave us one of America’s greatest musical art forms: jazz. 

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) is an expert at evoking nostalgia with the musical styles of bygone eras with contemporary artists’ songs. PMJ brought a party filled with glamour, gin, and jazz to the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center on Wednesday night with their “Welcome to the Twenties 2.0 world tour.

Vocalist Robyn Adele Anderson opened the night with a 1920s take on “I’m So Fancy,” originally performed by pop artist Iggy Azalea. She was accompanied by tap dancer Matthew Shields who tapped in time to the beat and showcased his fancy footwork.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Robyn Adele Anderson (Vocalist) & Matthew Shields (Tap Dancer), Postmodern Jukebox
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Master of Ceremonies and vocalist Dani Armstrong was a sight to behold in her black and gold art deco dress and magenta hair. Armstrong wiggled her way around the stage with a sensuality and naughty coyness as she performed a jaunty rendition of “Oops, I Did it Again” by Britney Spears, accompanied by jazzy trombone and saucy clarinet.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Dani Armstrong (Vocalist, Master of Ceremonies), Postmodern Jukebox
Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

She introduced the six-piece band comprised of Jesse Elder on piano; Adam Kubota, one of the original members of PMJ, on upright and electric bass; Dave Tedeschi on drums; Jacob Scensney on trombone; Mike Chisnall on guitar and banjo; and Chloe Feoranzo performing on woodwinds.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Chloe Feoranzo (Woodwindist, Vocalist), Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

PMJ introduced some new faces and fresh voices on this tour. Ryan Quinn, who was a contestant on the The Voice, performed Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in a low and soulful baritone voice, emphasizing the lyrics, “Where do we go? Where do we go now?

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Ryan Quinn (Vocalist), Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

And newcomer David Simmons Jr. was PMJ’s 2018 talent search contest winner, performing on his very first tour with the group. He entered the stage smartly outfitted in a silver vest and jacket and punchy red bow-tie, performing a jazzy “Something Only We Know” by Keane. For this piece, Kubota swapped his upright bass for an electric bass, Chisnall traded his banjo for an electric guitar, and Feoranzo traded her clarinet for the saxophone.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
David Simmons Jr. (Vocalist), Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Armstrong once again took the stage after changing into a sensual black and red gown to perform Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” as a punchy, swing-time jazz number, including scat lyrics and a wailing trombone.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Dani Armstrong (Vocalist), Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Shields came out to tap dance for the number, keeping time during a break in the song and showcasing his skills. Armstrong and Shields’ flirtatious antics brought heat to this already sexy song.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Matthew Shields (Tap Dancer), Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The show moved quickly and seamlessly, keeping the audience enamored with the energy, vocals, and music of the performers, despite the simple lighting and lack of any modern special effects.

Every song was a treat with unexpected hilarity. Anderson walked out on the stage in a white floral swing dress, with Quinn and Simmons in tow. She sang lead vocals, covering Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” with Quinn and Simmons singing back up. The gentlemen’s animated antics and girlish falsetto when responding to Anderson’s, “Hey Ladies!?” had the crowd laughing.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Vocalists: Ryan Quinn, Robyn Adele Anderson, & David Simmons Jr., Postmodern Jukebox
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Afterwards, Simmons treated the audience to a slowed-down version of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” transforming the song into Motown soul, with his vocals akin to that of The Four Tops.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
David Simmons Jr. (Vocalist), Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Right before the intermission, five musicians commanded the audience’s rapt attention by leaving their posts and coming front and center with their instruments. They started playing an acoustic set and Anderson sashayed across the stage in a slinky satin leopard mini dress. She began singing Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass,” and was joined by Armstrong’s powerhouse vocals for the chorus, including some yodeling as she worked the stage in her tiger striped wiggle dress.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Robyn Adele Anderson (Vocalist), Postmodern Jukebox
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

During this set, Feoranzo stepped out from behind her clarinet and approached the microphone, surprising the audience with her perfectly pitched vocals in addition to her multifaceted musical talent. It was empowering to watch a talented trio of women representing a variety of shapes and sizes.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Chloe Feoranzo (Woodwindist, Vocalist) & Matthew Shields (Tap Dancer), Postmodern Jukebox
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The men created comic relief with Shields tapping to the beat and Quinn putting his arms around his chest, spinning his fingers to mimic twirling tassel pasties. The audience was clapping along and reeling with laughter. It was a great way to conclude the first half of the 120-minute performance.

Kubota talked about the raw beginnings of PMJ: how it all started in Scott Bradlee’s basement apartment in Queens, and how they were paid in falafel. It was the brainchild of Bradlee to put these musical reconstructions on YouTube in 2009, so people with “really, really, really fantastic taste would watch and share and come out to see the shows.

PMJ knows how to cater to their audience with references to modern pop culture. After the intermission, Elder brought the audience back to focus by playing the Game of Thrones theme song on the piano with force and bravado.

As the audience quieted, Armstrong commanded their attention, floating across the stage in a stunning black and white gown, then lifting the top layer of the skirt like wings above her head. She opened the second act with a dark, operatic rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier.” Armstrong’s vocal range for this set was mind-blowing. The audience gave her a standing ovation.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Ryan Quinn (Vocalist) & Jesse Elder (Piano) with band members – Postmodern Jukebox
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Now, it was Quinn’s turn once again to transport the audience through time. His ability to mold with the group’s aesthetic so effortlessly couldn’t have been more perfect. He performed a Sinatra-esque rendition with scat vocals of “Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake. As he left the stage, Armstrong instructed the audience to, “blow a kiss to seven feet of gorgeous!

As the audience watched Quinn leave, Simmons took the stage quietly, now donning a navy three-piece suit. Anderson emerged in a sparkling silver gown and black opera gloves. They performed a flawless, intimate duet of “Say Something,” originally performed by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera. The way they looked into each other’s eyes as they sang made it feel as if, for a moment, they were the only ones in the theater.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Dave Tedeschi (Drums) & Vocalists: David Simmons Jr. & Robyn Adele Anderson, Postmodern Jukebox
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Their performance tugged at the heartstrings, and to bring the energy back to the show, Shields tap-danced out to center stage and announced, “It’s-a me!”, imitating the character Mario from Nintendo. He then tapped out the Super Mario Bros. theme, accompanied by Elder on the piano.

Exhausted halfway through his tap set, Shields walked back to the piano, chugged the rest of his beer as Elder played the power up jingle, and miraculously, he was back! Shields finished out the tap sequence to the music played at the end of a Super Mario level, finishing with a mimicked jump on a flagpole as Mario would do at the end of a level.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Chloe Feoranzo (Clarinet), Jacob Scensney (Trombone), & Matthew Shields (Tap) – Postmodern Jukebox
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Anderson came out in a black and blue brocade strapless gown and her elbow length opera gloves. Her soft, sensual voice tantalized as she sang, “…Never gonna dance again the way I danced with you,” from the song “Careless Whisper,” originally performed by the late George Michael. Feoranzo stepped forward and performed a stunning sax solo, paying homage to the original, but expanding on the song’s film noir vibes.

“The decade before the 1920s was full of conflict and upheaval. But without that, we wouldn’t have gotten all the great art, dancing to hot jazz, and drinking bootleg gin!” Armstrong exclaimed.

Feoranzo closed out the show as the last solo vocalist, performing “No Surprises” by Radiohead, with her clear, angelic voice. She was joined in gentle accompaniment by the piano, guitar, upright bass, and drums, and then stepped in to play her clarinet.

The 11-person ensemble wrapped up the show with everyone on stage singing a medley of songs blending from one right into another, starting with The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights,” then Haddaway’s “What is Love?” and finishing with The Isley Brothers’ “Shout!”

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It was a free-for-all on the stage: Shields was tap-dancing his heart out, Elder cartwheeled across the stage then somersaulted back to his piano for the finale, the musicians moved freely, and the crowd got on their feet to dance to this final number. 

Kubota said this is the group’s third time playing out in Mesa and that they can’t wait to be back. And gauging the audience’s turnout and participation, it can be confidently said that they will always be welcome, with their nostalgic take on modern pop and high energy performance that emulates the vaudevillian lounge acts of bygone times.

Postmodern Jukebox - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Postmodern Jukebox
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

To usher in the 2020s, Postmodern Jukebox will circumnavigate the globe on their 2019 “Welcome to the Twenties 2.0” tour. 

Photo Album

Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo

Postmodern Jukebox – Mesa Arts Center 4-17-19

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Bradley Palermo’s Debut Album, “Volume 1” Honestly Depicts the Bitter Sweetness of Life

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Bradley Palermo Volume 1 Album Art

Pre-Order

iTunes | Amazon Music

Bradley Palermo, a solo folk/punk artist in Los Angeles, is debuting his first full length album, Volume 1, on Friday, April 19. The record is a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign late last year, followed by a recently completed international tour. Comprised of previously released singles, the songs were reworked and remastered to create the cohesive Volume 1. Being no stranger to life on the road and the various trials of life, Volume 1 captures an autobiographical letter written to anyone who has experienced life, death, love, and loss.

Before setting out on his solo folk career, Palermo spent 15 years fronting the bands The Sudden Passion and Femme Fatality. He grew up in St. Louis, MO playing in local indie bands. All the while he was developing an affinity for the alt-country bands that were emerging from the region at the time. Palermo draws inspiration from Americana acts like Son Volt and The Bottle Rockets, and folk-punk troubadours such as Chuck Ragan and David Dondero (both of whom he’s now shared the stage with). His influences and past come together in the raw and honest Volume 1.

Stream

Tracklist:

Tombstones
I Like things That Kill
All My Friends (Have Died)
2nd Wind
The Long Way
Deep Valley Blues
Lost In August
The High Cost of Free Living
Trouble To Find
Hollywood, Hollywood

Tombstones

As the first track on Volume 1, “Tombstones” starts with a synth riff that would make Femme Fatality fans grin with a sense of familiarity. The track is driven by a powerful, classic acoustic guitar rhythm that instantly tells you that you’re in for a catchy song. Palermo sings of living as an artist on the road, away from the draining and lifeless corporate existence. Palermo sings in the chorus, “I’ve done the 9 to 6, pulling out my hair, carving up my wrist… I think it’s safe to say I’ve done gone and made my escape.” Displaying Americana at it’s finest, Tombstones would make the perfect bonfire summer sing-along about free living.

I Like Things That Kill

Following “Tombstones” is another catchy acoustic rhythm along with a steel guitar carrying the melody. Palermo sings the song title to implant into your head, “I like things that kill”. This song turns out to be a country/folk love song with a hint of a punk chorus. Reminiscing, he starts the first verse and ends the song with the same lines, “All the things I loved are all the things I’ve quit. I miss you like I miss whiskey, cocaine and cigarettes…”, driving the listener into the building chorus with, “I like things that waste me, eradicate me, honey, I like things that kill… I like things that kill”. Building a scene of a love addiction for a lover long gone, the track pings familiar emotions and imagery that nearly any listener can relate and sing to, making it a brilliantly written piece.

All My Friends (Have Died)

As the song title alludes to, this track is a somber reminder of all the people who have left this earth. In this country/Americana track, Palermo describes the things his friends supposedly used to do, along with specific names and situations of unfortunate fates. This track brings the pain and haunting hole that is created when someone you know passes: “My friends don’t pick up the phone or text me back when I say ‘What’s up?’… Even though I’m up here singing, I feel a little dead inside, cause all of my friends have died.” After the second chorus, Palermo wistfully yells, “And I fucking miss ’em, man!”, followed by a perfectly placed electric guitar solo to represent those memories in a celebration of what once was. He finished out the song by repeating the first verse and ending it all with a cymbal tap fading out.

2nd Wind

“2nd Wind” comes in to perk you up from “All My Friends (Have Died)”. The addition of harmonica in the instrument arsenal is introduced in a tale of a refreshing new romance in the time of personal turmoil. Palermo sings, “There ain’t no use in hiding it, I was out running all common sense. No one gets that drunk on accident.” He continues to tell the tale of meeting a woman that saved him: “And in this City of Angels, she was the only one I’ve met. Call me a holy roller cause I am born again.” “2nd Wind” ends leaving the listener ready for a new emotional start, which is exactly what we all need from time to time.

The Long Way

“The Long Way” describes Palermo’s painful first marriage, his move to LA, and other catalyzing events that brought him to where he is now. The track introduces a grittier tone, and has breathy falsetto backing vocals that bring out strong emotional ties to the lyrical content. The bridge absolutely shines, bringing a climax of both emotion and unexpected production value, turning the featured lower frequency instruments that are too often ignored or omitted in the genre into stars. The bass and a low-programmed synth add another depth of seriousness that speaks volumes along Palermo’s raspy cries. “The Long Way” is a unique turn in the album that keeps the listener’s engagement.

Deep Valley Blues

Ever the catchy writer, Palermo’s “Deep Valley Blues” would be a successful radio single. Short and fun, it captures the feeling of old folk/country/blues that is the heart of Volume 1. Touching on the differences between Los Angeles (San Fernando Valley area) and his hometown of St. Louis, Palermo paints a picture of homesickness in the most concise way. “Deep Valley Blues” is destined to be a popular live show sing-along. “I’ve got them… deep valley blues. It’s gonna take me too much time to make my way home you, and you know it ain’t the distance, honey, it’s the altitude… I’ve got them… deep valley blues…

Lost In August

In a track that could easily be sung by Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie/The Postal Service), the album takes another turn in a light and romantic way. In true indie/folk fashion, “Lost In August” kicks off with a ukulele and accordion-driven rhythm. The composition creates a dreamy and nostalgic backdrop to Palermo’s toned-down vocals. The lyrics and tone show the versatility of Palermo’s songwriting skills, as he lets atmosphere take the place of country-harsh vocals and to-the-point lyrics. A delightful change of pace that’s sure to grasp listeners of overlapping rock/indie/folk genres.

The High Cost of Free Living

The synth makes another appearance in the folk piece, “The High Cost of Free Living”. A straightforward song with a country baseline. Palermo makes use of multiple instruments and harmonies to keep the listener engaged through lyrics of alcoholism and the drawbacks of trying to live as an artist. Although it’s not the strongest song lyrically on the album, it keeps on par with being a catchy sing-along like earlier tracks.

Trouble to Find

“Trouble to Find” starts out with an interesting bass riff seemingly taken from the brainwaves of Brian Ritchie (The Violent Femmes). Palermo brings us through a folk song about dealing with toxic personalities and mental illness. This track circles us back around to the tone of the first half of the album. He paints the imagery of an adversary and tries to rationalize the situation, familiar to what many people might think and say in that kind of situation. However, the song ends right when the listener feels like there might be more waiting to be told. It feels a little incomplete, despite the great storytelling.

Hollywood, Hollywood

The last track on Volume 1, “Hollywood, Hollywood” completes the journey of Palermo’s folk tale, reiterating how Hollywood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but you just make the best of it. It gives the feeling that everyone is trying to be someone, trying to act busy, having superficial relationships, etc. Although it is also a short track, it ends the album saying that the journey is over and he is here now, trying to find his way. It’s a perfect ending to his story.

Final Thoughts

Bradley Palermo’s Volume 1 is nearly a perfect folk album. Featuring a variety of influences, emotions, and incredibly candid lyrics, the album is easy to listen to and connect with, especially for artists. None of the tracks are boring, and they display incredibly strong songwriting ability. The album plays like a story Palermo might tell you himself at a bar over some drinks. Engaging, intimate, and memorable, Volume 1 would be a great introductory piece to new listeners of the folk genre.

Bradley Palermo Volume 1 Album Art

Pre-Order

iTunes | Amazon Music

Tour Dates

4/24 Los Angeles, CA @ Satellite (album release show) #
4/30 Victorville, CA @ Kennedy’s Pub *
5/01 Las Vegas, NV @ The Dive Bar *
5/02 Reno, NV @ Pignic Pub *
5/03 Willits, CA @ Shanachie Pub *
5/04 San Francisco, CA @ The Plough & The Stars *
5/05 Bakersfield, CA @ El Conquistador Music Experience  (album release show) *
5/07 Canoga Park, CA @ Scotland Yard Pub * %
5/08 Santa Ana, CA @ Beatnik Bandito Music Emporium (album release show) *
5/09 Lancaster, CA @ The Britisher *
5/10 San Diego, CA @ Rosie O’Grady’s (album release show) *
5/11 Tucson, AZ @ Saint Charles Tavern *
5/12 Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap *
5/13 Yuma, AZ @ Littlewood Art Co-Op *
5/14 Flagstaff, AZ @ The Hive *
5/24 Las Vegas, NV @ Citrus ^
7/24 Cottage Grove, OR @ Brewstation %
7/25 Seattle, WA @ Skylark %
7/26 Tacoma, WA @ The Valley %
7/27 Bremerton, WA @ Hi-Fidelity Lounge %
7/28 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Hideaway %

^= Punk Rock Bowling club show with Amigo The Devil, Bridge City Sinners, and Pinata Protest
#= supporting Typesetter
*= w/ Tim Holehosue
%= w/ Sim Williams

Watch Live Performances:

2nd Wind | Deep Valley Blues
I Like Things That Kill | Tombstones

Bradley Palermo Online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Featured photo (top) by Marisa Palermo

REVIEW: The Faim Gives a Memorable Musical Experience at The Nile Theater 4-14-19

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Mesa, AZ — A high-rising band from down under, The Faim, is a prime example of confidence, enthusiasm, and love of the art of music and performance. Supporting headliner Andy Black on his “The Ghost Of North America” tour, alongside fellow opener KULICK, they treated fans to a performance far beyond even the most optimistic of fans’ expectations.

A young crowd, anxious and eager to see their music idols, lined the sidewalk into the alleyway entrance of The Nile Theater. Colored hair, ripped jeans, leather jackets, name-brand shoes, and fancy accessories dotted the scene, much like an amalgam of hipster and classic punk, creating a unique fashion style that may eventually define this generation, like big hair and shoulder pads defined the 80’s. This fusion of fashion is likely in part a byproduct of the union of fans of a variety of artists that were involved in this night and everything leading up to it.

Two days prior to the show, Black Veil Brides’ frontman Andy Biersack released The Ghost of Ohio — the sophomore album from his solo music project under the moniker Andy Black. A concept record, The Ghost of Ohio is meant to serve as the soundtrack for his comic book by the same name, according to Alternative Press. Andy Black and The Faim share megaproducer John Feldman (lead singer of Goldfinger), who has a massive arsenal of rock and pop artist veterans that he’s worked with, and has been able to mix them into a cocktail of contribution to recordings for these two acts. By bringing top music industry talent together, Feldman is taking the best parts of early 2000s rock and infusing it into a new generation of sound that will richly benefit from their prowess and the vitality of these artists’ spirits.

Jacob Kulick, also known as KULICK, came out to a screaming crowd of fans that did not know what they were in for. KULICK set the bar high for what was about to follow: clear vocals and clean-sounding instruments, akin to a Bad Religion show, accompanied by contagious energy, great stage presence, and command of the crowd — a polished performance and band dynamic that makes you want to see them again. KULICK performed 8 songs: “Crawling”, “Hole in My Head”, “City”, “Hydroplane”, “Scatterbrain”, “Colors”, and “Ghost”; closing his set with humor and natural crowd engagement. This was only his second time touring, but with a performance like this, it would appear that many more will follow and he will continue to enrich audiences with his energy and sound.

The Faim’s explosive energy became evident within a few seconds of their opening song, “Saints Of The Sinners”. With the never-ending energy and stage presence you’d normally see from a ska band or Mick Jagger, The Faim dominated the stage and slowly began to command a crowd that once again did not know what hit them. They played “My Heart Needs to Breathe”, as if they have been performing for many years.

Sam Tye (Guitarist), Josh Raven (Vocalist), Stephen Beerkens (Bassist, Keyboardist) – The Faim
Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Sam Tye (guitar) and Stephen Beerkens (bass, keyboard) played on each other’s moves, and Raven engaged each member, including drummer and percussionist Linden Marissen, like Bruce Dickinson does with Nicko McBrain. Marissen himself exudes a type of energy and control of the drums that demonstrates his dedication to his craft; breaking a drumstick mid-song, and grabbing a new one so quickly that most people did not even notice. A fan later came to the merchandise table to have the broken stick autographed, which Marissen gratefully obliged.

The third song was a special gift to the audience: the still unreleased song “Beautiful Drama”. Lead singer Josh Raven’s enthusiasm was evident, not merely singing the words, but performing the song from his heart and leaving it all on the stage, like this was his own Live Aid performance.

The Faim - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
Josh Raven (Lead Vocalist), The Faim
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Setlist:

“Saints Of The Sinners”
“My Heart Needs To Breathe”
“Beautiful Drama” (Unreleased)
“When It Comes”
“Infamous”
“Midland Line”
“Fire”
“A Million Stars”
“I Can Feel You”
“Make Believe”
“Summer Is A Curse”
“Amelie”

This wasn’t just a concert, it was a musical experience, as made evident once Raven decided to join the crowd while continuing to sing, engaging everyone on the floor either by high fives, hugs, or just direct eye contact. The energy never ceased or diminished, even as he helped a crowd surfer back to safety without breaking performance. He made sure to thank the crowd for making them all feel so welcomed on their first visit to this city, and the crowd went crazy. Raven’s closing words were, “look out for yourself, look out for each other, and have a wonderful evening!

When the lights went down once again, Andy Black began to sing to a sea of screaming fans that, to his obvious and evident delight, could sing along every word of each song he played. It was a night of endless energy and flawless performances that lifted the caliber of the show above and beyond.

Featured photo (top) by Katherine Amy Vega

REVIEW: The Return of Queensrÿche On “The Verdict” World Tour at Marquee Theater 3-26-19

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Tempe, AZ — There are very few rock bands that are truly unique, but Queensrÿche has blazed their own trail since their inception in 1980. The media has tried to pigeon-hole their signature style as progressive, hard rock, or even lump them into the derogatory hair-metal category from the 80’s. They stayed true to their sound, and legions of fans showed loyalty even after the heyday of MTV airing the videos that delivered their music to the masses. Fair-weather fans started to fade away once the radio stopped playing their songs, and even some of those who passionately believed that Operation: Mindcrime was one of the greatest albums of all time may not have “checked-in” since the Empire CD was released.

This month, Queensrÿche released their new fifteenth studio album entitled The Verdict and brought the world tour to the Marquee Theatre to show both the die-hard fans and the fans who have been on hiatus that although they never really left, they are back!

Openers

The evening started early with two local bands. It’s very commendable for a headliner to pay-it-forward and give new and upcoming acts such an opportunity.

Shadow Guilt - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Shadow Guilt
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Shadow Guilt

First up was Shadow Guilt, a four-piece band from Gilbert, Arizona. The crowd may not have expected a local act to amount to much, but they immediately commanded the stage and proved that they could hang. The songs were reminiscent of early Metallica and singer/guitarist Bryan Reid had a professional presence with a voice that soared from thrash to screamo.

Shadow Guilt - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Bryan Reid (Guitarist, Vocalist), Shadow Guilt
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Shadow Guilt Photo Gallery

Sectas

The second Arizona band was Sectas, a three-piece that again surprised everyone with a big wall of sound and driving songs. Christian Lee is a weapon on guitar and sings with controlled mayhem while shredding.

Sectas - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Christian Lee (Guitarist, Vocalist), Sectas
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Drummer Brian Regalado was entertaining to watch and seemed to have had the most fun out of any of the musicians all night. He poured his heart into each song until the last one, which was unfortunately cut short due to time constraints.

Sectas - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Brian Regalado (Drummer), Sectas
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Sectas Photo Gallery

Fates Warning

The third opening act was no stranger to Queensrÿche fans. Fates Warning also launched into progressive rock in the early 80’s and followed a similar trajectory. Their set began with “From the Rooftops” from their latest album, Theories of Flight — released in 2016.

Fates Warning - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Ray Alder ( Vocalist), Fates Warning
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

The stage lights had apparently tripped a breaker, and singer Ray Adler said, “How about a little light up here?” into the dark crowd as the band continued to play. An unanticipated moment occurred when a sea of cellphones rose and illuminated the stage until the stage lights reengaged.

Marquee Theatre Crowd - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Crowd at Marquee Theatre lights up the room for Fates Warning | Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Original guitarist Jim Matheos was joined by the new guitar virtuoso Michael Abdow as they dove back in time to 1991’s “Life In Still Water” from the Parallels album and rekindled the audience participation. The band was rounded out with the longtime rhythm section of Joey Vera (bass) and Bobby Jarzombek (drums). One of the highlights of the 10-song set was watching Vera’s emphatic expressions and stage antics in contrast to the somber delivery from the other band members who poured the energy into surgically precise musicianship.

Fates Warning - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Joey Vera ( Bassist), Fates Warning
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery

Fates Warning played two more from the new album (“Seven Stars” and “The Light And Shade Of Things”), but went back to the classic Parallels album again to close the set with “The Eleventh Hour,” followed by “Point Of View”. It was a solid outing and they thanked Queensrÿche for the opportunity and Arizona for the support.

Fates Warning Photo Gallery

Queensrÿche

It’s only been a couple of months since Queensrÿche was in town in an opening role on the Scorpions “Crazy World Tour”, and Burning Hot Events was there to review that show as well (click here). That night, they performed a 9-song set with the reduced light show and sound afforded to all opening acts, but this night would be different. This time they were the headliner.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Cast for the Evening

  • Michael Wilton – lead guitar (1980–present)
  • Eddie Jackson – bass, backing vocals (1980–present)
  • Parker Lundgren – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2009–present)
  • Todd La Torre – lead vocals (2012–present), drums (2018 in studio)
  • Casey Grillo – drums (2017–present)

Before getting into the blow-by-blow, we might as well address the elephant in the room which is the band lineup. This is Queensrÿche led by frontman Todd La Torre, who has firmly planted his flag in the history of the band since 2012 and has now sang on three studio albums. He isn’t Geoff Tate, but he convincingly sings the entire Queensrÿche catalog with respect and command. Fans who can’t accept this change should give a listen to The Verdict to find out that they might be missing out. Guitarist Parker Lundgren, replacing the original guitarist and creative songwriter Chris DeGarmo, seems to be an easier pill to swallow since DeGarmo left willfully around the turn of the century, but this has also upset some purists. The one that may be the strangest now is that original drummer Scott Rockenfield is still the official drummer in the band, but he has been M.I.A. since the 2017 birth of his son. To add further confusion to this story, singer Todd La Torre played drums on the new album and kicked ass capturing the Queensrÿche sound and feel. Casey Grillo, the drummer from the band Kamelot, is the touring drummer, but not the official drummer for the band. It may sound like a dysfunctional family, but original guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson are the patriarch glue that is holding it all together to build a strong new regime.

OK, can we move on into the review finally?…

As the house lights were extinguished, the video screens on stage were ignited. Death, wearing a crimson hooded robe, was bidding the crowd to come forward. He was the “life”-size animation of the character on the new album cover. The anticipation continued to rise with more animated video while the intro music was playing the instrumental soundscape of “Launder the Conscience”. As the song faded, the video screens ushered in the spinning Tri-Ryche logo, and the fans were instantly connected to the hive mind.

Grillo was firmly planted on the drum throne when the band floated in from the wings to center stage. The cheers from the crowd had topped out, and then they were drowned out after a single hit to the snare drum took the night from zero-to-60 in seconds flat with the opening riff for “Blood of the Levant”. The guitarists took to their perches on opposite sides of the stage: Lundgren on the left wearing sleeves of tattoos and a leather vest, playing the white Orbit FX; Wilton on the right wearing a black leather jacket and playing the skull and crossbones limited edition ESP. Jackson joined Lundgen on the left wearing an unassuming black tee and playing a black custom 5-string Mike Lull bass. The sound was full of energy but the expressions and lack of stage antics announced that this band was here to deliver the perfect sonic backdrop for the main event and the freak of nature known as Todd La Torre.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Todd La Torre (Vocalist), Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Out of the gate, La Torre was like a raging bull exploring the stage, bracing for attack, and then allowing that Queensrÿche sound to emanate from his soul. If there was any doubt when you walked in, there was no doubt now that this band has reached a new pinnacle and the chemistry was working. This was a strong opening song and there was no need for comparisons… This was the lineup that played the song on the album (well, except for Grillo, since La Torre did the drums on the album). La Torre even took a few moments during the middle-8 to play some percussion and give a glimpse of his prowess with drumsticks.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Michael Wilton (Lead Guitarist), Queensrÿche
Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The setlist was an interesting mix of songs from all eras of the band’s history, but there was some emphasis on songs from The Verdict. “You can’t create new classics,” said La Torre, “if you don’t play the new shit, right?

Their second song from The Verdict was “Man the Machine” but before that they inserted two songs for the die-hard fans with “I Am I” from Promised Land and way back to 1984 for “NM 156” from The Warning. “Condition Hüman” is a beautifully crafted song and the performance was moving, but a look around the crowd told the story that very few knew the songs from this 2015 album.

Before the wind could completely leave the crowd’s sails, Michael “Whip” Wilton took center stage and laid into “Queen of the Reich,” and suddenly the fists were in the air.  (Author’s Note – I still have my vinyl copy of this EP and this song still gives me chills.) This would be the proving grounds for La Torre with the elder statesman in the Queensrÿche army. Can he hit that note, hold it, turn on the vibrato, and own it? Yes, he did.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Todd La Torre (Vocalist), Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The follow up song was something completely different, and one that everyone knew from the first three notes. It was the iconic ballad “Silent Lucidity,” written by founding member Chris DeGarmo. This was one of the few songs that didn’t shy away from using backing tracks in lieu of bringing an orchestral ensemble.

The next set of four songs seemed like the breath in before the big finale.  All good songs, but lesser known to the masses. La Torre introduced “Open Road” as one of the first songs he wrote with the band, and that was followed by two more from The Verdict; “Propaganda Fashion” and “Light-Years.” Then it was back to 1986 for “Screaming in Digital” from Rage For Order.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Parker Lundgren (Guitarist, Vocalist), Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Those old enough to remember the song “Take Hold of the Flame” when it was in rotation can probably remember where they were when they first heard it. It’s that kind of song. The best way to hear the flanged guitars on the intro is to listen with headphones, but a close second way is to hear the duo of Wilton and Lundgren play it live.  Journey found the needle in a haystack when Arnel Pineda replaced the “irreplaceable” Steve Perry, and Queensrÿche followed suit when they found Todd La Torre to replace Geoff Tate.

Setlist

  1. (Intro Tape) Launder the Conscience (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Lundgren)
  2. Blood of the Levant (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  3. I Am I (Promised Land, 1994, DeGarmo/Tate)
  4. NM 156 (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  5. Man the Machine (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  6. Condition Hüman (Condition Hüman, 2015, Wilton/Jackson/Lundgren/
    LaTorre)
  7. Queen of the Reich (Queensrÿche EP, 1984, DeGarmo)
  8. Silent Lucidity (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo)
  9. Open Road (Queensrÿche, 2013, Rockenfield/La Torre/Wilton)
  10. Propaganda Fashion (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  11. Light-years (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  12. Screaming in Digital (Rage For Order, 1986, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  13. Take Hold of the Flame (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate)
  14. Eyes of a Stranger (with Anarchy-X outro) (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988, DeGarmo/Tate)

    – Encore –
  15. Jet City Woman (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo/Tate)
  16. Empire (Empire, 1990, Tate/Wilton)

It’s important to mention the incredible songwriting talent that DeGarmo and Tate contributed to the legacy of Queensrÿche. “Take Hold of the Flame” is a perfect example, but perhaps some of their best collaborations can be heard on the Operation: Mindcrime album. Tate is now the only one that can perform this album in its entirety after the legal battle, but it is surprising that the the setlist only included one song from this album. They ended the set with the classic that brings back memories of the music video that documented the album’s concept – “Eyes of a Stranger”. It. Was. Awesome.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Eddie Jackson (Bassist), Queensrÿche
Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Eddie Jackson was flawless all evening, but it seemed he quite often slipped into the shadows and let the limelight fall on his bandmates. However, as the band returned to the stage for the encore, Jackson laid claim to center stage and delivered the legendary bass intro to “Jet City Woman” from the 1990 Empire album and the crowd went nuts (another gift from the DeGarmo and Tate songwriting team). La Torre returned to the stage sporting sunglasses and led the audience in the sing-along to this song which is ingrained in our collective memory.

Alas, it was time for the final song of the evening which would be the title track from the Empire album. This song featured Wilton on lead guitar and left fans satiated.  The music industry has changed so much but through the years Queensrÿche has followed their muse and continued creating great music. The night was not only a trip down memory lane to get reacquainted with the songs of our youth, but also an invitation to reconnect with an old “friend” who is thriving with a new album and an incredibly talented line up. Check out The Verdict and find out what your verdict is!

Cast for the Evening

  • Michael Wilton – lead guitar (1980–present)
  • Eddie Jackson – bass, backing vocals (1980–present)
  • Parker Lundgren – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2009–present)
  • Todd La Torre – lead vocals (2012–present), drums (2018 in studio)
  • Casey Grillo – drums (2017–present)

Setlist

  1. (Intro Tape) Launder the Conscience (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Lundgren)
  2. Blood of the Levant (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  3. I Am I (Promised Land, 1994, DeGarmo/Tate)
  4. NM 156 (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  5. Man the Machine (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
  6. Condition Hüman (Condition Hüman, 2015, Wilton/Jackson/Lundgren/LaTorre)
  7. Queen of the Reich (Queensrÿche EP, 1984, DeGarmo)
  8. Silent Lucidity (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo)
  9. Open Road (Queensrÿche, 2013, Rockenfield/La Torre/Wilton)
  10. Propaganda Fashion (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  11. Light-years (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
  12. Screaming in Digital (Rage For Order, 1986, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
  13. Take Hold of the Flame (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate)
  14. Eyes of a Stranger (with Anarchy-X outro) (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988, DeGarmo/Tate)

    – Encore –
  15. Jet City Woman (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo/Tate)
  16. Empire (Empire, 1990, Tate/Wilton)

Photo Galleries

Photographers: Mark Greenawalt & Rodrigo Izquierdo (Reagle Photography)

Openers: Shadow Guilt | Sectas | Fates Warning

Queensrÿche – Marquee Theatre 3-26-19

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt & Reagle Photography, Respectively.
All Rights Reserved

Featured (top) photo by Mark Greenawalt

 

LP Shakes Up Phoenix with Sold Out Crowd at The Van Buren 3-6-19

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PHOENIX — Long-time American songwriter Laura Pergolizzi, also known as LP, brought raw energy and charisma to Phoenix. Originally booked at the Crescent Ballroom, LP sold out the 550 capacity room, forcing the show to move to The Van Buren’s 1800 capacity venue. The bold move proved beneficial as LP sold out the Van Buren, with fans still hoping to score tickets at the box office before the show.

LP may be news to the majority, but she has been gracing the music industry with her songwriting since the late 90’s, writing songs for artists like the Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera. Her hard work and consistency paid off big time when she released her first studio album, Heart Shaped Scar, in 2001.

It was clear within the first few moments of the show why LP and her band have fans scrambling for tickets, and promoters moving her show to venues three times the size originally booked. The simple explanation: she’s a star. She has a commanding presence, and the moment she lets that first note slip between her lips, you’re sold. In that moment, you know you’re watching someone born to be on stage.

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.
 

Taking her time to walk out on the stage, lights dimmed as the band came out, the music began with a slow build creating tension in each eager audience member waiting to see LP and hear her bold voice. The intensity of the crowd matched the tension built from the music until the moment LP came out, and then it’s on. Beginning the show with “Dreamcatcher,” the first track off her latest album, Heart to Mouth, she quickly captured attention from all in attendance.

She gracefully glided across the stage, singing with her incredible range and compelling the crowd to move with her. The music flowed into an explosion of sound and dance. Her writing has an incredible balance of emotion and freedom from your former lover, while at times you can feel her broken heart as if it were yours.

It may take seeing the show live to understand the passion each song has to offer. The show takes each person through a story of heartbreak and raw, pure feelings with songs such as, “I Gave You the Great Unknown,” and her second hit single “Recovery. ” Her lyrics ask honest questions like, “Did you let me go?“, and make real statements like, “I can’t stop sleeping in your clothes.” Her powerful voice soars through the crowd, piercing through each member of the audience. The dynamic vocals are accompanied by a slight quiver in her voice that drives home that heartbreak.  

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.


LP not only has the songs to remind you of the love you lost, but she has the ability to get you dancing to the same heartbreak. Along with her great presence is a solid, passionate, and exhilarating band. The dynamism and musicianship they bring to the show support LP with a humility that reflects that they believe in the music they are playing and know they are in the right place.

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.


If there is one takeaway for LP when she leaves the Valley, it’s that Phoenix wants her back, and it would be no surprise to see her in an arena when she returns. This is a show made for everyone: the broken-hearted, the healed, the happy, the lonely, the dancer, the dreamer  — LP has something for you.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

LP – The Van Buren 3-6-19

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Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

All-Star Metal Band IMONOLITH Reveals First Official New Single “Hollow”

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Imonolith – the new metal powerhouse featuring vocalist Jon Howard (Threat Signal, Arkaea), drummer Ryan ‘RVP’ Van Poederooyen (Devin Townsend Project), guitarist Brian Waddell (Devin Townsend Project), bassist Byron Stroud (Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory), and second guitarist Kai Huppunen (Methods of Mayhem, Noise Therapy) – is making an unforgettable entrance with a brand new official single, “Hollow”, available to stream/download for the first time today.

Experience the highly-anticipated new track via a brand new video:

“Hollow” serves as the perfect introduction to Imonolith, a band whose mission is simple: to write the heaviest riffs, the biggest hooks and most monstrous grooves. Given the impressive pedigree of each player, they do exactly this and more.

Stream or Purchase “Hollow” Here

Recorded and produced by Brian Howes and Jay Van Poederooyen (Nickelback, Chris Cornell, Airbourne, Hinder, Daughtry) at Van Howes Studios in Los Angeles, California, “Hollow” is immediately setting the bar high – and the best is yet to come.

Drummer Ryan ‘RVP’ Van Poederooyen comments: “‘Hollow’ is a song about the personal battles we all can face internally. Social pressures and self expectation can drive you to a point of feeling hollow inside if you don’t meet specific standards in your mind. The song itself actually has a positive message built into it. It’s not about feeling hollow, it’s more about preventing that hollow feeling that any one of us can develop through negative thinking and limited beliefs.”

Fans can expect many surprises as they unveil more music. RVPcontinues: “As for ‘Hollow’, musically it represents the catchier side of Imonolith’s music. We have varying influences spread throughout the band and we don’t like to play just one style of music. We have a more metal crushing side, a catchier radio side and then music that fits in-between our heavy and catchier vibes. We always aim to make Imonolith’s overall sound diverse and interesting. Most of all, we’re always focused on trying to write a great song, no matter if it’s heavy or catchy.”

Imonolith was officially formed in February 2018 by drummer Ryan ‘RVP’ Van Poederooyen and guitarist Brian Waddell, although the pair started writing their own brand of heavy music in 2015 whilst playing together in the Devin Townsend Project. RVP and Waddell then went on to recruit vocalist Jon Howard, bassist Byron Stroud, and second guitarist Kai Huppunen, completing a fearsome line-up. The Canadian quintet have since written a mass of highly diverse material, which appeals to everyone from the metalhead to the radio rock fan, and everyone in between.

About Imonolith

Imonolith - Photo Credit: Dave Benedict
Imonolith | Photography: Dave Benedict

Since teasing demos and video clips online, Imonolith have amassed a dedicated legion of supporters worldwide, and with the release of the new single, their following is set to expand by the thousands. With their first run of shows throughout Canada announced and big international plans in the pipeline, 2019 is set to be a huge year for Imonolith.

Imonolith Confirmed Tour Dates:

February 23 – The Red Room, Vancouver, BC – Tickets
March 1 – Dickens, Calgary, AB – Tickets
March 2 – Starlite Temple, Edmonton, AB – Tickets

Imonolith Online:

 

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Featured photo (top) by Dave Benedict

REVIEW: Styx Rocking In The Round, Their First Night at Celebrity Theatre (1-11-19)

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PHOENIX — Celebrity Theatre was a fitting venue for the return of Styx to the Valley for a two night engagement on January 11th and 12th. Located at 32nd Street and Fillmore, the legendary theatre in the round has hosted the cream of music royalty since it first opened as the Phoenix Star Theatre in 1964. The unique circular, rotating stage and intimate atmosphere have made the Celebrity a staple music hall in Phoenix for nearly six decades. Not one seat in the venue is more than 70 feet from the stage.

The show on January 11th started a little late, most likely a result of the parking delays. The line of cars snaking southbound down the right lane of 32nd street moved at a snail’s pace leading up to the entrance. Folks of all stripes were milling around the theater, ordering drinks and chatting excitedly under the catwalk above the stage. Others lingered outside, chain smoking or vaping, listening for a sign to run back inside for the start of the concert.

From their humble Chicago beginnings in the early 1970’s, to their outlandish high production theatrical arena shows of the 80’s, Styx has been a familiar voice on the radio for generations, with a career spanning over half a century. As the first band to have four triple platinum albums in a row, they are an integral part of the soundtrack of many people’s lives. Their importance to rock music as a whole has been unfairly marginalized for years, and in the words of Julian ‘Frankenstein’ McGrath from Big Daddy (1999), only catching “a bad rap because most critics are cynical assholes.”

The current lineup includes veteran Tommy Shaw on lead guitar, with founding members James “J.Y.” Young and Chuck Panozzo on guitar and bass respectively, with Chuck performing on a more limited basis. Chuck’s twin brother and co-founding member of Styx, John Panozzo, originally played drums, but sadly died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1996. Since then, Todd Sucherman has been the band’s drummer. Playing backing guitar, bass, and vocals is Ricky Phillips of Bad English and The Babys, who joined the band in 2003. Vocalist and keyboard virtuoso Lawrence Gowan is a high-energy showman, but you would have to be in order to replace estranged former frontman Dennis DeYoung, as he did in 1999. A band with a history as rich as Styx merits such a historic venue as Celebrity Theatre.

The house lights suddenly dimmed, eliciting hoots and cheers from the audience. As soon as the spotlights kicked on, the band flew right into “Gone Gone Gone from their latest album The Mission, released in mid-2017. From the first frenzied notes played on the dueling guitars, the crowd was on their feet. Fans young and old danced in the aisles while others rushed to their seats, full beers in hand. The song does not sound at all unlike the old Styx — high-energy and fun.

Not a moment after the first tune ended, the iconic organ riff of “Blue Collar Man” sternly commanded the grateful crowd’s attention.  Each band member’s precision assured the crowd that Styx had not lost a step from their golden age.

Lawrence Gowan (Vocalist) and Ricky Phillips (Bassist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Next was their hit “The Grand Illusion”, the title track from their 1977 album. Every flawless note rang out true to the recording, and there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for that: Styx is a band that is perpetually on tour. According to the band themselves, they only take occasional breaks for short periods. Anybody touring that frequently is going to perform their catalogue masterfully.

After performing “Fooling Yourself,” Gowan spoke: “What a wonderful way to ring in the new year!” Standing at the foot of the stage, he remarked, “My, you’re all so close,” as he addressed the theater’s intimate layout.

The spotlight settled on him at the keyboard as and an iconic piano riff pierced the crowd, igniting their collective nostalgia. “Lady” is one of those songs that everyone imagines will be playing in the background when they lay their eyes on their soulmate for the first time. Again, it’s eerie how well Gowan embodies Dennis DeYoung, both vocally and instrumentally. It was not the first song the whole theater sang in unison, nor would it be the last.

Lawrence Gowan (Vocalist, Keyboardist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

When Shaw approached the mic, he explained the origins of their 16th album, The Mission, before introducing “Radio Silence” for the waiting ears of all in attendance. The opening synth has that instantly recognizable Styx DNA. That this was not a radio single is baffling. In fact, Shaw himself has expressed frustration with the neglect that great classic rock bands experience in the new age of the music industry. It is almost prophetic of the band that you cannot hear a song called “Radio Silence” on the radio. It is a fantastic track and deserves more attention.

The next tune was off of 1975’s Equinox. “Lorelei” seems like one of those songs that everyone knows but has no idea what it is called or who sings it, like an old friend you ate lunch with at work, but never learned their name. Young absolutely nails the lead vocals in place of DeYoung’s  studio recording. Another striking revelation was that the bands harmonies were pristine. These are men in their early to late sixties, the oldest being founding member Panozzo at seventy years old.

Ricky Phillips (Bassist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Shortly after “Lorelei”, Shaw recalled a conversation he had with Young in 1975, and explained how he came to join the band. Taking Young up on his offer to come to Chicago, Shaw brought a song he had been working on. It was a great song, but “it wasn’t a Styx song” according to Young, who Shaw calls “The Godfather of Styx”. From that story, the audience learned how “Crystal Ball” was written, and Shaw was only too happy to demonstrate how beautiful his two-tone sunburst Fender 12-string acoustic sounds. With impeccable timing, a roadie hopped up onto the stage to hand over a Les Paul for the solo before swapping the Jumbo back for the outro.

As expected, the band played a couple more hits with “Light Up” and “Man in the Wilderness” before closing out the first half of the show with another anthem from the Paradise Theater album, “Rockin’ the Paradise.” It wasn’t long before the house lights came back up for a short intermission, when Young promised another hour of music after they returned.

The second half of the show kicked off with another Young-led hit from The Grand Illusion, “Miss America.” Styx is currently rehearsing for a special show in Las Vegas where they will play the entire The Mission album from start to finish. Fans attending this show were treated to a sampling of what is to come when they debuted six of those songs in order from the second half of the album. The suite of songs began with “Time May Bend” and continued through “The Outpost” and this night was the first time they had ever been performed live. They even welcomed the album’s producer and co-writer, Will Evankovich on stage to contribute to the instrumentation and vocals.

Tommy Shaw (Guitarist, Vocalist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Eventually a roadie produced Shaw’s vintage Fender Electric XII and it’s a dead giveaway to the guitar-savvy fans that “Suite Madame Blue” was coming, and it was impeccably played from start to finish. Immediately after, the fans were finally treated to what many were waiting for… “Too Much Time On My Hands” (watch the Paul Rudd and Jimmy Fallon shot-for-shot remake) from 1981’s Paradise Theater. The maniacal keyboard part of the song is indicative of the genius that Dennis DeYoung endowed upon the group; however, this does not imply they are lacking anything from his departure. This band is so well-oiled that his absence is hardly noticeable.

As the applause died down, most of the band left the stage, but Gowan remained and took the spotlight to turn the venue into a “piano bar” with a pair of fantastic covers. The first was a phenomenally accurate rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” for the appreciative audience. The second cover was a beautiful recitation of the intricate operatic section of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and the entire crowd once again sang along to every word. They are truly a fortunate group to have stumbled across such a talented frontman. Gowan alone should be a major factor for anyone even considering going to a Styx show. He alone is absolutely worth the cost of admission.

Still alone on stage, Gowen started into the piano intro to possibly their most famous hit, Come Sail Away, which was also featured on The Grand Illusion. The band shuffled back out to bring it home and it seemed to be the perfect crescendo to end the show with, guitars blazing and fans jumping up and down. As the last note is struck from the guitars, and the last cymbal smashed, the band removed their straps and handed off their instruments to the roadies while they made their way off the stage before turning around amid the raucous applause and walking right back out for an encore.

To thunderous applause, they opened back up with “Mr. Roboto,” the drum fills echoing throughout the small space with noticeably fewer audience members, many of whom ran out to their vehicles when they believed the show was over. This is a big deal for one simple reason: They had never performed this song on stage with the full band before this tour. Previously, Dennis DeYoung had always sung a version of it with pre-recorded tracks. Once he left, the band abandoned it for the following decades. The fact that they are playing it as an encore now is kind of ironic.

James “J.Y.” Young (Guitarist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

The fitting final number of the evening was the signature rocker song “Renegade”, Shaw’s self-penned hit from 1979’s Pieces of Eight.

“Oh, mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law…”

The acapella opening lines beckoned the crowd once more to accompany the band, offering a fitting and crowd-unifying conclusion to a consistently powerful and nostalgic evening with a gargantuan pillar of classic rock. As any great performers are wont to do, Styx left the Phoenix audience delighted and fulfilled, yet eager for more. Fans might have had their thirst satiated if they bought tickets to the show the following night at the same venue. And if the rock gods will it, perhaps Arizona will be graced with a future performance from the legendary American musical mainstay.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Styx – Celebrity Theatre 1-11-19

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Puddles Pity Party Treats the Crowd Like Royals in Mesa (12-7-18)

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PHOENIX — Many of us have been invited to a pity party and more than likely, we have no desire to attend. When Puddles the sad clown hosts one, however, I recommend you RSVP and make it a priority on your calendar.

I was one such lucky attendee amidst several thousand others that packed the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center. Not knowing what to expect of the next 110 intermission-free minutes aside from a sweet serenade from the 6’8” baritone crooner in a clown costume, I kept my mind, ears, and eyes open.

Three minutes before the show was set to begin, the house lights were still up as people shuffled to their seats. There appeared to be commotion on the mezzanine level as several audience members looked up to see the unmistakable giant, cuddly clown making his way through the sea of people giving hugs, handshakes, and posing for photos. He effortlessly hurdled the chairs and made a concerted effort to greet as many of his party “guests” as he could, before making his way down to the ground level where he popped through the back doors and dashed to and fro, greeting attendees as he made his way up to the stage.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Puddles Pity Party is anything but predictable, and after enthusiastically giving high fives to some of the folks in the front rows, he hoisted himself up onto the stage and awkwardly rolled to his feet despite the fact that there was an accessibility staircase not 10 feet to his left. It was at this moment I realized that things were going to be shaken up into a concoction of splendor and entertainment that would take all of us on a wild adventure of fellowship and laughter.

The festivities began with Puddles amusingly popping a whopping amount of gum into his mouth and loudly chewing as he read an AARP magazine featuring Kevin Costner.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Much like other aspects of the show, these pieces may have seemed trivial at the time, but became integral parts of his act. Perpetually animated and childlike in his movement at times, Puddles — brought to life by Mike Geier — scoots about the stage on his stool and takes his sweet time getting to center stage to watch a montage of his trials and tribulations while appearing on America’s Got Talent. The sad clown with the golden voice sang his rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, only to be abruptly stopped by a loud buzzer and a giant red X like the one he received while performing for the show. Despite this, Puddles pressed on.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The irony was not lost in respect to a silent comic entertainer who uses only his vocal ability to belt out emotional tunes; however, the heartfelt depth of his singing left the partygoers absolutely stunned. Puddles performed “The Sound of Silence” to a video of ASL translator, Zoey Stormes, signing a moving performance. Though he is a sad clown who expresses tremendous variety of emotion, from melancholy, to gratitude, to wonderment, it’s virtually impossible to be sad while in his presence. Laughter and words of encouragement from the crowd consistently permeated the silence.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Puddles has several obsessions that attendees learn throughout their time with him, two of which are Kevin Costner and coffee. Never have I attended a party that entailed a coffee break, but there is a first time for everything. In fact, Puddles Pity Party contained many firsts, which takes the Vaudevillian style act from being a show to a full-fledged experience. I lost count of how many times Puddles left his wad of gum behind on his suitcase of goodies and plucked it back up to resume chewing. Additionally, I lost count of how many times he rolled himself off the stage to interact with the audience and bring a new friend up to be a part of the show. Attendees were swept away, transformed into an environment where excitement is found in the simple and absurd.

It was when I oddly caught “the feels” from hilarious snippets of robots falling over to the sound of Puddles’ emotional rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You” that I realized the power and magnitude of this king-sized clown’s voice. No love song directed at a cup of coffee will ever feel so pure and heartfelt as it did in that theater.

Partygoers were just as much a part of the show, and were brought into Puddles’ world of make-believe. One woman transformed into a wolf that Puddles waltzed with. A gentleman enthusiastically sang the karaoke version of “All By Myself”. Another got to be a rocket scientist, and yet another got to stuff his face with cupcakes while being reminded that the word “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts”. Puddles even had one of the party attendees summon Kevin Costner, albeit after a failed attempt that accidentally summoned Kevin Bacon.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party with concertgoer
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Other celebrities were attending in spirit, as it was impossible to miss the homages to Axl Rose, Freddie Mercury, and the King himself, Elvis Presley. Puddles’ prowess as an accomplished musician was made apparent through performing on his cardboard guitar that asserts “Do Good Work”, to his various beats on both real and video game drum sets, to his unique song mashups.

Geier, affectionately known as “Big Mike”, who has run a burlesque performance troupe out of Atlanta and also performs with the Kingsized Jazz Trio, has the performer gene coursing through his veins. Traveling with Puddles Pity Party, he has made audiences giggle and laugh warmly all over the world while wearing his endearing heart on his ruffled sleeve.

All you would have to do is go on YouTube and search “Puddles” to encounter countless videos of the sad clown with the golden voice. One of his most captivating being his rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier”, which partnered with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox and also performed on America’s Got Talent to agape jaws and an uproarious standing ovation.

The party on Friday was no exception and the crowd had their phones out to record video of his most notable serenade, as is encouraged. This did not stop Puddles from giving his adoring fans the up-close and personal show they were hoping for, as he grabbed one phone to sing to it and place it in the hand of another individual while picking up their phone and passing it on until there were multitudes of attendees who had incredible footage of Puddles and the cell phone of their fellow party-goer. The laughter that ensued afterward while people scrambled to find each rightful owner was memorable. If anyone can bring people closer together with their fellow man, it’s most definitely Puddles the sad clown.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

If you have the opportunity to attend a pity party put on by Puddles, I highly encourage it. How a sad clown can make everyone in a room light up with laughter is a special kind of magic that can only be felt and seen by experiencing it firsthand.

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Puddles Pity Party – Mesa Arts Center 12-7-18

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Minus The Bear, Tera Melos Give Tempe Fans A Lesson In Math Rock (12-7-18)

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Tempe, AZ —  At face value, thinking about a period of seventeen years does seem like a long stretch of time. Contrarily, Minus the Bear frontman, Jake Snider, has a different take on the idea because about halfway through the set on their farewell tour at the Marquee Theatre last night, Snider gave the audience some insight into their seventeen year-long career as a band, “Seventeen years feels like almost no time has passed. We appreciate all of you for being here. We’ve got the best fans of anyone.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Jake Snider (Vocalist), Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This served as a beautiful footnote at the end of the influential band’s creative streak consisting of 6 studio albums and 12 EPs, as well as countless national and international tours. They’ve been highly influential in the math rock genre and are largely considered pioneers of the style, their beginnings predating many noteworthy math rock bands like This Town Needs Guns and Chon.

They clearly expressed their gratitude to the audience, and the feeling was undeniably mutual as the sounds of cheering and clapping rarely died down over the course of the evening. Every crowd has its black sheep though, demonstrated towards the end of the show as one inebriated concert-goer threw a full can of beer at bassist Cory Murchy. To the relief of many, the band didn’t hold the rudeness of one person against the rest of the audience as Snider calmy chimed in over the mic “Please don’t throw your f*ucking beer can at us. Thanks, we love you guys.

Tera Melos

The unforgettable night began with an excellent introduction of the complex music to come thanks to the opening act, Tera Melos. The Sacramento, California-based band pummelled the audience with a frenetic 40 minute set that never once let up in energy.

Tera Melos - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Tera Melos
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

It all began when Nick Reinhart, the guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist of the band, gave the other members a quick, nearly imperceptible glance, and then they were off with their first song, “Don’t Say I Know”. The band continued their set without uttering a word or letting out a breath between songs while only occasionally looking at each other for brief acknowledgement of what was coming next. This was astounding because of the technicality and otherworldly sounds emanating from Reinhart’s guitar; it takes incredible musicianship to even follow what’s going on as a listener, let alone a Tera Melos band member.

Tera Melos - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Nick Reinhart (Vocalist, Guitarist, Keyboardist), Tera Melos
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Interspersed between songs were spastic, electronic guitar lines that could often be described as computer beeping in 5/4 time. Some of these sounded reminiscent of dubstep while others bordered more along EDM territory. It was surprising to many fans in attendance that it was coming from a guitar, as well as those more familiar with the band as you’d frequently hear someone new shouting “What?!” or “How?!” from around the room as Reinhart stomped on a new combination of guitar FX pedals.

Tera Melos - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Tera Melos’ FX pedals
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Another highlight of their incredible set was “Slimed”, with Reinhart screaming “Something about my face, always makes me sick!” as the band followed along perfectly without missing a note. On these merits alone, Tera Melos is not, nor will they ever be, a band to be missed.

Minus the Bear

After fans had about 20 minutes to recover between sets from the mind blowing experience of Tera Melos, Minus the Bear picked up right where the opening act left off.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The band’s embrace of classics like “Pachuca Sunrise”, “The Fix”, and “The Game Needed Me” from their second album Menos Del Oso scattered throughout the set among more recent favorites, such as “Last Kiss” from their final 2017 release, VOIDS served as an anachronistic tribute to their incredible evolution as a band over time. It was a nice touch and always kept you guessing as what was to come next. The band’s sound was also finely tuned to the venue’s sound system, a huge relief considering anything less would have proven unacceptable for a band so musically polished themselves.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Dave Knudson (Guitarist), Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Guitarist Dave Knudson was a finger-tapping machine, only taking both his hands off the guitar neck to kneel down and adjust knobs on his plethora of FX pedals. If Knudson and Reinhart were to face off in a gladiator-esque guitar FX duel, it would be impossible to tell who would come out on top. Knudson and keyboardist Alex Rose were the icing on the cake of the intricately layered music, as bassist Murchy and touring drummer Joshua Sparks provided a solid backbone for the songs to breathe new life into the hearts of many listeners.

Minus the Bear - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Alex Rose (Keyboardist), Minus the Bear
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

While farewell tours will always carry bittersweet connotations, this inspiring show served as a proper send-off for some of math rock’s founding fathers with the grateful support of an up-and-coming math rock band. It’s hard to picture it going any better than it did, and many fans stayed until the very end of the show, absorbing every beautiful moment. The legacy of Minus the Bear will live on through not only their own music, but in the hearts and minds of fans worldwide and other math rock bands reinventing the sound that was so new only seventeen short years ago.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Minus The Bear & Tera Melos – Marquee Theatre 12-7-18

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

Photos: THE FAIM Takes the Stage by Storm at Crescent Ballroom (12-7-18)

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PHOENIX — Hailing from Perth, Australia, The Faim dropped into Crescent Ballroom on headliner Hands Like Houses’ “U.S. Tour 2018”. With a whopping 5-band line-up (including Arlington, The Faim, Devour the Day, Emarosa, and Hands Like Houses), Phoenix was treated to an explosive set of just 30 minutes, which left the crowd hungry for more! On the dimly-lit stage, the band brought an unanticipated level of energy and a performance undoubtably worthy of headlining at an even bigger venue.
 

Burning Hot Events has had The Faim on our radar since they dropped their debut single and total earworm “Saints Of The Sinners” in February of this year. We had the pleasure of interviewing lead vocalist Josh Raven in March: INTERVIEW: Next Big Aussie Band The Faim Talks About Their Rapid Rise & Inspiring Musical Journey

With a big sound and big backing, it was entirely evident that The Faim will be going far, and doing it fast. At the time of our interview, it was still unknown when the band would grace Arizona with their presence. Since then, The Faim has released multiple songs and music videos, their Summer is a Curse EP (released September 7th), toured the states, and are embarking on a world tour in 2019. Current tour dates can be found on their website.

Following the performance, I met with Raven to praise him for his unreal, 200% stage presence, to which he humbly and graciously replied that he’s just happy to be doing what he loves.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

The Faim – Crescent Ballroom 12-7-18

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