Tag Archives: concert photography

REVIEW: Tool Prove to be Sharp as Ever In Latest Comeback (10-23-19)

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Glendale, AZ — Tool stopped in Glendale night to play the Gila River Arena to an ocean of patiently adoring fans that could not have been more excited to hear the band rip into their ear drums. However, little did everyone in attendance know that what transpired next would be far beyond even what their lofty expectations could prepare them for.

One might think after a 13-year hiatus from recording new music, that a band might be well past their prime but fortunately for Tool, they’re clearly an exception to the rule. With the release of their latest album, Fear Inoculum, this is a band that has proven they won’t compromise their artistic vision for the sake of putting an album out every two years or so. They take their time perfecting a raw, mysterious sound that fans have come to revere over the years.

UK veterans Killing Joke kicked off the night and proved to be an excellent opening act, getting the crowd pumped up with their whiplash-inducing brand of quasi-metal and goth rock sounds. They were definitely an interesting choice for the opening band, but Tool has always brought their friends and greatest musical influences along with them on tour. It was fascinating to observe and clear how Killing Joke’s unique take on music clearly influenced Tool’s own iconic sound as their set went on. Notably, Killing Joke has had many lineup changes throughout the years. But recently, all of their original members are officially back in the band. This brought an inspiring energy to the night that would only flourish in intensity as the time grew closer for Tool to take the stage.

Tool fans awaiting the band’s entrance.
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Fans of Tool know very well the law of the land at their concerts: no photos or videos. One might find this to be disappointing, but in many ways, it enhances the concert experience as people allow themselves and others to become fully engaged in the moment. As the lights fell to black, the sounds of cheering cut in front of the ambient noise with the swiftness of a starving octogenarian jumping to the front of the line at an early-bird dinner buffet. You could reach out and touch the energy in the room, and just when it seemed like the arena would burst from the crowd’s anticipation, guitarist Adam Jones played the opening swells to the new album’s title track, “Fear Inoculum.”

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

This was a very good choice for the opening number, not only because it’s the first song on the new album, but also because it represents the first example of new music they presented to the world after a 13-year drought. The song was recreated beautifully in the live setting, and it was accompanied by some of the most impressive Alex Gray-inspired visuals to date. Incredibly long threads formed around the stage in a circular formation as intensely colorful images were projected onto the screen towering behind the band. These threads also allowed the images projected on stage to glide across them in a pseudo-3D effect that was nothing less than spectacular for  lucky enough to capture it firsthand.

Danny Carey (Drums), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Familiar clay aliens and faceless men in business suits adorned the screen as fans were treated to the corresponding music videos for each of the band’s older songs. One particular highlight included a full live rendition of “Parabol/Parabola” in all of its 9-minute glory, to the uncontainable delight of many fans in attendance. The drums punched through the mix with a primal fury not seen from many other bands around today, thanks to the incomparable Danny Carey behind the monstrous kit. His effortless playing and ad-libbing enhanced the songs without it sounding too busy or as if he was showing off. Every single drum strike was as tasteful as the last, which is no small feat when you have such a large kit at your disposal to tempt a less stoic individual into overplaying.

Adam Jones (Guitar), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor were also both in exceptional form throughout the night, proving their playing only continues to improve. The ear-piercing squeals of Jones’ dark Les Paul mixed with Chancellor’s thunderous yet melodic bass lines are truly a match made in heaven.

Justin Chancellor (Bass), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Other notable highlights of the night included the second song of the set “Ænima”, introduced by singer Maynard James Keenan happily declaring “Alpha Omega. AZ. It’s good to be home. We just got back from LA.” Immediately followed by the familiarly breathy “hey” repeated throughout the intro of the song about a great flood of biblical proportions consuming the entirety of Los Angeles in all of its perceived decay and decadence. This was followed by excellent performances of “The Pot”, “Jambi”, and “Schism”, with the latter incorporating an unexpectedly sped-up bridge section that had to be heard to be believed.

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Tool have achieved what so many other bands who have been together for as long as they have only dream of doing successfully: standing the test of time. So many bands of yesteryear lapse into obscurity or worse yet, self-parody, as they make their comebacks. Tool is not one of them. They continue to deliver unprecedented, phenomenal live shows and mind-blowing visuals that only get better as time flows onward. If you get the chance to see them live, do yourself a favor by not missing out, because they deliver every single time.

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Tool – Gila River Arena 10-23-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
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REVIEW: AWOLNATION Conquers the Coliseum at AZ State Fair (10-23-19)

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PHOENIX — AWOLNATION returned to Phoenix after a nearly year long absence, playing at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum for the first time. The energy and the noise that AWOLNATION brought with them felt like it would bring down the Coliseum. AWOLNATION took a bit of a break from touring in 2019, only playing a total of four concerts all year thus far. This does not mean they sat back and took a year off; rather, they used this time to record. A teaser clip of “The Best” was released on social media on October 15th, and it will be released on November 5th. Next year’s tour dates should be released soon, and per frontman Aaron Bruno, will include another stop in Phoenix.

The Arizona State Fair concert series are unique in that they are shorter, are often only a single band and under an hour and a half in length. AWOLNATION only needed 70 minutes to nearly shake the roof off the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. There was a small crowd on hand when the lights dimmed and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” started to play. Halfway through, it was cut short by the start of “Run”, creating a juxtaposition of the peaceful and the loud, of the lyrics, “And I think to myself what a wonderful world,” and, “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things.” It was attention-grabbing. it was jarring. It was fantastic.

AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

There are very few artists who can control the energy of an audience like Bruno does. He spoke to the crowd throughout the show, inviting them to dance right before launching into “Hollow Moon (Bad Woof)”. Right after finishing up “Kill Your Heroes”, he announced that he, “Came to party with you tonight!”, as the first notes of “People” were being played. It was indeed a party, a dance party to be precise: “We’re trying to throw a dance party tonight! I’m looking for the best dancer in the building, someone doing something I’ve never seen before!”

If one were to scan the crowd while “Not Your Fault” was playing in the moments after that pronouncement, they would find the old and the young doing everything they could to show him something that he had not seen before. He slowed the dance party down from an all-out frenetic dance to what he called a “perfect opportunity to have an old school slow dance” with Table for One” — a slower track that lends itself to just that.

Aaron Bruno (Vocals), Michael Goldman (Bass), Isaac Carpenter (Drums), AWOLNATION
Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

AWOLNATION did not keep the energy down for long, quickly bringing it back up with “Miracle Man”. Bruno had another request midway through this song: “I want everybody to jump with me. You don’t have to, but it’d be a lot cooler if you did.” In a matter of seconds the stands were shaking.

Zach Irons (Guitar), AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

While much of the focus is on Bruno and his ability to connect and energize the fans, it is very important to note that the rest of the band is incredibly talented. In fact, Bruno seemed to insist that we recognize this, stepping out of the spotlight a couple of times so the entire focus was on the band. The first was “The Buffoon”, a song that starts slow and works the tempo up until one must wonder if it is humanly possible for Isaac Carpenter to play the drums much faster. The second was for a cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, with Zach Irons absolutely shredding on the guitar, leaving many mouths agape.

The show ended with “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!”, played for the first time in concert since mid-2017, and finally Bruno looking out at the crowd and saying, “So. What should we do now?” “Sail”, of course. The song that really introduced the world to AWOLNATION closed out this incredible show.

If you missed out on this concert, fear not. AWOLNATION made it very clear that they will be back next summer, and you will not want to miss this one. Keep an eye out for the tour announcement, and buy your tickets to see this amazing band as soon as they go on sale.

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Photographer: Andrea Stoica

AWOLNATION – Arizona State Fair 10-23-19

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Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Aesthetic Perfection’s Heavy Sonics Nearly Bring Down Seattle Bar (10-15-19)

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SEATTLE — For nearly two decades, producer Daniel Graves’ attention-grabbing and infectious industrial pop project, Aesthetic Perfection, has defied the world’s demands for definitions by blending genres and reinventing what it means to be a dark electro artist.

Last year, Aesthetic Perfection announced the “Into The Black World Tour 2019” to support their fifth studio album, Into The Black. The European leg of the tour commenced in the month of April in the UK, and the North American leg began in the beginning of September in San Diego. For the second date of this leg, they performed in Mesa, AZ — home of Burning Hot Events. Aesthetic Perfection’s North American tour made one of its last stops at Highline Bar with supporting acts Empathy Test and LAZERPUNK.

LAZERPUNK

LAZERPUNK, from Budapest, set an apropos dark and gritty tone, with electronic music so heavy that it feels like it resonates with your flesh and courses through your veins. The intensity of the music, especially as it was coming from just one man wearing an Adidas baseball cap, was nearly beyond comprehension.

LAZERPUNK
| Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Stepping into the environment of the club that night and being smacked with the power of these beats was like being dragged into an alternate universe. It was easily a reminder of why so many of us go out to industrial shows for the cathartic experience — communally flipping a switch that turns on a stifled side of our souls that is screaming and clawing to get out and rage during the mundane day-to-day, as we dismally watch our world socially and environmentally corrode around us. It is here we are uplifted, escape, and achieve balance in a combination of commiseration, unadulterated passion for music, and unjudged embracement of our dark, but not necessarily evil, sides.

Empathy Test

With Isaac Howlett’s British vocals that feel longing and aching, and an ethereal touch, synthwave act Empathy Test has no doubt drawn some associations to Depeche Mode innumerable times. As a blend of 80s sci-fi soundtracks, 90s guitar bands, and modern underground dance as influences, they are a duo in the studio (Howlett and producer Adam Relf), and currently a trio performing live. The beautiful thing about electronic music, as demonstrated by LAZERPUNK and Empathy Test, is that something so big can come from so few people. With the aid of Angel Metro on keys and Christina “Chrisy” Lopez on drums, the trio pulled the entranced audience at Highline into a galaxy of emotion. In between songs, Howlett brought some levity back to the room with charming, good-humored banter. Teeming with talent, Empathy Test are also responsible for their breathtaking artwork.

Isaac Howlett (Vocals), Empathy Test
| Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Aesthetic Perfection

When Aesthetic Perfection hit the stage, it wasn’t long before the integrity of the building structure was tested as the crowd unapologetically jumped with such force the floor could be felt bouncing under your feet — admittedly not the most comforting feeling when you’re on the second story of a building.

Daniel Graves (Vocals), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Consisting of the aforementioned vocalist and programmer Graves, Elliott Berlin on keys/guitar/bass, infamous drummer Joe Letz (formerly of Combichrist and a slew of other industrial bands), this trio contrasted Empathy Test with deliciously harsh aggrotech.

The band added a delightfully creative “speed dating” VIP upgrade experience for this tour in which fans got a guarantee to interact with every band number. Additionally, the package included a signed setlist, signed polaroid, signed poster, and VIP laminate — basically all of the essentials that any diehard fan is going to want to collect from a show, and a really smart offer on the band’s part to turn a profit on their tour.

Daniel Graves (Vocals), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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The diversity of Graves’ vocal techniques shine in sexy transitions between a vicious growl and a timbre that might be described as an approximate blend of Jay Godon (Orgy) and the late Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) — this vocal flux is exemplified in the track “Ebb and Flow”; there is a broody and agonizing cover of ‘NSync’s “Bye Bye Bye” (featuring guitarist Nikki Misery of New Years Day) in which he hits an impressively powerful high note with chest voice at the bridge, a beautiful falsetto in the new Into the Black opening track “Gods & Gold”, and even an OTEP-like quality in the theatrical track “Dark Ages”.

Berlin jumped back and forth between instruments, with hair flying wildly to no end, and making himself an entertaining spectacle each time he climbed upon his keyboard and thrashed around amongst the rising smoke.

Elliott Berlin (Keys, Bass), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Meanwhile, Letz made apparent why his percussive skills are so acclaimed, as the vigorous force of the backing beats that he was responsible for nearly brought down the house.

Joe Letz (Drums), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Holy shit,” was the sentiment that coursed through my head all night, and near the finale of their set, Graves showed that those in the crowd were not alone in sheer awe of the magnitude of the immense energy pervading the venue, as he let out a clearly sincere, “Holy shit Seattle!

Daniel Graves (Vocals), Aesthetic Perfection
Photographer:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
© All Rights Reserved
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Aesthetic Perfection will go on to tour in Germany from October 25th through November 2nd, with alternating and combined support by Empathy Test and Iris on select dates. If you’ve lost touch, this lineup is a mind-blowing reminder of what there is to love about industrial shows, that they are alive and well, and it is still a scene worth supporting.

Photo Galleries

by Katherine Amy Vega

View Separately: Aesthetic Perfection | Empathy Test | LAZERPUNK

Aesthetic Perfection, Empathy Test, LAZERPUNK – Highline Bar 10-15-19

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Photography © Kataklizmic Design
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REVIEW: Saints and Sinners Celebrated in the Mosh Ring of Fire with Flogging Molly & Social Distortion at Mesa Amphitheatre (9-29-19)

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Mesa, AZ — Flogging Molly, closing their “Life is Good” tour, and Social Distortion, about to hit the studio again, put on a spectacular show of endurance and exuberance for an all ages crowd at the Mesa Amphitheatre. Together, they demonstrated that punk’s not dead, but alive and well, with new albums and more tours to come for future fans in attendance that were not even born yet.

Openers  — Le Butcherettes & The Devil Makes Three

The opening bands, Le Butcherettes and The Devil Makes Three, did a fantastic job at getting the crowd pumped and ready for the headliners. With spastic moves and strong vocals, Le Butcherettes surprised and impressed the audience with their style and polished delivery. Then, the bluegrass punk mix brought in by The Devil Makes Three brought in their excellent performance, gaining fans throughout the audience that came in early enough to be rewarded by their unusual, yet fantastic musical talents. 

Social Distortion

Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and his 40 years of rock and roll experience kept the crowd cheering and fired up during their energized performance. Early into their set, Ness thanked the openers one by one, encouraged the crowd to cheer for them, as he then also shared how the Mesa crowd was so far superior from all the other ones, especially the recent night in Las Vegas. There were nonstop mosh pits during Social Distortion’s performance, staying true to the punk tradition of chaos and high energy.  

Mike Ness (Lead Vocals), Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Halfway through the set, Ness made an announcement that their fans were ecstatic to hear by saying, “I have some great news! Social Distortion is going into the studio in January to record a new album.” Since their last album release was Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes back in 2011, the crowd went crazy. Social Distortion rewarded their fans’ loyalty with a new song called “Over You” from the not-yet-recorded new album. 

Brent Harding (Bass), Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Ness connected with the audience between every song, telling stories about his musical journey and pouring his all into each song. One of the stories that stood out the most was about an assignment he received while in high school back in September of 1980 where he was told to read about WWII. Ness, with a smile, commented that he spent that time writing a song, and shortly after he dropped out of high school because it was getting in the way of his rock and roll life. That song is called “1945”.

Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As their set was nearing its end, they were joined by band members from The Devil Makes Three and Flogging Molly for the song “Sometimes I Do”. Social Distortion closed the last stop of their tour with an appropriate song for their 40th anniversary tour; “Story of My Life”. 

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly hit the stage to end what, for them, has been long 3 years of constant touring.  Their well-deserved break will include a couple of weddings and international trips: Spencer Swain, who plays the mandolin, banjo, guitar, and vocals, is to be married within a week of the show’s end; Nathen Maxwell, who plays bass guitar and vocals, is also getting married within a week after the show; finally, band leader Dave King — their lead vocalist who plays the acoustic guitar, and bodhrán, and his wife Bridget Regan, who provides backing and lead vocals and plays the violin and tin whistle, were going on a trip to Ireland almost immediately after the show at 7:30 the next morning.

Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

King and company rocked the stage and brought a performance to Mesa that was a prime example of fun, energy, and professionalism, demonstrating their 22 years of experience and true dedication to their fans. 

A memorable moment arose in the middle of their set as King wanted to give a special shout-out to a fan that flew all the way from Tokyo, Japan, just to see them play here. King greeted this young fan, Kazu, in what seemed to be fluent Japanese, causing an explosion of cheers and clapping from the audience. Flogging Molly played one of their most popular songs, “Tobacco Road”, for this traveling fan. 

Matt Hensley (Accordion), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As Flogging Molly played the energetic, musically and lyrically powerful song “Crush,” King stopped mid-song and said, “On the last day of our tour, after 3 years without emptying our suitcases, let’s have some fun,” and started to sing “We Will Rock You” by Queen with the crowd chanting loudly, then seamlessly went back to the song “Crush”. 

King then introduced each one of the 7 Drunken Pirates, as the band members call themselves, one by one and thoroughly thanked the entire crew. He stated that after touring for years, this was the best crew they’ve ever had — “except for this asshole right there,” he jokingly said while pointing towards the backstage area without specifically singling anybody out. 

Spencer Swain (Guitar), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

“If I Ever Leave This World Alive” was their last song, powerfully and beautifully performed from the stage to a cheering crowd that didn’t want to see this show end. These fans had been gifted with phenomenal performances from two of the most recognizable punk bands of our time. 

Dave King (Lead Vocals), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As their last song came to an end, the speakers began to play the theme song of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, a British comedic classic, with their positive and uplifting message: “Always look on the bright side of life.” The stage began to fill back up with the members of Flogging Molly and The Devil Makes Three as they said goodbye to their fans, throwing guitar pics, drumsticks, playlists, and anything else they could find to give away while King waved away his fans, ready for their well-earned break.

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Flogging Molly | Social Distortion

Flogging Molly & Social Distortion – Mesa Amphitheatre 9-29-19

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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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Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

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
Photo Gallery

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
Photo Gallery

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
Photo Gallery

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.

Photo Galleries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Album

Photos by Rodrigo Izquierdo

Postmodern Jukebox – Mesa Arts Center 4-17-19

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Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

Openers

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

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

Shadow Guilt

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

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

Shadow Guilt Photo Gallery

Sectas

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

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

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

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

Fates Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fates Warning Photo Gallery

Queensrÿche

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

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

Cast for the Evening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setlist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cast for the Evening

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

Setlist

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

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

Photo Galleries

Photographers: Mark Greenawalt & Rodrigo Izquierdo (Reagle Photography)

Openers: Shadow Guilt | Sectas | Fates Warning

Queensrÿche – Marquee Theatre 3-26-19

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Photography © Mark Greenawalt & Reagle Photography, Respectively.
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Featured (top) photo by Mark Greenawalt

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

LP – The Van Buren 3-6-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Styx – Celebrity Theatre 1-11-19

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