PHOENIX – In a city where history seems to be but a suggestion, where a shrinking number of hundred year old buildings sit in the shadow of cranes that throw tons of steel and glass into the arid desert air, hoping that unsuspecting outsiders fall in love with the 3 days of reasonable weather per year – which seems to work at an alarming rate – one can still find the echoes of the past, if you look hard enough. One of these echoes is a building on the corner of Monroe and Central Ave, where one door will lead to a dizzying amount of Cornish pasties, another will lead to a jewelry shop where you will be greeted by a 102 year old man who walked through those doors 68 years ago and hasn’t left yet, and yet another leads down a flight of stairs.
Down these stairs, you will find the destination for this evening: a music hall and bar that is collectively and aptly named Valley Bar. At the foot of the stairs, you can turn to the left and find the Rose room, named after the first female governor of Arizona, Rose Mofford, or go straight ahead and enter the music hall. Within the music hall, fans of Phantom Planet and AVIV gathered to witness a new piece of history: one of the seven different ZONA night events, put on as part of the brand new ZONA Music Festival. Both bands would make an appearance the next day at the festival, which they both noted, asking the fans to come join them the next day during their sets.
After a quick greeting, AVIV jumped into her set, immediately commanding attention. While she is not very well known in the US, the 16 year old has quite the impressive resume: She opened for Imagine Dragons during their tour through Canada at age 15, has appeared on TV as an actress (including a scene in American Gothic where she fires a crossbow at one of the main characters) and she toured with the Mini Pop Kids – a band well-known in Canada. To say she is an up and coming solo musician appears to be quite the understatement.
AVIV also recently released her first EP: an 8 song record titled Drowning in the Culture. Between her stage presence, vocals, and rather on-the-nose and relatable lyrics, she shows flashes of Billie Eilish while also charting her own course. After the first song, she thanked the crowd, and then told them, “I love it here! The last time I was in Arizona, I was 5 years old, so a little while ago, but I just remember for the next decade I talked about how it was the most extraordinary trip of my life.” She spoke about the beauty of the state – an opinion that perhaps changed after rain fell for almost 24 hours straight on the festival that followed over the weekend, turning it into a muddy pit of pure fun.
Afterward, she played “Girl in Red,” the song that garnered the attention of those in the music world, leading to her signing with a label. A few songs later, she stopped to discuss the songwriting process of “Sleep it Off.” She explained that the song was written in LA about a time in her life when she was “about 8 or 9,” when someone in her community passed away. The song was based on the reply her mother gave her, which was to “sleep it off.” As she began to explain the process, she wavered a bit as a man in the crowd decided to bless the entire room with his loud, one-way conversation with his apparent date, who did not seem overly impressed with his uninterrupted desire to talk. Fortunately, AVIV is quite the pro, and moved on quickly – hopefully this guy’s date followed suit.
AVIV moved around the stage with grace, dancing as she sang, moving to a keyboard, shining flashes of a superstar in the making. It is likely that those in attendance that night will look back and remember the time that they were fortunate enough to see a superstar in such an intimate setting. Before leaving, AVIV mentioned the ZONA festival, stating that she would be “on the stage under the bridge.” This was the Eddy stage (all four stages were named after local musicians) and it appeared to be the driest stage in the festival, while also being the smallest.
ZONA was held less than a mile from Valley Bar, in a park that was only made possible by another piece of Arizona, and, really, national history: On August 10th, 1990, on a brutally hot summer day, the final piece of the I-10 – a 2,500 mile highway stretching from coast to coast – opened up. This piece was the Deck Park Tunnel, a tunnel that isn’t actually a tunnel; it is instead 19 bridges side by side. On top of this not-a-tunnel sits Margaret T. Hance Park, named after the first female mayor of Phoenix. Who better to open this park than the first female governor of Arizona, the aforementioned Rose Mofford? Sadly, Hance passed away just a few short months before the park bearing her name opened, but her name and legacy will live on.
With the music hall now nearly full, Phantom Planet took the stage. Formed in 1994, the band chose their name from a movie that gained second life when Mystery Science Theater 3000 chose to use it in the 9th season of the show. They have taken two hiatuses over the years: The first lasting from 2008 to 2011, and the second was 2013 to 2019.
In between those breaks, they have done just about everything a band could hope to do: put out 5 albums,Alex appeared on two TV shows and a movie, and their song “California” became the theme song for The O.C.
In between all of that, they have had numerous songs show up in movies and TV shows, and have also toured extensively with a rather eclectic mix of bands, including Guns N Roses, Blink-182, and Panic! At the Disco. They have appeared on enormous stages, yet seem to remember the smaller ones more. They even mentioned the time they played in a smaller stage in Arizona, and while they couldn’t agree exactly where it was, however the general consensus was that it was at the Mason Jar, now the Rebel Lounge.
While they have the pedigree of major bands, they also are one of the more relaxed and tight-knit groups out there, and seeing them in a small space was quite the treat. As the evening progressed, the band joked with each other and the fans, at one point noting that a cable came unplugged during their song, which led to the joke, “Why do we always talk after this song? It’s supposed to be the next one!”
The night was rife with technical interruptions and quick thinking and fixes by the band. At one point, lead singer Alex Greenwald broke his guitar string, and a discussion onstage about how to handle it was rather amusing and charming. Lead guitarist Darren Robinson grabbed the guitar from Greenwald, handing Greenwald his guitar, and giving bassist Sam Farrar and drummer Jeff Conrad a break as Greenwald decided to move “California” from the encore to the middle of the set. Greenwald played solo, singing along, while Robinson quickly changed the string, tuned the guitar to the best of his ability, and handed it back to Greenwald upon completion of the song. More lighthearted banter would follow from the band, between each other and the fans who could not get enough.
The set – which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes – saw the band squeeze in an incredible 13 planned songs and two requests from the crowd at the end. At the height of the performance, the frontman entered the crowd and allowed fans to swarm around him as they thrust smartphones forward, recording video inches from his face. As the night drew to a close, he reminded the audience that Phantom Planet would be playing the next day at the ZONA fest on the Ronstadt stage – a day that might’ve had fans of the band singing “One Ray of Sunlight”. While the crowd cheered with great enthusiasm, the band members radiated smiles as they left the stage.
This night was a confluence of history: The forming of a new festival, the gathering in a building where history oozes from the walls themselves, and the memories made during the time the two immensely talented bands were on the stage. While it remains to be seen if 2023 will bring another ZONA Music Festival, the hope and plan is that it will. When it happens, one would be amiss to hesitate in purchasing tickets to see history made once again.
PHOENIX — England’s Sad Night Dynamite has had two full length albums, both dropping in the last two years, but based on the fevered crowd reaction to their Sunday night concert at Valley Bar, with support from The Color 8, you might believe they are a group whose rabid cult-following stretches across decades and multiple albums. Valley Bar was the perfect venue for the show, as its location around the back of a building, and down an old staircase into the basement of the building felt like a secret show that only the coolest people know about. It’s a vibe that Sad Night Dynamite’s set kept going, in a set heavy with crowd interaction
The Color 8
Phoenix’s The Color 8, for those unfamiliar, are a band that defies all expectations their first appearance may give an audience. From the first note of their opener “Galaxy,” one might expect a set of modern-day jazz-funk fusion, like The Meters’ Cabbage Alley album was pulled through a time warp and reimagined for a new generation. That on its own would have been incredible enough, but this is where The Color 8 swerves instead of staying any particular course.
“Is it alright if we switch things up a little bit?” asked guitar player Kal (stage name Kal The Guitar Hero). With that, Kal and bassist Jeremiah Smith laid into a heavy (with emphasis on heavy) metal riff for the song “Whoa,” joined by drummer Wisco 3’s heavy beats. His jazzy tempo from “Galaxy” gave way to a drumming so intense it sounded like he was hitting the drums with cinder blocks instead of sticks. Ashton Vaughn Charles, who was playing the saxophone just a song before, let loose with vocals that felt like a cross between the metal of System of the Down’s Serj Tankian with a splash of the hardcore punk of HR from Bad Brains. It was gloriously intense.
They followed up jazz-funk fusion and metal with the post-reggae island track “Know the Plan.” They invited the audience to join in with each track and be a part of the experience (the band are veterans of First Friday Art Walk, where they were routinely joined by a bevy of different musicians which has lent itself well to their eclectic style). The new song “No Sleep” was a set highlight, featuring some gorgeous harmonies in the shared vocals from Wisco 3 and Jeremiah. Following the metal track “Run It Back,” with more audience participation throughout the song, Kal joked to the audience “We’re a bit bipolar ‘cause we go up and down,” before they launched into the R&B-soul groove of “X.” They closed out their set with “Savage Season.”
Sad Night Dynamite
Playing their first show in Phoenix, Sad Night Dynamite from Somerset, England immediately proved to have built a strong fanbase in The Valley of the Sun. With the house lights down, the duo of best friends Josh Greacen and Archie Blagden joined their band to the appropriately named track “Intro.” As soon as they launched into “Demon” from this year’s album Volume II, the audience collectively lost their minds. As the two traded off vocals and weaved back and forth around the stage, they were musical puppet masters, moving the crowd this way and that at even the slightest of directions. During the song and throughout the night, Greacen rapped through a megaphone into his microphone, which is never not cool.
For “Black & White,” Greacen played guitar while Blagden went into the crowd (shout out to the member of SND’s crew who stood on stage holding the mic chord high up, so that he could stand in the crowd without the mob of fans around him inadvertently unplugging the mic). Following “Icy Violence” from their self-titled debut, it was Greacen’s turn to go into the crowd for “Smoke Hole.” As he waded out into the middle, he prompted the crowd with “Alright Phoenix, I want you to break my bones! On my count: 1, 2, 3… 4!” As Blagden and the band launched into the song, the crowd launched into Greacen, seemingly trying to follow through on his request, bouncing him around the circle pit like a pinball. Returning to the stage a little beat up, he jokingly opined “That’s more like a 10, Phoenix… I think I broke some ribs!”
“We’re from this sad little island called England,” Greacen told the crowd after recovering from his circle pit beating. “Do you know what’s good about England?… Sad Night Dynamite,” Blagden responded, with the crowd roaring in approval. Excluding The Beatles, Bowie, and Monty Python, Sad Night Dynamite certainly made a compelling case throughout the night.
The duo changed the mood with the beautiful, atmospheric “Tramp” from Volume II, with Greacen on keyboards. Their 13-song set featured seven of the nine songs from their debut Sad Night Dynamite, and four of the seven songs from their new album. They closed out their set with the chill dance groove of their new song “What Does That Make Me?” and “Krunk”. Sad Night Dynamite traveled approximately 5,186 miles to play their first show in Phoenix, and for this crowd, they truly brought the best thing in England to the Valley Bar.
Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Sad Night Dynamite & The Color 8 – Valley Bar 11-13-22
PHOENIX — The Who is a band with a pedigree worthy of selling out stadiums, but this night held the ambiance of a relatively intimate venue at Ak-Chin Pavilion. Opening the show was Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs. This same large stage that can look almost empty for a quartet was filled to the brim with a full orchestra and ten times as many musicians. The publicity for this concert seemed to ‘fly under the radar.’ Many long time fans were there to see the legendary singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend, and it was like ‘tasty icing on the cake’ to get a symphony of sound to elevate the band that coined the phrase rock opera. The setlist took advantage of the cacophony of instruments with selections from Tommy and Quadrophenia.
Campbell may not be a household name to everyone, but he was the right-hand-man to world renown Tom Petty, and as part of the Heartbreakers, Campbell entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He will forever be associated with and compared to Petty, and tonight was no exception. He looked the part, wearing a raggedy ‘Mad Hatter’ top hat and a frumpy pin-striped coat, and speaking the same register, timbre, and Florida dialect as Petty.
They were only allotted a short 6-song set and a mere sliver of the stage, but they made the best of it and kicked the night off with two Dirty Knobs original songs from their 2020 release Wreckless Abandon. The rest of the set was like seeing the ultimate tribute band playing Tom Petty “covers.” Except, this was authentic. You’re hard pressed to call them ‘cover’ songs when Campbell co-wrote the biggest crowd pleasers “Refugee” and the closing anthem “Runnin’ Down A Dream”. It’s a safe bet that some of Campbell’s songwriting prowess will fill this venue again next week when Stevie Nicks sings “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
The stage was set and the multitude of supporting musicians were their places. Dim blue lighting washed over the many instruments that were foreign to most rock concerts and the crowd swelled with anticipation. The spotlights cut through the monochromatic background to reveal the colorful pair of superstars known as Daltrey and Townshend.
Daltrey was wearing an unassuming sage t-shirt and signature blue-tinted glasses. Townshend, ever the showman, was dressed in a black sports jacket with a crimson handkerchief in the pocket and sporting rockstar sunglasses. The night was divided into three acts, and the first act was a celebration of Tommy that included “Overture,” “1921,” “Amazing Journey,” “Sparks,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and of course, “Pinball Wizard.”
It did not take long for Daltrey to shift from wielding a pair of goatskin tambourines to commandeering the microphone and spinning it around like a giant lasso, like he has for decades. He has had some vocal issues to attend to in the past couple of years so the verdict was out as to how he would sound. It was a resounding yes, he was back to full throttle and sounded absolutely incredible. Full range, impeccable pitch, and that unique rasp that makes him a one-of-a-kind.
The sound that the orchestra added was so full and powerful and perfectly mixed. Apparently, there were technical things on stage that were a nuisance, from Daltrey saying that there were a bunch of “mice in his in-ear monitors” to Townshend having monitor issues, and a guitar that completely ambushed the start of one song. Townshend remarked in his humorous snarky way that this venue was “a shit hole, parking lot of a venue” and that they “deserve better.” Daltrey’s reaction was priceless as he looked down and grinned, assumingly amused at the guitarist’s outspoken candidness. They soldiered-through the sound issues and made sure that the fans knew how much they truly appreciated them.
The orchestra remained on stage for “Who Are You,” “Eminence Front,”, and “Ball and Chain” to round out the first act. The conductor, Keith Levenson and a core of four musicians tour with the band, while the remaining members of the up-to-48-piece orchestra are a specially handpicked group of players from each city.
The touring members included Katie Jacoby, the violinist that stole the show for the “Baba O’Reily” solo, Audrey Snyder on cello, Randy Landau on contrabass, and Emily Marshall on symphonic keyboards. The local musicians are the best of the best from the Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera, and other chamber groups and recording session players.
We spoke with cellist Melanie Yarger about being selected for the show:
“This was by far one of the most epic experiences of my career,” she said. “Being onstage with an iconic band like The Who is mind blowing in itself, but their presentation with the thick orchestration is just next level. There is a reason why they are the benchmark for rock and roll.”
For the second act, the orchestra left the stage for the core band to perform “You Better You Bet,” “The Seeker,” “Naked Eye,” “Another Tricky Day,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Behind Blue Eyes.” The influence of two members of the classic lineup of The Who were ever present throughout the night, but sadly they could only be there in spirit. Drummer Keith Moon passed away in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle passed away in 2002. These are very large shoes to fill, but drummer Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr) has toured with them since 1996 and bassist Jon Button since 2017 and, pardon the pun, but these kids are alright.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” started with an explosion (and no audible count in) and then all eyes were on keyboardist Loren Gold for that groundbreaking sequenced keyboard exposition originally crafted by the mad scientist (Townshend). And, oh yes, Townshend is not too old to show off the windmill guitar attacks on this song. What a treat to see this live! There may only be one Pete Townshend, but there were two Townshends on stage. Pete’s little brother Simon has toured with them since 1996 as the second guitarist and backup vocalist.
Speaking of vocals, so many of The Who’s catalog has wonderful vocal harmonies supporting Daltrey’s melodies and they were able to replicate them live with the help of Billy Nicolls, who was dedicated to vocals, both keyboardists, and obviously both of the Townshend brothers. Pete Townshend’s reported issues of hearing loss might have made one question if he would be able to hear well enough to sing on key, but rest assured that he sounded as good as ever taking lead vocals on “Eminence Front” and “I’m One” from Quadrophenia.
Act three was the ode to Quadrophenia and saw the return of the orchestra to the stage. I wish Entwistle could have been there to hear the horn section blasting out his arrangements on “The Real Me.” It was just a little too loud…exactly as it should be! Townshend composed Quadrophenia, The Who’s third rock opera, just shy of 50 years ago, and these songs are still getting airplay on classic rock stations today and reaching new fans. Songs “5:15” and “The Rock” fed the nostalgic thirst, but it was “Love, Reign O’er Me” that was more like an out-of-body experience… with a full symphony! It was an honor to be there and it is a memory that we collectively carried with us.
With such a deep discography, it is no surprise that quite a few fan favorites had to be left out. This tour decided to leave out the whole era of the early years. It seems almost criminal that they didn’t play “My Generation,” “I Can’t Explain,” “I Can See For Miles,” “Magic Bus,” and a personal favorite: “Squeeze Box.” The newest song that they played was “Ball And Chain” from the 2019 album Who. Luckily, though, they did not leave town before entertaining us with a serving of “Baba O’Riely.”
The windmills were grazing the candy apple red Stratocaster guitar and you could sense the pride Townshend still feels to perform this song after countless shows around the world. Katie Jacoby stole our hearts with her infectious smile during the violin solo (and we will probably never hear this song again without envisioning her playing that part). This ended a magical night of heartfelt musicianship and brilliant songwriting that has been our soundtrack since the British Invasion first filled our airwaves. Townshend ended the evening by introducing all of the touring members and bringing them out front for a wave goodbye.
Photographer: Mark Greenawalt
The Who & Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs – Ak-Chin Pavilion 10-30-22
Tempe, AZ — Marquee Theatre hosted a sellout crowd for the return of AFI to the valley for the first time since their February 2017 sold out show at the same venue. The AFI “Bodies Tour 2022” stopped in this college town following a short COVID postponement, and included opener Drab Majesty with their unique ethereal sound to excite the fanbase. Known for high-energy live performances, AFI had their loyal followers fist-pumping and singing every song word-for-word. It was a memorable show to be sure and well worth the wait.
Playing in low-light with some dramatic smoke, Drab Majesty took the stage with their purposefully androgynous uniform look. The two-piece band sported white shirts with gray jackets, white face paint and black goggles, with matching white choppy hair. They had a synth-heavy sound with monotonous vocals, inciting memories of 80’s bands like The Smiths or Spandau Ballet. One fan was overheard comparing them to Joy Division, and they are not wrong. With choruses repeating lyrics like, “When you were dead, I took you by your head” from their song “Cold Soul”, they add a dark edginess to their seven-song set.
The “darkwave” band was formed in 2011 in Los Angeles, California by Andrew Clinco – aka Deb DeMure – who currently provides vocals, guitar, and percussion for Drab Majesty. DeMure previously worked for the group Marriages as a drummer from late 2012 until 2017 when the band apparently broke. He is joined onstage by keyboardist and vocalist Alex Nicolaou – aka Mona D – who joined Drab Majesty in 2016.
Their record label, Dais Records, claims “DeMure insists that the inspiration for the songs is received from an other-worldly source that Deb is merely a vessel through which outside ideas flow inward”. The duo have 3 albums on the label: Careless (2015), The Demonstration (2017) and Modern Mirror (2019). They have previously toured with The Smashing Pumpkins.
AFI is touring in support of their 2021 Bodiesalbum, bringing “A Fire Inside” to Arizona, and what a show it was! The burgeoning crowd lit up from the first note of “Girls Not Grey,” from the 2003 album Sing the Sorrow. Frontman Davey Havok immediately climbed on a riser situated on the front of the stage, wearing a brass-studded vest with “Death of the Party” on the back, and the room exploded with energy. Havoc ran from one side of the stage to the other, and leaned precariously forward from the stage while singing directly to fans. When he wasn’t jumping from the riser, or swinging his microphone stand, he was belting out hit after hit from the AFI discography.
Onstage was Havok, along with original drummer and backing vocalist Adam Carson, with Hunter Burgan on bass, backing vocals and keyboards, and Jade Puget also provided backing vocals and on the keys. Their 18 song set was not shy of hits, including an intense version “Escape From Los Angeles” from 2021’s Bodies album, a super-sultry version of “The Boy Who Destroyed the World” from the All Hallows EP, and an encore including: “Third Season” from Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes (1997) and “Silver and Cold” from Sing the Sorrow (2003). Notably missing from the setlist, however, was “Miss Murder”, from 2006’s Decemberundergroundalbum.
Havoc knows how to connect to people and there’s a palpable love that’s reciprocated. While singing “I Hope You Suffer” from Burials (2013), he trusted the fans to support him as he walked across the crowd. You read that right. In some sort of biblical walk-on-water feat, he used outstretched palms to walk into the crowd about 10 deep. A feat to behold, to be sure, and a bit of a surprise to the Marquee’s bewildered security. Perhaps they underestimated the crowd, who would never, ever let him fall. Havoc is an icon, and AFI is in their bloodstream.
AFI moved on to the “When We Were Young Festival” in Las Vegas the next day, leaving Arizona fans fulfilled, for now. This show has left a mark on the band’s devotees. Sometimes watching a crowd enjoy a show is as exciting as the show itself, and this is one of those times. AFI just brings it.
PHOENIX – Panic! at the Disco returned to the Valley of the Sun for the first time in over 4 years; the longest absence from the state since the group was formed. At one point – between Valentine’s Day 2014 and March 29th, 2017, Panic! at the Disco (Panic) visited the Phoenix area a whopping 7 times, so the 4 year absence – in part due to the pandemic – meant that the fans in this area were hungry for the pageantry that comes with a Panic stage show. Opening for Panic was Jake Wesley Rogers, who catapulted into the public’s eye in 2012 when he competed – and was unfortunately eliminated in the quarterfinals – on America’s Got Talent. Following Rogers was MARINA, a Welsh-born singer/songwriter who started on her path to stardom across the pond in 2005.
The three artists visited the valley on the “Viva Las Vengeance” tour, in support of the latest album – of the same name – from Panic! at the Disco. Together, the three bands promised to put on one entertaining show. The stage was a bit different than what most are used to with a square catwalk surrounding a standing room only pit for the lucky few who were able to score those prize tickets. If one were to stand in the middle of that area, it would only be around 15 feet from the stage in all directions, making it an incredible place to view this show.
As his accompanying band started up, Rogers emerged wearing a white, sparkly suit with ruby red high heeled boots. It was a triumphant entry, his hands held high as he spun around before he took a seat at the piano.
Rogers may not be the most recognizable name on this tour, but he was an excellent choice to join Panic! He was an entertainer though and through, projecting some Freddie Mercury vibes when he whipped off his jacket, revealing a tank top. It would be easy to get lost in the majesty of his stage presence, but he is not only great at setting a scene and then chewing it right up, he is also a staggeringly talented vocalist.
At one point, he performed a cover of My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade,” to the delight of the crowd. The mix of his vocal talents and his ability to impressively emulate Gerald Way shows that Rogers is the consummate entertainer, and we will likely see him quite a bit more on tours – perhaps even headlining on the scale of Panic – in the future.
Mid-set, he introduced himself and explained he was from Missouri, “You know…the Bible Belt,” and, chuckling, he showed off the soon to be infamous high heeled red boots – perhaps a nod to Brendon Urie’s time in the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” – and stated “I like to think I was the rhinestone on the belt buckle.”
The 30-minute set was capped by “Pluto,” the title track of the album he released last year. As his performance was coming to an end, he announced he was putting his phone number up on the screen, and he would select one person to upgrade their seats. This was his way of giving back, as he had told the story of how, growing up, his mother took him to concerts, but they ended up sitting in the nosebleeds. This was his way of taking someone who was in the same type of situation, giving them a night they wouldn’t soon forget.
As the stage change occurred, a banner with “MARINA” was raised. This act alone caused a cheer to rise from the crowd, and it became clear that there is a huge portion of Panic fans who are also MARINA fans. It’s easy to see why, as they both share the flair for the dramatics.
While there are no pyrotechnics that back up vocalist Marina Diamandis, she truly does not need them. She came out wearing a pink dress, slinking onto and owning the stage, and she launched into “Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land.” Standing on a white platform, Diamandis commanded the attention of the audience, keeping them in awe for the entire performance.
She greeted the crowd before “Man’s World,” saying “Phoenix! How are you feeling tonight? I’m so, so happy to be here, thank you for the warm welcome! I wasn’t expecting it.” Diamandis was extremely grateful for the love that the crowd showed her, thanking them between many of the songs, and also seemed a bit surprised at how well the crowd knew her music. Her mix of confidence and humbleness endeared herself to the crowd even more. It was hard to walk away from her set and feel anything but awe for her performance.
When she started out, she had stated she was influenced by Britney Spears and The Distillers’ singer Brody Dalle. She is now an influence herself, and there are undoubtedly many musicians and vocalists who are inspired by her for good reason: Her voice is stunning, she has the stage presence of a superstar (making the most of a minimalist background), and her lyrics are sharp and pointed, even with the upbeat sounding music. In short, it is no wonder that so many knew her music, and no wonder that she was given such a warm welcome from the crowd. Over the course of a 12-song set, she moved between the platform, her piano, and walked the stage with a fierce confidence. She closed her portion of the show with more gratitude to the audience, followed by “Bubblegum Bitch,” which drew the biggest cheers of her set.
After MARINA’s set ended, the temperature in the arena started to plummet. Signs on the pillars on the way in warned that there would be flashing lights, smoke, and pyro effects. When you see a sign about pyro in an arena, and you feel the temperature dropping, it is a good sign that you’re about to get a lot warmer, and not just because you’re going to be dancing yourself into a frenzy. Panic! at the Disco is well known for their stage shows, which are always over-the-top and some of the most fun you can possibly have at a concert.
There is also a build-up of anticipation before the show starts: on the sides of the stage, a clock counts down from 10 minutes, giving fans plenty of warning so they could return to their seats. During this countdown, various songs were playing, and as the last couple of minutes ticked by, the newly rediscovered masterpiece of a song “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” by Kate Bush. As the song ended, the lights cut out, and a simulated thunderstorm started.
Lights flashed, thunder rumbled, smoke poured from the stage and the cheers started. And then seemingly out of nowhere – due to some fantastic misdirection – Urie stood on the outer edge of the stage with a huge grin and a microphone. As he began to sing “Say Amen (Saturday Night),” he also began to slowly make his way around the loop up to his ultimate destination of the main portion of the stage.
For those who have not attended a Panic show, Urie is a showman to the core – a flashy entertainer who will make sure you’re having the time of your life. The first 6 songs of the set were quite familiar to the fans, ranging from “This is Gospel” to “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the song when the pyro really kicked in. As the skulls on the screen behind Urie and the band laughed, flames erupted across the stage. 30-foot flames produce massive amounts of heat, and with multiple fireballs erupting, it became very clear why the arena attempted to turn the massive room into an icebox.
Once the first portion of the show ended, Panic proceeded to play the entire new album, starting with the title track “Viva Las Vengeance.” Not all of the songs were overly impressive, but the presentation is what mattered most here. Joining Urie on stage was a guitarist, bassist, a small brass section, and stringed instruments. The three stringed instruments – two violins and a cello – were thrust into the spotlight during the openings for most of the new songs. The brass section would get their chance to shine during “Death Of A Bachelor” later in the show, as everyone – including the drummer – left the stage beyond the saxophonist, trumpeter, and the trombonist, who all joined Urie at the outer edge of the stage.
The tracks off of Viva Las Vengeance range from the tragic in “Don’t Let The Light Go Out”, to the bouncy “Sad Clown” – which sounds as if it was pulled straight from a musical. There is even a song that might make some imagine that Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken are about to burst onto the stage: the cowbell content of “Sugar Soaker” is excessive perfection – which is perhaps a paradox – but unlike “Jumbo Shrimp,” this makes sense once one sees a live performance of the song. Many bands don’t showcase their entire album at once, so it was a bit unusual to have 12 songs sandwiched between classics that all Panic fans know and love.
The new album also shows off the incredible, unearthly vocal range that Urie has. The 4-octave range is used throughout the previous albums, but to witness it in person is breathtaking. There seems to be very little that Urie cannot do, and he appears to relish each moment up on stage. The fans relished it as well, and the Shakespearean saying “parting is such sweet sorrow” would apply here. Fans in Phoenix will undoubtedly eagerly await the next show, which hopefully will not require another 4-year wait for Urie and his crew to give us a dazzling spectacle of lights, sounds, and imagination.
PHOENIX – In support of their new album Omens, Lamb of God performed with Killswitch Engage at the recently renamed Arizona Financial Theatre. Nearing the end of the approximately 2-month long “Omens” tour, an impressive slate of east coast bands was completed with acts Fit for an Autopsy from New Jersey, and the Washington D.C. progressive metal band Animals As Leaders.
There are certain elements that are expected at every metal show: One is a circle pit, which – for the uninitiated – is what it sounds like: a moving circle of humanity, some slamming into others, and others just there to run around and avoid those hits. Most in those pits walk away with mutual respect for everyone else who partook, and it is a staple for most shows no matter the size. Another would be passing by religious protests outside of the venue. While the protesters are mostly there to yell at attendees, they also provide comic relief for the fans of a band that used to be named “Burn the Priest.” There is also an unwritten rule that a metal show should have fire of some sort, and to the delight of the pyros in the audience, this show delivered.f
Fit for an Autopsy
Smoke rose from the stage as the pit filled and fans trickled to their seats. Drummer Josean Orta, guitarist and backing vocalist Pat Sheridan, guitarist Tim Howley, and bassist Blue Spinazola of Fit for an Autopsy (FFFA) took to the stage, with the first note of “Sea of Tragic Beasts” shortly following. Lead vocalist Joe Badolato erupted onto the stage, yelling out “ARIZONA!” before singing the first lines of “Tragic Beasts.”
FFAA have previously stated that they get their inspiration from Lamb of God (LoG), and in fact, Badolato temporarily replaced LoG lead vocalist Randy Blythe when he contracted COVID-19 earlier this year. Fit for an Autopsy released a cover of “Walk With Me In Hell,” whichMetal Hammer postulates is even heavier than the LoG original release.
Indeed, while it is possible to draw parallels between the two, FFAA is often heavier than their idols. Badolato stalks the stage, headbanging between lines, and implored the crowd to bring their energy levels up. For some, a 4-hour long metal concert means a slightly less than energetic reaction to the opener, no matter how heavy they are. Badolato did his best to bring up the energy in the venue, so at one point – right before “Pandora” – he told the crowd that the song “involves a very massive circle pit, the biggest one this room has ever seen.” The fans gladly placated him, quickly forming a circle pit for the duration of the song.
As the set drew to a close, Badolato spoke about his time in the Phoenix area, mentioning he had lived there for a year during the pandemic, and noted his mother was currently at the concert. What Badolato didn’t mention was the fact he had owned a barbershop next to The Nile in downtown Mesa during his time in Arizona. He is a talented barber who regularly gives those on tour with him haircuts and beard trims.
Animals As Leaders
The next band to take the stage was Animals As Leaders (AAL) – a trio of exceptionally talented musicians: Guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, and drummer Matt Garstka. There was but a single microphone on stage, set in front of Abasi, who used it sparingly. The music speaks for itself, with Garstka putting on an absolute clinic behind the kit. The ease at which he plays complex and technical beats are borderline unfair, and he is known as something of a prodigy. Currently just 33, he joined the band at 23 and has been blowing the minds of audiences ever since.Drum Magazine wrote an article – albeit nearly a decade ago – about the technical prowess of Garstka, and it seems the only thing that has changed is his skills have simply increased.
AAL being a three-person band means that each member needs to be able to perform at the top of their game, night-in to night-out. Reyes and Abasi do just that, and what these two wizards do with their 8-string guitars is something that no one would want to miss. In fact, as soon as they left the stage, the many in the pit – and the audience in the seats – made a beeline for the restrooms and concession stands. In a genre where it is not surprising to see two or three guitar players and a bass player, watching these two execute some incredibly complex patterns with no margin for error, producing sounds that normally take full bands to accomplish, it is no wonder that the theater stood in rapt attention, watching and soaking up every single note that poured forth from the trio.
Compared to the other three frontmen in the night’s lineup, Abasi was a soft spoken – yet firm – and calm voice between the 6 songs the band performed. The set opened with 2016’s “Arithmophobia” – a song first performed live at the now defunct Livewire in Scottsdale, Arizona – and then showcased 4 songs from their newest album, The Madness of Many, before the band circled back to “CAFO” from their 2009 self-titled debut album. Before CAFO started, Abasi asked the crowd to give the crowd a round of applause for each of the other bands before saying, “this is going to be our last one of the evening. We’ll catch you next time we’re in Phoenix, take care.”
Killswitch Engage seemingly has become a staple in the Phoenix music scene, even though they’re based far across the country. This was the third time in this past year that they had performed in the Phoenix area, but there was no sign of fatigue from fans. The repeated appearances could also be due to the tour manager having roots in the area; a bonus for the band since the manager has contacts with local businesses and can get some great local brews delivered.
As they took the stage, the difference between the size of the drum kit that AAL’s Garstka uses and that of Killswitch Engage’s drummer, Justin Foley, is notable. Foley prefers a smaller drum kit – a simple set-up compared to the monster that Garstka uses – but he is a master behind the kit. Literally; he has a masters degree from Hartt School of Music and has played with symphony orchestras in the past. It cannot be emphasized enough: Garstka and Foley are genius drummers, and to see the two back-to-back is a rare treat.
The rest of Killswitch Engage is vocalist Jesse Leach, guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz, and bassist Mike D’Antonio. Leach, while an intense presence onstage, does not have the angry, caged-animal style Badolato and Blythe share. Instead, he moves around from side to side with something that could be considered grace if one were to compare him to his contemporaries.
There is a mutual interaction – something unspoken if you will – between Leach and the fans. It is not to say the other bands cannot connect with the audience, it is instead that Leach focuses on connecting to the fans onstage, and his charisma shines through naturally. At one point, he stated that “At the end of the day, it’s all about unity man, it’s all about us coming together to have a good time.” He also made a point to ask how the people up in the nosebleeds were doing, and after asking if they have a bar up there, he said, “At least they’re taking care of you up there!”
As the night drew to a close, the band jumped into their cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver”, a song they released in 2007. After it finished, Leach acknowledged the fans who sang the entire song, and then paid tribute to Ronnie James Dio by saying, “You have to pay respect for the masters, the ones who have paved the road for us.” Leach closed the night out by dedicating “The Signal Fire” to their managers, saying they had taken care of them in their 20s, and now they’re “old pricks.” As that song wrapped, Leach told the fans, “We love you!” before leaving the stage.
Lamb of God
As the crews rushed out to set the stage for Lamb of God, a curtain was lowered, covering the stage and raising the anticipation for this upcoming spectacle. The song “Memento Mori” began to play as the lights fell – inciting cheers as a backlit, swaying silhouette of Blythe appeared. He sang the first few lines of the song in a surprisingly controlled, quiet – relatively speaking – manner. Then, a concussive pyrotechnical effect exploded, the curtain fell, and the night devolved into a maelstrom of noise, fireballs, and screaming guitars.
As mentioned, Blythe has the stage presence of a caged beast; one that prowls in open, plain view, looking for his next prey to pounce on. His audience is utterly captive, and responds to his commands with glee. Circle pits opened, grew, shrank, and bodies surfed to the front of the stage where security helped them down to safety. Those who made it up to the front would then run back around and join the pit, where the entire process would start all over again.
There was a sense of euphoria in the air during this show, mixed with the overwhelming sonic boom that LoG produces. Blythe is joined onstage by guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, drummer Art Cruz, and bassist John Campbell.
It is hard, if not impossible, to overstate just how much talent crossed the stage on this night. There is a bit of duality with Blythe; the character you see on stage is diametrically opposed to the person who he is offstage. The angsty, stalking beast exists in the way he approaches the issues of social justice – directed at the oppressors – but he is also an example of integrity. His arrest in the Czech Republic in 2012 is an example of this, and he made brief mention of his arrest before the start of “512,” which was inspired by his experience. An excerpt from his book on this matter can be found in the Rolling Stone article, “Lamb of God Singer Reveals What He Remembers of Deadly 2010 Czech Show.”
Once “512” ended, he announced – to the frenzied cheering of the crowd – that they would be playing “Grayscale,” the 8th song off of Omens, live for the very first time. In typical LoG fashion, the entire album is a ridiculously incredible display of lyrical mastery as well as the artistry that comes from the masters of guitar and drum, providing Blythe a wonderful tapestry to weave his vocals onto. The album is a must have for anyone who even remotely enjoys LoG, as it is another banger of an LP from the legendary band.
Throughout the night, Blythe made mention of the first show that the band had played at this venue 16 years ago with Megadeath. In the 16 years since first playing at the venue, LoG has returned 7 times, and is currently one of the few – if not the only – bands to play under all four names the theater has had. The venue currently known as “Arizona Financial Theatre” has had the names Dodge, Comerica, and Arizona Federal over the 20 years since it opened in downtown Phoenix. It is a very popular spot for LoG, as they have played half of their Arizona gigs in the venue since 2006, for a total of 8 shows there in 16 years.
The end comes even if no one is ready for it or really wants it to happen, and after thanking the crowd, jumping off the stage and singing with the front row of the mosh pit, and after the fiery stage show, it was time for Lamb of God to say goodbye.
The last song of the night was “Redneck,” off the 2006 album Sacrament, released shortly before the first show they played at this theater known by many names. As the song came to a close, another concussive blast shook the venue, and the night officially ended. With quite a large fanbase in the area, there is little doubt that Phoenix will again see these four bands that are exceptionally technically adept and soul-shaking.
Tacoma, WA — A surreal air swept over the night that a once dormant My Chemical Romance erupted on the stage of Tacoma Dome, following a warm-up by “emo” post-hardcore cohorts Taking Back Sunday and anti-folk singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson from Olympia, WA.
The show arrived nearly 3 years after the Halloween 2019 announcement of the reunion, and 9.5 years following the March 2013 break-up of this band with a gargantuan legacy. To top it off, it had been 11 years since Washington state had last seen My Chemical Romance (MCR/My Chem) perform on September 1st of 2011, at White River Amphitheatre on the 10th Annual Honda Civic Tour, co-headlining with blink-182. Yet, somehow, as MCR released each note into the atmosphere on the evening of October 3rd, the achingly forlorn feelings that persisted throughout the years of their absence finally melted away.
On March 9th of this year, Dawson announced she would be opening for My Chemical Romance at Tacoma Dome. As an acoustic guitar wielding solo artist with a folksy sound, some fans of the rock opera stylings of MCR initially found the choice of opener perplexing.
I’m so excited to announce that I’m opening for My Chemical Romance at The Tacoma Dome!!! WOOOOOOOO!!! So psyched (and nervous)!!! 🖤🐇🖤
Monday, October 03, 2022Tacoma, WATacoma Domehttps://www.ticketmaster.com/event/0F0058379DC3A7C9 https://t.co/MMXXQ5pdKD
She is best known as part of a duo named Moldy Peaches, whose song “Anyone Else But You” was at the end of the film Juno (2007), performed by Elliot Page and Michael Cera. Independent of Moldy Peaches, she contributed a whopping 12 songs to Juno – on its soundtrack, within the film but excluded from the OST, and a few “almost adopted songs” that were released on a b-sides soundtrack.
Dawson and her daughter Panda (who is also an artist), performed together in matching Ernie sweaters, à la Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. For the duration of Dawson’s performance, the big screens on each side of the stage stayed illuminated with her name and an illustration versus live video, preventing a visual of the artist and her daughter for the majority of the audience, and leading to some bewilderment when she said they were “just a couple of Ernies hanging out.” The set included “You Are My Baby” – a song Dawson wrote for now 16-year-old Panda when she was a “little teeny tiny newborn”. Kimya expressed, “I can’t even believe it… being able to share the stage with my child is the best.” MCR frontman Gerard Way later dedicated “Teenagers” to Panda.
“‘[Moldy Peaches] are not sort of amateur, lo-fi indie,’ said Geoff Travis, the founder and president of Rough Trade, an English independent label that once signed the Smiths and the Violent Femmes, and has recently signed both the Strokes and the Moldy Peaches. ‘If Lou Reed was writing these songs at this age, he would be absolutely jealous. This is really serious, world-class songwriting … and the performance is so unusual, and it is so naked emotionally. It is very, very brave.’” - Deborah Netburn, Observer - "Sesame Street Meets Avenue A in Goofy Tunes of Moldy Peaches”
Listening to the sound of Dawson’s songs coupled with her witty lyrics brought Amanda Palmer to mind, especially during “The Beer” with black humor reminiscent of Palmer’s notorious “Oasis”. As it turns out, “The Beer” was released in 2003 and “Oasis” was released in 2008. What’s more, Palmer actually covered Dawson’s song “All I Could Do” with her father Jack Palmer in 2015, and Dawson nodded to Palmer in a Tweet sharing an MTV article from November 2016 about whether oppression from Trump’s presidency would lead to better music.
During “I Like Giants”, Dawson tweaked the lyrics after, “She said, ‘I like giants, especially girl giants’” to add, “and trans and non-binary giants!” Before following “The Beer” with “Loose Lips”, she said, “I don’t know why I put this one back-to-back but we’ll see what I can do,” presumably because both songs are rather fast-paced.
Excerpt from “Loose Lips”:And we'll pray, all damn day, every day
That all this shit our President has got us in will go away
While we strive to figure out a way we can survive
These trying times without losing our minds
Mid-song, Dawson shout-sang, “Fuck fascism!” and proceeded to give an impactful monologue:
“On this day in 1967 Woody Guthrie died, and he was very outspoken against fascism, and I just wanted to acknowledge him, uh… he is the OG!” She went on to say, “…so, the original, like, lyric was, ‘Fuck Bush’, but that was like 20 years ago, and then I was saying ‘Fuck Trump’ but I don’t even want to think about that guy. And I could be like, ‘Fuck Marjorie Taylor Greene!’, you know, ‘fuck Matt Gaetz, fuck Ben Shapiro, fuck Mitch McConnel… DeSantis,’ you know, ‘Bezos… Proud Boys, TERFs… the list is endless… but not clowns. I love clowns.” (Video)
kimya dawson saying fuck terfs mid-set made me feel so safe tonight 💛 i adore my grandpa
“Last night i got to play one of my favorite songs with one of my favorite artists, before getting back up on that same stage a little later and playing more of my favorite songs with my best friends… all while my daughter watched and filmed. Life is pretty darn ok sometimes.
Thank you Kimya and Panda for being the absolute raddest and for sharing your stage with me, it was a dream come true. thank you Tacoma. Thank you rock and roll. music is magick. KTF 🖤 xofrnk”
“We’re here to warm you up for My Chemical Romance… Mikey Fuckin’ Way is not coming out to a cold audience!” frontman Adam Lazzara declared amidst their set, referring to MCR’s bassist.
Indeed, fellow “Taste of Chaos” tour veterans Taking Back Sunday (TBS) served as an integral segue between Kimya Dawson and My Chemical Romance.
Taking Back Sunday’s 8-song set started with “What’s it Feel Like to Be a Ghost?” from their 2006 LP Louder Now. The mix of Lazzara’s dirty vocals and the band’s instrumentals seemed to be off for the first few songs, and his stage banter felt a bit obligatory and forced. However, what may have seemed to constitute standard intros to band members between songs was actually rather significant to any fan aware of the band’s dramatic history. Guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper left TBS in 2003, but returned in 2010.
Before starting the second song of their set, “A Decade Under the Influence”, Lazzara gave big-ups to drummer Mark “Thunderbolt” O’connell, who lives true to his nickname “when his foot hits the kick drum”. Following the song “Tidal Wave”, he shouted, “…this is my pal, and yours… John Nolan on guitar!”
Their energy spiked and sound solidified with “Error Operator” and sustained through the 4 remaining songs, transforming them into that promised pre-heater. Unfortunately the screens continued to merely display a still image – Taking Back Sunday’s panther logo – until My Chemical Romance performed. However, the energy of this rock band along with the spectacle of colorful stage lights brought satisfactory stimulation to the crowd.
It was surprising how much space was available in the general admission between the crowd and front row of seats, even after it later filled out a little more for the headliner. One of the most entertaining parts of TBS’s performance was when someone dove beneath the barricade (separating row A of seats from the pit) as if they were on a stealth mission, and strolled up to the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have but a-two songs left for you this evening,” said Lazarra, which elicited a shocked and disappointed, “WHAT?!” from some fans. He continued, “Now, make no mistake, we are very well aware (as we feel it too), of how long you’ve been waiting for this show tonight… Us, too! So, with that said, I would like to thank each and every one of you for being so kind and showin’ us a good time… Now, my pal John over here… he’s gonna blow your minds. They don’t call him ‘tomcat’ for nothing.” (Video)
The last 2 songs of Taking Back Sunday’s performance, “Cute without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” and “MakeDamnSure”, are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Their most recent studio album Tidal Wave was released 6 years ago. Eddie Reyes, who originally founded TBS with former member Jesse Lacey of Brand New, departed the band in 2018 citing alcoholism as the culprit. In 2019, they released Twenty, a 20th anniversary compilation, and of course COVID-19 took over the world in 2020. All things considered, if they are resting on their laurels (mind you, touring and performing are no small tasks), perhaps they can be forgiven for doing so while the nostalgia of individuals formed on their music is still running high.
As part of a culmination of the emo revival that has been steadily expanding over the last several years (which has conflated emo and pop punk), Taking Back Sunday will continue to perform in the shadow of My Chem up through the last day of the seemingly-impossible “When We Were Young” festival, which is spread out over 3 dates on 2 weekends at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds.
Despite the fact that multiple massive festivals have taken place and continue to be planned since the pandemic eased up (such as Coachella, Lollapalooza, Innings, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Aftershock, Austin City Limits, Zona, and more), this particular festival stood out as “too good to be true” and has received heavy speculation and criticism over logistics and feasibility – especially initially, when only one 1 day was announced. It was called “the next Fyre festival” by the faithless and snarky, and sensationalized by the uninformed as being put on by the company behind Astroworld: Live Nation – the company that puts on nearly all major concerts in the United States. Perhaps it is simply difficult for the “misunderstood” demographic to which this festival caters to believe that it is possible to get what they want.
An updated site map for an expanded general admission (GA) area was posted on October 6th, much to the ire of the VIP section. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
“Ladies and gentleman, we are a band called Taking Back Sunday… and we hope all your dreams come true!” said Lazzara as their performance finished.
Despite the grueling wait for the return of My Chemical Romance, who are now nearing the end of their reunion tour, the show at Tacoma Dome felt like it went through a time warp.
Sure, the band may have been stripped of costumes, make-up, and theatrics – given permission to be more of a normal rock band – but the magnitude of their performance spoke the prevailing truth that all of that is just fluff – the real power lies in the showmanship and musical expertise of the group. Gerard Way (lead vocalist), Mikey Way (bassist), and Ray Toro (lead guitarist, backup vocalist) especially radiate in their stage presence.
The stage setup included a backdrop and props of a decaying city. On this tour, MCR’s setlists have varied wildly in comparison to most tours, which tend to stick to the same songs or change up just a couple of songs on most stops. However, the introductory song has remained the same throughout their reunion tour, and that works well – because one of the most exciting things a fan can experience after all of this time, on top of the ecstasy of seeing them live, is to kick it off with a fresh, explosive sound. If “The Foundations of Decay” is any indicator of what can be expected of a future studio album, there is no end to the anticipation.
Including the encore, My Chemical Romance performed 19 songs at Tacoma Dome. For anyone who discovered them when “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” was released as a single, it was the perfect song to follow the first, flipping from the present to the start. This track of course comes from their second studio album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, however many fans were not turned on to the Bullets album (fun fact: it was produced by Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly) until after being introduced to this album.
Still more were blind to the magic of My Chem until after “Welcome to the Black Parade” was released. The music video for this track was awarded the title of MTV’s “Greatest Music Video of the Century” in 2017. This achievement was deeply gratifying to a fanbase aware of how criminally underrated MCR once was, and every heap of praise this band has received since the announcement of their return continues to be sweetly satisfying.
The encore began with Gerard reading an excerpt from Interview with the Vampire with heavy distortion over his voice, and it consisted of the banger “Vampire Money”, the classic “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”, and closed with the solemn “Cancer”.
Before starting the delightful “Ballroom Blitz”-esque intro of “Vampire Money”, Gerard professed his and his wife’s love for The Batman: “…Lyn-Z and I watched the new Batman. We had like a little weekend getaway, it was really fucking rad, and… we really fucking liked it. We LOVED it. We watched it two times in a row it was so fucking good! …It was that good…. THAT. FUCKING. GOOD! …and Robert is really, incredibly fuckin’ handsome.” (Video)
This is worth noting because Gerard Way is the creator and writer of The Umbrella Academy, a comic book series which was adapted into a Netflix series that broke numerous records in viewership. So if you have wavered at all on whether another adaptation of the Batman story is worth your time, this endorsement may tip the scales for you.
In an NME article, “My Chemical Romance defend ‘Cancer’ track”, Gerard is quoted as saying, “It’s not a poetic track… It’s very direct, very brutal, but that’s the way disease is. Obviously cancer is being used as a metaphor… But I also wanted the song to be directly about the disease, because it’s something that the patient has gone through and it’s a very powerful thing. For me it was almost like an attempt to write the darkest song ever, and I think we achieved that.”
With regard to the closing song, on the walk toward the exit of the dome, a fan could be overheard saying, “…why did you end on this? Now I’m going to cry myself to sleep!”
Sprinkling in upbeat songs from Danger Days throughout the set list certainly contributed to a continuous buzz throughout the show. The only songs from the same album that were performed consecutively were “Famous Last Words” and “Welcome to the Black Parade” from The Black Parade – obviously fan favorites, as it seemed that every person in the 23,000-seat venue was singing along.
Mixing songs from their 4 studio albums created an excellent ebb and flow, and the inclusion of the “I’m Not Okay” b-side “Bury Me in Black” was also a treat. Unfortunately, Washington was not treated to a live experience of any of the songs from the Conventional Weapons compilation album of unreleased tracks. However, surrounding shows in Portland, OR (Oct. 2) and Oakland, CA (Oct. 5) included “Boy Division” and “The World is Ugly”.
This weekend, My Chemical Romance is appearing in the truly incredible line-up of “Monster Energy Aftershock 2022” festival alongside the likes of Muse, Evanescence, Slipknot, Kiss, Bring Me The Horizon, Stone Temple Pilots, Rob Zombie, The Pretty Reckless, Halestorm, Ice Nine Kills, Judas Priest, The Struts, Motionless in White, and many more.
The last date of the “When We Were Young” festival, October 29th, will be the last show of the North American leg of MCR’s reunion tour. Afterward, Mexico City will see them in mid-November. Finally, after touring since mid-May of this year, they will get a break until March 2023 when they are scheduled to perform 1 show in New Zealand and 6 more in Australia.
My Chem made the Cascadian crowd sweat that night, and you can bet money that the MCRmy (their dedicated fanbase) is insatiably hungry for more – they won’t let go. May this not be considered the famous last tour of My Chemical Romance, but rather just the beginning of a new era with great longevity.
PHOENIX — Alicia Keys brought the house down at Arizona Financial Theatre with her mighty chest voice, riveting talent on piano, and smooth, confident moves in an approximately two-hour performance. The “Alicia + Keys World Tour” is her first since her “Set the World on Fire Tour” in 2013, and it celebrates the releases Alicia (2020) and double album Keys (2021). Beginning in June 2022, the two-legged tour had 19 stops in Europe, and will be wrapping up in late September after 31 stops in North America – totaling 52 shows for the mega-talented Keys. This Phoenix stop was opened by Philadelphia-born singer/songwriter Pink Sweat$, whose debut album Pink Planet was released in 2021 after COVID-responsible delay.
When the lights went down for the “Princess of Soul”, a solar video crescendoed on the screen behind the stage and quickly immersed the audience in Keys’ “world”. After a keyhole appeared on screen, a curtain raised and the commanding and womanly silhouette of Keys was revealed.
Donning a plum taffeta trench coat over a blinged-out bodysuit, she took a slinky stroll toward the front of the stage – her glittery costume but a fraction of the shine of her charismatic presence upon her arrival. Keys said, “the vibe is amazing in here”, as she expressed appreciation to offer an “intimate” show to her fans, adding, “this energy is just what I wanted.” She kicked off her 34-song set with “Nat King Cole” from Keys, entrancingly playing her mobile grand piano while crooning and belting soulful lyrics.
Keys moved into a mashup of the Kanye West-produced “You Don’t Know My Name” and “Will You Ever Know It?” followed by a reggae-inspired version of “Wasted Energy” also from the Keys album. Soon after, she played a powerful, key-pounding version of “New Day” from 2012’s Girl on Fire.
Following was a sultry execution of her 2005 Grammy-winning song with Usher, “My Boo”, then she put her spin on “Nobody” by DJ Khaled. Her band, which included a standing bass, guitar, back-up vocalists, and two additional keyboard players showcased their talents in an interlude of Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” while Keys briefly left the stage.
Video clips of Harlem appeared on the screen behind Keys, who was now sporting a silk white and black jacket emblazoned with her name. Up next was an astounding version of her and Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind”.
Later, Keys exuberantly played DJ while surrounded by three keyboards, offering up alternate versions of three of her hits: “Skydive”, “It Is Insane”, and “Only You”. Her new 2-disc album Keys offers original versions on the first disc, “unlocked” versions on the second one, and on the deluxe edition – Keys II (2022) – some additional songs and alternate mixes. She made a game of the alternating versions, playing samples of each, bringing up the house lights, and having the crowd vote between versions with cheering.
After Keys descended the stairs and showed a little love by briefly walking into the screaming crowd, she returned to the piano for a heartfelt version of “Girl on Fire”, followed by her homage to self-love: “Superwoman” from As I Am (2007). Fans were asked to turn on their phone lights before joining her in singing “Fallin’”, and the room lit up both visually and in spirit for the beloved hit song that became a massive hit after she wrote and produced it herself in 2001.
She treated fans to her dancing skills and self-assured voguing during “In Common” (Black Coffee Remix), which brought an infectious buzz to the atmosphere. The screams of her fans well-represented her idol status.
After a bountiful hour and forty-five minutes, the pre-encore ritual began before her band started up with a slick instrumental version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” featuring a mean solo on a Gretsch by her guitarist. When Keys returned to the stage, she proclaimed, “this thing is special that we did tonight.” She was not wrong. Her library is full of songs about growth and loving yourself. She added, “the energy is beautiful; the energy is perfect”. What is more, Keys encouraged the audience to “make every moment count”, to push past fears, to live and love in an unpredictable world, “because what else even matters?” Her encore included “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” and “If I Ain’t Got You”.
Keys’ performance was beyond outstanding – all the while exuding a heart of gold and exhibiting a warm, beautiful smile with a lovable, joyful presence – demonstrating what made and sustains her superstar status. On the same night, Kendrick Lamar as well as Alice in Chains with Breaking Benjamin and Bush were also performing in Phoenix at Footprint Center and Ak-Chin Pavilion. Of the many tours to choose from to spend your hard-earned dollars on this year, the “Alicia + Keys World Tour” was most certainly a worthy, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Featured photo (top) by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK
PHOENIX — Ak-Chin Pavilion wrapped up its summer concert series with Incubus, Sublime with Rome, and The Aquadolls as part of their “Summer 2022” tour. The three California bands brought a reggae-meets-alternative end-of-summer party to Phoenix, and a party it was! The kick-ass girl band The Aquadolls, plus 90’s and beyond radio favorites Sublime with Rome and Incubus brought a “chill” to the desert and a whole lot of fun for a Monday night in Arizona.
The Aquadolls emerged as Abba’s “Dancing Queen” ushered them onto the stage. Singer and lead guitarist Melissa Brooks shouted, “Who’s ready to party?” and jumped into the 2013 song “Mine” from their album Stoked on You, followed by “Our Love Will Always Remain” from the same album.
The all-girl band of “perma-teenage mermaids” from the Orange County area were founded in 2012 by lead singer and writer Brooks, who recorded demos in her bedroom before signing with indie label Burger Records. Their current lineup includes Jacqueline Proctor on drums and Keilah Nina on bass. Their tongue-in-cheek lyrics paired with an upbeat pop sound served as a great fit for this summer tour. A psychedelic, tie-dye screen with floating palm trees and the Aquadolls logo were the perfect scene-setting backdrop for their high-energy pop-alternative music.
Their seven-song setlist continued with their new single “Beachy,” which is scheduled for release on August 26th on Enci Records, and a high-energy cover of the Go-Go’s classic hit “Vacation.” Brooks gave a shout out to their crew and tour headliners: “Who’s ready for freaking Sublime? Who’s ready for freaking Incubus?!” while the exuberant crowd cheered. Next up, a catchy and fun song about obsession, “Sneaky,” followed by “Take Me Away.” Finishing out the set was a song Brooks said was about tripping out, called “Wander.” The Aquadolls made sure to take time for fans at the merch booth after their set.
Sublime with Rome
With flashing red and blue police lights and images of riots projected behind them, stoner-music favorites Sublime with Rome kicked off their set with “April 26, 1992”. As if on cue, the arena filled with the smell of weed, with Rome Ramirez asking, “Where my stoners at?!” before sliding into the weed-friendly anthem “Smoke Two Joints.” Eric Wilson’s deep guttural basslines hit hard during “Doin’ Time” while images of lowriders were projected on the screen and the crowd sang along to the chorus, “most definitely”. Drummer Carlos Verdugo didn’t miss a beat with his huge beaming grin, and his unique bent-elbows-held-high style of drumming.
The band played more reggae-inspired hits next with “The Wrong Way” and “Badfish”. They also made time to pay homage to “our brothers in Katastro”. The Phoenix reggae-rock band Katastro lost their lead singer, 32-year-old Andy Chaves to a deadly car crash on May 12th on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Sublime is no stranger to loss, and have rebuilt the band following the death of original singer Bradley Nowell to a heroin overdose in 1996. With the house lights up, a dalmatian dog joined the band onstage, in honor of “Lou Dog,” the Sublime mascot who shared the stage with the band in the 90’s.
Ramirez started “What I Got” while fans danced with their flashlights on. Their set ended with the popular “Santeria”. Sublime brought their mega-talent and chill vibe for a fun, end-of-summer show.
“I want my, I want my MTV…” from “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits played over the P.A. as the walk-out song for Incubus, the third California-based band of the tour. On came the lights, and frontman Brandon Boyd sang a powerful version of “Nice To Know You” to kick off a nearly two-hour set covering three decades of songs from the alternative band. Boyd spent the entire set on a chair, stating he hurt himself without elaborating how, but amused by the spinnable chair.
With his shoulder-length hair and white pants, Boyd said he remembered playing Ak-Chin Pavilion years before, after traveling from California in a van when Incubus toured with Dirty Heads in the 90’s. Currently, he is touring with bandmates Mike Eiziger on guitar, Chris Kilmore on turntable, José Pasillas on drums, and Ben Kenney on bass guitar on a 27-date U.S. tour that began July 24th and wraps up September 3rd.
Next up was “Circles,” matching the track sequence from Morning View. Afterward, the house lights came on and Boyd asked for the crowd’s help as the band performed “Wish You Were Here”. A powerful version of “Anna Molly” blew the crowd away, followed by an amazing, extended version of “Just a Phase” with a little of The Doors “Riders on the Storm” injected into the middle.
Their 16-song set was full of both radio hits and deep cuts from their 30-year history, like Make Yourself’s “Stellar” and “Pardon Me”, “Sick Sad Little World” from A Crow Left of the Murder, 2020’s apropos “Karma, Come Back” from Trust Fall (Side B), “Vitamin” (barely placating S.C.I.E.N.C.E. fans) and more. During “Mexico” the injured Boyd placed his arm around guitarist Eiziger’s shoulder in a sort of seated side-hug and sang the “ooo”s of the song’s bridge in a beautiful bromance moment.
When Incubus said goodnight, fans naturally were not having it. With cell phone flashlights beaming, the fans cheered for more, and the band returned to the stage. They closed out the night with “Warning” and “Drive.” What a way to end the summer – three hella chill bands bringing Cali-style fun and cool vibes to the desert!
PHOENIX — All in attendance at this rock & roll revival – Halestorm’s mega Summer 2022 tour – were there to bear witness to a concert fronted by some of the top women in rock music today! It was definitely ladies’ night on stage, co-commandeered by Lzzy Hale (with her flagship rock & roll machine known as Halestorm) and Taylor Momsen (with her nuclear destroyer blitzkrieg known as The Pretty Reckless).
Photography: Mark Greenawalt
But wait, there’s more! These two co-headliners brought an additional bevy of ladies to the shed with supporting acts Lilith Czar and The Warning. This entourage began this Summer Tour 2022 in Detroit in July and will wrap up the twenty-one stops in Portsmouth in August. This night’s “sermon” was held at Arizona Financial Theatre for the Phoenicians. And it was good… Correction – It was great!
Lilith Czar had a short set and half empty arena to deliver it to. Despite that, she and her band played their asses off and established their reason for being on this stellar bill. Fans know her to be the artist formerly known as Juliet Simms, who CeeLo Green coached to the finals in the 2011 season of The Voice. In 2021 she re-tooled her look and her sound and changed her moniker to Lilith Czar, and this was the night her new persona touched down in Phoenix (note that in March ‘22 she played Mesa Amphitheater with Black Veil Brides).
Her hair was raven black with bangs like Bettie Page. She was dressed in red leather short-shorts and a red lace shirt to match. Accessories included hoop earrings, a black leather choker, and a black leather vest that came off early in the show – a very evocative look. Her set began with “Feed My Chaos” and “100 Little Deaths,” a song carried over from her Juliet Simms days. Her voice is the same as when it won us over singing “Oh! Darling” by the Beatles on The Voice blind auditions, but the music has gotten much heavier. Between songs she armed herself with an Epiphone Les Paul Gold Top guitar and later an acoustic guitar.
Despite the low energy of the early crowd, her band put on a stellar performance and special shout out to drummer Lindsey Martin, who truly seemed thrilled to be behind the drum set. Crowd participation peaked when the band did a cover of “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks and then rolled out the songs from her current music video suite for “Lola,” “King,” and “Anarchy.” Lilith Czar has developed a unique sound and a unique look and her loyal fanbase is coming around. We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing her future offerings.
The convergence of these four particular acts may never happen again and it was a thrill to experience the “dark horse” performance of The Warning. I expected to be blown away by Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless, but The Warning was such a pleasant surprise of an up-and-coming act…that has arrived! Their story is documented in countless YouTube videos about these three sisters from the city of Monterrey, Mexico. They were just children when they did a video of themselves covering Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It went viral. The youngest, bassist Alejandra, is still just 17 and the oldest sister, guitarist Daniela, is just 22. The middle sister of the Villarreal family is drummer Paulina (age 20).
Most of their original songs were from their third studio album, Error, however they did take a moment to show how much their musicianship has blossomed by doing a new cover of “Enter Sandman,” and it was very impressive. All three sisters sing and their stage presence is invigorating to watch. Although they may have been new to many attendees, there were quite a few die-hard fans singing along to every song.
Their YouTube reach has continued to grow with more seasoned music videos for songs “Choke” and “Disciple.” These videos show that those cute little children have grown into beautiful women, not to mention they have evolved as songwriters too. Their heavy sound has traces of the bands that have influenced them, but their musical style is uniquely their own. Crowd favorites tended to be their current single “Money” (which reverberated echoes of “Seven Nation Army”-meets-“Balls To The Wall”) and the closing song “Evolve,” which has prog rock elements. Keep your eyes peeled. We haven’t seen the last of this power trio from Mexico!
The Pretty Reckless
In 2020, Taylor Momsen was ready to hit the road in support of Death By Rock & Roll. The title track had been pre-released and shot up to number 1, then the pandemic hit. The album release date kept getting pushed back until it finally was released in February of 2021, but touring was still not in the cards. Finally, 2022 is proving to be the year for The Pretty Reckless (TPR) to reconnect with that tangible live experience. The press for this show implied a dual headline of Halestorm and TPR, but it was soon clear that TPR were relegated to being an opening act with a fraction of the full stage, less lights, and about half as many songs. They handled it with grace and thanked Halestorm for bringing them on the tour, but it seems they may have been somewhat short changed for a band that sports 7 number one songs (one more than the headliner).
The set opened with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Loud Love,” a song The Pretty Reckless recently recorded for Sirius XM with Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil on guitar and Matt Cameron on drums. Momsen has cited Soundgarden as a huge influence and she again recruited Thayil and Cameron to play a track on the new album, “Only Love Can Save Me Now.” This song, another number 1, also made it into the short set. The Pretty Reckless were on a career high when they had the pleasure of being the opening act for Soundgarden until the tour tragically ended with the passing of Chris Cornell.
There was a mix of new songs like “Witches Burn,” a rocker with a nostalgic AC/DC feel, and back to their first single “Make Me Wanna Die.” You know it’s real live music when there is a bass malfunction and guitarist Ben Phillips stops the show and says, “Hold up. Stop. I don’t wanna play the song without bass.” The problem was fixed right away and Phillips continued, “Let me decide where we’re going to pick up. This is how live rock and roll could work. I can count this out where ever the fuck I want it to start.” He chose to start back at the first verse, the crowd cheered in agreement and just like that, they were back in the swing of things. No tracks to sync up to, just live music. Much appreciated.
Momsen looked beautiful with the smoky eyes and glittering eye shadow and wore her platform biker boots and black silk camisole like a superhero costume. There was no doubt that she had reinvented herself when she started this band and left Cindy Lou Who and Gossip Girl behind in search of her own identity. It’s working. She exuded sexiness with a devil-may-care attitude and you could tell that her primary goal wasn’t to turn you on with her womanly wiles, but to draw you in with her voice, to deeply experience her music. Her voice was in top form as she emoted smoky smooth low notes in “Going To Hell” and then launched into raunchy, gravelly high notes in “Heaven Knows.”
So many good songs had to be left on the cutting room floor like “Follow Me Down,” “25”, and “And So It Went”, but they did save a really good one for their final number. Momsen thanked the opening acts and Halestorm for bringing them on this tour. “I don’t know about everyone here, but all I wanna do with my life is fucking rock, and fucking roll, and play fucking music,” she said, “And thanks to all of you, I get to do that and that’s absolutely incredible. So thank you from the bottom of my heart, from all of us. We love you so much.”
The song “Take Me Down” is an amalgamation of all the greatest hits of classic rock mixed with that signature sound of The Pretty Reckless. It’s a song about selling your soul for rock & roll. Momsen donned an electric six-string as the band played from their souls and she sang from her heart. Great show!
Halestorm is no stranger to Phoenix. In fact, they were here in November 2021 with Evanescence in this same venue. Hale and company are back this time with a fresh set of monster tracks from Back From The Dead, just released in May. Last year’s show introduced the title track “Back From The Dead,” which was riding high at number 1 on the charts at the time. Tonight’s show took a deeper dive with half of their 16-song set being new material. Two of the new songs were more familiar due to radio airplay including “Wicked Ways” and the number 1 song that capped off the night, “The Steeple.”
The opening acts had the audience primed and ready for the Halestorm experience, which began as a black veil that dropped, revealing the band 8’ above the stage on platform risers leading to the drum cage. Two colors popped out of the scene under the blistering white lights: the cardinal red of Lizzy’s signature Gibson Explorerbird (with matching lips and sexy boots) and the neon green glow of drummer Arejay Hale’s hair, drumset, and modern-day zoot suit! Poised for attack, they left no doubt that their intention was to thoroughly entertain!
Praise be to Lzzy Hale, first for her songwriting prowess on every Halestorm song (including six number 1’s, by the way), second for her mastery of the guitar which earned her a coveted sponsorship last year from Gibson Guitars as the first female brand ambassador, and third…good Lord almighty, that voice! How she reaches those notes with such a growl and perfect intonation, night after night for months on end is truly one of the natural wonders of the world. Steve Whiteman (Kix) may have given her some tips to the secret sauce of belting, but there is something about her vocal anatomy that makes her a celebrated freak of nature.
The rasp was on full display on songs like “I Am The Fire,” “Psycho Crazy,” and “I Miss The Misery,” but she proved that her voice is much more than controlled screaming when the show entered the proverbial eye of the hurricane for the ballad “Break In.” All the lights went down except for the spotlight on the piano at center stage. Oh yeah, did I mention that she’s also accomplished on piano? She played solo and had the audience in the palm of her hand during the new acoustic anthem “Raise Your Horns.” Janis Jopplin had to be looking down and smiling for this song. Touching.
Although she is undoubtedly the focal point for most, the band is rock solid at every position. Brother Arejay Hale is a phenomenon to watch on the drums. He is technically precise, but exudes fun and antics while delivering a clinic on professional drum techniques. He did a drum solo which included some interesting oversized drumsticks (still smaller than the broom sticks he used when Halestorm played the Arizona State Fair in 2017). Although cool, the drum solo was unnecessary in the sense that his playing was so incredible throughout the show that there was nothing left to prove! Guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith seemed to keep their nose to the grindstone and play to the masses while the brother/sister act basked in the spotlight. But make no mistake…they didn’t (make any mistakes, that is). The band was tight and obviously rehearsed after years on the road.
It’s a shame when really good songs have to be cut from the setlist to make way for the new, but ones that remain are the ones that bring the crowd to their feet. In the bottom of the ninth, it was time to bring out the closers: “I Miss The Misery,” “Freak Like Me,” and a personal favorite from the debut album, “I Get Off.” What a climax! And then an encore of thank yous, “Here’s To Us” and finally, America’s (dare I say the world’s) new rock anthem, “The Steeple.”
Lzzy Hale closed the night with a song reminding everyone that this was her church and these were her people: A healthy mix of genders, races, and ages with a common passion for great music.