Tag Archives: concert review

REVIEW: Hollywood Vampires — The Undead Awaken at the Pool (5-18-19)

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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.

Dash Cooper, CO-OP
Dash Cooper (Vocalist), CO-OP
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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.

CO-OP
CO-OP
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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.

Hollywood Vampires
Alice Cooper (Vocalist), Hollywood Vampires
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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.

Hollywood Vampires
Joe Perry (Guitarist), Hollywood Vampires
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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.

Hollywood Vampires
Alice Cooper (Vocalist), Hollywood Vampires
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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.

Hollywood Vampires
Johnny Depp (Guitarist), Hollywood Vampires
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

“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.

Hollywood Vampires
Alice Cooper (Vocalist) & Joe Perry (Guitarist), Hollywood Vampires
Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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.

Hollywood Vampires
Johnny Depp (Guitarist) & Alice Cooper (Vocalist), Hollywood Vampires
Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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.

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Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Hollywood Vampires – Talking Stick Resort

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REVIEW: Slayer Reassert Metal Dominance in Phoenix on “Final World Tour” (05-02-19)

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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.

Slayer - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Tom Araya (Vocalist, Bassist), Slayer
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Slayer - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Gary Holt (Guitarist), Slayer
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Slayer - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Kerry King (Guitarist), Slayer
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Cannibal Corpse - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Erik Rutan (Guitarist), Cannibal Corpse
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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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.

Johan Hegg (Vocalist), Amon Amarth
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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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.

Lamb of God - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Randy Blythe (Vocalist), Lamb of God
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
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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”.

KUPD - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Fitz Madrid (Afternoon Announcer), 98KUPD FM
| Photography
: Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

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Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo

Openers: Cannibal Corpse | Amon Amarth | Lamb of God

Slayer – Ak-Chin Pavilion 5-2-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
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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.

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Photographer: Andrea Stoica

LP – The Van Buren 3-6-19

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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.

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Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Styx – Celebrity Theatre 1-11-19

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: A Perfect Circle Finishes North American Tour “On a High Note” in Phoenix (11-20-18)

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PHOENIX — A Perfect Circle ended “on a high note” for the last date on the third leg of their headlining North American tour, to the city that frontman Maynard James Keenan thanked for being the “marijuana-stinking cherry” on top. Dark electronic duo Night Club and trip hop artist Tricky supported the band starting from October 20th, leading up to this night at Comerica Theatre. A PerfeBetct Circle delivered a performance that repeatedly went from smoldering to bellowing, and took the transfixed audience on an escape of commiseration through hard rock.

This year, A Perfect Circle released Eat the Elephant, which is their first album release in fourteen years, and their fourth studio album. Today, A Perfect Circle released a limited-edition 7” vinyl single featuring the latest single, “So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish”. Included on the release is a B-side, a cover of AC/DC’s “Dog Eat Dog”. It is available exclusively from the Record Store Day Black Friday event at select brick-and-mortar record stores.

The tone of their performance in Phoenix was first set with a dark stage as they invisibly began the instrumentals of the title-track of their latest album, “Eat the Elephant”.  Anyone who has previously experienced A Perfect Circle live may have come to expect a giant white sheet shrouding the stage front leading up to, and remaining through the entirety of, the first song, before dramatically dropping to the floor. However, the sheet was absent this time around. Each band member was gradually backlit by just a bit of light, one-by-one, until all appeared as nearly pure-black silhouettes.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Jeff Friedl (Drummer), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Greg Edwards (Touring Keyboardist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

Blue and white rays of light and rising smoke backed them, in front of a curtain displaying their logo, and they were surrounded by white panels that would feature visuals catered to each song throughout the night.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
A Perfect Circle at Comerica Theatre
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

True to character, Keenan remained even less visible than his bandmates for the entire performance, on a platform in the back of the stage. Sometimes he blended in with the darkness and visuals so well that one might question whether he had left the platform, seeing that he remained stationed upon a second glance.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

When A Perfect Circle performed at Comerica Theatre in April of 2017, Keenan offered a few encouraging words. This time around, he almost seemed to be out of supportive messages.

Perhaps referencing the “despicable false claim”, in his words, made against Keenan earlier this year, he said, “Crazy, crazy, crazy, insane times we’re living in, wouldn’t you say? Insanity… People all mad at each other over a fuckin’ internet thing. It’s stupid… I’ve heard it said love is the answer… but because of all of the marijuana, I can’t remember the question.

However, substantial sentiments and motivational speeches may not be necessary every time, considering the volumes that the messages in their music speak, and how emotionally evoking the dynamics of the music are. As usual, A Perfect Circle performed with nearly album-quality sound. Often, elements of the songs that may go unheard when listening to recordings were clearly audible during this performance, bringing new life to the music and a deeper appreciation for the composition. Furthermore, hearing lyrics to new songs for the first time live, versus via studio recording, can cement a different impression of the song as the concert experience packs in the emotion emanating from the artist.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

Eight of the songs performed this night were from Eat the Elephant. Lyrics that really strike a chord in relation to the status quo, religion, and the political climate are contained in their songs, such as the following from “The Doomed” from the new album:

What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
What of the righteous? What of the charitable?
What of the truthful, the dutiful, the decent?

Doomed are the poor
Doomed are the peaceful
Doomed are the meek
Doomed are the merciful

For the word is now death
And the word is now without light
The new beatitude:
“Fuck the doomed, you’re on your own”

The lighting and visuals on the screens became increasingly dramatic, matching the intensity of the music throughout the night. They designed a setlist that felt narrative, which crescendoed and climaxed. Along with that, the colors shifted from cool and neutral, to bold and loud red, white, and black. Behind the band, the all-seeing eye displayed where their logo once appeared. The audience was united in a cathartic experience, as they let go and got lost in A Perfect Circle’s trademark indignation and disdain.

One fan in the audience was overheard saying, “I forgot how hard these guys rock!” and with unrestrained, unabashed love and respect for the band, he yelled louder than all around him.

“We’re gonna end on a high note here in Arizona. Off to Europe for about 3 weeks. So thank you very much for being the cherry on top. A marijuana-stinking cherry.”Maynard James Keenan

Before going into “Dog Eat Dog”, a tribute to the late Malcom Young of AC/DC, Keenan took a moment to introduce the band members. It was interesting to note the many other music projects all band members are a part of, emphasizing how much of a supergroup A Perfect Circle is. 

“Our rhythm section: from Beta Machine, Ashes Divide, Eagles of Death Metal, and Puscifer — Mr. Matt McJunkins, Mr. Jeff Friedl.” McJunkins (Bassist) is also a former touring member of Thirty Seconds to Mars.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Jeff Friedl (Drummer), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

He continued, “Guitar & keyboards: from Autolux and Failure, Mr. Greg Edwards.” Edwards is filling in for James Iha, who is currently touring with Smashing Pumpkins. He was also a member of Lusk and Replicants in the past.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Matt McJunkins (Bassist) & Greg Edwards (Touring Keyboardist),
A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

“My partner-in-crime: Mr. Billy Howerdel,” he concluded. Howerdel (Lead Guitarist, Keyboardist, and Backup Vocalist) is also frontman of Ashes Divide.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Billy Howerdel (Guitarist, Keyboardist, Backup Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

Of course Keenan is also a member of multiple bands on top of A Perfect Circle, including Tool and Puscifer.

Some find the media policies for A Perfect Circle’s shows to be pretentious or mistreating to fans. Like a performance in a symphony hall, the band sends the message that it is a faux pas to raise up a phone in the air during theirs. Others feel that it not only preserves an important atmosphere that keeps integrity to the music and sets their performances to a different level than other rock concerts, but also actually appreciates their fans because the band wants to connect with them like they did in the days before smartphones. There were some in the crowd that could be overheard during the show actually expressing appreciation for the absence of cell phones in the air throughout the concert. The impression was that most, if not all, in attendance left satisfied and delighted.

Following the climax of the performance with four ferocious songs, A Perfect Circle closed out the concert with “Delicious” from the new album. It had the fitting mood of the falling action of the storyline, lyrically segueing into a resolution of sorts:

How inconvenient and unexpected and harrowing for you,
as consequences tend to be
For the rest of us,
so delicious to witness your dread.
Poetic justice consummate.

During these times, it is interesting to see swathes of artists such as A Perfect Circle, Cake, Otep, Eminem, Taylor Swift, and many more, using their platforms to speak out against or oppose President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. While some feel that entertainers should “stay in their lane” in topics such as these, it is undeniable that they historically have significant ability to influence the public, for better or for worse. With the success of their world tour, and the large attendance of a concert on a Tuesday night, it is evident that there are a significant number of people that aren’t repelled by their political leanings. In the current political climate, A Perfect Circle’s brooding music serves as an outlet, a beacon of intellect and sanity, and a unifier for like-minded fans that are equally frustrated, angry, and despairing.

While it would be unlikely that Keenan and his band would skip playing his home-state, Arizonans were undoubtedly grateful that they had the opportunity to experience A Perfect Circle live after getting some fresh music from them. Keenan stated in a June 2018 interview that “there should be” more albums in the future. Though Eat the Elephant has proven worth the wait, hopefully it will not be another fourteen years before the next release. Hopefully fans can be treated to another tour in support of the next release, or at least more Arizona shows.

Considering the solid quality and atmosphere of their live performance, the sizable setlist, the supportive experience, and love of their intense music, any fan that may hesitate to make the investment in a concert ticket can rest assured this one is worth it. A Perfect Circle’s show in Phoenix was not a buzzkill.

REVIEW: Christina Aguilera Fights Turbulence, Comes Through for Phoenix 10-29-18

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PHOENIX – Christina Aguilera brought her Liberation tour to Comerica Theatre on October 29, 2018. This is the first tour for Aguilera since her “Back to Basics” tour in 2007. The last time she had a show in Arizona was on February 28, 2007, at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale — now renamed Gila River Arena. There have been quite a few bumps for Aguilera on the Liberation tour; two dates were postponed due to illness, and one postponed due to production-related safety concerns at the venue.

Big Boi opened for Aguilera, also known as Antwan André Patton. Big Boi is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, and actor. He’s best known for being a member of Outkast, an American hip hop duo, alongside André 3000. With Outkast, he produced six studio albums. In July 2010, Big Boi’s solo debut Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty was released. Hip-hop didn’t seem to be everyone’s go-to genre in the audience, but there were clusters of fans that got up to dance to the beat. Toward the end of their set Patton addressed the crowd, “Welcome to the Liberation tour. Where it gets louder after every song!

It was rumored that Aguilera was to take the stage at 9:15 pm, but that time came and went. The crowd grew restless around 10:00 pm, and some randomly cheered in hopes of making Aguilera appear, while others did the wave to keep their energy alive. Fans were talking amongst each other, concerned that Aguilera wouldn’t show at all. Seventy-five minutes passed by and the crowd booed.

Finally, “5 minutes” popped up on the screen that hid the stage. It switched to a giant face of a clock, with the hands turning counter-clockwise as it counted down the minutes. The concert began with images of Aguilera holding various timepieces. Fans stood when a video played, showing Aguilera in a red dress and a flowered crown, and a little girl wearing the same, wandering through a house as if Aguilera was chasing her past self.

The screen went black, and the word “Liberation” appeared in bold white letters. A dancer came on stage, smelling flowers and then dropping them as she danced, before suddenly running off stage. Then, the word “Searching” displayed on the screen. As the lights brightened, Aguilera stood tall on an elevated stage. The screen and background were of clouds, making Aguilera seem like she was in the sky as she sang the opening lines of “Maria” from her 2018 studio album, Liberation.

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Aguilera had a perfect mix of old and new songs in her setlist. The second song was “Genie in a Bottle” from her first studio album self-titled, Christina Aguilera. That lead track from the album was a trendy pop and R&B song in 1999. It peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100, and among other charts in twenty other countries. It has sold over seven million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles in the world. During the song, images of past albums appeared on the starry background as her dancers twirled red umbrellas around her. Aguilera wore a robe reminiscent of Disney’s Mulan, from which her debut single “Reflection” came.

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Throughout the show, Aguilera would have videos play before she sang her well-known songs. During the song “Dirrty”, from her 2002 studio album Stripped, Aguilera wore a red and black leather outfit much like the assless chaps she wore in the “Dirrty” music video. On one sleeve was “2018” and on the other sleeve was “XTINA”. Her dancers wore black assless chaps as they backed her up during the song.

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Aguilera finally addressed the crowd and explained why she was so late coming on stage.

“I’m here you guys. I climbed and scratched my way here. I had two planes both have mechanical failures and that’s freaking scary shit. I’m sorry. I was like ahhh, what! I was so freaking scared. So the third plane (third time is the charm), the third one came through and I was able to get here on time to be here with you guys, but I made it, I made it to the stage tonight, but it took a little longer. Lord in Heaven. That played some scary stuff on my nerves, and you know, I get some bad anxiety sometimes. That was not fun today. You know, I’m going to unleash some of that on stage tonight. Get it out of my system.”

She laughed and continued, “But it feels so good to be back here after so long and getting to be in some beautiful theaters, oh I’ve never done that before. It’s just so beautiful, so intimate, so wonderful to see you all up close, and personal. It’s just so amazing after all this time. It means so much my loyal, amazing fighters.”

She patted herself on the chest, adding, “I’m not going to cry tonight, but you guys have brought me to tears before. This love has meant so much to me. It really has, you guys. Allowed me to raise my family and be there for my kids because being a hands-on mom is important to me. But also being on this stage, because you know this has been in my life since I was seven. We got some old stuff, older stuff you might remember and we have some new stuff. So let’s see if you guys remember this one.” Aguilera then started to sing lines to “What a Girl Wants” from her self-titled album.

Aguilera sang songs from her past in order, explaining her career. After “What a Girl Wants” she moved to sing some of “Come On Over Baby (All I Want is You)” and addressed the crowd again. Aguilera said, “It’s the show I have right before Halloween too. That’s extra fun. We actually have a Halloween treat for you later. I love Halloween. It’s kinda like Christmas, so it’s insane. And I see some costumes tonight, that’s really cool. Yes. So after, umm, after ‘What a Girl Wants’ and after ‘Come On Over’ I was tired of playing by everybody else’s, you know, the label and suits’ rules, and I had things I wanted to say. It came a time when, you know, my sophomore album I wrote a record called Stripped. — Which just had its sixteenth birthday and it was a very special record for me because, you know, it was the first time I got to tell my stories, talk about some of my pain and struggles and that’s really important, you know, I think that makes the best people and sometimes builds the best character. And I thank you guys for sharing your stories with me; it really inspires me as well and there’s no shame in coming from hard places at all. It means you’re a strong person.

This next song I wrote for the album, there’s quite a few of them, but you know, about standing your ground and in face of adversity or someone says you can’t do something. This song was never a single, but sometimes those are the best ones to me. And I still get a lot of requests for this. This one, you know, no matter what people say, no matter what people tell you what you can’t do. You gotta keep doing you. This one is called ‘Keep On Singin’ My Song,’ sing along if you know it.”

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During the songs “Deserve” and “Accelerate”, both from the Liberation album, Aguilera and her dancers wore S&M-styled outfits and mimed an occult-like ritual at a long table with candles that they danced on. One male dancer had on a spiked mask, and the other a pig’s head. The female dancers had different masks covering their faces. Aguilera wore a bondage headpiece that went from the top of her head and down her nose with a bejeweled black top, fishnets, and a thin black skirt. After “Deserve” a quote appeared on the back screen. It read: “‘If you’re going through hell, keep going…’ –X’cess”. During the song “Accelerate”, Aguilera introduced her dancers, who each had their own moment to showcase their skill on the table in the center of the stage.

For “Lady Marmalade” (a LaBelle song famously covered by Aguilera, P!nk, Mya, and Lil’ Kim for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack) Aguilera wore a white coat, and her dancers matched as they circled around her with ivory fans in their hands. A video of a close-up of Aguilera in red played on the backdrop.

Aguilera’s next songs were “Ain’t No Other Man” from her 2006 Back to Basics album, “Say Something” by Great Big World, “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” a James Brown cover, and “Fighter” from her Stripped album. Following each video, Aguilera would change her outfit to fit the mood of the song.

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After “Fighter”, the videos stopped working. Aguilera came out with a mic in hand. “Sorry,” she told the crowd. She looked behind her to her band. “Are you ready for me?” She laughed, “Sorry. I know. I’m ready for you and you’re ready for me.” The crowd cheered for her. “Thank you very much,” she said, with a big smile. “I told them to cut to a certain video and it’s not playing right now and I’m upset about it. So I’m sorry. Oh well. The show goes on and I’m here. It’s been an insane day.”

A fan in the crowd yelled “I love you” and she replied, “I love you too. That’s why I’m here, but not without some anxiety. I’m kind of a nervous flier, but it’s Halloween so it’s a special time. Thank you guys for coming out tonight. And your patience for the last ten freaking years. Thank you so much. But my soul was suffering, my soul was hurting and it sometimes takes us a while to figure it out, and I was scared of having children. ‘How am I going to juggle this?’ And also for them not to feel like they are living in my shadow and stuff like that.

Honestly, it’s been such a great experience, and to feel your love and give this to my children as an experience as well. Show them what mama does for a living and what I do for the love. It brought them into this world. Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to get back on the stage. This is for all of you guys. For all my fighters. It’s a weird night, but whatever. So this song is appropriate.” Aguilera than started singing “Beautiful”, and fans sang along waving their hands or phones in the air.

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Aguilera ended the show by bringing a fan onto the stage to share her story. The woman talked about how Aguilera inspired her to be herself and how Aguilera’s music helped when life was dark after addiction and coming out as gay. She has since found a woman who is like a mother to her and is eleven years sober. She told Aguilera that, due to the addiction, she couldn’t remember Aguilera’s concert she last attended back in 2007, and she always thanks Aguilera or adds a song lyric in her grad papers. Aguilera was clearly touched and hugged the ladies, saying, “Thank you” and “I hope you remember this concert.” The last song of the night was “Let There Be Love”. The back screens turned over and became rainbow lights, while everyone on stage danced like it was a celebration.

The concert ended just a little past midnight, with delighted but tired fans pouring out of the venue. Despite the delay, video problems, and the bass being too loud to the point of sometimes cringing in pain, most fans left happy to see Aguilera on stage after all these years. She’s a fighter and she’s a pop music legacy not to be missed.

Featured Photo (top) by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

REVIEW: Goo Goo Dolls Celebrate 20 Years With a Sold Out Show at The Van Buren (9-30-18)

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PHOENIX — The Valley of the Sun was transported back in time to the halcyon 90’s Sunday night as Goo Goo Dolls kicked off their “Dizzy Up the Girl” Anniversary Tour at The Van Buren. The four-time platinum certified album contains thirteen songs, four of which made it into the top 40. As the tour name suggests, Dizzy Up The Girl was the primary focus of the show, taking up the entirety of the first of two sets from the band, being played from beginning to end. It certainly did not feel like two decades had passed since its release, as thick crowds of people covered every square inch of the venue for this sold out show.

There was a tangible current of excitement in the air, and people were becoming antsy and murmuring to one another about their impatience for this much anticipated show to start. Each time a new melody would boom from the speakers, or a guitar was tweaked backstage, the excitement could be felt as it was mistaken for the beginning of the show.

The lights dim and the stage goes dark. A melody begins to play as lights begin to dance in unison to the music across the platform, engulfing the instruments in various colors as vocalist Johnny Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac, and current touring members: guitarist Brad Fernquist, keyboardist Jim McGorman, and drummer Craig Macintyre moved slowly towards them. A sea of light from cell phones rose up from the crowd to capture the initial moments of the show. As each found their way to their place on stage they wasted no time heading straight into the opening chords of the albums first song “Dizzy.”

Goo Goo Dolls - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Johnny Rzeznik (Vocalist/Guitarist), Goo Goo Dolls
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Following an intense performance of the first song, they effortlessly flowed into the following song on the album which also happens to be the second most popular song, coming in at #9 on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop list from 1992-2012. The beginning notes of Slide glided out of the speakers and it was like a fire had been lit inside the venue. Screams and cheers rang out as Rzeznik sang the words that any true Goo Goo Dolls fan would know. Goo Goo Dolls exuded a palpable “rockstar” energy. At points during the song, the audience was so jazzed up and into the music that they began to drown out the band with their singing. Not wanting to be outdone, this caused a chain reaction of events as the five progressed powerfully through the next seven songs on the album without any breaks in between.

Dizzy Up the Girl album cover

While talking about the anniversary of the album, Rzeznik tells the audience about the iconic girl on the album cover, saying that everyone wants to know who she is. Thinking there would be an intricate story involved, he surprises everyone by saying they have no idea who she is, other than the assistant of the photographer despite casting models for the shoot. Even without a great story, the crowd loved it and snapped right back into their trance as they sang their hearts out from song to song, dancing with the strangers next to them and thrusting their drinks and hands in the air. This was the general reaction throughout their set, with a vibrant light show and dozens of black latex balloons floating around during another hit single, “Black Balloon.” Set one was brought to a close at the conclusion of the last song on the album, “Hate This Place.”

Goo Goo Dolls - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Brad Fernquist (Guitarist) & John Rzeznik (Vocalist/Guitarist),
Goo Goo Dolls
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

“Thank you! Hang on a sec, we’ll be right back,” Rzeznik said as the band left the stage for a short intermission. Before long, the musicians were back on stage ready to keep the party going for the second part of their set. Already having played thirteen songs, the band proceeded to double the experience and play thirteen more for set two, entitled “Deep Cuts”. Fans went down several paths of memory lane while the band played some of their biggest hits outside of their most popular album. “Better Days”, “Can’t Let It Go”, and “Two Days in February” were all played with acoustic guitar, evoking a range of emotions from their followers.

Goo Goo Dolls - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Robby Takac (Bassist), Goo Goo Dolls
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The remainder of the show was more amped up, wanting to bring the audience back to full volume before they ended with a two-song encore including “Big Machine” and a mindblowing performance of “Flat Top”. Right before that, though, Takac addressed the audience a final time with a simple “Thank you guys for coming out to celebrate with us tonight. Truly truly truly means a lot,” no doubt with mutual feelings in the hearts of fans. As the show ended after 26 songs, people could be overheard talking all around about how wonderful the show was and how much it meant to them to be there for it. For over twenty years the Goo Goo Dolls have brought several beautiful songs to life, and if this tour has anything to say about them, no amount of time can weaken the love their fans have for them, or their music.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Goo Goo Dolls – The Van Buren 9-30-18

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© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Death Cab for Cutie Fans in Phoenix Are Left Thankful for Today (9-29-18)

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PHOENIX — For the fourth stop of their Fall 2018 tour, Death Cab for Cutie returned to Phoenix to promote their ninth album, Thank You for Today. In the first album since 2015, the band comes back strong in their signature indie pop songwriting and foggy vocals. The band has already released three singles since the August 2018 album release date, building anticipation for their tour. Death Cab for Cutie added two new members to the band after the departure of guitarist and producer Chris Walla. The two new members, guitarist Dave Depper and keyboardist Zac Rae, seem to bring a new cohesive energy to the band, which made for a polished and low-key performance at the sold out music venue in Phoenix.

Charly Bliss - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Eva Hendricks (Vocalist/Guitarist), Charly Bliss
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

When the show started at 8:00PM, opening power-pop band Charly Bliss welcomed the crowd. Lead vocalist Eva Hendricks bounced around the stage, swinging the white fringe from her short shorts. Her spunky attitude infused the crowd with energy, starting off the night with a positive jolt of indie pop rock, reminiscent of the early 2000s.

Charly Bliss - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Eva Hendricks (Vocalist/Guitarist), Charly Bliss
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Joining her on stage was guitarist/vocalist Spencer Fox, drummer Sam Hendricks, and bassist/vocalist Dan Shure. At the end of their set, they generously thanked the audience and anticipation crescendoed for the main act, Death Cab for Cutie. Charly Bliss’ debut full-length album, Guppy, was released in April of 2017.

As the stage washed with ambient purple light, the four members of Death Cab for Cutie took the stage clad in  black.

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Death Cab for Cutie |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Lead vocalist Ben Gibbard jumped right into their new song “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”, washing the audience in his unique melancholy vocals. Guitarist/vocalist Depper complemented Ben’s voice in creating a beautiful harmony, while drummer Jason McGerr, bassist Nick Harmer, and keyboardist Rae rounded out the sound; making for a solid performance that reflected the band’s years of refinement.

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Zac Rae (Keyboardist/Guitarist/Vocalist), Death Cab for Cutie
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Without pause, they began “Summer Years”, and then picked up the pace with the following song, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive.” After the third song, Gibbard addressed the audience, introducing the band and briefly thanking those in attendance.

After a few more new songs, they went into “Gold Rush,” the fresh-sounding first single released from their new album. Recognizing the song from heavy rotation, the crowd erupted in cheers and voices rising up in unison. Reactions were similarly enthusiastic when the well-known notes of “Title and Registration” from  Transatlanticism reached their ears.

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Gibbard (Vocalist/Guitarist/Pianist), Death Cab for Cutie
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The next few songs were a mix from earlier albums, including “Company Calls,” “No Sunlight,” and “What Sarah Said.” The chill vibes of their show would make for a great date night, or an escape from the work week. Gibbard occasionally dances about the stage facing the drummer and side stepping to the beat. While their performance was strong and their live sound comparable to their albums in every sense, the band’s minimal audience interaction and dependance on old songs might cause a loss of interest in newer listeners. There seemed to be a lack of connection that was sorely needed between the band and the audience. All members could benefit from some storytelling. Their lyrics are so beautiful and meaningful, the audience would surely love to hear some stories behind writing them.

A piano was rolled onto the stage for, “I Will Possess your Heart,” and Gibbard temporarily switched his guitar for the keys. The following song, “Autumn Love”, includes some beautiful lyrics such as, “If there’s no beacon tonight to guide me, I’ll finally break the shackles of direction and let the headlights lead me anywhere that they wanna go.” The depth of their latest album was described in a Facebook post on the date of release, which refers to it as “a record that reflects upon and asks questions of the past”, and “also a record about the future. Looking forwards and backwards simultaneously, from summer to autumn.”

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Dave Depper (Guitar/Keys/Vocals), Death Cab for Cutie
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

As they finished out the set they finally addressed the audience once again, giving a big thank you to Charly Bliss for being a great opening band. Of course they had to play one of their biggest hits, “Soul Meets Body”, and the crowd went wild, nearly everyone singing along. At the end of the song, Gibbard triumphantly held his guitar up in the air like a trophy. The last song, “Marching Bands of Manhattan”, left the audience still wanting more, cheering into the emptiness as the stage went black.

It only took a few minutes before Gibbard returned, playing an acoustic version of their hit “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark.” It was at this moment that Gibbard opened up to the crowd with some cheerful banter, and he asked the audience to sing the second verse of the song. Afterwards, the rest of the band joined Gibbard on stage and played not one more, but three more songs: “Your Hurricane”, “Crooked Teeth”, and they finished the night with “Transatlanticism”.

With a generous 24-song setlist, Death Cab for Cutie brought a unique and beautiful energy to The Van Buren, and a recording-quality sound. The title of Thank You for Today no doubt resonated with die-hard Death Cab for Cutie fans.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Death Cab For Cutie & Charly Bliss – The Van Buren 9-29-18

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© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Mommy’s Little Monsters, Second Generations, & New Beginnings: Social Distortion Fall 2018 Tour Launches in the Valley of the Sun (9-10-18)

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Tempe, Ariz. — Social Distortion are no strangers to touring, and after a one and a half months long summer tour and 8 weeks of recuperation, they were back at it again and kicking off their Fall 2018 tour to a sold out Monday at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Known for bringing along with them some promising new talent to get the crowd revved up before they make their grand entrance, this tour is no different. Accompanying the band for their September shows is Justin Townes Earle, as well as Valley Queen, to be followed by Will Hoge and Pony Bradshaw for the month of October.

Half an hour before the theater doors were set to open, and the parking lot was nearly full. With hopes of snagging a great vantage point, several generations of Social D fans braved the 100 degree heat while standing in line, donning their page boy caps, Black Kat Kustoms shirts, tattoos, and multi-colored hair.

The Los Angeles-based group Valley Queen were the first to take the stage, giving fans a sampling of songs from their recently released debut album, Supergiant.

Valley Queen - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Natalie Carol (Vocalist), Valley Queen
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The four-piece group, with an excellent energy and apparent cohesiveness, seemed to truly enjoy what they do. With a voice reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor and a carefree flit about the stage, front-woman Natalie Carol lit up the room with an unparalleled vibrance. Not long into their second song, amidst the sound of Shawn Morones’ slide guitar and Neil Wogensen’s energetic bass licks in alignment with Mike DeLuccia’s drumbeats, Natalie broke a string for the very first time on a guitar she stated she’d had for over 6 years and chalked it up as an omen of great things to come.

Next up was singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who connected with the audience on a level that few musicians are known to do. With a smirk and eye contact with the folks up front, he touched on the motivation behind each song he’d written before he performed it.

Justin Townes Earle - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Justin Townes Earle
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Accompanying him were bassist Mike Luzecky from Denton, TX, and drummer Bill Campbell from Brooklyn, NY, who had only met that day and had one rehearsal prior to playing together — not that anyone would be able to tell, however, which is a true testament to their talents. It is apparent that this second generation music star is definitely forging his own successful path in the industry; from the fun, upbeat “Champagne Corolla” and “Short Hair Woman”, off of his most recent album Kids in the Street, to the deeply genuine “White Gardenias”, from his album titled Single Mothers. “White Gardenias” was preceded by a shout out to Billie Holiday and all others affected by the opioid epidemic.

The roadies took to the stage to ensure everything was perfectly set as the crowd inched closer to the front in anticipation of Social Distortion’s arrival. Impatient fans gained some visual stimulation from strategically placed items around the stage, like signs that said “funeral, no parking” and “inmates stand here,” as well as boxing gloves, a RCA dog statue, and mannequin parts with lingerie.

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Social Distortion stage props
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Without a warning, the band swiftly took to the stage and went right into their opening song, “Reach For The Sky”, followed by “Highway 101” and “Don’t Take Me For Granted”, all from the 2004 album Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The seemingly endless sea of rowdy fans swayed as Mike Ness, Jonny Wickersham, Brent Harding, and David Hidalgo, Jr. entertained with seamless precision, as Social D is known to do.

Social Distortion - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Mike Ness (Vocalist, Guitarist), Social Distortion
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Preceding the 12th and final song of the set, frontman Ness opened up in a heartfelt monologue about having written the next song in 1994 about racism and dedicated “Don’t Drag Me Down” to the Chicanos in the audience.

No show is complete without an encore performance, and Social Distortion did not disappoint. After their flawless performance of “Angel’s Wings”, Ness explained his friends’ unfavorable reactions years ago when he told them he was going to record a Johnny Cash song. He said they all asked, “Why?” to which he quipped, “because it’s cool and I want to,” and asserted that Johnny Cash deserves to be back on the top where he belongs. The crowd roared as the band finished up with a double dose of Cash with “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire”.

Social Distortion - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Social Distortion
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Though Ness did mention that he doesn’t know a whole lot of places that Social Distortion could sell out on a Monday night, it seems evident that with the fervor of the fans filing in to see them perform live, it’s bound to happen more often than he may think.

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Social Distortion, Justin Townes Earle, & Valley Queen – Marquee Theatre 9-10-018

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Butch Walker & Greg Holden Celebrate The Last Days of Summer, Starting at Crescent Ballroom 9-7-18

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PHOENIX — While Journey and Def Leppard were “on fire” at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Butch Walker and opener Greg Holden ignited their own explosive show at Crescent Ballroom just a little more than a mile away. As is often the case, Phoenix was the tour kickoff location of Walker and Holden’s tour, and they would thereafter embark on the 17-date “The Last Days of Summer Tour” (2018). While some dedicated fans had even flown in from out of state to see the show, no one was prepared for just how hype this show would get; apparently not even Walker himself, who likened coming out to perform again like getting back into your old prom clothes.

Greg Holden

Greg Holden - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Greg Holden
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Greg Holden, who recently interviewed with us prior to the concert date, performed at acoustic set, which as you would expect, was chill and low-key. But while Holden generally presents a fairly serious demeanor overall, he cracked a number of smiles while engaging with the vocal crowd, and joking during stage banter.

Greg Holden - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Greg Holden
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Of course, many fans recognized his “claim to fame”; the infectious hit song “Home”, written by Holden and chosen by American Idol finalist Phillip Phillips. Solidarity and warmth were felt with a strong cheer from the audience as he reached the end of the heart-wrenching song “Boys in the Street”, about the strained relationship between a father and his gay son, and finally growing to acceptance.

Holden’s “On the Run” was actually produced by headliner Butch Walker, who has an impressive list of work as a producer; including the likes of Katy Perry, Panic! At The Disco, Weezer, Pink, Fall Out Boy, The Maine, and many more.

Butch Walker

Anyone unfamiliar with Butch Walker was in for quite a surprise when he and his live band took the stage, as the shift in energy was immediate and palpable. Walker is not a country artist. Despite a name that might suggest as much, and Butch Walker’s charming southern roots poking through his stage presence, the more dominant and effortless image and energy he exhibited conveyed his background of a music career in glam metal (SouthGang) and pop punk/post-grunge (Marvelous 3). Walker has 8 studio albums under his belt — the most recent being Stay Gold, which was released in August of 2016.

Butch Walker - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Butch Walker
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The 48-year-old, who shared his age with the crowd himself, seemed almost surprised, and definitely pumped, that as the night went on, his solid and seasoned musical prowess had no problem kicking into high gear. Not to be taken for granted or uncredited, Walker’s live band matched his enthusiasm and skill perfectly as they danced and jammed with a fury.

Butch Walker - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Butch Walker
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

As his set was coming to a close, his performance climaxed after a medley of magnificent covers of David Bowie that couldn’t have felt like more of a worthy tribute, which segued into Walker’s “Hot Girls in Good Moods”. With his shining sense of humor, he began a drawn-out activity amidst the crowd that built anticipation and inspired nearly all, save for the wallflowers on the bleachers in the back of the venue, to participate and, “GO CRAZY!” Confetti and streamers popped out over the thrilled concertgoers.

The duality between Walker and Holden’s performances indeed complemented each other perfectly, and the show was unforgettably dynamic and downright mind-blowing. We highly recommend picking yourself up and heading out to this show in a city near you, because it is so worth it.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega
(View separate Butch Walker & Greg Holden photo albums)

Butch Walker & Greg Holden – Crescent Ballroom 9-7-18

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© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.