The excitement is building as Matchbox 20 gears up for their highly anticipated “Slow Dream Tour” set to kick off in May 2023. The American multi-Platinum rock band known for hit songs like “3AM,” “Push,” and “Unwell,” is set to take the stage at the Talking Stick Resort Amphitheater in Phoenix on May 31, 2023. Matchbox 20 is set to release their first new album in over a decade, Where The Light Goes, on May 26.
The “Slow Dream Tour” will begin on May 16th at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC and conclude on August 6th at Chicago’s Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre. Fans of the band can expect to hear some of their classic hits along with some new music as they take to the stage with their signature energy. But the excitement doesn’t just stop there, Matchbox 20 has taken great care to ensure that they’re bringing a complete concert experience that their fans won’t soon forget.
To help make the tour even more memorable, the band has brought on some incredible supporting acts. Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson kicks things off for the first half of the tour. Nathanson is no stranger to the spotlight himself, with hits like “Laid”, “Come On Get Higher”, and “Car Crash” under his belt. Fans attending the early shows will no doubt be left in awe of his vocal skills and appreciate his uplifting lyrics in songs like, “Faster” and “Blush”.
As the tour progresses, chart-topping singer-songwriter Ben Rector takes over as the support act. Rector has captured the hearts of many with his catchy tunes like “Brand New” and “The Men Who Drive Me Places,” earning him a devoted following of his own.
So be sure to mark your calendars for May 31, 2023, and grab your tickets to the Matchbox 20 “Slow Dream Tour”. Trust us, you won’t want to miss out on this unforgettable musical experience! Get your tickets here, and make sure to check out the full list of tour dates to see if the band is headed to a city near you.
Matchbox 20 “Slow Dear Tour” Dates:
5/16 – Vancouver, BC – Rogers Arena*
5/18 – Auburn, WA – White River Amphitheatre*
5/19 – Ridgefield, WA – Sunlight Supply Amphitheater*
5/21 – Concord, CA – Concord Pavilion*
5/22 – Hollywood, CA – Hollywood Bowl*
5/24 – Fresno, CA – Save Mart Center*
5/25 – Bakersfield, CA – Mechanics Bank Arena*
5/27 – Las Vegas, NV – The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan*
5/28 – Irvine, CA – FivePoint Amphitheatre*
5/30 – San Diego, CA – Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre*
5/31 – Phoenix, AZ – Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre*
6/2 – Sparks, NV – Nugget Event Center*#
6/3 – West Valley City, UT – USANA Amphitheatre*
6/4 – Boise, ID – Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater*
6/6 – Denver, CO – Ball Arena*
6/8 – Omaha, NE – CHI Health Center Omaha*
6/9 – Sioux Falls, SD – Denny Sanford Premier Center*
6/10 – Welch, MN – Treasure Island*#
6/13 – Cuyahoga Falls, OH – Blossom Music Center*
6/14 – Clarkston, MI – Pine Knob Music Center*
6/16 – Cincinnati, OH – Riverbend Music Center*
6/17 – Moline, IL – Vibrant Arena at The Mark*
6/18 – Kansas City, MO – Starlight Theatre*
6/20 – St. Louis, MO – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre*
6/21 – Oklahoma City, OK – The Zoo*#
6/23 – Rogers, AR – Walmart AMP*
6/27 – Birmingham, AL – Oak Mountain Amphitheatre^
6/29 – Dallas, TX – Dos Equis Pavilion^
6/ 30 – Houston, TX – The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion presented by Huntsman^
7/2 – Atlanta, GA – Lakewood Amphitheatre^
7/3 – Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena^
7/ 5 – Jacksonville, FL – Daily’s Place^
7/7 – West Palm Beach, FL – iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre^
7/ 8 – Tampa, FL – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre at the FL State Fairground^
7/11 – Charlotte, NC – PNC Music Pavilion^
7/ 12 – Raleigh, NC – Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek^
7/14 – Burgettstown, PA – The Pavilion at Star Lake^
7/15 – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center^
7/16 – Camden, NJ – Freedom Mortgage Pavilion^
7/18 – Wantagh, NY – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater^
7/19 – Bethlehem, PA – The Wind Creek Event Center^
7/21 – Gilford, NH – Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion^
7/22 – Uncasville, CT – Mohegan Sun Arena^
7/23 – Mansfield, MA – Xfinity Center^
7/26 – Virginia Beach, VA – Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater at Virginia Beach^
7/27 – Bristow, VA – Jiffy Lube Live^
7/29 – Syracuse, NY – St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview^
7/30 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Saratoga Performing Arts Center^
8/1 – Darien Center, NY – Darien Lake Amphitheater^
8/ 2 – Toronto, ON – Budweiser Stage^
8/ 4 – Toledo, OH – Toledo Zoo Amphitheater^
8/ 5 – Noblesville, IN – Ruoff Music Center^
8/ 6 – Tinley Park, IL – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre^
* Matt Nathanson supporting ^ Ben Rector supporting ~ Hudson Thames supporting
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 — Tori Amos’ show at Orpheum Theater on her “Ocean to Ocean Tour”, with support from Companion, was a sold out event. In this grand structure of a venue, a ceiling painted like the sky and lit with starlight, the audience seemed to recognize we were in the presence of herstory, and everything was absolutely glowing.
Amos is an institution. Amos has never been the pop princess, the sexy body image icon. She is a voice. She’s a siren, she’s a chanteuse—she’s been the one reminding us since the 90’s that a voice in itself is powerful. More than Pride month, more than the LGBTQIA+ crowd – a lot of patchouli, if you know what I mean – this night was about storytelling, and the tools a woman can use to tell a full story: a voice, a piano.
The opener was a duo called Companion, composed of identical twins Sophia and Jo Babb. These sisters were soft-spoken, funny. Denim-clad from Oklahoma City, they emphasized how grateful they were opening for Tori Amos and that this was their first tour. The pair were charming, and, as my fellow photojournalist comments, had great “candor” with their audience. I’d characterize their sound as slow, melodic, and sleepy—bedtime music—though we, the audience, learned quite a bit about their lives in the short opening act. While I’d be tempted to say Companion held us in the palms of their hands, maybe we just felt held.
Jo offered a “Sapphic love song about longing” and then Sophia talked of fate and meeting her husband. Later, they told the crowd about losing their father at the age of 13 and sang a song about grief, which they described as the “Final boss we had to kill to get to the next stage.” Sophia relates that she wrote this for their mom.
Above all, Companion supplied great storytelling; their final song “Labyrinth” was about things getting better. The opening set was sleepy and slow, but in the way of great storytelling, was in no rush, like we have our whole lives to tell it. On Companion’s Instagram they said they write “songs to feel to” and this is mostly accurate. Sometimes we have to slow down to feel, and the duo raised immaculate harmonies in the way of twin lore.
Amos appeared amid a swirling red background and an eager crowd standing through the opening two songs. She opened with “Juárez” from 1999’s To Venus and Back. At the song’s fade, the red-swirling background faded purple, then pink, into her second song: “Bouncing Off Clouds.”
Amos has mastered the power stance, like her thigh width is directly related to the intensity. This is beyond manspreading; she positively writhes at the altar of the Bösendorfer (her longtime piano). At times bent over her piano, she almost appeared crone-like, though we will never say this of Tori, but it is undeniable this woman was casting a spell.
While the night featured only one full cover, “House of the Rising Son,” she used multiple covers as interludes during her songs, including The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” worked in with “Father’s Song” from 2007’s American Doll Posse. However, it was in the song preceding that, “Bliss” from To Venus and Back, when she incorporated Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” When the audience exploded to their feet for the beloved song that is now more than 3 decades old, it was a delight, and it fueled a glorious, vibrant performance.
Following the show, I rewatched her 2014 performance of this song from a stop in Kansas City. Maybe this has been propelled by recently being brought to a whole new generation via its use in season 4 of Netflix’s Stranger Things, but her rendition of it has evolved. It now has a thunderous, pounding rhythm that was a true highlight to the show. Can one call a cover superior to the original? Like, legally? ‘Cause I think that’s what I’m doing.
I’d say if the show had a sub-theme to the main one of impeccable female-centric storytelling, it would be a perceptible attention to the zeitgeist of change. For her 8th song she played “Winter” from her breakout album Little Earthquakes, which holds the lyric “things are gonna change so fast.” With all that we’ve been through the past two years, the pandemic, all now together worshiping in this beautiful room at the foot of a goddess and her piano, I kept thinking about our lives as vectors for change. I sat next to a woman who brought her son and had driven down from Sedona. She was so clearly excited to be there, her son more hesitant. He too, like the rest of us, can’t see the change that’s ahead of us.
Amos has changed, too; halfway through the show, she had a false start and had to ask a member of her road crew for her glasses. Still, she was definitely feeling the love from her audience. Positively radiant in her salmon-colored jumpsuit, Tori rounded out the show by ending on another classic (a personal favorite) from Little Earthquakes, “Cornflake Girl,” to inspire the third standing ovation of the evening. Her vibratos on the line, “You bet your life it is” echoed throughout the Orpheum.
What’s almost more endearing at every Tori Amos show are all of the superfans, the ones who know every word. This crowd, undeniably hers, was visibly and audibly present this night, too, drawing Tori out for an encore. The lighting was immersive, evoking the feeling of being drawn into a fourth dimension in pinks and blues. It all felt so rich, so special, like all of her stans got to celebrate Amos – her voice clear as a bell and her piano chords striking just the right spaces in our hearts – nearing the end of her “Ocean to Ocean Tour” together, like some kind of deal with God.
Glendale, AZ — Pearl Jam’s concert at Gila River Arena, with support from Pluralone, has been in the making for some time. You could say it’s been since the original date in May of 2020 as part of the Gigaton Tour, however, for me this show has been overdue since December of 1991, when I got a copy of Ten. I fell in love with Pearl Jam, only for the chance to see them live evade me for nearly thirty years, living in my mind through their MTV Unplugged performance, playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” with Neil Young at the MTV Video Music Awards, various talk show appearances, and multiple live albums and videos from over the years. At the show, though, I met fans who were well into double and even triple digits for seeing the band. I was assured repeatedly that it would be an unforgettable evening.
Considering his status in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, it was surprising for the show to open with Eddie Vedder strolling out alone without any undue fanfare and simply introducing himself to the crowd with, “Hi, I’m Ed.”
Anyone who follows Pearl Jam’s setlists online for each tour stop would have been aware that he’s been doing this on the tour, treating the crowd, so far, to solo covers of Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart for a While” during the tour opener in San Diego, and a double dose of Tom Petty with “I Won’t Back Down” on night 1 in Inglewood and “Wildflowers” on night two. For Arizona, he played his own “Far Behind” from the soundtrack he did for Into the Wild. Vedder’s voice is so powerful, so transcendent, that even for those who might not be familiar with his emotional score for the film were quickly enveloped in its beauty. As he wrapped up the song, he gave an introduction to the show’s opener Josh Klinghoffer, heaping praise on him.
“I’m really excited to be here, but I’m gonna play a song that doesn’t sound like I am”, Klinghoffer greeted the crowd, following Vedder’s introduction. Billed under his project Pluralone, the talented multi-instrumentalist filled the arena through a variety of instruments, even if he took moments to jokingly chastise some of the more complicated electric instruments for not working properly. Mid-set, he gave a shout out to one of Arizona’s greatest bands, asking, “How can I be in Phoenix, Arizona without paying homage to the Meat Puppets?!”, before launching into a cover of “Backwater” from their 1994 album Too High To Die.
Most are familiar with Klinghoffer for his time with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but if you are not already, it is well worth your time to check out the music he is making as Pluralone. The sounds he is able to produce solo would leave anyone believing they were listening to a full band if they only closed their eyes as they took it all in.
He closed out his set with a cover of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance,” noting that it was Victory Day in Russia.“I don’t know why they call it that since they’re the ones starting all the wars.”
He got the crowd to join in on the chorus and played around with the lyrics, even working in a tribute to the departed Taylor Hawkins with “Everybody talkin’ ‘bout Taylor Hawkins… Taylor Hawkins… man I miss Taylor Hawkins,” which elicited cheers from all corners of the arena. “This might be presumptuous of me, but I thought we’d just keep singing it until Pearl Jam comes out in 30 minutes. If you do, I’ll cover Jane’s Addition,” he jokingly offered before exiting the stage, leaving the crowd to solo acapella the final run through the chorus.
Every Pearl Jam show has a completely unique setlist. While a lot of bands are comfortable with having the same set night after night, with little variation, every Pearl Jam performance is completely fresh. This is why “Wash” was a shocker as a show opener. First appearing as a B-side on different editions of their first single “Alive,” it’s a darker song and not what you might expect from Pearl Jam, but it still crackled with an electricity, as the band performed bathed in a blue light. It was like a prayer cast from darkness and despair just hoping for salvation. As the song faded, they immediately launched into “Given to Fly” from Yield, which brought the few people who weren’t already standing to their feet.
After over 30 years, Pearl Jam is still anchored by founding members Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament, and hasn’t had any changes since Matt Cameron took over the drums on the band’s fifth album Yield. The touring band is filled out by Boom Gaspar, a Hawaiin native Vedder met through C.J. Ramone, and by Klinghoffer pulling double duty throughout the tour. Collectively, they are as tight a band as you are going to find in this or any generation.
“I don’t know how it feels out there, but it feels pretty good up here,” an enthusiastic Vedder told the crowd. Pearl Jam’s performance came almost exactly on the two year anniversary of when it was originally scheduled, in May of 2020 to support their 11th studio album Gigaton. “Good things come to those who wait. My good friend Tom Petty used to say the waiting was the hardest part,” he added. Pearl Jam never makes any stop on their tour feel like just another show for the band and throughout the night, Vedder launched into several monologues with the crowd that showed how Phoenix was a special stop for them.
One such moment came when Vedder told the story of Tom and Avis. In 1988, when Eddie Vedder wasn’t “Eddie Vedder the lead singer of Pearl Jam and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” but was just a young, directionless kid like any of us at that age, he was driving through Arizona on his way back to San Diego and his car broke down in Gila Bend. Stranded and with no money, he was taken in by an older couple named Tom and Avis who gave him a place to stay while his car was being repaired. Today any of us would be more than willing to let Eddie Vedder crash at our place for a day or two, but to take in a broke, stranded kid named Ed Vedder speaks to the inherent good we sometimes forgets still thrives in the world, even when everything else seems, at times, to be relentlessly awful.
The story of Tom and Avis was followed with a soulful rendition of “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” and quickly followed by “Corduroy” and “Quick Escape,” the latter off of Gigaton, showing that the new work stands toe-to-toe with the band’s back-catalog classics.
“You have the freedom to fuck up and learn and grow from fucking up. If anyone tries to judge you for fucking up it’s probably because they’ve fucked up and are trying to divert attention form their fuck ups by making you feel bad for yours,” Vedder told the crowd; though attributing the words to Jeff Ament. They then dipped back into Ten, the band’s run through “Why Go,” which had the crowd air guitaring and shouting the lyrics into the rafters. Vedder shouted out the Arizona Coyotes for loaning the band their arena for the night and acknowledging Coyotes players Christian Fischer and Clayton Keller, who were at the show. He dedicated Gigaton’s “Superblood Wolfmoon” to them. “I figure Wolf is close enough to Coyote.”
All across social media prior to the show was an ADOT highway sign reading “Even Flow on the gas. Keep left to pass,” which amused the band. “Shoutout to the pot-smoking employee who made that sign. Life’s incredible, so keep eating those edibles,” Vedder laughed. The moment of amusement was followed by the band performing “Even Flow,” which featured Mike McCready doing an extended mid-song guitar solo behind his head in one of the most awe-inspiring moments of the night. Following “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” Vedder talked about the band’s friend, retired astronaut Scott Kelly. At Kelly’s request, the band played “Black,” arguably Pearl Jam’s greatest song.
Afterwards, Vedder talked about the band’s admiration for former state representative Gabby Gifford and her husband Senator Mark Kelly (twin brother of Scott Kelly). He then turned his attention to the recent Supreme Court decision on Roe V. Wade, punctuating his expression of frustration about the decision with a performance of “Daughter,” tagged with a rare performance of “W.M.A.,” (both from Vs), tweaking the lyrics to “Police shot my daughter again…” It was one of the night’s highlights. They followed it with “Porch,” which was the song the band closed their 1992 MTV Unplugged performance with and Vedder took a sharpie and wrote “Pro Choice” on his arm.
With the crowd riding the high wave of “Porch,” the band exited the stage briefly, returning with haste. “We’re having too much fun to be gone for too long!”Before playing the first song of the encore, Vedder put a spotlight, literally, on his niece who was at the show (missing her graduation from ASU to do so) and dedicated the No Code gem “Smile” to her.
“We lost so many wonderful people in the last few years, like my friend Tom Petty. We also recently lost Eddie Van Halen who was a friend.” This set up Mike McCready to show off exactly why he is one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, as he busted out a solo cover of Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Following “Do the Evolution,” Vedder told the story of a woman he had met who had lost her sister to COVID. With her in attendance, he dedicated a gorgeous rendition of “Better Man” to her. “This is for all the badass women out there and all the badass men who support them”, Vedder said as a set up to the band’s cover of Eddie Holland’s “Leaving Home.”
As “Leaving Home” faded out, they shifted into performing “Alive,” a song that seems to take on a special significance over the years as a reminder that even in the worst of times, to appreciate your continued survival. The crowd sing-along was the connective tissue of the night, bringing everyone together for a beautiful moment. In those moments, the personal, philosophical, political, religious, and whatever difference that tragically gets too much focus in our day-to-day existence vashined, as the chorus echoed from every corner of the arena and collectively rose to the heavens. If “Wash” started us in darkness and despair, then “Alive” pulled us out, refreshed, and renewed like a musical baptism.
As they closed out the night with the grace and beauty that is “Yellow Ledbetter,” the “Jeremy” B-side-turned-beloved-live-show-staple and bonafide Pearl Jam classic, we were each sent out into the cool desert evening knowing that even in the most dire of times, there are the Tom and Avis’s of the world passing along simple acts of kindness to a stranger and there is a good fight to be fought, because even the smallest of us is capable of so much more than we think. It was a night worth the two-year wait. It was a night worth my 30-year wait.
Pearl Jam Setlist from Phoenix 5-9-22:
Wash (tour debut)
Given to Fly
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Alright (tour debut)
Dance of the Clairvoyants
Black (with “We Belong Together” tag)
I Got Id (tour debut)
Red Mosquito (tour debut)
Sleeping by Myself (Eddie Vedder song) (tour debut)
PHOENIX — Ministry’s concert at The Van Buren, with support from Corrosion of Conformity and Melvins, has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for July 29th, 2020 and featuring a completely different lineup (Ministry, KMFDM, and Front Line Assembly), the show was of course forestalled by the pandemic. Various attempts were made to reschedule with varying lineups, including a pre-Halloween show with Helmet and Frontline Assembly last October. Through these fits and starts, the show finally happened this past Tuesday, and it was worth the wait.
Corrosion of Conformity
“How many of you fuckers here in Phoenix like heavy shit?” was how Corrosion of Conformity lead singer Pepper Keenan greeted the crowd, as the band launched into “Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)” from their 1995 album Wiseblood. Heavy was what was promised, and heavy was what was delivered. Pulling from nearly every album since 1991’s Blind, when the North Carolina band moved away from its earlier thrash/hardcore days with the addition of Louisiana native Keenan, their set covered everything from hits from their biggest selling album, 1994’s Deliverance, to the criminally underrated America’s Volume Dealer (2000).
“Nice pipes, y’all”, Keenan said mid-set in response to the crowd’s fierce sing-along to “Shake Like You”, adding, “Thanks for getting here early. We appreciate that shit. I’ve been home sitting in my garage for two years, and that fucking sucked.” In fact, the band was stepping in to replace the previously scheduled Helmet on the tour. CoC’s blend of hardcore and southern rock had the crowd in a frenzy, with the mosh pit never slowing down.
Closing out their set with the 1-2-3 punch of “Albatross,” “Who’s Got the Fire,” and an extended jam on their biggest hit “Clean My Wounds,” it was an instance where you wish every band on the bill could get a full set of time, as their set didn’t even get a chance to touch on recent albums IX or No Cross No Crown nor dip back into the early thrash records like Eye for an Eye or Animosity. Still though, as the crowd would obviously agree, 45 minutes of Corrosion of Conformity blows away 90 minutes of most bands.
“The Melvins are coming up next to bulldoze you,” Keenan had promised at the end of their set, and bulldoze they did. Opening their set with “The Kicking Machine” from 2008’s Nude with Boots, Buzz Osborne’s guitar stands out in the band’s sound. Osborne himself, whose large shock of white hair and stage outfits that have him resembling the leader of an alien race from a long-lost 1950’s sci-fi cult film, is the perfect visual representation of the band’s sound, as it manages to be at times trippy and psychedelic and then shift into something more heavy and dark.
The rhythm section of drummer Dale Crover, whose drumming is so heavy you half-expect to see him using cinder blocks and not drum sticks, and bass player Steven Shane McDonald, whose own all-white outfit, long hair, and goatee made him look like a 1970’s transcendental meditation guru, fill out the band’s legendary sound.
For those not familiar with the Washington natives, Melvins’ experimental style has led people to compare them to bands as far-ranging as Black Sabbath to Black Flag (frontman Osborne, for the record, cites Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn as his biggest influence), and the band inspired so many other legendary bands from the Pacific Northwest, which is evident from their entire Tuesday-night set, as you can hear what elements of their sound other bands spent their whole careers trying to emulate.
Their set covered all eras of the band, with some nice surprises pulled from their mid-nineties classic albums: 91’s Bullhead(“It’s Shoved” and “Anaconda”), 93’s Houdini (“Hooch” and “Honey Bucket”), 94’s Stoner Witch (“Queen”), and 96’s Stag (“The Bit”). The band was joined by Ministry drummer Roy Mayorga for the two Houdini tracks, playing in perfect tandem with Crover.
This summer, Melvins will be hitting the road again in June and July on their Electric Roach Tour, supported by Helms Alee and Harsh Mellow, stopping in Tucson on June 18th for their only Arizona date.
With a chain-link fence set up across the front of the stage before their set began, Ministry had already set a specific atmosphere for their performance. Just moments before they came out, a visual was cast with the familiar blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and a message reading Ministry Stands With Ukraine across it. While other bands choose songs specific to their sound to walk out to, they elected to further drive home their message of solidarity by entering to the Ukrainian National Anthem.
Each member filed out one by one, with lead Al Jourgensen out last. As the band stood ready to perform, he stalked the stage, moving in front of the fencing like an animal who smelled fresh blood. He clawed at, banged on, and swayed the fence back and forth, all the while the audience in turn lurched forward in response, like an aggressive lion tamer goading the beast into action. With the band’s two-drum assault, this dance moved with the rhythm of each song, like watching a violent wash crash into a rocky promenade and then just as quickly recede back.
It’s hard to fathom that Ministry is approaching the 40th anniversary of their first release (1983’s With Sympathy), as their sound still feels eons ahead of its time. Having recently passed anniversaries for two of their greatest albums, they opened their set with “Breathe” from 1989’s The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and “The Missing” from The Land of Rape and Honey. Their entire performance was a multimedia experience, as their backdrop featured images and video that thematically connected to each song, like witnessing a live music video. Mid-set, they broke out a trio of songs from Jourgensen’s many side projects, including 1,000 Homo DJ’s cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” from Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black and two songs from Pailhead, Jourgensen’s band with Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye.
The band has never shied away from its politics (their 2018 album AmeriKKKant features the track “Antifa,” for instance), and despite being now almost a 30-year-old song, their performance of “NWO” from Ministry’s landmark album ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ (also known as Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed & The Way to Suck Eggs) seems more appropriate for the times than it did upon its initial release, in this era of increasing social and political upheaval and seems to speak even more so to the political tensions in the country in the five years, especially in light of their opening tribute and show of support for the people of Ukraine. They ended the night with an encore of “Alert Level”, “Good Trouble” (both from 2001’s Moral Hygiene), and a blistering cover of Iggy and The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy”.
Ministry alone is an intense, primal, and heavy concert experience, but when you add to it the Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity it enters an entire new realm. Yes, this concert has been two years in the making, but it was two years worth it. After all, after such a wait, we were all ready for some heavy shit.
PHOENIX — Before Flogging Molly’s concert at The Marquee Theater – with support from Vandoliers and Russkaja – even began, there was a vibe in the crowd different from anything seen the last time concerts were a normal occurrence, and it led to what made this show so special. You see, back in those waning, naïve days of January and February of 2020 – before our lives were collectively turned upside down, leaving us wondering if any semblance of normalcy would return, let alone gathering en masse to enjoy live music once again – we could see live shows whenever we wanted. Though we may not have realized it then, we took live music for granted.
No, the crowd on Tuesday night at the Marquee was buzzing with a noticeable sense of joy, community, and most of all, gratitude. Strangers happily chatted away with each other when the house lights were still on and an array of punk and classic rock was piped through the P.A. Conversations centered so much on “I was supposed to see… until…” and many specifically mentioned having tickets to see Flogging Molly in spring of 2020. No one was taking this moment for granted, because so much was survived to get to this point.
Openers Vandoliers hail from Dallas, Texas and were described on the hype sticker on the vinyl pressing of their 2019 album Foreveras sounding like a cross between Boston Irish punk legends Dropkick Murphys and Arizona’s own Calexico. With so many physical miles between Boston and Tucson and just as many musical style miles between the two as well, the description was intriguing. At the start of their set, the description immediately made sense. With a similar style of rhythm section, made up of bassist Mark Moncrieff and drummer Trey Alfaro, combined with guitar and aggressive vocals from Dustin Fleming, the Murphys-punk influence was evident. What made their sound so unique, though, was the addition of fiddler Travis Curry and multi-instrumentalist Cory Graves who combined to bring a southwest seasoning on top of the Irish punk brew.
Their seven-song set was fast and furious, punctuated with shout-along should-be classics like “Cigarettes in the Rain,” “Sixteen Years,” and “Troublemaker,” which should be the band’s anthem and the anthem for anyone who were told early on that they’d “be a problem” in life. They closed their set with a cover of Scottish rock duo The Proclaimers’ classic, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” recasting the early 90’s alternative sing-along smash as a rowdy West Texas bar band end-of-the–night, last-call rager. If there was a person in attendance not singing along throughout, they were not easily spotted amongst the packed crowd.
Austria’s Russkaja, self-described as “Russian Turbo Polka Metal,” played second. With a foundation of traditional Russian music, they layer it with a confluence of styles, ranging from punk to ska to metal to, yes, polka, all rolled into a wholly unique sound. Founding member and vocalist Georgij Makazaria leads the charge alongside bassist Dimitrij Miller, guitarist Engel Mayr, violinist Lea-Sophie Fischer, Mayr, potete player Hans-Georg Gutternigg, and drummer Mario Stübler, with each member contributing their own particular stitch to their vast tapestry of sound. Mayr’s guitar playing shifted effortlessly between ska and metal, not just across the entire set, but even within one song.
The highlight of their hard-charging set, though, was not even music, but a somber moment midway when Makazaria and Miller stood together and spoke to the crowd not as musicians but as citizens of two countries. Makazaria is Russian and Miller is Ukrainian and together they condemned the war and called for peace and love.
“The people of Russia and Ukraine have to fight against each other, and it is terrible. This is the politics that is destroying peace. We condemn this fucking war. We are against this war! Instead of battle stations, we bring some music equipment and make a festival. We will not give the world a chance to destroy our music!”
It was as powerful, if not more so, than any note played or any lyric sung, and it underscored a theme, intentional or not, that was playing throughout the evening: through disease and war and a score of so many other horrible things plaguing our world now and in the future, we are all very lucky to be together sharing a space and letting live music nourish our souls.
What was once an annual tradition, Flogging Molly’s St. Patrick’s Day Tour, like so many other tours, was put on hold, going on a two-year hiatus, save for a St. Patrick’s Day show done via Zoom for fans last year. While their concerts are always a must-see event, they performed with a renewed vigor. Opening the show with “Drunken Lullabies,” from their 2001 album of the same name, there was an extra punch to every note and every lyric.
Hitting some old favorites early in the set, that theme noticed so early in the night amongst the crowd chatter re-emerged as frontman Dave King touched on the feelings so many of us had surviving the past two years, with the emotional struggles and low-low points before launching into “The Worst Day Since Yesterday” from 2000’s Swagger, which immediately took on a new feel. They followed it with their first new song of the night, written during those early scary and confusing days, called “These Times Have Got Me Drinking,” which given the crowd’s reaction to it, will easily stand beside so many of the band’s greatest.
Flogging Molly have always been a tight band, both on their albums and performing live, but each member was in top form throughout the night. King regularly shouted out members of the band between songs. With such an incredible group of musicians holding down each song, it allows King to be so many things throughout the show: singer, showman, dancer, and all-around master of ceremonies. A lesser band would not be able to afford such freedom to the frontman, but Bridget Regan (violin, tin whistle, and King’s wife of almost 15 years), Dennis Casey (guitar), Matt Hensley (accordion), Nathen Maxwell (bass), Spencer Swain (mandolin, banjo, and guitar), and Mike Alonso (drums) are all so accomplished that it gives King a wide lane in which to play. One minute, he’ll be bantering with fans, and the next, he’ll have his pant legs pulled up, as he dances around the stage, sometimes doing an impromptu jig and others doing a one-man chorus line.
This is what makes a Flogging Molly concert so special: it never feels overly-rehearsed but instead gives each show an impromptu feel, like each moment is special for that night’s audience exclusively. These moments accompanied a run through a great many classics, including a particularly rousing run through “If I Ever Leave this World Alive.” They left the stage after “Seven Deadly Sins” from 2004’s Within a Mile of Home that felt like it was a well-rehearsed rendition between the band and the entire crowd who sang along and mimicked each one of King’s movements.
Returning for an encore, they finished the set with “Tobacco Island,” also from Within a Mile of Home. That was not, however, how they closed the show. While it has become the norm for many bands to have a walk-out song (Vandoliers came out to The Vandals’ “Urban Struggle,” Russkaja played an anti-war message set to a dark, ominous beat as they walked out, and Flogging Molly themselves used The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” paired with the acapella intro to their own “The Wrong Company”), but very few bands have a walk-off song. While most shows end with a good night, band walk off, and the house lights coming on as music is piped over the P.A., Flogging Molly played “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian.
While not as well-known to the audience, save for this journalist and others within his particular age range, the lyrics, even to fresh ears, served to punctuate the night’s theme: “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” As the song played out, the group stood together, joined by various members of Vandoliers and Russkaja in kick lines, as King handed out set lists to the younger fans (there were many older fans in attendance with their children), and playfully blew kisses to the audience before everyone at last left the stage with the song’s fading notes and those awkward feelings of 2020 despair dissipating. Nights like this remind us to never again take live music for granted, because it’s one of our true blessings, and that alone should hopefully keep us all on the bright side of life.
PHOENIX — In 2020, System Of A Down announced a massive tour co-headlining with Faith No More and Korn, with support from Helmet and Russian Circles. As the pandemic progressed, the shows were postponed a total of three times, with the final postponement due to Serj Tankian (frontman of System of a Down) contracting COVID in October. Faith No More also announced that they would be canceling the concerts so Mike Patton could step back to handle mental health issues. Korn had dropped out, but once Faith No More canceled, Korn returned. To the delight of the metal faithful in Arizona, it was also announced that this line-up (excluding Faith No More and Helmet) would be playing a show at an arena in Phoenix now known by many names. This arena, built in 1992, is now known as Footprint Center and is now on it’s 6th name. The arena just completed a much needed remodel, which brings the once dated arena firmly into the 21st century.
The show started off with Russian Circles, a group that was founded by two childhood friends, Michael Sullivan and Dave Turncrantz, who play guitar and drums respectively. They are joined by Brian Cook, who is the bassist, baritone guitarist, and keyboardist for the instrumental band. Surprisingly, the set was only 18 minutes and 3 songs, but in that short timeframe the post-metal band impressed the audience with their highly technical prowess. If Russian Circles is billed as an opener, it is well worth your time to arrive early enough to catch this trio’s excellent mastery of crescendos and crashes of bass and drums.
With a “Here we go!” from lead singer Jonathan Davis, the first bars of Korn’s “Here to Stay” began, spotlights flashed from the stage, and strobing lightboxes backlit the band. Throughout the night, the unmistakable voice of Davis was replaced many times by the audience, as he solicited audience participation. When performing live, Korn has an underappreciated ability to echo the sound of their studio recordings, and it speaks to the vast talent of not just Davis, but guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, drummer Ray Luzier, and Ra Diaz (who is filling in for Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu while he takes time to “heal and reflect at home”).
Korn is well known for their staggeringly large discography, with 13 studio albums having been released, and a 14th out on February 4th named “Requiem”. The audience was treated to the live debut of the song “Start the Healing”. As part of the upcoming album release, Korn will be playing a “Requiem Mass” on the evening of February 3rd at Hollywood United Methodist Church, which will be live-streamed worldwide.
Three songs later, Davis came out on the stage with his bagpipe, playing the intro to “Shoots and Ladders,” the third single from their eponymous debut album. This, predictably, caused the crowd to erupt, much to the delight of Davis. There is a connection and love between Korn and the audience, which takes the shows to another level. Davis is 4 months removed from his battle with COVID, which saw him have to sit on a throne and use oxygen while performing during a show on August 27th. It is a relief to watch him move around with no noticeable side effects from his battle, which he said scared him shitless.
The crowd, at the urging of Davis, held up their middle fingers collectively during “Y’All Want a Single” – a song written in response to Sony asking for them to “write a radio hit.” This likely is not at all what the poor sap who made this request expected to get, but it has become a fan favorite. Other hits included “Freak on a Leash,” “Did My Time,” and “A.D.I.D.A.S.” As Korn wrapped up, Davis thanked the fans, and almost ominously said, “…we’ll come back and fuck this motherfucker up one more fucking time.”
As the opening notes of “X” played, System Of A Down was silhouetted against the curtain in the moments before it dropped. Serj Tankian – vocalist and keyboardist – was center stage, flanked by guitarist Daron Malakian to his right, bassist Shavo Odadjian to his left, and drummer John Dolmayan almost directly behind him. “Prison Song” was performed next with an arsenal of nearly blinding strobes that assaulted the audience. An extraordinarily intense light show, designed to match the intensity of their music, would persist through the night.
To watch System Of A Down play is like watching one of the great Renaissance masters paint. A great painter must carefully select their canvas, their paint, and then they must be able to combine these quality pieces in such a way that it withstands not only the test of time, but withstands the test of the taste of that particular moment. System Of A Down does this with an ease that defies the expectations of a band that has only released 2 new songs in the last 16 years. Tankian’s voice is the paint over the music that stands in for the canvas, and we in the audience are the viewers who do not necessarily realize what beauty we are witnessing in the moment.
Tankian has one of the greatest vocal ranges in all of metal at 4 octaves. This was on full display in “Chop Suey,” one of the songs that landed them squarely in the mainstream limelight, though the metal community was made aware of the band a few years before with the release of their first album and the success of “Sugar” and “Spiders.” While lavish praise should be heaped on Tankian for his immense vocal talent, the same praise should also be heaped onto Odadjian and Malakian, as they make highly technical and rather difficult riffs look absolutely effortless.
Imagine how incredible it would have been if Tankian and his would-be tour mate, Mike Patton of Faith No More (who boasts an unbelievable 6 octave range) accompanied each other for one song.
It is impossible to discuss System Of A Down and their impact without discussing their political contributions. Tankian in particular acts as a prominent voice for the downtrodden and the less fortunate, both in lyrics and in his personal capacity. The two new songs, “Genocidal Humanoidz” and “Protect the Land,” were released in response to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. The two singles raised about $600,000 for the Armenians who were affected by the devastating war. Both songs were played separately during this concert, with Malakian first thanking the audience for the last year, and then starting to explain what the song “Protect the Land” was about, only to turn to Tankian to ask him to explain the song. Tankian turned to the audience and said, “This one goes out to all the indigenous people in the world that are fighting for their rights. For all of the people in the world protecting their families against evil and injustice. We are all united, and we are one.” As the band launched into the song, the lights behind the band lit up in the colors of the Armenian flag.
It could be argued that the mark of a great show is that it alters the perception of the passage of time. In this case, by the time the band played the opening notes of “Sugar,” their first hit that made the metal world take notice of the band with Dadaist lyrics, a distaste of the exploitation of the less fortunate, and a lyrically devastating take on war – both the wars between countries and the war on drugs – it felt like only moments had passed, when in reality it was an hour and a half set.
Earlier in the night, Davis had said, “It’s so good to be back up here, y’all. The world has been going through some crazy shit, and this is where I get to forget all about it. I want y’all to do me a favor tonight: I want you to just forget about everything. We got System Of A Down coming up, and I want you guys to do this for me: just forget and have a good fucking time!” This challenge was accepted by the enthusiastic crowd, who spent 4 hours losing themselves to the sounds of these masters of metal as they performed their greatest hits.
PHOENIX — Just to the south of downtown Phoenix sits a section of the city that predates the State of Arizona. It is known now as the Warehouse District, but it started life as Chinatown around 1870. Over the years, it became the beating heart of Phoenix, as the location next to the railway was the perfect place to set up shop to sell items like cotton and produce. Toward the western edge was a warehouse that housed a long since vanished business called “Arizona General Electric Supply.” It also housed a printing press, considered to be one of the best in Phoenix at the time the building opened in 1920.
Phoenix grew up. The new warehouses became old, some being demolished for the shiny and new. For 100 years, the exterior of the building on the corner of 5th Ave and Madison did not change. The inside did. The new and the old met, and out of this marriage came the concert and event venue that is now known as The Pressroom. In this historic warehouse, an eager crowd gathered to see Poppy, who was joined by VOWWS. Poppy, much like the warehouse, has changed from the first time the world was made aware of her presence. We met Poppy as she sat in front of a camera eating cotton candy, we watched as she talked to a plant, we listened as she sang “Lowlife,” a song that has a bit of a reggae-meets-pop sound to it. Her first tour was, in a word, bizarre.
The night started with VOWWS, an Australian death pop band taking the stage at exactly 8:00 PM. Death pop and goth rock are siblings, if not twins, and VOWWS is an excellent example of the genre. VOWWS is a 2-person band, co-fronted by Rizz on the synth/keyboard and vocals and Matt James on the guitar and vocals. They are unique in how they play live shows: The stage stayed far darker than normal, bathed primarily in red and blue lights. It was a bit disorienting at first, but it fit beautifully.
What the set lacked in energy, it made up for in catchy beats and incredible harmony between Rizz and James. The sound is both new and familiar, reminiscent of Depeche Mode. Rizz wore white facial makeup with black around her eyes, hunched over her keyboard and swaying to the music. At one point, she stepped away to join James while singing on what looked like a handheld trucker mic, with the setup giving her voice a bit of distortion. James is an excellent guitarist and vocalist, moving very little in the space around the microphone. But much like Rizz, he obviously enjoyed playing the music just as much as the audience loved hearing it. VOWWS has collaborated with Gary Numan – one of the fathers of industrial music – and have worked with Chino Moreno from Deftones on a song and was asked to play the Dia De Los Deftones festival. Unlike the stage they played on, they have a bright future ahead of them.
Chants of “Poppy” were heardas Rizz and James cleared the stage of their equipment. As soon as the siren that precedes the song “Concrete” started, the entire crowd exploded in cheers and screams.
When the world first met Poppy on YouTube, the videos were bright, her dark hair was bleached to a near incandescent blonde, the background was white, and the pastel colors around her came across as brilliant. Her first EP Bubblebathwas composed of bright, airy music that had some deep lyrics. Over the last 4 years, her sound and persona evolved, starting with Am I a Girl?, culminating in her current albumI Disagree.
Before this tour, she split with her creative partner Titanic Sinclair for reasons that can be found here, releasing a music video that was the exact opposite of her first music video, black and white, with harsh electronic music and biting lyrics: “Sorry for what I’ve become, because I’m becoming someone.” As she took the stage, it became apparent that the Poppy that the world got to know 5 years ago is long gone, and before us stood what can only be described as a force to be reckoned with.
It would not be accurate to say that “Poppy walked onto the stage,” as it was more of a march of an artist who owned the stage and knew it. She climbed the steps to face what looked almost like a giant cell phone, the reflective surface allowing her to look at the crowd with her back turned to them, giving some in the audience their first look at her dramatically different style. Gone is the long blonde hair; it was up in teddy bear buns and was now her natural brunette color. What hadn’t changed was her sheer talent.
“Concrete” is best described as a rollercoaster ride of a song. From the wailing siren, we are transported to screaming guitars, followed by a few dashes of kawaii metal ala Babymetal thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the song, a mosh pit had formed, someone was crowd surfing, and shortly after, someone else was holding a shoe over their head that they had just found.
There are many shows that tend to work their way to surreal; a minute and a half through the first song found us standing knee deep in surreal – and not a single person in the crowd seemed like they wanted it any other way.
There are still traces of what some may call the old Poppy: at one point while addressing the crowd, she spoke in the voice that first captured the attention of the internet. An outsider who had never watched any of her YouTube videos would likely have been momentarily confused by this, as it now seems so out of character. However, much like the building she stood in, the old and the new co-exist in a symbiotic relationship, the new only existing because of the old.
While surreal, it was also apparent that Poppy is here for the long haul. She owns the stage as if she’s been doing this for a decade or two. She has been writing thought-provoking lyrics that cut deep for some time, and she is just extremely talented overall. As an example, while singing “I Disagree,” it became apparent that the lyrics are likely rather personal as her voice took on an edge and she let out a scream that would make Lacey Sturm proud. She also had a downright spectacular cover of the t.A.T.u. song “All the Things She Said.” While this tour finished the US leg in LA on 2/21/2020, she is returning to Phoenix on August 4th, opening for Deftones in a show that should not be missed.
PHOENIX — This past August, Snoop Dogg released his 15th studio album: I Wanna Thank Me. In the now 27 years since he first burst onto the scene alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop has never slowed down. He’s never stopped hustling, he’s never stopped releasing bomb-ass albums, and he’s never left the conversation for the greatest rapper alive. Simply put, Snoop is timeless and is a true hip-hop living legend. Now out on the “I Wanna Thank Me” tour with support from Trae Tha Truth, RJMrLA, and Warren G, Snoop brings his own personal party to every city he plays. To see him at The Van Buren, though, offered a rare chance to see him up close and personal: a megastar in a more intimate setting.
Trae Tha Truth
Trae Tha Truth
Touring in support of his just-released album Exhale, Houston hip-hop veteran Trae Tha Truth opened the show. His rapid-fire chopper-style vocals, which date back in hip-hop to Kool Moe Dee’s days with the Treacherous Three, got the crowd moving. Throughout his 20-minute set, the bass in his tracks was like a hip-hop defibrillator. “Long Live The Pimp,” his 2012 collaboration with Future, was one of the high points in the set. With the rest of the night putting a spotlight on the West Coast, Trae’s Texas flavor was the perfect counterbalance.
Brought out by DJ Goofy, the Los Angeles-born RJ (sometimes RJMrLA) rode the wave of momentum with the crowd, as he put his new spin on West Coast hip-hop. His opening track “On One” from his recently released Oh God, featured the line “I was taught to fear no one,” which feels like it should be RJ’s mantra. If “On One” was the ignition, “Flex” from his 2013 debut O.M.M.I.0 3 was the blast-off. Hip-hop is about the boast, and “Flex” was the ultimate boast in his short but explosive set.
It is incredible enough to see one legend in Snoop Dogg live in concert, but to have Warren G as one of the openers is an undeniable bonus and a rap fan’s dream come true. His debut album, 94’s Regulate… G Funk Era was an instant classic of West Coast hip-hop. Even 25 years after its release, Warren G still has the same smooth vocals that made him an immediate star, and they were on display throughout his 30-minute set. Opening with “This D.J.” from his debut, the crowd jumped on the hook, “It’s kind of easy when you’re listening to the G-Dub sound/Pioneer speakers bumpin’ as I smoke on a pound.”
With the crowd feeling it, he immediately launched into “Do You See,” with the crowd again singing along, as they waved their hands from side to side. Missing from the song was the departed Nate Dogg, Warren G’s long-time collaborator and friend. His presence hung over many of the songs, and he was honored by both Warren G and Snoop Dogg (the three started out together in the hip-hop group 213 in 1990).
A late-set request from the audience brought one of the night’s more spontaneous highlights. Following “Summertime in the LBC,” he asked the crowd if anyone had a lighter, and as soon as the words left his mouth, the stage was instantly showered with lighters thrown from every spot in the crowd. Jumping out of the way of a seemingly steady stream, he laughed and reminded the crowd he just needed one. He retrieved one of the lighters, and after lighting up, he tossed it back to its owner, a man named Luke. “Luke? Like Luke Skywalker,” he asked the man, before leading the crowd in an impromptu acapella sing-along of 2 Live Crew’s “We Want Some Pussy,” before launching into 213’s “Mary Jane.”
Following “Nobody Does It Better,” Warren G closed out his set with the timeless “Regulate.” If hip-hop has a list of greatest sing-along songs, “Regulate” would be high on that list. When it came time for Nate Dogg’s vocals, instead of just playing it from the track, the crowd sang his parts, with prompting by Warren G. It may be celebrating its 25th birthday, but the song sounded as good as ever and was the best way he could close out his set.
You may have seen some artists you truly love live in concert and felt that surge of excitement when they walked out to start their set, but Snoop Dogg is a certified living legend. When we talk about a person who is exceptional in any field, oftentimes they are described as a “rock star,” which instantly denotes that they have that certain extra something that defies simple categorization or explanation. Have no doubt about it, Snoop is a rock star, and when he came to the stage at The Van Buren, he did it with a swagger many of us wish we could have in our day-to-day lives. When Snoop came out, with his blinged microphone in hand, the atmosphere in the room instantly changed. While some people can make a party, Snoop is the party.
Opening with “What U Talkin’ Bout” from his recently released 15th studio album I Wanna Thank Me, from which the tour got its name, the energy in the room instantly changed. The new songs stood proudly alongside the classics from across his career, and what commenced for the remainder of the evening was a party, Snoop style.
His stage set up, with DJ Premium flanked on both sides by picnic tables and a large fire hydrant in front of his table, was immediately reminiscent of a block party, and that was the vibe Snoop brought upon his entrance. However, this wasn’t just any block party – this was Snoop Doggy Dogg’s block party. So in addition to those picnic tables and fire hydrant were two poles, each positioned at the far edges of the stage, with dancers on them on and off throughout the night.
In his set, Snoop mixed his own songs with verses from his many guest appearances on other rappers’ tracks. His set was a mix of nearly every hit in his long career. His work with Dre was hit early, with “Next Episode” and “Nothin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’” played back to back. His groundbreaking debut Doggystyle was best represented with “The Shiznit,” “Ain’t No Fun” (with Warren G coming back out to drop his verse), “Gin and Juice,” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” all making appearances in the set. “Countdown,” “P.I.M.P.” (his 2003 collaboration with 50 Cent), and “Sexual Eruption” were all set highlights.
As he closed out his main set with “Snoop’s Upside Ya Head,” D.J. Premium told Snoop that since he didn’t have time to cover all of his hits in one night, he would play a mix of them, while Snoop took a break. With Snoop off the stage for a moment, Premium cut a mix of The Doggfather’s hits and guest appearances on other rappers’ tracks, while video snippets played on the screen behind him.
After ten minutes, Snoop re-emerged and started his encore with “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” his 2004 hit. Following it up with “Snoop Dogg (What’s My Name Part 2)” and “Take Me Away,” he then blew the roof off with his verse from D.J. Khalid’s “All I Do Is Win,” which for a crowd already hype, it was little an extra shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.
While “All I Do Is Win” is the perfect track to summarize Snoop’s career of hit after hit record, he wasn’t there just to remind the crowd of his greatness. On a tour named to celebrate his long career and with a multi-generational; multicultural crowd of fans there to help him do so, Snoop turned the attention away from himself and shined a spotlight on the many friends and contemporaries lost over the years, sharing his love for those lost with the crowd who loved them too. His mini-tribute set, included love for Eazy-E (“Boyz In The Hood”), Notorious B.I.G. (“Hypnotize”), and Tupac (“Gangsta Party”).
The most poignant moment on a night that took time to honor so many gone-but-not-forgotten hip-hop legends came when Snoop honored his dear friend Nipsey Hussle with a moment of silence, while a video tribute to him played. Following this moment of silence, Snoop hit his verse from K2 Tun’s “One Love” for everyone lost.
Snoop returned to the party atmosphere of the night, as he moved to close out the show with “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?,” his debut single from Doggystyle. “I love you Phoenix, and Snoop Dogg will keep coming back here any motherfucking time you want me to!” Though he didn’t play “I Wanna Thank Me,” the song is about honoring yourself for the positives and appreciating hard work and accomplishments. Over the 27 years since he first gained national attention with his verse on Dr Dre’s “Deep Cover (187)” in 1992 and across 15 albums, Snoop has earned every accolade and every bit of love the crowd gave to him and that he gave back.
“Phoenix, we about to get out of here, but before we go, sing along with me,” he implored, as he closed out his set with his 2011 collaboration with Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars “Young, Wild, and Free.” If any song should be hip-hop’s answer to any number of show-closing ballads from across the history of pop music, it’s “Young, Wild, and Free.” After 27 years, Snoop Dogg is an institution, still the gold-standard for what it means to be eternally cool, and his music will always serve as a fountain of youth for his audience. To see Snoop live is to be transported to a place where the party never stops and the vibes are always good because Snoop is the party from the moment he steps on stage to when he steps off of it.