PHOENIX — Time and again, rock n’ roll has proven that it’s a genre that staunchly refuses to die. Two good reasons for this phenomenon were proudly on display this past Tuesday evening at Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix; the opening act of the night, Seattle rock band Thunderpussy, and the incomparable two-man rock powerhouse known as Black Pistol Fire.
The evening couldn’t have kicked off better as Thunderpussy took the stage by storm, captivating the audience immediately with their slick style along with some effortlessly proficient musicianship. Lead vocalist, Molly Sides (a Tucson native) had undeniable charisma and grace from the moment she strode across the stage towards her iconic Elvis-style microphone.
Donning a vibrant, glittery and flowing outfit, she was the centerpiece that completed the unmistakably rock n’ roll spectacle the band was giving off. As her darkly-colored vocals soared to the stratosphere with an excellent cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”, she dazzled fans with her fluid dancing that seemed far too natural to be choreographed.
The charisma didn’t stop there either; it comes pouring out of each member as you see them thoroughly enjoying themselves on stage. Lead guitarist, Whitney Petty opened the show wielding a violin bow, grazing it across the strings in ways that would make Jimmy Page’s jaw drop. The rhythm section could easily hold their own with the best of them as Leah Julius’ bass and the battering proficiency of the drums made up a rock-solid foundation supporting the rest of the music. The band was an excellent choice for an opener and definitely one to keep your eyes on as they inevitably ascend to greatness.
Black Pistol Fire
As palpable as the excitement in the room was for the main attraction, it was still hard to imagine the night getting much better. However as soon as singer/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen rushed the stage, it was obvious that the night had only just begun.
Ripping into the first lines of “Suffocation Blues”, you could feel the desperation behind every note being bent out of McKeown’s beautiful SG guitar. Deeply rooted in the blues and garage rock of the dirtiest varieties, Black Pistol Fire must feel right at home back in the thriving Austin, Texas music scene. As a rock duo featuring no bassist, the superficial comparisons to other famous rock duo groups like The White Stripes and The Black Keys are inevitable, but don’t be fooled; Black Pistol Fire brings many unique qualities to the table in a genre saturated with copycats.
Owen’s creative contribution of playing the synth bass while he simultaneously drums with one arm is a sight that must be seen to be fully processed. This is not something that can be pulled off easily but he makes it look like the easiest thing in the world, which is a testament to his raw musical talent. Shockingly, this also does very little in simplifying his drum parts because his merciless whacks on the toms and snare drum are just as strikingly heavy as if someone were playing with two burly arms.
McKeown’s vocal and guitar chops are both solid, with attitude aplenty. It’s so powerful to see how the themes behind the lyrics of songs like “Hipster Shakes” directly translates through his guitar into this emotional downpour of soulful distortion. The songs exude this fiery, sensual energy that’s simply magnetic and is sure to make anyone loosen up a bit. He screams with this begging and pleading tone that perfectly complements the gyrating motions he does on stage. It’s almost as if you’re watching someone go through an exorcism the way he shakes, tearing away at the pain of past experiences and shedding them from existence. There was even a moment when McKeown’s exorcism took him off the stage and into the crowd with the help of a dedicated stagehand. This personal journey of his took him all the way from the back end of the room onto the bleachers, all the way to standing on top of the bar as the bartender proudly handed him a splash of whiskey, all during the same guitar solo.
Crescent Ballroom proved to be the ideal venue for the performance of both bands, balancing high sound quality with the intimacy that only it’s dark walls can provide. The light show was also complimentary without it being too blinding or distracting for the audience. The reactions you gather from watching both of these bands are visceral ones and each of their reputations are definitely elevated because of it. Black Pistol Fire and Thunderpussy are as rock n’ roll as they come.
Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Black Pistol Fire & Thunderpussy – Crescent Ballroom 7-16-19
PHOENIX — On the cusp of their sophomore album release, Chase Atlantic and opener Lauren Sanderson celebrated at Crescent Ballroom with contagious energy. Touring the US from coast to coast with 29 stops, and their self-produced PHASES set to release on June 28, the alt-pop three-piece have played to sold out venues in Pittsburgh, Nashville, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, and now Phoenix.
“This album feels as though it is truly a work of astronomical measures,” says lead vocalist, Mitchel Cave. “It’s the first time we were able to honestly and openly hone into something so monumentally special and raw without compromising even an inch of our integrity as artists. We’ve developed a completely new sound within a matter of months that has never been tapped into before. Chase Atlantic is now dwelling within a realm of its own; it’s both scarily isolating and blissfully euphoric at the same time. Welcome to a whole new era.”
Lauren Sanderson, an Indiana native with a huge Twitter following of over 100,000 people, gave her first Ted Talk, titled “Stay Positive N’ Stay You”, only a year after graduating high school. Shehit the stage with a bright smile and a burst of energy that set the table for the main course of the night: Chase Atlantic.
During the intermission between Sanderson and Chase Atlantic, the music kept the audience energized and singing along as they played one of Lauren’s songs, to the crowd’s delight.
When the lights went out, the crowd went wild with anticipation. The back LED screens came on, and a fantastic and electrifying drum solo by Jesse Boyle got everybody screaming. A few seconds later, the shouts intensified as frontman Cave walked onto the stage, followed by band members Christian Anthony, Clinton Cave, and Patrick Wilde.
Mitchel yelled to the crowd, “Make some noise if you came with a friend!” The crowd roared and the song “Angels” began a night of jumping and motion that could practically induce seasickness.
During “What U Call That”, “Her”, “The Walls”, “Friends”, and “StuckInMyBrain”, the madness continued with nonstop singing, jumping, and partying like the world was about to end.
As they hit the stage again, following a quick and well-earned interlude, they made the announcement everybody was waiting for: their new album PHASES was just made live a day early, and Cave encouraged the whole crowd to open up their cell phones and download the song right then and there. He even asked to get a thumbs-up once each audience member had finished the transaction. An ocean of cell phone screens lit up the inside of Crescent Ballroom as the download frenzy went on for a few moments, to the delight of the band. Thumbs started to go up enthusiastically and smiles filled the faces of the musicians.
The crowd was rewarded for their instant downloads with one of Chase Atlantic’s most popular and well-known songs, “Swim”, followed by “Love Is Not Easy”, then by Cave and Anthony taking off their shirts suggestively right before their song “Lust”.
Cave’s statement matched that of the opener by saying that “this has been the best show of their whole f***ing ride.”
“Drugs & Money” kept the energy as high as it had been since the opening and continued with “Heaven And Back”, followed by Anthony asking the crowd, “Who feels like a rockstar?”, then pointing towards Cave and telling him, “I know you do,” then playing “Like A Rockstar”.
During their last song, “Uncomfortable”, Cave took a cell phone from the audience to take a selfie with the crowd, then carefully returned it to the fan without breaking or slowing down the energetic performance.
As they walked offstage, they said to the crowd, “We can play a f***ing encore if you want one more!” The crowd chanted incessantly and, over the speakers the band instructed everyone to scream “F*** yeah!” in unison. The crowd again obliged and chanted until the band returned to the stage.
Chase Atlantic closed the show with their last song, “Okay”, commanding the crowd in a way seasoned musicians do. The band coerced the whole crowd get down low, almost lying on the ground, and brought them back up to dance and jump. They welcomed Lauren Sanderson back to the stage for a high-octane rock n’ roll sound with heavy guitar riffs and powerful drum beats, and the night ended by leaving the audience exhausted and excited, as only great and memorable shows can do.
PHOENIX — Paul McCartney delivered the soundtrack of our lives in a three-hour marathon performance at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The sound was perfect and the light show was amazing, but the magical and elusive ingredient was the way McCartney could make everyone feel the songs. This stop on his “Freshen Up Tour” was an emotional rollercoaster that took a nostalgic journey down memory lane and then ventured back to the more recent entries into the most incredible catalog on earth. The tour kicked off last September in Canada and has literally traveled the world including stops in Asia, Europe, South America, and finally back to North America. Phoenix is so fortunate to be included in such a short list of international dates.
Pulling from a catalog of hits by the Beatles, Wings, and solo material that everyone knew and loved, McCartney modestly proved why he is the world class entertainer all others aspire to. There were happy moments where the audience was giddy and singing along to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” like drunks in an Irish pub. But there were also more solemn moments when McCartney became the storyteller and reminisced about some people that we have lost – people we know as celebrities, but he knew as friends.
There was excitement in the air when the gentle verse of “Live And Let Die” exploded into a shocking display of pyrotechnics that brought out the inner child, wide-eyed and watching a finale of fireworks. At the opposite end of that spectrum was a simple rustic shack stage set for the performance of a stripped-down acoustic set of songs that included Beatles classics “From Me To You”, “Love Me Do”, and all the way back to The Quarrymen song “In Spite of All The Danger.”
There is no denying that McCartney is a class act, and it was evident from the moment he walked on stage wearing a stylish black jacket, white shirt, black pants and wielding the iconic Hoffner bass guitar for a splash of color. The jacket lasted eight songs before he announced, “This will be the one-and-only wardrobe change,” and revealed the white shirt, in stark contrast to the rest of the band dressed in all black.
Cast for the Evening
Paul McCartney – Lead vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar, ukulele, mandolin
Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens – Backing vocals, keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bongos, percussion, harmonica, accordion
Abe Laboriel Jr. – Backing vocals, drums, percussion
Rusty Anderson – Backing vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Brian Ray – Backing vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass
Plus guest appearance by 3-piece horn section
The band included the dueling guitar team of Rusty Anderson (on McCartney’s right) and Brian Ray, who takes on the role of playing bass when McCartney transitions to tickling the ivories. Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens was the multi-instrumentalist who was predominantly on keyboards, but also shined on harmonica. Drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. was the highly animated and always entertaining drummer who has been with McCartney since the 2001 Concert for New York City. Laboriel brought some levity and comic relief to the stage as he performed goofy dance moves behind the stoic McCartney singing “Dance Tonight.” And to add icing to the already delicious cake, McCartney introduced a 3-piece horn section that elevated the authenticity of songs like “Hey Jude” while we sang the “Na-NaNa-NaNaNaNa” part and the uplifting “Got To Get You Into My Life.”
McCartney’s narration paid tribute to the late Jimi Hendrix (telling the story about Hendrix playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” live at a show in England the day after the song was released) and to the late Sir George Martin who is often cited as the fifth Beatle. But the two most touching tributes were to the two fallen Beatles.
He recalls a story of sitting with George Harrison and showing him that he had learned the Harrison hit “Something” on ukulele. He mentioned how Harrison was a great “uke” player and said “Let’s hear it for George.” The crowd responded with a swell of cheers as McCartney raised his hand in the air for a moment of reverence and then started into the song playing a ukulele that Harrison had given him. Any song on ukulele seems light hearted and “cute”, but when the band orchestration kicked in for the guitar solo and the images of Harrison filled the screen the emotions cut deep. Many tears were shed in the audience at that moment. “Thank you George,” said McCartney as the music faded, “for writing such a beautiful song.”
The other tribute was, of course, to John Lennon. One can only imagine the loss that McCartney felt when he lost his co-writing partner and friend to a senseless act of violence that brought the world to a standstill in 1980. Reflecting back on their time together he shares a message with the audience that sometimes we don’t tell friends what they really mean to us. If you have something nice to say about someone, say it. He advised, “Sometimes it’s too late and you wish you had said it.” As he introduced a song he had written for John shortly after he died, he called it a “conversation that they never got to have.” Then with just an acoustic guitar and his emoting voice he delivered the beautiful tribute “Here Today,” and everyone old enough to remember Lennon alive recalled all of those precious memories.
At 77 years old, you might expect him to have the feeble voice of an old man. Although there may have been a few moments where time revealed itself on the vocal cords that have been singing songs like “Helter Skelter” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” for decades, his voice was still powerful, eloquent, and mesmerizing throughout the three-hour marathon. The focus of the show was on the songs, so the physical stage antics were kept to a minimum, but this doesn’t mean that there was any loss of showmanship. McCartney commanded the stage as he glided from bass on songs like the opener “A Hard Day’s Night” to the Yamaha grand piano for an epic rendition of “Let It Be” that could be described as a spiritual experience.
Even the casual McCartney fan knows most of the songs on the setlist from “back in the day,” but McCartney has continued to produce music that hasn’t necessarily made it into heavy rotation on radio stations. McCartney said they know which songs the audience wants to hear by looking into the audience and seeing a sea of cellphone lights when a classic Wings or Beatles song begins to play. “When we play the new songs,” he said, “It’s a black hole.” Then with a cheeky grin he said they are going to play them anyway as they dove into “Fuh You” from the album Egypt Station released last year. Not sure if it was guilt or just some brilliant power of suggestion, but before the first verse was complete, there was a sea of cellphone lights illuminating Talking Stick Resort Arena. Brilliant.
A Hard Day’s Night
Can’t Buy Me Love
Got to Get You Into My Life
Come On to Me
Let Me Roll It
I’ve Got a Feeling
Let ‘Em In
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
In Spite of All the Danger
From Me to You
Love Me Do
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
Carry That Weight
The setlist contained 38 songs, and each one was worthy of a paragraph in this review, but for the sake of relative brevity, here are just a few highlights. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” with it’s spooky carnival melody has some of the most visual and strange lyrics. McCartney said he’s often asked where the ideas for songs come from and he said for this one they quite literally saw a poster for an upcoming circus with the tagline, “Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite there will be show tonight on trampoline…” Earlier in the show, McCartney dedicated the song “My Valentine” to his wife and mentioned that she was there in the audience with us in Phoenix. This song also has a hauntingly beautiful melody and the jumbo screen played a black and white film of Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp doing sign language while the song played. Another highlight was for the song “Black Bird.” The stage rose several stories high and revealed a video wall of a starfield of lights in the form of an animated bird on a black background. At the top of the stage, high over the audience, McCartney delivered the song that has inspired singer/songwriters all over the planet to pick up a guitar and learn to play these challenging chords. To be present this night and hear it straight from the source was truly moving.
If you were there, you understand there is no way to put into words how wonderful this show felt. You may be able to find clips or maybe even the entire concert on YouTube, and that might give you a glimpse of how the songs sounded and what was generally happening on stage, but there was an immersive blanket of sound and laser lights that just can’t be captured on any media. Sir Paul McCartney was talking to us like we were his friends and passing down stories like an elder might share with the youth to keep the stories alive for future generations. The end of the night was drawing near as McCartney addressed the audience saying, “We’ve had a great time, but there comes a time when we’ve got to go home…and it ends up the same time you’ve got to go home too.” He took a moment to thank the traveling stage crew, many of them he even thanked by name, and then closed the night with the apropos medley of “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, and “The End”.
(Author’s Note – I used to sing “Golden Slumbers” as a lullaby to my kids when they were babies, so this song was very special to me.)
The last lyric of the night seemed to sum up the overarching positive message from Paul McCartney to the world:
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Amid a rain of red, white, and blue confetti and streamers the show came to a physical end, but the memories of this chance encounter with a legendary icon will live on in our hearts and minds.
Photographer: Mark Greenawalt
Paul McCartney – Talking Stick Resort Arena 6-26-19
Scottsdale, AZ — It’s a sad truth that some of the best musicians are no longer with us; they found their way to rock ‘n roll heaven. However, they did leave a hell of a legacy in music. Hollywood Vampires is a band formed by Alice Cooper, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, and Johnny Depp in 2015 to pay tribute to the musicians that are no longer with us from the 1970s. Hollywood Vampires is a brainchild from Cooper, who used to hang out in the Rainbow Bar in Hollywood, California in the 1970s. That’s where Cooper and the original Hollywood Vampires followed their mission statement: drink until no one could stand up. Some of the members to this motley crew of drinkers were Keith Moon of The Who, John Lennon and Ringo Starr of The Beatles, Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, and Elton John.
On a strangely cool night — perhaps the undead bring a chill to the air — Hollywood Vampires came to Talking Stick Resort to play some classic rock by the pool. Co-Op warmed up the crowd — a band formed by Alice Cooper’s son Dash Cooper, who is on lead vocals.
Their backdrop was a skull logo with a red left eye that changed to green for certain songs. As they began to play their second song, Cooper shouted, “Let me hear you howl!” It was fitting as they played under a full moon. The crowd wasn’t too loud, and Cooper once again spoke, trying to liven everyone up, “You’re going to need to be louder to wake the undead. We’re from right here in Phoenix!” One of their final songs was called “Silent Skies,” which Cooper said was a tribute song for a friend of his who committed suicide, and he encouraged the crowd to remember that there’s always help out there.
All the lights went off as a spooky recorded voice-over said, “Listen to them, the children of the night!” Cooper came out, first armed with his cane and mic. Perry and Depp followed with their guitars. The rest of the touring band filled the stage around them: Tommy Henriksen on rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals; Glen Sobel on drums; Chris Wyse on bass; and Buck Johnson on keyboards, rhythm and lead guitar, and backing vocals.
Before addressing the nearly sold-out crowd, Hollywood Vampires played “I Want My Now,” “Raise the Dead,” and “As Bad As I Am.” Before going into a tribute song combo with “Five to One / Break On Through (to the Other Side)” Cooper said, “We’re the Vampires. Paying tribute to our friends who are gone, The Doors.”
As the rift to “The Jack” by AC/DC filled the air, Cooper said, “We lost Malcolm from AC/DC.” As Cooper sang, he did his stage antics with his cane, walking hunched over going back and forth. As he walked he’d slowly pull jack playing cards from his jacket and would show the crowd the card for a few moments before throwing the card at eager fans.
Perry took the mic, saying to fans, “How are you all doing? It’s time for a ballad. This song is by a good friend of mine who died a long time ago, Johnny Thunders.” Perry sings Thunders’ song “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.” As the song plays, pictures of Thunders flashed on the backdrop mixed in with Hollywood Vampires’ logo changing in colors.
Cooper took back the mic, singing “My Dead Drunk Friends,” as pictures of Cooper’s fallen buddies, including musical icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, took turns coming across the backdrop, showing how happy they were to be on stage in their prime. Before singing the next song, “Baba O’Riley” by The Who, Cooper said, “There wouldn’t be the Vampires without Keith Moon.”
Depp paid tribute to David Bowie by singing the song, “Heroes” as images of Bowie appeared on the backdrop.
“It’s a fact most of the vampires have died, but one is still around,” said Cooper. The crowd cheered as they played Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen.” As Cooper sang the next song, “People Who Died” by The Jim Carroll Band, and people in the crowd raised their drinks into the air and sang along with the chorus line, “For the people who died, died.” The logo of the Hollywood Vampires would flash on the backdrop with gravestones inscribed with the names of fallen musicians.
The last song of the night was Cooper’s iconic “School’s Out” as the band played giant red and white balloons with the band’s logo on them were tossed into the crowd like beach balls. People hit them up into the air as others grabbed balloons to keep as souvenirs, and one person even fished their balloon out of the pool. Cooper wrapped up the show by introducing each member of the band. Cooper commented that Perry is one of the best guitar players that he knows.
He put his hand on Depp’s shoulder and said, “You know him by many names, many characters, and now you know him as a guitar player.” Cooper talked about himself last, mentioning how he’s from Arizona and graduated from Cortez High School in Phoenix. The crowd cheered one last time before the lights went out and the Hollywood Vampires took to the night sky.
To see music legends Alice Cooper and Joe Perry together in a band with Johnny Depp is something no one at Talking Stick Resort is going to forget. As fans wandered about the property to the parking lot, went back up to their hotel room, or tried their hand at the slot machines in the casino they all had one thing in common: they knew they were never going to forget seeing Hollywood Vampires. The energy of the band as they jammed their songs and paid tribute to fallen musicians will live on inside them. That night was legendary.
PHOENIX — One word continuously comes to mind when one thinks of metal music: catharsis. According to Google dictionary, catharsis can be defined as “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.” Look around the audience at any metal show and you will see catharsis taking place in many forms. Maybe it’s the down-tuned, insanely heavy guitars palm-muting and blasting you with power chords, or the syncopated rhythms of the double bass drums beating fan’s ears into submission. Whatever it is about the music, metal brings people together and serves as a one-stop shop for the release of myriad types of emotions; happiness, anger, sadness, etc.
There’s a sort of camaraderie between fans at metal shows as people bond over their love for the music and in some cases, their equally great love for alcohol. The evidence supporting that love for metal is alive and well could not have been greater last night at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix as heavy metal forefathers, Slayer took the stage in front of about 22,000 in attendance after several intense opening sets from Lamb Of God, Amon Amarth, and Cannibal Corpse.
Picture this: flamethrowers perfectly synced to the frequent stops of the music with heat you can feel on your face from the audience, a giant, banner adorned the back wall of the stage replete with a devious-looking Baphomet among other satanic imagery, bright strobe and giant spot lights occasionally resembling double helix shapes. These were only a few of the visual treats fans were given Thursday night as some stared silently in awe, while others rarely stopped screaming their favorite lyrics to take a breath. Slayer has been around a very long time and yet despite their collective ages, their energy has not wavered in the slightest. From the opening speed metal riffs of the first song, “Repentless”, to the final onslaught of songs culminating in “Angel Of Death”, Slayer proved that they’re still masters of their metal domain.
Vocalist and bassist, Tom Araya has always had a distinct vocal style; it’s not singing but it’s not your average metal-scream either. It’s visceral, primal shouting from a man who otherwise comes off very kind and cordial on stage during the quieter moments in between songs. He’s a living legend, as are the other members; longtime guitarist Kerry King, recent stand-in guitarist and Exodus alumni Gary Holt, and drummer Paul Bostaph. Last night at Ak-Chin Pavilion, these four, with their powers combined, recreated some of the heaviest music ever written. King and Holt’s blisteringly fast riffs caused fans to headbang themselves into a state of whiplash, while Bostaph’s drumming undoubtedly caused plenty of heart arrhythmia from the sheer force with which he hits the many pieces of his instrument of choice.
Watching Slayer is a musical experience of course but also one you can feel; physically and metaphorically speaking. Their lyrics are some of the most brutally honest words shrieked into microphones worldwide. For example, “World Painted Blood” (the 3rd song into their set) contains the lines “Gomorrah’s dream to live in sin, has reached its critical mass, man himself has become God, and laughs at his destruction…”, which gives an unrepentant glimpse into what’s on the band’s minds. Death, destruction, the unstoppable collapse of humanity due to its own ignorance; the band frequently come off as messengers of the impending doom that will surely befall humanity should we choose to ignore it. This serves for a powerful concert experience that’s not to be missed should you ever get the chance to see them perform.
It’s worth mentioning that the supporting bands all brought the energy to critically high levels long before Slayer even took the stage.
Florida death metal legends Cannibal Corpse started off the evening with incredible stage presence and easily one of the best renditions of “Hammer Smashed Face” played to date.
Next, Swedish natives Amon Amarth brought along their trademark viking theme, with the drummer sitting atop a replica of a viking ship complete with glowing red eyes. Their unique take on metal and lead vocalist, Johan Hegg’s friendly demeanor, was warmly received by fans.
Finally, Lamb of God stole the show with an insanely heavy set despite a few technical difficulties with the wireless guitar rigs. The other band members never missed a beat and effectively carried on regardless of any technical glitches entirely out of their control.
These are the marks of great live performance and each band, in their own unique ways, served as the perfect appetizers to temporarily appease everyone’s metal palate.
Other high points of the night included one of Slayers more ambitious songs, “Seasons In The Abyss” as well as other brutal numbers like “Mandatory Suicide”, “Hate Worldwide,” “Disciple”, “Temptation”, and “World Painted Blood”. Slayer saved most of the classics like “Raining Blood”, “Hell Awaits”, and “South Of Heaven” for the very end of the night, which made for an extremely captivating finale to a great show on their “Final World Tour”.
Local 98KUPD FM afternoon announcer, Fitz Madrid, prefaced Slayer taking the stage by announcing their imminent arrival as well as commenting on how he first saw the band in 1991 and that he considered it one of the best concerts he’d ever seen. That’s saying a lot coming from a person who has frequently attended many shows because of his line of work and love for music. Slayer’s music left a powerful impression on Fitz after witnessing what they could do live. That impact surely carried itself over to just about everyone else in attendance at Ak-Chin Pavilion last night, many of whom will one day describe their experience of this show as equally life-changing.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
To usher in the 2020s, Postmodern Jukebox will circumnavigate the globe on their 2019 “Welcome to the Twenties 2.0” tour.
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.
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
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” 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.
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.
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.
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
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 (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.
“Saints Of The Sinners”
“My Heart Needs To Breathe”
“Beautiful Drama” (Unreleased)
“When It Comes”
“A Million Stars”
“I Can Feel You”
“Summer Is A Curse”
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.
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 Verdictand 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Cast for the Evening
Michael Wilton – lead guitar (1980–present)
Eddie Jackson – bass, backing vocals (1980–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.
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.
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 Landand 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.
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.
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.
(Intro Tape) Launder the Conscience (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Lundgren)
Blood of the Levant (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
I Am I (Promised Land, 1994, DeGarmo/Tate)
NM 156 (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
Man the Machine (The Verdict, 2019, Wilton/La Torre/Jackson)
Queen of the Reich (Queensrÿche EP, 1984, DeGarmo)
Silent Lucidity (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo)
Open Road (Queensrÿche, 2013, Rockenfield/La Torre/Wilton)
Propaganda Fashion (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
Light-years (The Verdict, 2019, Jackson)
Screaming in Digital (Rage For Order, 1986, DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
Take Hold of the Flame (The Warning, 1984, DeGarmo/Tate)
Eyes of a Stranger (with Anarchy-X outro) (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988, DeGarmo/Tate)
– Encore –
Jet City Woman (Empire, 1990, DeGarmo/Tate)
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.
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)
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.
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 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.
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.