Rik Emmett – Yoshi's in Oakland's Jack London Square
October 4th, 2017
It was February 2nd, 1991 when Rik Emmett last graced the stage in the S.F. Bay Area at the now defunct Omni in Oakland.
Fast forward 26 plus years to 2017 when Rik finally made it back on a solo acoustic mini tour with good friend and musician,
Dave Dunlop. The show was at a beautiful little venue known as Yoshi’s down by Jack London Square, a small intimate spot
with great acoustics and sight lines. Rik opened the show with “Hold On” from the Allied Forces album, a classic Triumph number
from his grander days in the 70’s. As a big Triumph fan from the 1980’s I had dreamed seeing this great band one last time.
With that being a farfetched idea, Rik solo would have to suffice. His counter-part for the night was Dave Dunlop who played
an amazing acoustic guitar. The two ripped through a catalog of Triumph classic’s and solo numbers from Rik’s illustrious
career. Rik commented that only about six to seven Triumph songs stand up as classic numbers on stage, but I could come up with
at least ten that would fill a good set, all of which Rik sang on. In between songs Rik would tell stories from his past and
present which balanced the concert and made you feel closer to Rik and his life. Towards the end of the show Rik and Dave did a sing along
to Tom Petty's "Free Fallin" and the Cars "Just What I Needed". That is what makes these small intimate club shows so cool. You could not do that easily in
a big shed or hall. Would I have rather see Rik in a bigger venue with a full band? Yes and no. The intimate setting was incredible and relaxing, but at times I wanted
to get up and scream Triumph song atnhems like "Magic Power" and "Somebody's Out There". The show closed with with “Suitcase Blues”. A little story about the
loneliness of being on the road. Blusey and tight. Part of my bucket list was completed. It was the perfect end to a great night. Thank you Rik and Dave for making
a big time fan happy. Come back sooner than later.
- Hold On
- Petite Etude
- Lay It on the Line
- Libre Animado
- And You and I
- Monarch Girl (Dave Dunlop)
- Somebody's Out There
- Red Hot
- Fight the Good Fight
- Just What I Needed
- Free Fallin crowd sing along
- Rocky Mountain Way
- Midsummner's Daydream
- Three Clouds Across the Moon
- Magic Power
- Suitcase Blues
Yes – Warfield Theater in San Francisco
September 1st, 2017
I have always loved the sounds of Yes. With Steve Howe’s hot licks on guitar, Jon Anderson’s angelic voice, Chris Squire’s thumping bass and precision percussion by the sticks of Alan White I was in PROG Rock heaven. I would mention keyboards, but that is tricky with a cast that has filled the role as of late. Tonight’s show at the Warfield, one of my favorite venues was a different Yes. Chris Squire has past away(God Rest His Sole), Alan White is obviously suffering from his back surgery, Jon Anderson has been replaced due to a past ailment/respiratory issue due to touring by a new singer, Jon Davison, and Geoff Downes of Asia is now the permanent keyboardist. Only Steve Howe holds the reigns on this progressive rock band of yesterday, that is still rocking today.
Yes has played musical chairs of such. With the other version of Yes recently in the S.F. Bay Area consisting Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman it is a little confusing figuring out which Yes is Yes?
Here is a little rundown to hopefully clarify the two bands.
The complications begin with the fact that there are currently two bands calling themselves Yes on tour: the official Yes led by longtime guitarist Steve Howe and longtime drummer Alan White, and this upstart Yes Featuring Jon Anderson (co-founder and lead vocalist), Trevor Rabin (1983-94 guitarist/vocalist) and Rick Wakeman (’70s-era keyboardist). Many Yes fans favor one lineup over the other, or at least one lineup’s narrative of what led to the current schism (which I won’t belabor here, having scene more than once), while others insist on donning rose-colored glasses and showering both pseudo-Yesses with unconditional adoration. Yes fans just love knowing they can still see a viable and sound worthy band at least once every two years.
So now we understand that two Yes Bands grace gods green earth, but what to do?
I went to Saratoga and watched the Jon Anderson version of Yes on Monday night at Saratoga Mountain Winery. A much weaker show than the show they played at the Masonic Hall in San Francisco back in December. The sound system in Saratoga might work for Johnny Mathis or Bette Midler, but not for Yes. Their was so much fuzzy bass on Jon Anderson's amazing vocals at 72 that I wanted to cry. Trevor also seemed weaker at vocals in parts.
The heat of Concord, my hometown said, get out of the heat (100 plus) and hit the city. I jumped on BART and found myself on the only car with no air. In fact it was pumping heat into the car. I quickly changed cars and the night took a great turn. I reached S.F. and found the heat had followed me. It was still 91 degrees in the city at 7:00pm. After meeting up with a fellow Yes fans and sharing a beer and a story we found the Warfield. Not quite the small crowd I expected, but with us Yes fans getting up their in age, maybe many decided to stay in the cool air-conditioned home they had purchased.
At any rate the show started and right away I knew the night was getting better and better. The full sound of Yes with Steve Howe on guitar commanded my ears to a time of yesterday when Prog-Rock ruled and new glitchy internet bands were just a glimpse into the future. The sound system at the Warfield has never let me down all the way back to 1984 when I saw Saxon on the Crusader Tour. Oh wait, that night the sound did go out for the opening number? At any rate, it sounded perfect tonight. With Alan White still recovering from back surgery, he poked in and out on drums letting the son of Steve Howe, Dylan fill the voids and add some young power to the band. I love when musicians bring their own blood into the band. Dylan did great on a more basic drum kit.
On keyboards, Geoff Downes has really found and created his own sounds, but Geoff has always been a great keyboardist from his days in ASIA. On Bass Guitar you had journeyman Billy Sherwood. He helped with Yes projects off and on for the last decade and really sounded good filling the biggest shoes of the band. Nobody will ever match Chris Squire, but Billy accepts it. Last but not least you have the face of the band in Jon Davison. It was my first time seeing Davison who really had great chemistry with the songs of Yes. His style flowed well with the band.
In all it was a very good night of Yes music. Especially “Going For The One” and “Don’t Kill The Whale”. Both had good tempo and guitar by Mr. Steve Howe. How he keeps his mental edge and perfection each night is beyond me. I know all true Yes fans want Howe, Anderson, Wakeman and White to do a reunion, but sometimes getting back together with your ex-wife for a interlude can be quite ugly and painful, so why bother. Kudos to Yes with Steve Howe and I really hope they can make this 50th Anniversary Tour is a succcess.
- Time and a Word
- Yours Is No Disgrace
- South Side of the Sky
- And You and I
- Leaves of Green
- Going for the One
- Don't Kill the Whale
- Machine Messiah
- Starship Trooper
Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman
The Mountain Winery; Saratoga, Ca - August 28, 2017
Ah, the curse of high expectations. On Monday night I saw a very good band play a diverse set-list, delivering enthusiastic and well-received performances at an attractive venue. A good time appeared to be had by audience and performers alike. It should be that simple, shouldn’t it? But as with nearly anything connected to the almost 50-year-old progressive rock band Yes, the truth is more complicated.
The complications begin with the fact that there are currently two bands calling themselves Yes on tour: the official Yes led by longtime guitarist Steve Howe and longtime drummer Alan White, and this upstart Yes Featuring Jon Anderson (co-founder and lead vocalist), Trevor Rabin (1983-94 guitarist/vocalist) and Rick Wakeman (’70s-era keyboardist). Many Yes fans favor one lineup over the other, or at least one lineup’s narrative of what led to the current schism (which I won’t belabor here, having already done somore than once), while others insist on donning rose-colored glasses and showering both pseudo-Yesses with unconditional adoration. As a fan of the band for 43 years and counting, I fall in neither camp; I’m pissed at the principals in both groups for allowing such a ludicrous turn of events to repeat itself (we’ve been here before, circa 1988-90). Whatever grievances these men may be holding onto, it’s past time to let them go and do the right thing by the fans.
In the words of the old English saying, though, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." In other words: we must deal with the reality before us, which includes the existence of a talented band playing appealing music while going by the utterly ridiculous name of “Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman”. (Not exactly racing decal material, is it?)
The group—previously known as Anderson Rabin Wakeman, or ARW—is one that’s been rumored for several years, including in an interview with Anderson conducted by yours truly in 2013, but only finally came to fruition last year, with the announcement of a tour and the introduction of rhythm section Lee Pomeroy (bass and background vocals) and Lou Molino (drums and background vocals). With various song ideas kicking around, but no actual recording done, the band elected to go out and play live first, mounting a tour that began last year as ARW and morphed into Yes Featuring ARW following the band’s April induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The group’s first album of new music is slated for release in 2018; in the meantime they’re happily playing halls and small sheds spanning the globe, including this attractive 2,300-seat outdoor venue tucked into the hills above San Jose, which they filled to near capacity on a mild Monday evening.
Ironically, of the three principals on stage it’s Anderson, the eldest at 72 and the one who was sidelined by health issues from the 2008 Yes lineup, who appears the healthiest today. Bobbing across the stage, dancing and waving, his voice remains strong and energy high, while the majestically caped but rather weary-looking Wakeman hovers behind his keyboard stacks and the stoic Rabin fires off assertive bursts of guitar while grappling with a voice weakened by age.
The setlist this version of the band plays is about what you might expect, drawing half its songs from the more progressive “Classic Yes” period represented by Wakeman and half from the more commercial/AOR-minded Rabin period, with Anderson the bridge between the two eras. Each half of the band’s musical identity offers both highlights and lowlights.
Highlights from the ’80s include energetic opener “Cinema,” an atmospheric Rabin-era instrumental that gives Anderson a chance to make an entrance with the whole band on stage, and “Hold On,” another appealing tune from 1983’s 90125 album. The rest of the Rabin-era songs don’t hold up as well. Rabin’s turn on lead vocals for “Lift Me Up” is a rough go—he’s clearly lost considerable power and range as a vocalist—while “I Am Waiting” offers up a dim Journey-ish power ballad featuring one of the most insipid lyrics in the band’s entire catalogue. At least first-set closer “Rhythm Of Love” is freshened up a bit by a zippy mini-moog solo Wakeman has added to the original arrangement.
The Classic Yes-era tunes generally fare better, with exceptions. “Perpetual Change” brings drive to the opening sequence, and they give a terrific reading of “South Side Of The Sky,” a dynamic and challenging prog mini-suite from 1971’s Fragile album that showcases Wakeman’s rippling keyboard work and some of Anderson’s most powerful vocals. By contrast, “And You And I” is tough to sit through, a song whose gentle majesty just doesn’t seem to be within guitarist Rabin’s musical vocabulary. To his credit, Rabin is spot-on later in the set with “Heart of the Sunrise,” one of the strongest numbers of the night, as his tendency to hammer power chords fits right in with this naturally thunderous tune.
As the set winds down, they throw some muscular extra bits into “Awaken” that feel out of character for the song, but the four-fifths of it where they stick to the original arrangement is terrific, again showcasing Wakeman’s tremendous chops. (This is the song where, when I saw the other Yes in 2013, I really pitied Geoff Downes. The man gave it everything he had, but there’s only one person on earth capable of playing “Awaken” like Rick Wakeman.)
The main set closes with “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” setting the crowd dancing and a few among us wondering if maybe Rabin was under the weather, as his vocals are barely audible and feel off-key. The principals ham up the group’s one true hit single for all they’re worth, with Rabin and Wakeman taking a ramble through the midst of the crowd (as seen in the photo, they happened to meet up right in front of me). They encore predictably with “Roundabout,” the short version with no acoustic intro. Like “Perpetual Change” at the start, it’s, well, fine. There’s good energy, Rabin sounds like Rabin, Wakeman sounds like Wakeman, Pomeroy and Molino push and pull throughout, and Anderson sings enthusiastically of “Ten true summers we’ll be there / And laughing, too.”
Special kudos are due to Lee Pomeroy and Lou Molino, each stepping into big shoes and acquitting themselves admirably; Pomeroy is a superb bassist with a bubbly, enthusiastic stage presence, and Molino is a powerhouse behind the kit.
All well and good, then, but the core issue still remains. Try as they might to make the slipper fit, this is not Yes; it’s half-Yes, or at least, half the “classic” lineup that many fans would prefer to see. Should we be grateful that there’s any band at all left playing Yes music now that co-founder and keeper of the flame Chris Squire is gone, let alone two? If we fans are destined to be beggars rather than choosers, then I suppose. There’s no question these talented veterans of the scene have earned a few moments of joy on stage in their latter years and I won’t begrudge them that for a minute. It’s just that, for a fan who knows what these songs cansound like, it’s impossible not to feel a little let down. The show I witnessed Monday night was good, solidly good. But Yes isn’t supposed to be good. Yes is supposed to be great.
2. Perpetual Change
3. Hold On
4. South Side of the Sky
5. Lift Me Up
6. And You and I
7. Rhythm of Love
8. I Am Waiting
9. Heart of the Sunrise
11. Owner of a Lonely Heart (with Make It Easy intro & Sunshine Of Your Love outro)
Dirkschneider (Formerly of Accept)
Slim’s, San Francisco, CA
January 21, 2017
By Dan Wall
Set List: Starlight, Living For Tonite, Flash Rockin’ Man, London Leatherboys, Midnight Mover, Breaker, Head Over Heels, Neon Nights, Princess of the Dawn, Winter Dreams, Restless and Wild, Son Of A Bitch, Up To the Limit, Wrong Is Right, Midnight Highway, Screaming For a Love-Bite, Monster Man, TV War, Winners and Losers. Encore: Metal Heart, I’m A Rebel, Fast As a Shark, Balls To the Walls, Burning. 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Who would have thought that when Udo Dirkschneider left Accept for the first time in 1987 that we would still be talking about the singer and his former band here in 2017.
Amazingly, we still are. The main debate is which act, Udo’s solo act Dirkschneider, or the group that still goes by Accept, play the band’s songs better live.
I’m here to give you that answer. Both bands play the songs wonderfully. Accept, still lead by guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes and featuring the band’s latest singer Mark Tornillo, have added a new tint to the band’s past glories, as the group has moved towards the power metal of bands like Helloween and Gamma Ray while still hammering out the old classics faithfully live. And Udo’s group, which is also known as U.D.O. when it plays the singer’s solo material, is an absolute heavy metal machine when pumping out these 30-year old songs.
So who does it the best? Sorry to the current band, who I support and listen to regularly, but you can’t beat the original singer, who still has his menacing growl in place for these classic songs that helped make Accept an underground metal legend in America back in the 80’s.
For the uneducated, and perhaps those who think the 64-year old singer has been sitting at home in Germany counting his Euros, Mr. Dirkschneider has been very active since his departure from the band. His solo act U.D.O. has released 15 studio albums and is big in Europe and Japan. The band frequents the festival circuit overseas and can still bring in crowds of well over 20,000, while here in America, U.D.O. is merely an afterthought (even though the music his band plays is nothing but good, old-fashioned metal that any Accept fan would enjoy).
Accept, meanwhile, carried on without Udo after a brief reunion in 2005. The original band was joined by Tornillo after Dirkschneider declined an invitation to rejoin Accept, so now we have U.D.O. (the solo act,) Udo (the singer with
Dirkschneider) and Accept (with Tornillo). And if you follow that, I’ll buy you a Spaten the next time I see you.
The amazing thing about this tour is that Udo says this is the last time he will play an entire set of Accept songs live. From here on out, if Accept is still playing live shows, U.D.O. (or Udo) will only do an Accept song or two live (he’d have to play “Balls To The Walls” live with any outfit or he’d be lynched) and leave the rest of the songs to that other band. So on this night, the set list was chock full of Accept classics and rare songs that haven’t been played live in years, if ever. And this show in San Francisco marked the first time in 32 years that Dirkschneider has performed in SF-the last time was with Accept on the Metal Heart tour with Rough Cutt and Coney Hatch supporting-a real who’s who of “should have been bigger” acts.
Over the years, the appearance has changed a bit-our diminutive hero who once looked like a like a snotty juvenile delinquent has morphed into a grizzled metal grandad. But the vocals, that low, gutty, gravelly growl is still there, in all of its glory, whether you like it, love it or hate it.
You can imagine that everyone in the jammed packed nightclub here (you might remember Slim’s as the venue Boz Scaggs opened in the 80’s; Tesla played its first acoustic shows here as well) absolutely loved the voice, and each and every one of the 24 classic songs on display. The biggest surprise might be just how good the other guys were-guitarists Andrey Smirnoff and Kasperi Heikkinen, bassist and band vet Fitty Wienhold and Udo’s son Sven on drums-a band so tight and solid that if you closed your eyes, you’d have no problem imagining the original band up there, rocking its metal heart out.
The guitarists nailed every riff and note-filled solo, Wienhold was a rock and the junior Dirkschneider kicked the shit out his drums. Song after song flew by, each one a highlight in itself. Especially cool was the stage, which was cut off on the sides and pushed the band together mid-stage. Every single song looked more rad with the entire group of guitarists and Dirkschneider locked together in a storming metal chorus line.
There were a few songs that stood tall above the rest, however, with a solo, riff or chorus lifting each selection to seemingly bigger heights. “Living For Tonite” started a string of massive sing-a-longs; “Midnight Mover,” a song that should have been a massive hit in the states, sounded just as good as ever-so did “Screaming For a Love-Bite”; the riff-filled “Flash Rockin” Man,” “Up To the Limit” and “Losers and Winners” were riveting; and the moody “Neon Nights” proved to be a surprise highlight mid-set. And if you know “Son Of A Bitch,” you know that the expletive-filled tune is the sauciest in Udo’s repertoire, and if you don’t, you’re an asshole (that’s an inside joke).
Amazingly, the 19-song main set proved to be merely a warm-up for the incredible encore. In all of my years covering concerts, this five-song run will no doubt prove to be one of the best all-time encores I’ve ever seen or heard. It started with “Metal Heart,” the opening cut from the album of the same name and an all-time metal classic. Then “I’m A Rebel,” a warm, glammy romp that comes from the band’s early days. If you don’t know “Fast As A Shark” and claim to like metal, forget it; it’s an absolute all-time beast of a song and the first one I remember hearing from Accept. Then “Balls to the Wall,” a song that will one day represent Accept and Udo in the Metal Hall of Fame (whenever and wherever that happens, I want to be there). The riff, the chorus, the menacing mid-song breakdown; it was all there in its glory, as the crowd went bonkers. Then just for old times’ sake, a romp thru “Burning,” the closest thing Accept ever did to making a Chuck Berry-type of metal song, to shut the whole thing down.
It all added up to one of the best shows in years, and one of the best metal shows this town has seen in a long time. It’s sad that Udo can’t bring his regular band here (it’s been rumored for years that he would tour with U.D.O., but aside from a few shows, a big tour has never happened in the states). But for one night in San Francisco, Udo Dirkschneider and his rambunctious crew of metal heads gave the metal community here a belated Christmas gift with one of his all-time greatest shows.
Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman known as ARW
December 4, 2016
When I heard Vocalist Jon Anderson, Guitarist/Vocals Trevor Rabin and Keyboardist Rick Wakeman where going to tour together as ARW I instantly felt Prog rock and the sounds of YES
were going to be strong again. Not only was ARW strong live at the Masonic Hall in San Francisco, but the boys had a fresh and vibrant feel to them. Maybe it was the guitar work of
Trevor Rabin, or the angelic sounds of Jon Anderson's voice, or the touch of Rick Wakeman's fingers on the keys. Whatever it was Christmas came early to SF.
As a big fan of YES, I have recently found myself skipping recent shows with numerous vocal changes and the loss of founder/bassist Chris Squire in the band.
Then come’s ARW! Jon Anderson had his usual and charismatic sound to him, Rick Wakeman laid his insightful fingers into every keyboard stroke, and
Trevor Rabin was able to return to the live stage and give movie soundtracks a rest for while with his shredding guitar work and timely vocals.
As a lover of the 80’s which included much of Rabin’s work with YES, such as “90125”, “Big Generator” and “Talk” I anticipated a heavy dose from the trio of albums.
I was not let down with “Changes” from 90125 taking the prize as the highlight of the 80’s. What made the night special was the fact that all three members of
YES really represented all eras of Jon Anderson YES with “Awaken” being the show stopper.
The rhythm section was also strong with Bassist Lee Pomeroy plucking to the crowds delight.
The band truly had fun on stage and showed off why they are the real sound of YES. I look forward to the new album and a continued quest in playing
PROG in future dates.
· Perpetual Change
· Hold On
· I've Seen All Good People
(Snippet of "Give Peace a… more )
· Drum Solo
· Lift Me Up
· And You and I
· Rhythm of Love
· Heart of the Sunrise
· Long Distance Runaround
· The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
(Anderson on harp)
· Owner of a Lonely Heart
(Yes cover) (with 'Make It Easy' intro,… more )
November 4, 2016
Amazing pretty much sums it up. There is new king to the throne of progressive rock. Rush is retired, YES is fragmented, Genesis is pretty much done.
So what does an 51 year old rocker do? He enjoys the fruit of there influences in Steve Wilson. Backed up by an amazing supporting cast of
Nick Beggs on Bass/Chapman Stick (Formerly with Steve Hackett), David Kilminster on Guitar(Roger Waters), Craig Blundell on Drums and finally Adam Holzman on Keyboards.
Quite the treat is was from this intimate Masonic Hall in San Francisco where I enjoyed Bryan Ferry just weeks prior. Steve Wilson picked a strong set of all “The Hand Cannot Erase”,
his newest release and a collection of solo and Porcupine Tree material. Included also was “Sign of The Times” in a tribute to Prince. Steve teased the crowd talking about Rush and
a classic song called "Twilight Zone" from 2112, but then started another number. All in all a great song selection. With such a repetoire of songs from Porcupine Tree, Blackfield and
Karma along with several solo albums he stuck with his guns. The chemistry in the band was pefect interlaying sequences and intricate progressions to make for a incredible night of
In all the sound was amazing, the lights and projections spectacular, and showmanship from all musicians a pure treat in the prog rock world.
With so many artist of the 70’s and 80’s lacking in energy and substance of new material, Steve Wilson has cemented himself as the king to the throne of prog rock.
Only The Neal Morse Band and Steve Hackett have showed anything close in recent years.
3 Years Older
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Ascendant Here On...
Second Half of Show:
(Porcupine Tree song)
My Book of Regrets
(Porcupine Tree song)
Don't Hate Me
(Porcupine Tree song)
(Porcupine Tree song)
Sign “?” the Times
The Sound of Muzak
(Porcupine Tree song)
The Raven That Refused to Sing
Oracle Arena in Oakland
September 14, 2016
By Jim Harrington
Ozzy Osbourne stalked the stage with manic delight. Tony Iommi burned through one face-melting guitar lead after another. And Geezer Butler’s basslines were as heavy as heavy can be.
It was a thing of thundering beauty, made all that more poignant by the knowledge that there won’t be many more opportunities to experience it again.
It was the end of a long goodbye for local fans, as the legendary heavy metal band Black Sabbath brought its farewell tour to the Oracle Arena in Oakland on Thursday.
The British band on Tuesday night unleashed all the reasons why it will be so dearly missed. Indeed, Sabbath sounded so strong that, at times, it seemed like an absolutely ludicrous idea for these guys to even be thinking about hanging it up. Yet, if the goal is to go out in peak fighting form, then Sabbath is right on track.
Following the opening set by Rival Sons, the main attraction took the stage and slowly uncurled its namesake song, the epic title track to the 1970 debut “Black Sabbath.” Osbourne’s vocals, which have ranged greatly in quality over the years, sounded comparatively strong on this night — powerful, confident and (mostly) clear. The 67-year-old former reality TV star also showed a goodly amount of energy, running about and clapping his hands.
The group then charged through “Fairies Wear Boots,” from the 1970 quadruple-platinum effort “Paranoid.” Iommi starred in this song, like he did in so many others. The supremely talented guitarist, who has battled cancer in recent years, was a regular volcano of riffs, firing off leads so hot they should’ve come with warning labels.
The sold-out crowd, numbering some 13,000, reacted with great enthusiasm to the heavy metal onslaught. The fans, many of whom were old enough to possibly remember buying “Paranoid” on eight-track tape, sang along at top volume and pumped their firsts for much of the approximately two-hour show.
The set list drew almost exclusively from the band’s first three albums. Unfortunately, Sabbath only played one track (“Snowblind”) from what is, by far, its best album — 1972’s “Vol. 4” — and it entirely skipped 1973’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” Hearing the title track to the later, after all, should be required at all Sabbath shows.
Sabbath did find time for “Dirty Women,” a tune that stands as one of the few reasons for listening to the band’s seventh studio album, 1976’s “Technical Ecstasy." This album is still my favorite and the song "Gypsy" should would have been an amazing show opener. But hey, Black Sabbath are still the kings of Heavy Metal.
Supporting Iommi, Osbourne and Butler — three founding members of the band — was Tommy Clufetos, a powerhouse drummer who has worked with Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie and others. Clufetos was handling the beats and rhythms originally made famous by Bill Ward, who left the fold in 2013.
The band closed the main set with an epic run through “Children of the Grave,” which featured more fireworks from Iommi, and then returned
Fairies Wear Boots
Into the Void
Behind the Wall of Sleep
(with 'Wasp' intro)
(with 'Bassically' intro)
Hand of Doom
(with Tommy Clufetos drum solo)
Children of the Grave
(with 'Embryo' intro)
The Ritz in San Jose
August 31, 2016
It’s been a lifetime coming that I have wanted hear and see Glenn Hughes, nicknamed “The Voice” returned to play the SF Bay Area. Recenlty the newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer finally graced the stage playing the Ritz. His fans have been waiting for this moment and Hughes along with his 3 piece band (which included Soren Anderson on guitar and Pontus Engborg on drums) gave a performance that will be talked about for years to come.
The crowd at the Ritz was small, but hard core to Glenn and his work. The setlist that included work from his time with Trapeze, Black Country Communion and of course, Deep Purple. As the band kicked into the first few tracks, Hughes apologized for making the fans wait 40 years to see him. He then proceeded to the story of writing his first song in his grandmother’s kitchen at age 17. That song was the title track to Trapeze’ 2nd album called “Medusa.” Hughes is called the voice of rock for good reason. He still has exceptional range and displayed that on almost every track he sang on. Hughes got choked up professing his love for America. Even though born in Britain, he has lived in the United States for 43 years and stated he hopes to become an America citizen later this year.
Hughes introduced the track “Can’t Stop the Flood” talking about how he wanted to have a song that reminded him of a John Bonham (the late Led Zeppelin drummer) laden groove that makes you want to shake your ass too. The song came off as a fan favorite and got the crowd going as well. Both Sorenson and Engborg were solid in their playing and were a perfect complement to Hughes and what he was trying to communicate and give the audience.
He dedicated “Keep on Moving” to the memory of Deep Purple keyboardist John Lord and guitarist Tommy Bolin. Hughes voice is purely the soul go great blues/rock. He explained he will not wait another 40 years to come back to the Bay Area. Recent news is that he will be meeting with Joe Bonamassa to write the next Black Country Communion record. He doesn’t know if there will be a tour or where they will play but stated he would love to play California again. This drew a huge applause obviously. He closed the show with one of the most signature Deep Purple tracks ever in “Burn.”
What a show and it was one of the best if not the best show I saw by any performer this year. This is a MUST see when it comes anywhere by you.
Setlist: (See video links in yellow)
Way Back to the Bone
Muscle & Blood
Touch of my Life
First Step of Love
Can’t Stop the Flood
One Last Soul
You Keep on Moving
Warfield Theater in San Francisco
March 31, 2016
When I heard Steve Hackett and friends were coming back to the Bay Area for another re-visit of old Genesis classics I was thrilled. When I then found out he would be doing two sets, one with classic Genesis and the other with solo material from Acolyte and his newest disc, Wolflight I was jazzed and ready for a night of guitar virtuoso and perfect tonality. When you listen to Steve Hackett on guitar, you really have to wonder how he ever left Genesis. Then again musical personalities and change of style can do a number on ones life in a band. But thank goodness someone is still playing the music from Genesis early career.
Steve Hackett continues to produce accomplished new music to this day, which he performs enthusiastically with his latest band. As mentioned, he’s the only former Genesis band member who includes their 1970s songs in his set list, even playing a show made up exclusively of those classics, as part of his Genesis Revisited albums and tours. This year, he has been back out on tour performing songs from his latest album Wolflight, along with gems from his solo career, and a set of Genesis classics. Dubbed literally as Acolyte to Wolflight with Genesis Revisited, the tour promised to be a career-spanning night to remember. We caught the show at the Warfield Theater this month for an absolutely fantastic evening of music. I don’t know how to say this without sounding hyperbolic, but I’ve seen this artist every single time he’s come to California since 1976, and this was the best sounding, most authoritative performance I’ve ever seen him deliver. The first set was composed of Hackett’s solo material, leading off with the title track from Spectral Mornings. The solo set that followed was rich and varied. The Wolflight material came across more impressively than any new material I’ve seen him perform over the years. “Out Of The Body,” the follow-up title track, and “Love Song to a Vampire” were overwhelming in their power and beauty. It’s amazing to find an artist who’s been at work this many years still crafting songs of this quality. Also notable, Hackett’s singing has grown in strength over these many years, the songs crafted to focus on multi-part harmonies to the point now where I believe he is one of our greatest singing guitarists. After an intermission, Hackett continued with a set of Genesis classics, all Gabriel-era, including a number of tracks not heard in ages, “Get ‘Em Out by Friday,” “Can-Utility And The Coastliners,” and, wait for it, a tear-jerking absolutely faithful rendition of “After The Ordeal,” an instrumental I always felt captured the heart of what was so inspiring about Hackett-era oft pastoral Genesis music. Nad Sylvan was in perfect voice, as usual; adding his dramatic, soulful delivery to what are, let’s be honest, very challenging songs to sing. This time out, Ronnie Stolt (Flower Kings, Transatlantic) played bass and additional guitars, joining stalwarts Roger King (keys), Gary O’Toole (drums, vocals), Rob Townsend (winds, percussion). The most memorable moments for me were the rare songs Hackett chose from his early work, “Star of Sirius” from Voyage, and “Icarus Ascending” from Touch. I don’t think words can describe how perfectly these songs were delivered, how right it was to have Nad interpreting vocals originally recorded by Phil Collins and Richie Havens in his own richly drawn theatrical style. To end this half of the show, haunting, dynamic arrangements of “Ace of Wands,” “A Tower Struck Down,” an d the coda of “Shadow of the Hierophant” left the audience enraptured. And, above all, Steve Hackett was simply on fire. This performance illuminated the groundbreaking work of a career that has now spanned more than 45 years. It served to remind one and all how potent and innovative this artist’s work has been through the years, and how emotionally impactful it is to witness the songs performed live in concert.
Written by Douglas Harr
The band he put together for this tour was some of the usual suspects. Roger King on keyboards, Gary O'Toole on drums, Rob Townsend on sax, Nad Sylvan on vocals, and to my surprise the cherry on top, Roine Stolt on bass & 12 string guitar. I had seen Roine several times with Transatlantic, one of my favorite progressive rock bands that includes Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy.
Roine is quite the musician, but somewhat more reserved on stage with Steve than Transatlantic. I kept waiting for him to get close to Steve and pose together but it never happened. Maybe they were both new to each other and getting familiar still. Either was Roine was amazing. From plucking on a rickenbaker bass to playing the 12 string guitar his addition to the show made it well worth the price of admission for all. The music from the first set was as mentioned pieces from Acolyte and
Steve’s newest endeavor, “Wolflight”. The stand out piece was “Love Song to a Vampire”. Great melody and chorus to get the crowd singing rocking. Kudos to Steve and band for making this one of the best shows in recent years. Long live the sounds of Steve’s guitar and days of Genesis gone past. Love it!
1. Spectral Mornings
2. Out of the Body
4. Every Day
5. Love Song to a Vampire
6. The Wheels Turning
7. Loving Sea
8. Icarus Ascending
9. Star of Sirius
10. Ace of Wands
11. A Tower Struck Down
12. Shadow of the Hierophant
Set 2 (Genesis set):
13. Get 'em Out by Friday
14. Can-Utility and the Coastliners
15. After the Ordeal
16. The Cinema Show
17. Aisle of Plenty
18. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
19. The Musical Box
20. Clocks - The Angel of Mons
21. Firth of Fifth
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators
Warfield Theater, San Francisco CA
October 18, 2015
By Dan Wall
Set List: You’re A Lie, Nightrain, Avalon, Halo, Back from Cali, Wicked Stone, Too Far Gone, You Could Be Mine, Dr. Alibi, Welcome to the Jungle, Beneath the Savage Sun, Civil War, The Dissident, Rocket Queen, Bent to Fly, World On Fire, Anastasia, Sweet Child of Mine, Slither. Encore: Paradise City. Two hours, 10 minutes.
Slash has played some great shows at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco during his lengthy career. Three of his classic bands have appeared there over the past 30 years-the legendary Guns ‘N Roses, super group Velvet Revolver and his latest unit, featuring ace singer Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, a band that just might be the best (and one of the only) true rock and roll acts left that play this sleazy style of hard rock like it was their birthright.
At the Warfield this time out, there was long hair, black leather and miles of tattoos. There were scantily clad girls and plenty of booze. The music was loud, the crowd excited and the band energized. For over two hours, Slash and his sleaze merchants played the best of his solo catalog interspersed with a number of chestnuts from GNR and VR all played at an ear-splitting volume that pushed this show close to 10 on the entertainment scale.
The beefy guitarist, who just might follow singer Kennedy (who will go back to Alter Bridge next year) with a new tour of his own next year (if the rumors about the original GNR regrouping are true), still plays guitar like its 1986. Every single song included a fast, melodic solo, and some songs (like the 17-minute version of “Rocket Queen’) let Slash show off his chops in the spotlight while the band took a back seat near the amp line. Improvisation is definitely not Slash’s strong point, but the lengthy solo on this night was much better than the one I saw him do the last time out.
Kennedy is a true revelation. Everyone has heard him but many are still a bit clueless to the fact that this is also the singer from Alter Bridge and the guy who almost got the gig with Led Zeppelin. His voice is as strong as ever, and it’s shocking with all of the road work that he does that it still holds up. And he doesn’t exactly sing easy songs in a lower key-his voice soars over loud, heavy rock music put forth by guitarists like Slash and Mark Tremonti, his foil in Alter Bridge.
His main strength with this act is being able to ace the GNR tracks, something that would get him lit up by fans if he couldn’t pull it off. I happen to be one of the people who could care less if GNR reforms-I’d rather hear Slash and Kennedy continue with this act, doing new music and GNR classics without all the baggage that will probably surface during a GNR reformation.
The Conspirators are one of my favorite backing bands, and all three are key contributors to the onstage sound. Bassist Todd Kearns is a rock and a great back-up singer-he is trusted to sing lead on “Dr. Alibi” and “Welcome to the Jungle” while Kennedy drinks some tea. Drummer Brent Hinz is a longtime Hollywood sleazy-guy who hammers away happily, while rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris has really grown into his role alongside one of his heroes-Slash even lets him play a solo every now and then.
The set list was a killer, with highlights a plenty: “Nighttrain” just kills with this band; “Sweet Child of Mine” still presents as one of the best rock songs of its time, while “Paradise City” is one big party and singalong rolled into one. The solo material is strong as well, particularly the crowd favorite “Anastasia,” and this band has definitely become tighter after spending most of the last two years on the road.
Slash is one of the most distinctive and influential guitarists in rock. This band lets him show off his history, play some great music and keep the 80’s era of classic rock alive. Slash is welcome back here anytime, whether he brings Mr. Rose along or not.
HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA
July 15, 2015
How many bands have the kind of staying power Rush has displayed for the 41 years they’ve been together? Even the hiatus the band took in the aftermath of drummer Neil Peart’s twin personal tragedies (losing both his daughter and wife in the space of 10 months in the late ‘90s), Rush is one of those mainstays of rock that hung around so long because their fans are so devoted.
When a group’s output spans four decades, it’s clear that those who are passionate about their music will also reflect a broad base of age ranges. And so it was at Rush’s three hour performance at the SAP Center in San Jose on July 23rd. The place was packed with die-hard fans from the ‘70s to today. Many families were there to probably see dad’s (and maybe mom’s) favorite band from their parent’s hey day, and as has been the case since 2008, there are many more women showing up to Rush concerts than there were in the ’70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and up to the R30 Tour. The running joke (based on no small part that it’s mostly true) that Rush is a “guy band” has been the butt of jokes the band even acknowledged during the Time Machine Tour video segments featuring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (For the record, I took my 19-year-old daughter to the show. And while she’s not a super-fan, she did grow up listening to Rush and has been to three shows where she enjoys watching the throng of air drumming and guitar playing men in their 40s and 50s).
With the R40 Tour, Rush came to town with a true retrospective of their work. Starting with their most recent songs, the group worked backward to the beginning of their career with music that highlighted the stylistic changes the band explored, but also a consistent “Rush sound” that they never strayed too far away from — even during the “synth years” of the ‘80s. The music from their best late-career album, “Clockwork Angels” was aggressive, layered, complex, and melodic. But it also showcased how much the group has matured in terms of lyrics and song structure in the scope of that easy-to-make-fun of genre: the concept album. Sure, Rush was very ham-handed in their attempts at a big concept (see, “The Necromancer,” The Fountain of Lamneth” and “Didacts and Narpets” from “Caress of Steel”), and even “2112” can be a bit eye-rolling at the over-the-top operatics — though it’s clearly the better of the two records. But by the time the group recorded “Hemispheres,” I think they realized they had squeezed as much juice out of that fruit as they could. That’s not to say that “2112” and “Hemispheres” were crap, it’s just the genre (if one can call it that) was becoming a parody of itself in the era of Punk and New Wave — and the band knew it.
f there was a meta-joke layered into Rush’s three hour R40 performance, it was not one of progression, but rather regression. Starting from a sampling of their latest songs, the band “devolved” into earlier and earlier stages of their career — with the stage set mirroring their regression. Opening with all the state of the art LED displays, lasers and video images to accompany the songs, the stage set up started to change after the band finished with three songs from “Clockwork Angels.” Stage hands in their R40 jumpsuits (true working men!) took apart the set and rearranged the faux stacks of amplifiers to mirror the different stages (another intentional pun) the band configured for their concerts. By the time “Tom Sawyer” was played in the second set, the stacks of Marshall amps on Alex’s side were incredibly tall — but the lighting effects started to become less spectacular. This constant changing of the stage set up was done very casually by the R40 crew and by the time they played their last song, the stage was supposed to look like a high school gym (the amps were even put on school chairs to reflect their “Hey, we’re just starting out” vibe).
But what of the show? The stage is one thing, but the song selection was another. Rush tailored this performance to cater to the fair weather fans and those who have stuck with them since the beginning. So for every “Tom Sawyer,” “The Spirit of Radio,” and “Working Man,” the band threw in a number of deep cuts that made for many surprises. Since the tour is almost over as of this posting, it’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the group did not shy away from “Cygnus X-I Book II: ‘Hemispheres’ I Prelude” “Cygnus X-1 ‘The Voyage’ Parts 1 and 3,” “Xanadu,” “What You’re Doing,” and “Jacob’s Ladder.” Now, the band rotates seven setlists that spike in three or four different songs to keep it fresh, so whatever show you saw, you were treated to a more custom setlist. The fact that Rush went really deep into their catalog made it a real thrill for super-fans like yours truly to hear “Cygnus X-I Book II ‘Hemispheres’ Prelude” played live.
I have mixed feelings about the R40 Tour. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy myself (I truly did), it’s just with the announcement that the band will not be able to undertake a tour of this size again made me think that this could be the last time I see the band live. That may not be the case, but it’s clear that with their age (early 60s), their health (especially Alex Lifeson who has arthritis), and personal desires (Neil Peart does not want to be away from his family for long periods of time), the band won’t be hitting the road for 35 to 40 city tours — nor will fans be treated to the three hour marathon shows they’ve grown accustomed to since the Test for Echo Tour. No. What may happen is they will scale back to maybe 10 to 15 cities and have an opening act — or do a week’s worth of shows in just a few cities. Whatever they decide, fans will show up. Also, this is not the end of their musical output. The band still plans on recording new music, so there’s more to look forward to from Rush. But judging from how tired The Boys were at the end of the show in San Jose, they’ve clearly closed the book on this phase of their career and are looking forward to a long rest — followed by “Okay, what are we going to do next?”
Concert Review: Rush R40 Tour, San Jose, CA 7/23/2015
written by Ted Asregadoo
San Francisco CA
June 11, 2015
By Dan Wall
Burn | Slide it In | Love Ain’t No Stranger | The Gypsy | Give Me All Your Love | You Keep On Moving | Forevermore | Reb Beach Guitar solo | Mistreated | You Fool No One | Tommy Aldridge drum solo | Is This Love | Stormbringer | Here I Go Again|
Still of the Night.
1 hour,40 minutes.
During a career that has now lasted 42 years, David Coverdale has never been shy when it comes to the marketing of his music and the changes associated with keeping a massive band relevant and in the limelight.
After leaving Deep Purple in 1976, Coverdale started a string of Whitesnake lineups that always seemed to have a different angle. There was the bluesy Snake, the classic rock Snake, the metal glam Snake and the reformed Snake. Big Dave mixed all of this activity with solo work and a record with Jimmy Page, with the vocalist’s name always front and center no matter who his playmates were.
And now, Coverdale has done it again. With his new “The Purple Album” project, David has re-interpreted the music of his first band, Deep Purple, celebrating the line-up that featured himself, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, guitarist Richie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and keyboardist Jon Lord on the 1974 classics “Burn” and “Stormbringer,” as well as 1975’s “Come Taste the Band” (with Tommy Bolin on guitar for the last one).
It’s really no surprise to this writer that DC dipped back into the ‘Purple well’ for this project, since there had been rumors that Blackmore was finally thinking about coming out of retirement to play rock again, with Coverdale and Hughes leading the charge to re-form that Purple line-up. It didn’t happen, and with Hughes playing in one of his 20 or so projects again, Coverdale decided to just let Whitesnake re-introduce some of the 70’s best rock music to a younger generation.
Never bothered about turning a line-up over, Coverdale tabbed guitarists Reb Beach (who has been in the band since 2003) and former Night Ranger axe slinger Joel Hoekstra to man the stations that have been held by a ‘Rock and Roll Legends Roll-Call’: Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, Mel Galley, John Sykes, Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell, Steve Vai, Warren DeMartini and Doug Aldrich have all played guitar for the Snake at one time or another… and how many bands can claim that kind of talent? How many record labels can claim that kind of talent?
Drummer Tommy Aldridge (who has been in Whitesnake three different times), and joins bassist Michael Devin and keyboardist Michele Luppi as the new recruits to the band. That makes 41 members for the Snake since the band’s first album was released in 1978. After seeing this show in San Francisco, it doesn’t really matter who’s in the band-every unit is well-drilled, and everyone in the building knows who runs the show… that being DC, David Coverdale.
Opening with one of rock’s all-time greatest songs, “Burn,” the group stormed through a 13-song set that mixed the best of the Purple stuff with a selection of Whitesnake classics. Just take a look at the set list above, and if you are a Deep Purple fan from that era or a Whitesnake fan ever, that is just about a dream-run of great tunes.
Coverdale’s voice has been an issue on the road in the past few years (he had to cancel a 2009 tour when his voice gave out), but on this night, the throaty roar that filled up the radio for most of the 80’s and 90’s was in glorious form. The comparisons to Robert Plant linger (doing the album with Page didn’t really help that), but I will always have both of those vocal legends on my Top 10 List of rock singers.
Beach and Hoekstra are a fine team; neither guitarist chose to imitate any of the players that came before them, with both preferring to put their own stamp on the solos and riffs that most of the fans can hum by heart. Devin is a rock solid bassist and Luppi is a solid pro on keyboards, and every member mentioned added back-up vocals to the mix. Many Purple fans had wondered if the band could handle the parts originally sang by Hughes live, and while no one will ever sing like Glenn Hughes, this version of the band did a very decent job of making everything sound as good as could be expected.
The real highlight of the live act (and any band he is in) is drummer Aldridge, a true drum legend who has played with Black Oak Arkansas, Ozzy Osbourne, Pat Travers, Ted Nugent, Hughes/Thrall, Gary Moore and Thin Lizzy. I first saw Aldridge with Black Oak Arkansas 40 years ago down the road from here at Winterland, and on that night he was a revelation with his giant hair flying, sticks twirling and a drum solo that amazed everyone in attendance. Today, Aldridge is 64 years old, and virtually nothing has changed (not even the drum solo, which I have seen more than 20 times). While the hair may be greying, it’s still the same size, the sticks are still flying and the rolls are still played with aplomb. A true physical miracle, it’s hard to take your eyes off of Tommy Aldridge.
Highlights were plentiful, with just about every Deep Purple song making the grade despite slight tweaks to each composition. “Mistreated” showed off the power of Coverdale’s voice, while the run for home that featured “Stormbringer,” “Here I Go Again” and “Still of the Night” was simply breathtaking.
Coverdale was resplendent as always, dressed in black pants and a white shirt adorned with enough jewels and chains to make a school girl happy. The sound was great, the lighting solid and the most amazing thing was how a Whitesnake hit, such as “Love Ain’t No Stranger” slotted so nicely adjacent to a Purple track like “The Gypsy.” I’ve been a fan of Coverdale’s since I first heard “Burn” in 1974, and for a longtime fan like myself, this was simply a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Rockbar Theater, San Jose, CA
By Dan Wall
The Mob Rules | Holy Diver | Stand Up and Shout | Egypt (The Chains Are On) | Stargazer | Catch the Rainbow | Kill the King | Mistreated | Rock and Roll Children | The Last in Line | Long Live Rock and Roll | Man On the Silver Mountain | Heaven and Hell
This Is Your Life | We Rock | Rainbow in the Dark
After legendary metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio passed away in 2010, a group of his former musicians banded together and formed the Dio Disciples to tour and perform the classic songs of their mentor.
Guitarist Craig Goldy, drummer Simon Wright and keyboardist Scott Warren were initially joined by bassist Rudy Sarzo to form the musical backbone of the band, with two vocalists, Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen) and Toby Jepsen (Little Angels, Fastway) taking the place of but “not replacing” the great Dio on vocals.
Five years later, the band is still together, although a rotating group of vocalists has been employed to try and emulate the diminutive singer’s voice. With Owens and Jepsen employed elsewhere, Mark Boals (Malmsteen) has been used, while Joe Retta (Sweet, Heaven and Earth) and Oni Logan (Lynch Mob) currently tour as the singers. Amazingly, the act has always used two front men to try and match the vocals of RJD. (Incidentally, the current bass player is ex-Malmsteen sideman Bjorn Englen, wielding a Carvin 4-string thumped thru some Ampegs).
So how does it all fit together? Quite nicely, if truth be told. Both Retta and Logan can hit the high notes and sing well in tandem, while the four musicians in the band can still create all the riffs and rumble that was the staple of Dio’s music. Not easy when you consider the three metal acts that Dio fronted all had a bit of a different sound. Rainbow was one of power metal’s first superstars, and everyone is familiar with the doom and gloom of Black Sabbath. Dio’s solo act mixed the best elements of both of his former bands, and thus helped create some of the 70’s and 80’s most enduring songs.
This musical legacy is well known, as Dio fronted those great acts and created four of the genre’s most iconic records (Rainbow’s “Rising,” Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and “The Mob Rules,” and Dio’s “Holy Diver”). This creates quite a problem with putting together a set list, because just as many great songs have to be left out of the set as are included. You can see from the list above that most of classics were played, but completists and serious fans could have watched these guys play all night and never run out of great material.
The band looks good, sounds great and does a great job replicating the songs of our hero. Goldy, with his black reverse headstock ESP dialed into a couple stacks of Marshall amps, has the classic tone. This is a tribute, but a serious tribute that includes players who spent plenty of time on the road with Dio. You should spend some time with the band if they come to your town, if you were a fan of Ronnie James Dio.
The show was held at The Rockbar Theater in San Jose, a new facility run by booking wizard Jimmy Arceneaux, an old buddy of mine from our time at the Omni club in Oakland. The venue, a former casino (and Catholic Church / one-stop shopping), is huge, with a large stage and a very big area for fans to stand and partake in the music. There is also a huge room to chill out in, a number of bars, vodka lounge, pool tables and even a sushi bar. Food is served in the lounge almost all night, and the facility has booked some great acts in the recent past, like Blue Oyster Cult, Billy Idol, Pat Travers, Uli Jon Roth, Y&T and in the coming months Al Di Meola, Sebastian Bach, Faster Pussycat, Saxon, Armored Saint, Tony Macalpine, and Michael Schenker.
There is also rockin’ karaoke and themed nights, like tribute bands, etc.
This might be the best club to ever feature rock music in the South Bay, so make sure to check it out if you are in the area.
The Fillmore, San Francisco
by Dan Wall
Hurricane, L.A. Rocks, How Long, Black Tiger, Lucy, Mean Streak, Midnight In Tokyo, Cold Day in Hell, Dirty Girl, Winds of Change, Eyes of A Stranger, All American Boy, Barroom Boogie, I Want Your Money, Contagious, Rescue Me, I’m Coming Home. Encore: Don’t Stop Runnin’, Beautiful Dreamer (snippet), Straight Thru the Heart (snippet), Shine On, Summertime Girls, Forever
2 hours, 10 minutes.
When they write about great rock and roll in the future, Bay Area stalwarts Y & T (once known as Yesterday and Today) will hardly register as a footnote in rock annuals. But there are those ‘in the know’-especially here in Northern California-that feel Y & T is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated groups of all time. And with just one big break, the band could have been huge.
Sadly, that is not going to happen now. The band had its chance back in the late 80’s-early 90’s, but something always seemed to get in the bands way-a bad tour, a record that was overly commercial, its name (never a favorite of mine) and all of the usual trappings that go with rock and roll (drugs, booze, touring, etc…).
None of that mattered on Saturday night, as the group performed its annual Fillmore show to an adoring sold-out crowd that still treats these guys like the rock legends they never became, but deserved to be. Before the review of this year’s show, here’s a little history lesson for those of you who are new to the
The Y & T Story:
Yesterday and Today got its first breaks in the Bay Area during the mid-70’s, opening for many of the era’s biggest bands at Winterland (just blocks away from the Fillmore) and other huge venues for Bill Graham. Back then, the band was such a scary option for many of these groups as an opening act, it was often times forced off of those bills to headline Bay Area clubs.
When the crowds got bigger, the band took over for the Tubes as the Concord Pavilion’s annual Halloween headliner. As long as the gigs were in California, Texas, Europe or Japan, the scene was repeated over and over again-packed houses and thrilling performances.
The group couldn’t get arrested in most of this country, however, and thus the band never reached the heights of some of the groups it opened for, such as Aerosmith, Montrose, Boston, Queen and Journey. Even contemporaries like Motley Crue, Dokken, Great White, Poison and Tesla went onto bigger and better things, as Y & T retreated to the Bay, where a good time could always be found.
It all came crashing down in the mid-80’s, when drummer Leonard Haze left the group in a haze (of booze and drugs) and original guitarist Joey Alves also took his leave. Replacements Jimmy DeGrasso (the ex-Megadeth drummer, now with Black Star Riders) and guitarist Stef Burns (Huey Lewis) helped original members Dave Meniketti and Phil Kennemore (who passed away in 2011) keep the fire burning until 1991, when Meniketti shut the whole thing down for a solo career.
Despite being one of the best guitarists you’ve never heard of, Meniketti’s solo stuff never took hold and he looked back to Y & T for solace. The band re-grouped many times for gigs and released two records back in the 90’s, before finally re-forming for good in 2001. From there, the band re-built its career with extensive touring, a couple of retrospective album releases and finally the “Facemelter” record, the last to feature Kennemore.
And that’s where the story is today. It’s hard to believe, but Y & T might be better known now around the world then it was during its supposed heyday, when big riffs, bigger choruses and Meniketti’s incendiary fret work gave Y & T hope for a big career.
The reality of the situation is that a devoted, ever-expanding audience which knows a great band when they hear one still shows up around the world in 1000 seat venues to hear old favorites and songs from “Facemelter,” which brought the band back full circle to its early sound and style.
That sound and style is linked to one man, the great Meniketti, who was absolutely on fire at the Fillmore, providing riffs and solos that few can match. The group’s best songs, such as “Forever,” Shine On” and Mean Streak,” feature Meniketti’s over-the-top soloing and distinctive vocals, while the current backing band of guitarist John Nyman, bassist Brad Lang and drummer Mike Vanderhule lay down a thick groove and add high-pitched harmonies to fill out the classic
The Y & T template:
Never much for the Kiss-like theatrical show, it was the songs that always separated this band from the pack in my opinion, and on Saturday the group played an interesting set that featured those classics listed above, as well as a few of the band’s more recent tunes, some rarities and a few nuggets that haven’t been played in years, such as “Cold Day in Hell,” “All American Boy” and “Lucy.” As a special treat, original drummer Haze appeared for a run through “Dirty Girl” and “Winds of Change,” thrilling many in the audience who had never seen him play live with the band or appreciate a little nostalgia.
It doesn’t’ really matter what the guys play, the band will never be as big as it should have been. The first album for A & M records, “Earthshaker,” should have made the band stars and “Summertime Girls” should have made it huge. It was not to be, but Y & T continues to this day as one of rock’s great underdogs, playing to appreciative audiences around the world who either knew the band should have been huge all along or are just finding out what they missed all those years ago.
In any event, my friends and I continue to attend Y & T gigs around the Bay Area, as we appreciate the blistering speed and tone from Dave’s Les Paul and Strat, the quality of the tunes, and …well… we just like to get our face melted.
In 2015, Y & T is playing all over the US, then Germany, Spain and the UK… check it out, or just be stuck with your face the way it is.
Saxon with Armored Saint
The Rock Bar, San Jose CA
May 29, 2015
By Dan Wall
Saxon Set List:
Motorcycle Man, Sacrifice, The Power and the Glory, And the Bands Played On, To Hell and Back Again, Solid Ball of Rock, This Town Rocks, Dallas 1 p.m., 20,000 Feet, The Eagle Has Landed, Princess of the Night, 747(Strangers in the Night), Crusader, Heavy Metal Thunder. Encore: Wheels of Steel, Denim and Leather. 90 minutes.
Armored Saint Set List:
Win Hands Down, March of the Saint, Nervous Man, Paydirt, Last Train Home, Raising Fear, Mess, Chemical Euphoria, Left Hook from Right Field, Aftermath, Can You Deliver, Reign of Fire, Madhouse. 75 minutes.
Most heavy metal fans have heard of Saxon and Armored Saint, but you’d be hard pressed to identify any of the band members unless one was sitting at the kitchen table with you eating Corn Flakes. Lead vocalist Biff Byford is the most recognizable Saxon member, and the group did gain a small bit of recognition by appearing on an English reality show called Get Your Act Together, but for most of its career, Saxon has been big in the U.K., bigger in Europe and an underdog in the states.
The same could be said for the Saint, although on a smaller level. It usually takes a description of the band’s first album cover, with the whole group decked out in armor, or a reminder that lead vocalist John Bush was in Anthrax for 13 years (from 1992-2005) to finally get a nod of acceptance from the uneducated.
It’s too bad, but the reasons these two acts are currently playing small clubs in the U.S. and not arenas is the same list of problems most bands that get mentioned in stories like this have suffered with-bad deals, a tweak to its sound, the wrong tour and personnel problems (in the Saint’s case, the death of a beloved band member). If you need further proof of either bands prowess on a bigger stage, just check out YouTube-there are plenty of full live shows of Saxon headlining Wacken or any other huge European metal fest, with a full stage, pyro and a lighting rig that makes the band look as big as Judas Priest of Iron Maiden. Armored Saint can be seen in these same shows, usually as a special guest, but still rocking thousands of metal heads who know the words to every song.
So now that we’ve established the fact that both of these bands should be bigger and better known, let’s talk about each band in 2015. Amazingly, both are just good as ever, and you’d be hard pressed to figure out that just about all of these guys are over 50, with the Saxon guys rapidly (or already reaching) the age of 60. Sure, the lines are starting to appear on the faces, grey hair is predominant (if there is any hair at all) and no one is jumping off the p.a. anymore, but both Saxon and Armored Saint can still deliver one helluva rock show.
Saxon has appeared in the states three times in the last five years (a record pace, for sure), but this was easily the best show of the bunch. It was probably the best show I’ve seen the band do live, and for once it really felt like everyone assembled was there to see these two great bands and not just out for a night away from the wife and kids. T-shirts sold briskly, the local metal community was out in force, and during Saxon’s set, it was so loud, due to the sheer volume of the music and the pumped-up crowd singing every song like a schoolgirl, that it was a bit overwhelming.
During a career that features 20 studio albums (21 is on the way), they are sure to be a few stinkers, but in reality Saxon has been churning out quality metal since 1979.Vocalist Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn were part of the original band, while guitarist Doug Scarrett, bassist Nibbs Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler help make-up the best version of the band since the group’s classic days back in the early 1980’s.
The band’s current set is a celebratory run through the group’s best songs, 16 metal classics that all feature the Saxon sound- the New Wave of British Heavy Metal template that features a bit of Sabbath, a touch Priest, seasoning by Maiden and Lizzy, and a few nods to America, while never straying too far from the Motorhead (close friends of Saxon, by the way) locomotive roll.
While watching the band perform live, it’s easy to notice that Byford runs the show and the others do their best to stay out of the way. Easy going and charming, Byford keeps the party rolling with his easy humor, while pulling off the metal god vocalist stuff with ease. The rest of the quintet is as solid as they come, with Carter’s solid thump, Glockler’s thunderous rolls and the guitar duo of Scarrett and Quinn doing their best to replicate the best metal guitarists in the biz. The other stars of the show are the songs, and on this night, “Denim and Leather,” “Princess of the Night, “The Power and the Glory” and “Wheels of Steel” was the highlights of the lengthy set.
Armored Saint’s story is similar, but this band has had a way tougher go off it than Saxon ever did. Signed to Chrysalis Records, the group debuted with the classic “March of the Saint” album in 1984, when the Saint’s kind of power metal (big riffs, mind bending solos, huge war cry melodies) was getting a push here in the States, but for whatever reason (the armor “angle,” bad publicity, the wrong record label), the group was never able to secure that big tour that might have sent it over the top. Subsequent releases were just as good as the first record, but the band’s position in the metal world would never reach the level predicted for it, and the group’s future really looked bleak when original guitarist Dave Prichard died during the recording of the Saint’s epic fifth record, “Symbol of Salvation.”
The loss of an integral member might have brought most bands to its knees, especially one struggling for acceptance like the Saint. But the tension and emotion from Prichard’s death only made Symbol a better record, and one that is on many metal fan’s Top 10 Best Records That You’ve Never Heard lists. Unfortunately, not even that record could get the band the crowd it needed and wanted, and Bush exited to join Anthrax a year later.
Back together in 2000, the band made another brilliant record (Revelation), as Bush did double duty in both of his bands, but despite the Saint’s core crowd showing up, most of the fans had either grown old or changed allegiances, and the boys were left battling for tour spots with newer, bigger bands with bigger (re: younger) fan bases, and by now you can probably figure that stardom was just not in the cards for these guys.
It probably never will be, unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean the group has slowed down at all. With a brilliant new record, “Win Hands Down,” just released and a ferocious live act ready to burn after this short run with Saxon, things are looking up for this L.A. based metal machine-finally.
Bush is one the best metal singers on the planet, his throaty growl in full flight on this night. His longtime partner in crime, bassist Joey Vera (who has also played with Fates Warning, and did a short stint with Bush in Anthrax) holds down one of metal’s tightest rhythm sections with drummer Gonzo. Guitarist Jeff Duncan (who replaced Prichard, and a member of L.A.’s Odin back in the day) and Phil Sandoval (Gonzo’s brother, and an original member who rejoined in 1991) play riffs as tight as Tipton and Downing and solo in tandem like Gorham and Robertson (true metal guitar fans know who I’m talking about here).
The group has at least five songs (“March of the Saint,” “Can You Deliver,” “Aftermath,” “Chemical Euphoria,” “Reign of Fire”) in its repertoire that deserve to be metal standards, and the rest of the 13-song set featured nothing but solid heavy metal, played loud and proud by five guys that I am happy to call my friends.
It’s becoming quite obvious by talking to young metal fans at recent shows that most are fed up with the current music scene, and have been revisiting their fathers or older brothers record collections to find good music. The collection of fans at this show ran the gamut of young and old, and that can only be good news for bands like Saxon and Armored Saint, who are always looking to expand on their respective fan bases. If this show didn’t give the newbies a reason to keep coming back to see classic metal live, nothing will.
Steve Hackett with Genesis Revisited - Warfield Theater in San Francisco - December 10, 2014
Photography by Greg Hazards
When you think of Genesis, many rock fans forget the early years. They remember the big ballads of Phil Collins and team. But what about guitar driven Genesis.
That is what this special night was all about. Steve Hackett and his magic of guitar. The man has a gift for soft touch and a pure sound on his Gibson Les Paul
that resonates so well to the fans. No we didn't get to hear "In Too Deep", "It's No Fun, Being An Illegal Alien", or many of the popular sounds of the 80's from Genesis.
Instead we were treated to the forgotten sounds of an era gone by. The songs of the 70's with Hackett and crew.
The band consisted of Gary O'toole, Nick Begs, Nad Sylvan, Roger King and Rob Townsend. All of which brought their A game to the show
giving music it well deserved due. Highlights of the night were "I Know What I Like" and "Watcher of the Skies". Vocalist Sylan gave a
good imterpretation in look and sound to Peter Gabriel and his witty world. Roger King on Keyboards was amazing giving each solo
a great compliment to Steve's guitar. Nick Begs who some of might remember was from Kajagoogoo played Bass with authority and strike.
He even pulled out the Chapman Stick to show his well rounded versatility. All in all the night was amazing.
I was too young to see the early days of Genesis, but at least now I feel satisfied with knowing what it sounded like.
What is more amazing is that Steve Hackett hasn't aged a bit. A full head of hair and fire in his playing.
Maybe he is the Hercules of music keeping his long brown locks as power to his playing.
What ever he did to stay young, kudos.
We will never see a reunion of Hackett, Gabriel, Rutherford and Banks,
but this works just fine with me.
The intement Warfield Theater has sound ambience and history to lend itself to this style of music.
Dance on a Volcano
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
Fly on a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
The Return of the Giant Hogweed
The Fountain of Salmacis
The Musical Box
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Intro to Horizons
Firth of Fifth
Watcher of the Skies
Los Endos (Including Myopia Intro & Slogans)
Judas Priest/Steel Panther - San Jose Civic Auditorium - November 16, 2014
Once the metal gods, always the metal gods. Judas Priest "Unleashed in the East" from 1979 was my first encounter with the world of metal.
And like they always say, you always remember your first!
From that moment I knew I would never stray far from their music or sound.
The new album, "Redeemer of Souls" is a breathe of fresh air in the metal world. Most metal bands of the 70's or 80's cannot recreate the sounds that founded their status in the
"Redeemer of Souls" does just that. And best of all, they translate well in live performance. Rob Halford at 63 is still sounding like a 43 year old and his screams bring chills
to my spine of yesterday. Glenn Tipton is still shredding on his jackson guitars and new guitarist Richie Faulkner is a fine fill for an aging KK Downing who declined to go on 5 years back.
It was funny coming back to the San Jose Civic after a 31 year absence when I saw Ronnie James Dio on his Holy Diver Tour, with opener Queensrcyhe on their EP tour.
But even after my first encounter with Judas Priest on their Screaming for Vengeance tour, they did not disappoint. The highlights of the show were Victim of Changes
and Beyond the Realms of Death. Two classic songs that will always be a part of my metal memory. The title track from Redeemer of Souls also sounded great.
The set list focused on the mid 80's and the new record, "Redeemer of Souls". "Bloodstone" and "Jawbreaker" were welcomed add ins to the set list, and even "Turbo Lover" got the crowd going.
Steel Panther was the opener. A Good fun band, but not the best match with Judas Priest.
How about Krokus, Saxon, Raven, Diamond Head, Accept, or Dokken. Any of these fine older bands would have filled the slot and vibe better. But who am I to judge. I enjoy Poison, Motley
and other hair bands, just not with Priest. A big part of the crowd seemed to like the guys and the guitarist is a former bandmate with Rob in fight. But being a metal purist from the 80's I was
expecting something different. Judas Priest brought their A game with great video screens on stage and precise sound. From Rob Halfords presence and all around enjoying himself on stage I do not see Priest closing
the metal shop. Time will tell , but Rob really enjoys his moments on the stage. Priest will be back again in the future. Gonna Rock Forever!
2. Metal Gods
3. Devil’s Child
4. Victim Of Changes
5. Halls Of Valhalla
6. Love Bites
7. March Of The Damned
8. Turbo Lover
9. Redeemer Of Souls
10. Beyond The Realms Of Death
12. Breaking The Law
13. Hell Bent For Leather
14. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
15. Living After Midnight
16. Defenders Of The Faith
May 13, 2014
DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA
By Dan Wall
Car Pool, gas money, and photo: Ace Collins
Skid Row Set List:
Let’s Go, Big Guns, Makin’ a Mess, Piece of Me, 18 and Life, Thick Is the Skin, In a Darkened Room, Kings of Destruction, Psycho Therapy, I Remember You, Riot Act, Monkey Business, Slave to the Grind, Youth Gone Wild. 80 minutes.
Black Star Riders Set List:
All Hell Breaks Loose, Are You Ready, Bloodshot, Bad Reputation, Hoodoo Voodoo, Jailbreak, Kingdom of the Lost, Rosalie, Hey Judas, Emerald, Bound For Glory, Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back in Town. 65 minutes.
Dan: Skid Row is still touring without vocalist Sebastian Bach. The Black Star Riders is also known as Thin Lizzy, but without vocalist / bassist Phil Lynott. These are the realities (marketing difficulties) facing each of these bands in 2014.
The quandary-Skid Row wants nothing to do with Bach, and hasn’t since he was let go after a disagreement in 1996. The Black Star Riders would give anything to have Phil Lynott back, but that’s not going to happen as he passed away in 1986.
(Coincidentally, Phil Lynott once fronted a band called Skid Row back in Dublin, Ireland, with future Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore before forming Lizzy.)
Ace: Good knowledge there, Danny….
Dan: And therein lies the big difference between these two bands, which are currently touring together and played in San Francisco, CA on May 13-Bach has made overtures many times about returning to his former group and has been rebuffed, with longtime bassist and band leader Rachel Bolan usually leading the charge against that concept. Bach’s huge, unique voice is only dwarfed by his huge ego, so it’s not hard to imagine why his old buds carry on with another singer after reading about Bach’s many shenanigans and seeing his act on reality television.
Bach’s replacement of 14 years, Johnny Solinger, is a decent singer and a heckuva nice guy to boot, but he does not have that extra highway gear, that “Voice from the gods” that Bach possesses. Occasionally, he will channel Bach; unfortunately, he channels Diamond Dave, too. So when the band attempts to do something live, like “In a Darkened Room,” a Bach tour-de-force from the “Slave to the Grind” record,” it usually falls flat. When the quintet sticks to the rockers and the big hits like “Youth Gone Wild,” the sound is much closer to the band’s heyday.
Bassist Bolan and guitarists Dave “Snake” Sabo and Scotti Hill are still around from that heyday, along with drummer Rob Hammersmith, and these guys have lost absolutely nothing musically. Aside from the rather lame, impromptu dual guitar solo that elongated “Monkey Business” from reasonable to bathroom break, the band rolled out the hits with ease. But I think everyone in the business knows that nothing will get Skid Row out of these small clubs and back on big stages unless they give in and let Bach back in the band. I actually like a lot of the material the band has produced over the last 10 years, but let’s face it, I’m in the minority.
Ace: I agree, good energy, great song selection, and Solinger makes this act continue to be viable, but the alternating solos were a definite throwaway. If you’re gunna play late on a weeknight, don’t waste my time with a section of music titled ‘Who wants to go first?’ on the set list… Unless, of course, you announce to the crowd that you have a nightly unrehearsed section of music that is just long enough to get in the beer line. Now, if you are a ‘gear nut’ like some of the males that come to these small club shows, you took advantage of the people leaving during the solos for the bathroom by stepping right up to the stage… although there wasn’t much to see. Snake came, and went, holding the same axe all night, a Trans-red ESP LTD 327, a 27 fret shred machine with a humbucker and a single coil sized Duncan Hot Rails stacked humbucker, with a Floyd and a D-Tuna…his tone was pumped out of a Peavey 6505+ stack… Scotti Hill plays a guitar that looks like it was made from scrap after a home-flooring project…. but he makes it scream… he was also shreddin’ thru a Peavey 6505+ stack… There’s something to be said for only needing one axe all night, and leaving your expensive gear at home… Now, the Black Star Riders played just before Skid Row, and had some axes that were worth getting’ up close to see…
Dan: As opposed to Bach and Skid Row debating going down memory lane, the Black Star Riders would love to still be Thin Lizzy with most of the original band still active, but death has not only taken Lynott but also guitarist Gary Moore. So Scott Gorham soldiers on with a tribute to his old band… but with one twist-he was smart enough to rename the band when the group decided to release new material. Not many were bothered with the Thin Lizzy tag when alumni Brian Downey and Darren Wharton were in the group with Gorham, but no one wanted a new Thin Lizzy record without Lynott.
So, the new music sounds like Lizzy, but with a modern twist that makes the new sound just slightly different to notice. The all-star cast around Gorham, which features vocalist/guitarist Ricky Warwick (former leader of The Almighty, one of the best bands you’ve never heard of), bassist Marco Mendoza (former Whitesnake, Ted Nugent), guitarist Damon Johnson (former Brother Cane, Alice Cooper) and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (former Y & T, Megadeth), is a super group that can rip and tear the new stuff and the Lizzy classics as well anyone you might think of.
And onstage, this new Lizzy tone really comes to life, which won’t surprise those of you who remember “Live and Dangerous,” the Lizzy live album that has often been called one of the greatest live recordings of all time. Gorham and Johnson play the old double-lead guitar stuff just as well as Gorham did with his many partners, including Moore, Brain Robertson and John Sykes. Mendoza and DeGrasso are rock solid, and Warwick sounds just enough like Lynott to make this sound valid, but not so much that it sounds imitation-cheesy.
Ace: Not only is Warwick a sold singer with just the right amount of Irish accent for this ensemble, he also played some nice complementary guitar… an acoustic / electric most of the night, occasionally grabbing a walnut Gibson SG with P-90s to spank out some crunch. Marco Mendoza held down the bottom end with a couple of ESP basses and an 8x10 Hartke stack. Scott Gorham is travelling with his favorite axe, a deep red Tiger burst flame maple Axcess chambered Les Paul with a vibrato, plugged in to a pair of ENGL amps thru a 1960B Marshall cab… Damon Johnson was sporting his mid-’90s 1960 reissue Les Paul, a beautiful honeyburst / flametop pumped thru a couple of Wizard heads- a Vintage Classic and Modern Classic run together- plus a 4x12 cab.
Jeb (editor): Sorry to interrupt…. Where’s my interview, Dan???
Dan: Jeb, I had a chance to talk to Mendoza by phone earlier in the evening while he was at his hotel. Currently working with BSR and in the studio on Neal Schon’s new album, the veteran bassist and road warrior was asked why he (and the band) still does this, year after year. “I’m a fan of music,” Mendoza said. “I not only love the old classics, like Purple and Zeppelin, but a lot of the new bands, too. And I have to keep working. It helps me stay sober.”
Marco and I chit-chatted during the Skid Row solo as he was grabbing a taxi to go back to the hotel. Mendoza said the band will tour this summer in Europe before returning to the studio to record album number two this fall. That record, due in spring 2015, should keep this band on the road and in the public for the better part of next year. When I met Gorham, all I could do was smile, make small talk… and get a ‘selfie’… no shame.
Michael Schenker Group at Yoshi's in Oakland: February 6, 2014 by Dan Wall - Photos by Greg Hazard
Set List: Neptune Rising, Where the Wild Wind Blows, Armed and Ready, Cry For the Nations, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Assault Attack, Attack of the Mad Axe Man, Rock My Nights Away, Into the Arena, Love Drive, Another Piece of Meat, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Horizons, Shoot Shoot, Only You Can Rock Me, Let it Roll, Too Hot to Handle, Lights Out. Encore: Rock Bottom, Doctor Doctor. 1 hour, 45 minutes.
If you want to write a book on the career of Michael Schenker, be prepared to pen a lengthy tome. The 59-year old guitarist has quite a celebrated history with bands (Scorpions, UFO, MSG) and a solo career that has seen many more lows than highs.
Despite those lows, which included substance abuse problems and just plain not showing up to perform, here he is in 2014, healthy and sober, still touring heavily, and playing the songs from his career that have made him a classic rock guitar legend.
Those of us who have followed his career in the Bay Area know of his problems well. Schenker went AWOL from UFO in 1977 and made his return to the band at a Winterland show, opening for Rush. He has missed UFO and MSG reunions shows in the area, and for years fans were weary as to whether Schenker would show ready to play, or show up at all.
Fast forward to 2014, and it’s easy to see that the guitarist has cleaned up his act. Onstage in Oakland, he was in a good mood (and anytime he shows up in a good mood is a great thing for his fans), sounded great and seemed to enjoy himself. The set list was fantastic, the band was pretty good and the sound in the venue was marvelous.
This was by far the best working band that Schenker has assembled in years, but the musicians in this act are nowhere near as talented as the original monsters that he played with. Comparing these guys to classic UFO and MSG is simply not fair--there is nothing particularly wrong with the guys that Schenker has picked to join him on the road, but no one here is going to be inducted into the R’N’R Hall of Fame, either.
Drummer Pete Holmes can bang, bassist Rev Jones is a hammer and guitarist Wayne Findlay is a seasoned pro. The biggest name in the band now, outside of Schenker, is vocalist Doogie White, and he is a very good singer. His voice is more suited for a Dio/Rainbow/Whitesnake type of sound, however, so he struggles to hit Phil Mogg’s (UFO) notes and to emulate Gary Barden’s (MSG) power.
The good thing about this-it doesn’t really matter in a small club setting like Yoshi’s, because the crowd practically drowned out the band when the group performed MSG gems like “Armed and “Ready” and “Cry For the Nations,” the two Scorps tunes and anything by UFO. It just goes to prove that Phil Mogg, the legendary vocalist for UFO, simply can’t be duplicated as far as stage presence and vocal talent. No fault of Mr. White’s.
Aside from the songs, the real star here is Mr. Schenker. When great guitarists are mentioned, Schenker is often referred to as ‘underrated’ or a guy who should have been better known, but fans and musicians alike know that his guy is the real deal. His sharp, biting solos are still note-perfect, and he has written some of the best songs and riffs in the rock era. My buddy Brad says he is the best rock vibrato guitarist wprking without a whammy bar.
If you haven’t ever seen Schenker, this is a good time to go, since he is sober and energized… and will probably show up. The songs still sound great after all these years, regardless of who sings them or how well Schenker is shredding that night… and Schenker is currently playing as well as he ever has.
October 6, 2013
DNA Lounge, San Francisco
By Dan Wall - Photos by Greg Hazard
Set List: Sacrifice, The Power and the Glory, Night of the Wolf, This Town Rocks, Made in Belfast, 20,000 Ft., Heavy Metal Thunder, The Eagle has Landed, Dogs of War, Motorcycle Man, Rock ‘N Roll Gypsy, Guardians of the Tomb, Dallas 1 p.m., Denim and Leather, Wheels of Steel. Encore: Crusader, Strong Arm of the Law, Princess of the Night. 1 hour, 40 minutes.
You may know some of the bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal better than you know Saxon, but no one carries the banner for that sound and image better than this English quintet.
Loud guitars? Check. Big drums? Check. Louder than an air craft carrier? Check. Songs about women, rock and roll, dragons, trains, denim, leather and more rock and roll? Check.
Saxon is a winning team, folks. Despite a couple of personnel hiccups and a few albums when the band listened to the wrong label executive and “tweaked” its sound in the 80’s, this band has been churning out quality metal since 1979. Vocalist Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn have been around since the beginning, and guitarist Doug Scarrett, bassist Nibbs Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler make up the best version of Saxon since the group’s classic days back in the early 1980’s.
The band’s appeal (especially in Europe) can be attributed to two things: the band slots nicely between tradition metal (think Judas Priest and Iron Maiden) and straight ahead rock and roll (Aerosmith, KISS, etc…) and Byford’s leadership.
On this tour, the band’s second to the states in just two years (that must be some kind of record), the group is supporting its new album Sacrifice but playing what is basically a greatest songs set. None of the songs were ever hits here, but for those who know better, the band has as many classic songs as any other band from its era.
And it’s Byford who is front and center, dressed in his trademark long jacket, with his greying locks flowing, looking every bit the consummate English rock star. He is a charming, humble Englishman, and the one thing I really like about him is that his voice has remained the same for the past 34 years. He will not lose his voice because he strains to hit notes that only dogs can hear. He might lose it for a variety of other reasons, but his mid-range rumble has remained remarkably steady for his entire career, and Saxon today still sounds like classic Saxon did.
The rest of the quintet is as steady as they come-it’s Biff’s show, and the rest of the boys pretty much stay out of his way, despite the remarkable riffs and steady rhythm section. The other stars of the show are the songs, and on this night “Sacrifice,” “This Town Rocks,” “Denim and Leather,” “Princess of the Night,” “The Power and the Glory” and “Wheels of Steel” were the highlights of the lengthy set.
Many in our reading audience may be going “Saxon? Really?,” but true fans know that Saxon is one the best and most consistent metal acts of the past 35 years. The group still turns out great material (Sacrifice continues the band’s recent run of great studio records), and the band can absolutely burn up a concert stage. The crowd in San Francisco was decent for a Sunday night, with the crowd of 400-500 singing every word to the classic songs. That’s a pretty good turnout in America, a country that largely ignores all of the great English and European metal bands still tredding the boards-in Europe and at home, Saxon is still doing big business and is a band very much in demand on the summer festival circuit.
If there is a connection to be made with another band, it would be Motorhead. Biff and Lemmy are great friends and the bands have toured together often. But the fact that rings true for both bands is the love of rock and metal, as well as the fact that both bands have and continue to do things in their own way. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both bands literally go on until no one is left standing-and that will be a sad day for hard rock fans everywhere.
Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mt. View, CA
August 26, 2013
By Dan Wall - Photos by Greg Hazard
War Pigs, Into the Void, Under the Sun, Snowblind, Age of Reason, Black Sabbath, Behind the Wall of Sleep, NIB, End of the Beginning, Fairies Wear Boots, Rat Salad plus drum solo, Iron Man, God is Dead, Dirty Women, Children of the Grave. Encore: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (intro)/Paranoid. 2 hours.
On August 31, 1975, I saw Black Sabbath for the first time. On August 26th of this year, I saw the band for what will probably be the last time.
How did the two gigs compare? Well, it’s still hard to explain to someone who wasn’t there in the 70’s what Sabbath meant to a 15 year-old seeing one of his favorite bands for the first time at San Francisco’s legendary Winterland. The menacing image, loud over-the-top musical prowess and sheer volume of the demonic, scary beast known as Black Sabbath was just overwhelming that evening. Seeing Sabbath that night is one of the reasons I still attend rock shows to this day. It was phenomenal.
The show this year was also phenomenal, but in a different way. Still an amazing live act, this was more of a celebration of the band’s lengthy career, not just another tour stop in San Francisco. To have this band still together after all of the backstage drama, near-death experiences, illness and just plain crazy behavior is enough to welcome the quartet back with open arms. That the boys can still perform as if the past 37 years never happened is, quite frankly, a miracle.
There was nothing particularly special about the show’s visual presentation. Aside from a huge video screen, a spectacular blinking and colorful light show, and crystal-clear, pristine sound, it was just four guys up there, dressed in black, in front of a wall of amps. Pretty much like it was back in the 70’s.
On this night, however, one declaration can be made-Tony Iommi is the greatest heavy metal guitarist of all-time. It doesn’t matter whether he is the fastest player, because all of those incredible riffs and Sabbath solos were performed with such precision and feeling that note-speed just doesn’t matter. Even more amazing is that Tony is battling cancer out on the road. It almost brought a tear to my eye that this could be the last time I see this amazing musician play live. I’ll keep the good thought that it’s not, but if it was, then Iommi put on one helluva performance on this night.
Bassist Geezer Butler is another Hall of Famer who has influenced just about every bass player in metal, and his playing was rock solid and tasty all night long. Drummer Tommy Clufetos, the young but experienced sticksman who has played with Ted Nugent, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, and Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, was a revelation on drums. No, he is not Bill Ward in his prime, but he sure as hell banged the shit out of his drums and played everything as if Ward was still around. He actually played some of the stuff a bit fast, which we will put down to his youthful exuberance (even though Tommy is 33 years old). It would have been nice to see Ward one last time, because not only is he a legend but a sweetheart of a man as well. Bill has struggled in the live setting over the past few years to keep up with faster tempos, and for $100-200 a ticket, the drums need to be played with the same precision that they were when the band’s classic records were made.
So what about Ozzy, the clown prince of heavy metal? Mr. Osbourne was actually in fine voice, sounding better than he has in years, and despite the fact that he can’t move like he used to, he can still inspire a large crowd to clap, wave and shout like their lives depend on it.
The highlights were plentiful, but three songs stand out-“Snowblind” was the best of the bunch, with the power of the songs tempo shifts and Iommi’s riffs and solos pushing the audience into a frenzy; “Fairies Wear Boots,” which is not my favorite Sabbath song, but sounded amazing, especially the guitar parts; and the new “God is Dead” which rocked like a monster and proved that the old “geezers” still have it-whatever that is.
As a matter of fact, the real miracle about this reunion is the fact that these guys finally got together with producer Rick Rubin and put out a new record, “13,” which stands tall alongside the band’s 70’s output. All three songs played, “God is Dead,” “End of the Beginning” and “Age of Reason” were well received, and no one was screaming for “Paranoid” while these songs were played.
They did yell for the classic “Paranoid” during the encore, and that was the last song of the set, possibly the last ever to be performed by this legendary band in the San Francisco Bay Area. If it was, then the band went out on a high note. This is one musical act that has gone through a messy divorce, only to re-discover the magic that brought the band together in the first place, and returned in 2013 just as good as the group ever was. We will thank God (and quite possibly the other guy) for that.
Bone Bash 14
Shoreline Amphitheater, Mt. View, CA
June 23, 2013
By Dan Wall - Photos by Greg Hazard
Bad Company Set List: Rock and Roll Fantasy, Burnin’ Sky, Running With The Pack, Feel Like Making Love, Gone Gone Gone, Electric Land, Simple Man, Moving On, Shooting Star, Can’t Get Enough. Encore: Bad Company, Rock Steady. 70 minutes.
Lynyrd Skynyrd Set List: What’s Your Name, Call Me the Breeze, I Ain’t the One, Down South Jukin’, That Smell, You Got That Right, Saturday Night Special, I Know A Little, Simple Man, Mississippi Kid, Gimme Three Steps, Sweet Home Alabama. Encore: Freebird. 80 minutes.
Night Ranger Set List: Lay It On Me, Sing Me Away, Four in the Morning, High Enough, Eddie’s Coming Out Tonight, Do You Close Your Eyes, Don’t Tell Me You Love Me, Sister Christian, (You Can Still) Rock in America. 50 minutes.
When Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to tour together to celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, the pairing became the obvious choice to co-headline Bone Bash 14, the yearly concert that is essentially San Francisco-based classic rock radio station 107.7’s birthday party. Over 18,000 fans jammed into Mountain View’s spacious Shoreline Amphitheater on June 23 for the annual event.
It was a great night of music with one caveat-Bad Company headlined the show, and they probably shouldn’t have. I am not saying that the group shouldn’t have because they don’t deserve to-of course they do, the band basically wrote the template for what is played on classic rock radio. No, this doesn’t really have that much to do with the actual music of either band, but each group’s live history in the greater Bay Area.
Northern California has always been a special place for Skynyrd. This is the same area where guitarist Gary Rossington made his return to the band at Concord Pavilion following his near fatal accident in 1976. A New Year’s Eve show in Oakland later that year was the best holiday show I’ve ever seen. The group blew Peter Frampton off the stage (doing severe harm to his career) in 1977 at two Day on the Green shows in Oakland, which were captured on film for the Free Bird movie. And the first shows of the 1987 reunion tour were done in the same Concord venue that Rossington (and all of us who were there) remembers so well.
Conversely, Bad Company, despite its reputation as a great live band around the world, played only five shows in the area between 1973 and 1980. This was due to two things-one, the group didn’t tour as much as some of the others from that era (think Aerosmith, KISS, Ted Nugent, Van Halen) who seemed to come around every six months or so. (I did see Bad Co. literally rip the roof off of Winterland in May, 1976, so it isn’t like I didn’t get to see the band tear it up live).
And two, the band was managed by Peter Grant, the infamous leader of Led Zeppelin, whose relationship with legendary Bay Area concert promoter Bill Graham was forever damaged by the violent incident that played out during the band’s last two shows to ever be played in the U.S. with John Bonham. After the first of two weekend shows in July, 1977, Grant, Bonham and two of Grant’s henchman beat up a Graham employee after a misunderstanding backstage. The next day, Grant basically blackmailed Graham, claiming that if he wouldn’t sign away any legal rights that his employee may use to sue the band, Zeppelin wouldn’t go on (this all happening with 55,000 already gathered at the Oakland Stadium). Although Graham was advised to sign the letter (it turns out you can’t sign away someone else’s legal rights, but Grant didn’t know this), his already tenuous relationship with Grant was forever harmed, and Graham vowed to never work with him again.
Thus, Bad Company did not perform in the area on the “Burning Sky” tour and worked for a second-tier promoter on the next outing, and when a near-riot at the Oakland Arena ensued, Bad Company’s live concert reputation in the Bay Area took a hit as well.
Now, I realize this is a bit of a history lesson (this is Classic Rock Revisited after all), but it helps explain why I thought the set-up for this show didn’t favor Bad Company. It’s very difficult to follow Skynyrd under the best of circumstances, but on this night, Skynyrd played a storming set in front of one its most dedicated followings, while Bad Co. came on a bit late (about 9:45, with an 11 p.m. curfew looming), was forced to cut its set, and was hampered by the fact that it was a Sunday night, with most of the middle-aged crowd ready to head home around 10 p.m. And with all of the local bands, side stage activities and four bands on the main stage, the show went a bit longer than advertised, and that never favors the last band to take the stage.
It’s sad that it happened that way, because Paul Rodgers and his fabulous voice were once again front and center during his band’s set. Rodgers is one of the few singers that has fronted three iconic bands-Free, Bad Company and Queen, so he definitely knows what he is doing. There was nothing wrong with his voice or his delivery of the band’s big hits. As a matter of fact, his voice seems to get stronger the older he gets.
With fellow original members Mick Ralphs (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums) laying down the infamous riffs and beats (helped out by former-Heart guitarist Howard Leese and bassist Todd Ronning) to some of rock’s greatest songs, it wasn’t like Bad Company did anything bad onstage that night. Perhaps the biggest gaffe was the fact that the band didn’t play “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad,” “Deal With the Preacher” or “Live For the Music”-classic songs all, and certainly better than a few of the non-hits that made the set.
It simply comes down to this-in some areas, there are bands that should be the featured attraction no matter who is on the bill. You wouldn’t want to follow Tesla in Sacramento, Z.Z. Top in Houston or KISS in Detroit would you? Skynyrd is so beloved in this area that if there is ever a Bay Area Music Hall of Fame, Skynyrd might be the only band not formed in the area to be inducted.
It’s no surprise then that Skynyrd was the perfect band to fill the special guest slot at this year’s BB, and the crowd was readily pumped to see one of the Bay Area’s favorite sons. The 13-song set was chock full of classics, and that closing run of “Gimme Three Steps," “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Freebird” is simply unmatched in the rock.
It doesn’t hurt that this version of the band, still featuring vocalist Johnny Van Zant and original guitarist Gary Rossington, is easily the best of post-plane crash line-ups and trails only the original unit and the group that was on the ill-fated plane in 1977 as far as talent goes.
Vocalist Van Zant is the band’s direct link to the past, and he does his best to replicate his late brother Ronnie’s vocals without stepping too hard on the band’s legacy. Rossington has been there since the beginning, along with former-Blackfoot guitarist (and original Skynyrd member) Ricky Medlocke, and along with Mark Matejka, the three guitarists form a unit that can blaze, play the blues and replicate the band’s great licks and solos of the past. Drummer Michael Cartelone (formerly of the Damn Yankees) is the backbone onstage, along with bassist Johnny Colt (ex-Black Crowes), and keyboardist Peter Keys (what a name) adds the shadings of the late Billy Powell that have always made Skynyrd such an interesting live act.
Night Ranger, local favorites of the Bay Area rock crowd, fired things up with a 50-minute set that was so loud that the band sounded more like Metali-Ranger. Guitarist Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra fired off lick after lick and riff after riff, while bassist Jack Blades, drummer Kelly Keagy and keyboardist Eric Levy held on for dear life behind them. “Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight” was the highlight, but the last three listed in the set list above definitely had the crowd fired up for what was to come.
Opener Black Stone Cherry is an interesting bridge between classic Southern Rock and modern metal. A four-piece from Edmonton, Kentucky, the band has been together since their teens, and have become a huge concert attraction in England and parts of Europe. In the U.S., it’s a different story, as the band struggles along with touring, playing the best songs from three very good records that have yet to yield the band the massive hit that could break it. Onstage, the quartet is a fiery, energized unit that can play rock, blues, country and metal and turn it into an interesting combination of sounds. Often heavier and louder than one might expect from following the group’s records, BSC is another band that is developing a reputation as a very good live act and one that is difficult to follow.
Until next year, let’s hope that the Bay Area concert scene, which has taken a hit this year with a reduction in the amount of shows being presented, picks up when Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Sammy Hagar and the others hit concert stages around the area later this summer and fall.
Written by Dan Wall with photos by Greg Hazard
Warfield Theater, San Francisco
March 5, 2013
By Dan Wall
The Yes Album
Close to the Edge
Going For the One
Ever since Jon Anderson left Yes, the band has struggled along mightily with replacements. The last guy hired reminded you of a Broadway actor who was brought in to play the role of Anderson, and despite of what you might think of him, Anderson left an indelible mark as the vocalist of this legendary progressive act. Thus, a good replacement makes for a better Yes experience.
So fast forward to 2013, Yes is back on the road, and new singer Jon Davison is actually quite good. He looks like Anderson, circa 1972, and sings in the same lithing falsetto that Yes fans love but detractors would compare to the tragic (yet beautiful) voices of our time (Lemmy from Motorhead, all three chipmunks, Tiny Tim, the guy from the Darkness, etc…).
Thus, the band’s performance in San Francisco was the best of I’ve seen the quintet play since a show at the same hall back in 1997. Davison sang the songs just as Anderson would have (minus the rather strange and ethereal stage movements of Anderson), and the rest of the band played all of the songs from the three classic albums listed above with the same precision that fans have been accustomed to over the band’s 43-year career. But on this night, one Yes member stood above all others.
Guitarist Steve Howe, who on the past couple of tours looked about 20 years older than his actually age of 64 (and performed like it), played like a teenager again. His rippling runs and shading has always been a staple of the group’s best work, especially during the 70’s (every song played tonight came from that decade). But on this night Howe was engaged with the crowd (gasp!), moved around the stage rather joyfully (gasp!) and played the guitar like the legend he is (not so shocking).
The band’s only original member still active, Chris Squire, is easily one of the best bassists in rock history, and he can still play with a power and precision that leaves his contemporaries shaking their heads at his prowess. Drummer Alan White is rock solid as the foundation for the band’s rhythm section. Keyboardist Geoff Downes is familiar to Yes fans as Howe’s foil in Asia, and he can play just about anything that is thrown his way (and if you know Yes, the band throws quite a bit at the keyboardist).
Another reason this show worked (for me, anyway) is that the band played my three favorite albums, The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going For the One, one right after the other, all the way thru. Highlights included a spectacular “Yours is No Disgrace,” which opened the first set, the always amazing "“And You and I," and the set-closing “Awaken,” one of the most beautiful pieces of music every penned. The band would have been lynched if it hadn’t included “Roundabout” as the encore, and it did, despite the fact that it is on the band’s other classic record, Fragile.”
Yes will probably be around for a few more years, and while the group is performing at this level, you should go see these legends, even if Anderson is not included.
April 5, 2009
Jackson Rancheria Casino
By Dan Wall
Set List: Good Morning, Wishing Well, Morning Dew, I Got A Line on You, Baby Blue, Great Spirit, Fox Chase, Left Turn On a Red Light, Sunshine Again, Born to Lose, Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Fly Away, Highway Song, Train Train. 95 minutes.
For every classic rock band reformation that routinely sells out arenas and piques the interest of thousands of fans, there is one like Blackfoot’s, which is played out at festivals, small clubs and casinos.
This is certainly not an indictment on the band or its talent, which is still considerable. But just consider this past weekend, when the band played in Mesa, Arizona, jetted to Anaheim, California and then performed at Jackson’s (CA) Rancheria casino, in front of about 300 hearty souls Sunday night.
It certainly looked like there was a fair amount of hardcore Blackfoot fans in attendance, but there was also a few who looked like they stumbled in because the buffet was full. The show started at 6 p.m. and was over by 7:35 p.m., not exactly the way most of us remember Ricky Medlocke and his wild bunch back in the 80’s.
Then again, Medlocke isn’t here. The long-haired guitarist now treds the boards with Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Southern rock greats that Blackfoot tried so hard to emulate during its heyday. In his place is Bobby Barth, the one-time Axe guitarist who has fronted the band since its 2004 reformation, alongside longtime members Greg T. Walker (bass), Charlie Hargrett (guitar) and new drummer Scott Craig.
The quartet does what most of us would expect, which is tune up, plug in and play the bulk of its biggest songs. “Good Morning,” “Fly Away,” “Highway Song” and “Train Train” were all there, but if there was a complaint, it’s that the band played a bunch of covers (something they do very well) instead of classics such as “Road Fever,” “Every Man Should Know” and “On the Run.” Doing covers is one thing, but not at the expense of your best tunes.
Barth does a pretty decent job of singing Medlocke’s parts, and he and Hargrett can play in tandem as well as any guitarists still doing this style of music onstage. The real strength of this band is the rhythm section; Walker and Craig were locked in a groove from the outset and really powered the new “Born to Lose,” a song that bodes well for a new Blackfoot record set to come out later this year.
Blackfoot was never very big in this part of the country; this was the band’s first appearance in Northern California since 1983 (I know the date-July 31, 1983-the day I met my wife), as the band spends most of it’s time in the South and Midwest playing to a much bigger fan base. Amazingly, the group had a huge following in Europe, and its 1982 live record Highway Song Live is proof of this, as the English crowd really picks up the band during one of its greatest performances.
But Blackfoot was never really packaged as well here as the other Southern bands that did get big all over the country. The Outlaws seemed to follow Skynyrd everywhere, and Molly Hatchet took over once Skynyrd was decimated in the plane crash. Blackfoot was put on tours with The Who, Def Leppard, UFO, Foghat, REO Speedwagon and Krokus, great bands all, but not exactly groups who played the guitar army-based, Southern rock rebel stuff that made Skynyrd so big. So the band sort of fizzled out in the mid 80’s and has had a decent reformation since 2004, but will never be thought of in the way that Skynyrd, Hatchet and The Outlaws were. Too bad, because when Blackfoot was on (once again, check out that live album), the band could crush.
The boys don’t really crush anymore, but they can still entertain with the best that classic rock can offer. Go see them if you can; hopefully, it won’t be on a Sunday at 6 p.m. in a casino in the middle of nowhere.
July 10-13, 2008
By Dan Wall
Well, that was an experience!
My first trip to Oklahoma and this year’s Rocklahoma festival turned out to be a non-stop barrage of music, changing weather and crazy moments. The four days flew right by, just like someone’s camper on Saturday night.
Oh, you haven’t heard about the near tornado that hit Pryor (a.k.a. Hell on Earth) on Saturday? Or the 110 degree temperatures that roasted the place earlier that day? Or the mud, the washed-out roads, mini lakes, collapsed stages, reworked sets, flooded campsites and utter chaos that took over after the weather turned ugly on July 12?
Keep on reading, you will.
You could almost write a review of everything but the music, but that would not be a very good review. Because about the only thing that really works well here is the music. If you’re coming to see the bands (like I do), the rest of this can be chalked up to just another crazy time at another crazy rock festival. But if you come for the ambience, the laid-back campsites, the ease of VIP seating and eating, and all of the others things that make RockFest and the Moondance Jam so much fun, you might want to check out another event.
As one of the locals said on Saturday after the storm, “it makes you wonder why anyway would hold a festival smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley during tornado season.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Below is a recap of each day and a few thoughts mixed in to give you an idea of just how nuts this whole thing was.
The day starts out innocently enough, as sun and warm temperatures greet us on the drive from our hotel (roughly 40 miles from Pryor-I don’t do camping) to the site. My traveling companions for the weekend include my good friends the Commish and his wife Tammy, along with Cindy and Shane. The forecast is for a 40% chance of rain, and you know that in this part of the country, there’s always a 40% chance of rain (how do people live here, I keep asking myself). Anyway, the site is fairly accessible, parking is easy, the passes are there and before long, we are inside and ready for Jetboy to kick things off.
A quick visit to the press tent gives us an idea of how things are going to go for the media this weekend, and it’s not going to be good. Before the first interview is held, one of those nice, little Oklahoma thunderstorms rains down on the site, re-flooding everything that flooded the day before, and forcing the first move of the press facilities to another location (the press tent flooded, that’s how hard it rained).
With everyone focused on the main stage, we take out seats and watch Jetboy in a steady downpour. You know a band is good when a small crowd becomes larger while everyone is getting soaked. Vocalist Mickey Finn (whose Mohawk got a bit tussled by the weather), along with guitarists Billy Howe and Fernie Rod remain from the original line-up, and with simple, head-banging songs like “Make Some Noise,” “Stomp It” and “Feel the Shake,” Jetboy’s Aerosmith-meets-GNR Hollywood glam sound helps the band go down as one of the early contenders as band of the day.
House of Lords followed with a 45-minute set that wasn’t bad, but not many in the crowd know any of the material outside of the songs from the band’s first record. Comments about lead vocalist’s James Christian’s considerable girth “outweigh” those of the music, but since I usually eat when called to the table, I hardly notice. “I Wanna Be Loved” is the best song of the set, and it’s pretty easy to see why this band’s regal sound goes down so well in Europe. The first set that allows me fantasize about the Sweden Rock Festival.
Vain had a buzz but it quickly dissipated, much like the morning storm. Vocalist/leader/namesake Davey Vain is a bit of a strange fellow to begin with, and for some reason, this band never made it big despite putting out the great No Respect record back in 1989. Songs from that album, especially “Bite the Bullet” sounded good, but there too many tunes not recognized for Vain to leave much of a mark on the growing crowd.
Enuff Znuff is a much better band with Donnie Vie back fronting the group, and I heard many comments about how this performance was much better than last year’s Vie-less trio show. The band’s quirky metal pop always sounds good to these ears, but the boys make a major mistake when they ditch the group’s biggest hit, “New Thing,” for an overly-long jam session with GNR’s Steven Adler (who along with Bang Tango’s Joe Leste, help out on “Come Together” and “Knockin' On Heaven’s Door”). The jam was cool, but not at the expense of your biggest hit.
The biggest surprise of the day takes place next, when the Tracii Guns-led version of L.A. Guns takes the stage. Last year, the word was that original vocalist Paul Black (not Phil Lewis, who has his own version of L.A. Guns running around the country) ruined an otherwise solid set by the band at this same venue. Guns rectified this by dumping Black in favor of Marty Casey, who you might remember from Rock Star: INXS. Thought by many to be a poser in a rocker’s clothes, Casey capably handled all of the big Guns songs (the group tore up “Rip and Tear”), and sang his own hit “Trees.” The band also ripped up the Brides of Destruction’s “Shut the Fuck Up,” a kiss-off to critics who had written this version of the band off.
Dokken is one of my favorite bands of this era, and I looked forward to seeing the band’s performance here. The Commish points out that the group was spectacular last year, and I am hoping for much the same this time around. Far from being bad, it becomes evident early on that Don Dokken’s voice is not in top form and that this night will not match last year’s appearance here. Dokken simply can’t hit those high notes anymore (when he tries, it sounds like someone hit him in the balls), so he sings everything a couple of registers lower and even reworks the backing vocals. Aside from the vocals, everything else sounds good, especially guitarist Jon Levin, who simply smokes all of George Lynch’s guitar parts.
Sebastian Bach is up next, and early on in his 70-minute set it appears he is trying to set some sort of decibel level record-for singing! Bach doesn’t sing anymore, he screams, and his repeated “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs” can be grating at times. Also grating on most of the gathered and now deaf crowd is the set list, which features way too much of his Angel Down solo record, and not enough Skid Row stuff. “18 and Life” and “Youth Gone Wild” solve most of his problems, however, and his band is rock solid.
Bret Michaels closes, and it begs the question-why is the supposed biggest 80’s rock festival in the world featuring the singer of Poison, but not the entire Poison, a band known in these circles as the biggest hairball of them all? Is it because the band was featured here last year-well, if that’s the case, why are Dokken and L.A. Guns and Enuff Znuff and Steelheart and Queensryche all back? There is absolutely no reason for a solo Michaels show outside of a nightclub, because he basically plays a bunch of Poison stuff at a decidedly lower level than his other band does, and plays covers and solo songs no one cares about. Since I’m seeing Poison next week at another festival, I decide to visit with my buddies Armored Saint mid-set, who have now arrived for its Friday show.
The best band on the side stages on Thursday was Messano, which featured the one-time guitarist for Joe Lynn Turner, Starz and Frankie and the Knockouts. Bobby Messano played songs that he wrote and performed with those bands, including a killer version of “Tell Me Why,” which is on his recently re-issued first solo record.
Thursday’s best band: L.A. Guns
Man, is it hot. My nose burns so bad that someone calls me Rudolph the red-nosed rock critic. Amazingly, it’s still muddy in just about every spot that the masses need to walk, making negotiating the festival site a constant search for dryer ground. And get this-the press has to walk all the way around the site (probably 200 yards) to get to a tent which is 20 feet from a gate on the stage’s north side. Amazing how the media is treated at rock shows.
XYZ is a band that makes going to these types of festivals fun. I might have seen them once back in the day, and I might not ever see the group again. But for 45 minutes on a blazing hot Friday afternoon, the band does its best to kick things off on the main stage with a seven-song set that includes a beautifully melodic “What Keeps Me Lovin’ You” and a rousing “Inside Out” to close the set. The group probably sounded too much like Dokken (blame Don Dokken’s production of the band’s first album for that) for its own good back in 1989; amazingly, XYZ probably sounded better than its mentor on this day.
Armored Saint’s up next, and it’s going to be hard for me to say anything bad about these guys. Friends of mine for over 20 years now, I have seen them in every type of setting, from small club to theater to auditorium, but I’ve never seen John Bush and the boys in front of this many people. Some questioned the group’s inclusion here due to its heaviness, but I don’t think anyone questioned it after the band’s 60 minutes onstage had ended. The crowd grew larger, the heads banged harder, and the band fed off the energy in putting on one of its best live performances ever. Opening with the classic “March of the Saint” and including virtually every great hard rock song the band has ever written, the Saint showed everyone why people call this one of the most underrated heavy metal bands of all time. And why Bush, who fronted Anthrax for 13 years, is one of its greatest vocalists. Bassist Joey Vera and drummer Gonzo held down the bottom, while guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan blazed like few others could on this weekend. “Can You Deliver” shut the set down, and the Saint definitely did deliver.
Kingdome Come has never been one of my favorites, but I have to admit the group surprised me a bit here. I probably was one of those who wrote the band off as Led Zeppelin clones, and come to think of it, Lenny Wolf and friends still sound a lot like the mighty Zep. But this set rocked harder and featured some superb guitar playing, specifically on biggies “Get it On” and “Do You Like It.”
Living Colour was out of place here, and I don’t mean because they are black. The band is a hard rock band, but for some reason, the quartet’s set never sparked on this day. The group’s songs from its first album sounded good enough, especially “Cult of Personality,” but anything else was met with quizzically stares and a tepid reaction, which can pretty much sum up the band’s career. Being one of the most musically talented groups here doesn’t mean everyone is going to get the music, because simple and straight-forward seems to be winning this crowd, now all looking like lobsters, over.
Night Ranger was up next, and in keeping with it’s now nearly 25 years playing major festivals and stages around the world, put on a show that oozed with class. 11 songs, just about every one of them a major hit, played with precision and punch, by one of the best live bands from the hair band era. Bassist Jack Blades and drummer Kelly Keagy still do all the singing, alternating album cuts and big hits, while guitarists Brad Gills and new guy Joel Hoekstra played tandem leads like few can. Keyboardist Christian Cullen shaded the heavy songs and provided piano for biggies “Sentimental Street” and “Sister Christian.” Another band that was getting quizzical looks when this bill was first put together, but ultimately proved it belonged all the time.
Now, after hearing about all the bands that didn’t fit into this weekend’s line-up, we actually get one that didn’t. Extreme was terrible, easily the worst band that performed here the entire weekend. There was hardly any buzz on this band to begin with, and after seeing Night Ranger, most would have easily moved that band into this special guest slot. I like this group’s first two albums, but I haven’t liked much since, especially it’s horrible fourth record. Things started off well enough, with “Decadence Dance,” “Kid Ego” and “It’s a Monster” all going off okay; then came the droning, unknown fourth song, and the wheel’s started coming off. Quite simply, if it wasn’t for Nuno Bettencourt, these guys would have been booed off the stage. Extreme did not play “Get the Funk Out,” “Rest in Piece” or even it’s new hit “Star,” adding to the crowd’s misery. When the group tried to rectify things, all we got was Gary Cherone butchering “Communication Breakdown.” Not even “More Than Words” or “Hole Hearted” could save this train wreck.
Triumph closed the Friday show, playing just its second show in 19 years and first in America since 1989 with the original trio of guitarist Rik Emmett, bassist Mike Levine and drummer Gil Moore. The band’s inclusion on this bill was the main reason I got to see my boss, CCR editor Jeb Wright, at this year’s festival, and it’s always good to visit with Jeb. His review of the show differs only slightly than mine; I thoroughly enjoyed the set, and have always been a big fan of the band. But 19 years away can do a lot to an act’s stage show, and I think there was some rust on the boys at points in the set. Notes that were easily hit by vocalists Emmett and Moore weren’t always hit like they were in the heyday, and I heard more than a few instrumental mistakes. But I will chalk that up to having just two shows under its belt, and will predict that the band’s anticipated tour in 2009 will probably beat the shit out of this performance, once the band finds its sea legs. (And another thing-get a little more adventurous with the set list-“Say Goodbye,” “American Girls” and especially “Follow Your heart” are all dearly missed.)
One of Tammy’s (the Commish’s wife) favorite bands is Dirty Penny, and after seeing these guys play three times on the weekend, I can understand why she loves them so much. These guys want to be rock stars so much that they played in a tent nearly 300 yards away from the main stage, lost deep in the campsites, on Friday night at 2 a.m., in front of a bunch of drunken idiots (Tammy not included). Sounding more like Motley Crue than the Crue does these days, Dirty Penny is fast becoming one of the this resurgent genre’s favorite sons. Metal Church vocalist Ronnie Munroe also played a side stage set with his solo band, and closed with “Gods of Wrath.” The Gypsy Pistoleros also performed, but I find it extremely difficult to listen to a band that doesn’t sing in English. I don’t know how all of those foreign rock fans do it, listening to all of our heroes singing in a foreign tongue.
Friday’s best band: Armored Saint
Runner-Up: Night Ranger
Its 10:15 in the morning, just hours after we left this site following Dirty Penny’s late set, and we’re already back-listening to Big Cock. I got five hours of sleep, my nose is barbequed, and I’m too stupid to listen when someone says a big storm is coming. I’ve heard it all before, so I rock out with my-well, you gotta do something when Big Cock is playing.
Of all the sleaze rock played on this weekend, Big Cock is probably the sleaziest of them all. I mean, the name alone probably costs these guys a number of gigs every year, so they concentrate on albums, and all three of the band’s records are sleazy, guitar-based melodic slabs of rock-think AC/DC meets Aerosmith-filled with titles like “Get a Load of Me,” “Bad Motherfucker” and “Breaking My Balls.” Onstage, these guys rock just as hard as on record, but until this country gets over a name like Big Cock, this band will remain a curiosity, and probably deserves more attention than its getting.
The main stage kicks off at 11 .m. with Pretty Boy Floyd, and despite not being seen much in America these days, play a great 45-minute set of their best known songs. Every Mother’s Nightmare, hair metal’s answer to Lynyrd Skynrd, and Tora Tora, another Tennessee band who basically got together to play at this festival, play short, above-average sets that are entertaining, but its doubtful there worth dying for. Unfortunately, a lady in the crowd does expire due to heat exhaustion and complications due to diabetes (which always worries me, because I’m a diabetic). My prayers go out to her family, but it goes to show you just how careful you have to be at one of these things, especially when the temperature reaches hellish numbers.
Black N Blue, the next main stage band, has problems during its 60 minute set due to heat exhaustion as well. Bassist Patrick Young is forced to sit down behind the band’s amp line and take oxygen because of the heat. It doesn’t stop the band from barreling straight through 11 classics, however. Vocalist Jamie sounded and looked great and helped show why BNB is another one of those bands that should have been much bigger that it was. “Hold On To 18” should have been a massive hit, but for some reason, these guys will never be as famous as their ex-guitarist Tommy Thayer, currently the guitarist in KISS, is.
Little did Trixter know that the band’s first show in over 10 years would turn out to be so strange. It started out innocently enough, as the band worked through some early sound problems and hit its stride with some of the quartet’s mid-level hits. But just as the group started to play its biggest hit, “Give It to Me Good,” the skies opened up and it started to rain. It’s almost as if God was watching all of this debauchery and heard Trixter’s call-give it to us good. Well, did he and Mother Nature ever do it. Before long, rain had turned to a down pour and then into an absolute waterfall. Large objects such as garbage cans were picked up and blown across the seating area like sheets of paper, as the winds picked up (and would eventually hit 65 mph). Skies that were once sunny turned as black as night, and before the band could even finish the song, the stage was shut down and closed to avoid the inevitable damage that storms like this can bring. Little did we know (I was trapped onstage with all the road crews and stage personnel, as well as other media members) how bad things would be once we were let out two hours later. (During the break, the merits of a RocklaSanDiego were discussed).
The stage is the most secure structure on the site, so all of us felt pretty good in there. Once we were let out as the storm weakened, I headed over to VIP for dinner. Once I hooked up with my friends and new buddy Russ Frick (”what a frickin’ storm”), everyone wanted to know where I had been and if I knew what happened. Stories started to spread about the side stages, which had collapsed, and rumors of injuries and perhaps fatalities (thank God, no one died in the storm, and injuries were minimal). Those who hid out in VIP told how the tent nearly collapsed, how it flooded, how the power nearly went out, and of the panic that ensued during the storm’s strongest push. All of us agreed that we were pretty lucky to not have been harmed, and wondered if we could say that about everyone else (eventually, we could, aside from some minor injuries).
A great line: for those of you who attend these festivals on a regular basis, you all know Album Man (that’s his real name), a guy who has virtually every record known to man. He brings them to the show, and inevitably shocks most of the acts by displaying his collections during the sets. His wife goes along as well, and during the storm, she returned from the bar with a number of beers and this line: “if I’m going out, I’m going out with a buzz.”
Another storm hit after dinner, and this time we retreated to our rental van to wait it out. Rumors started to swirl that the rest of Saturday might get cancelled, but about 8 p.m., Lynch Mob takes the stage. I don’t know if Lynch Mob is exactly the best band to play after a big storm, but the reconstructed band, featuring George Lynch on guitar, original singer Oni Logan on vocals, along with bassist Marco Mendoza and drummer Fred Coury (Cinderella), did the best they could as the crowd started to fill back into the venue, after assessing the damage to neighboring roads, camp sites and recreational vehicles.
I had hoped (and predicted) that Kix would be the surprise band on this bill, but was I wrong (in a good way). Kix was so good that the band rose about 100 spots on my all-time greatest band list. The quintet roared onstage just as another storm hit, and it was raining so hard while the band played “Girl Money” that I swore I saw an ark float by (with two armadillos among the creatures gathered). Areas of my body that have never felt water were wet as the group ripped up “Midnight Dynamite.” An ocean liner could have parked in the lake that formed during “Cold Shower” (which we were all getting). Funny, it just didn’t matter to Steve Whiteman, Jimmy Chalfant, Ronnie Younkins, Brian Forsythe and Mark Schenker. The group and the crowd decided that it wasn’t going to get any drier, that there was really no other place to go, and that everyone had came to rock, so that’s what happened. 60 glorious minutes or glam rock, with “Cold Blood,” “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” and “Blow My Fuse,” along with all the others, definitely elevating this performance to one of the band’s best ever shows. A career defining moment.
It would have taken Lita Ford’s best ever-show to top Kix, and that was just not possible on this night. Lita was far from bad, but I have seen her better (I used to do lights for her back in 1983). Much like Triumph, she has just re-emerged on the scene, with just a handful of shows under her belt, a new band and 13 years of rust to knock off. She looked great, sung well and played most of her biggies (“Gotta Let Go” and “Falling in and Out of Love” were particularly powerful, but where was “Shot of Poison.”) She left a lot of the guitar work to Tom Cavanagh, concentrating on fronting the band, and I think the show suffered for it a bit-Lita is a great guitarist. After she makes a new record and gets some more touring completed, I think she’ll be able to top this show.
Warrant could easily top its show-by firing Jani Lane again. What an idiot this guy has turned out to be. Far from the debacle that Lane perpetrated on a crowd in Las Vegas back on July 5, it still wasn’t even close to a polished performance-from Lane that is. The rest of Warrant are a far better band than most people give them credit for, and I feel sorry for them. Lane might not have been as high, or as drunk, or as whatever as he was in Vegas, but he was on something (maybe cold medicine-he kept talking about how sick he was). He rambled on about a number of topics no one cared about between songs, and it looked like the rest of the band wanted to dip him in one of the new lakes that formed. He did forget some lyrics, in an obvious tribute to David Lee Roth, and gave the rest of the group every reason to invite Jamie St. James (you remember him-fronting Black N Blue earlier in the day) back into the band. The best I ever saw Warrant was with St. James singing, not Jani Lame.
Aside from big Cock, not much happened on the side stages today-and unfortunately the tornado (or whatever it was) caused the closure of both stages for the remainder of the festival.
Saturday’s best band: KIX
Runner-Up: KIX’s road crew (actually Black N Blue)
Back for the last day, everyone is in a much happier place as Axe starts up at 1 p.m. Drier, safer, in new clothes, with friends in tow-smiles were the order of the day. And what a beautiful day it was-warm but not searing temperatures, and a lot of interesting music.
Axe was another one of those under-the-radar bands back in the 80’s, and you have to wonder if the band has much of a future without any of its original members. Bobby Barth is with Blackfoot, leaving Bob Harris to front a band that is pretty much a tribute to Axe, but one that gets to use the official name. Far from horrible, the band actually sounds powerful, but plays only two songs from the band’s biggest records. Okay in this slot, the group should have probably been on one of the side stages-if they were still standing.
Zebra is one of the bands you either like or you don’t, and I’m pretty much in the later category. Randy Jackson (not that one, or the one on American idol either) could hardly hit the high notes this band’s music requires back in the heyday, and now he’s just irritating. Musically a force, these guys would be much better if they could find someone who can really sing.
UFO is one of my favorite bands, but the group is growing old and tired, and so is its stage show. (A buddy of mine, John Costello, and I were talking the other day, and he commented that the band’s last two records sounded old and tired, so I’m giving him the plug for coming up with old and tired). This band used to kick the shit out of anyone in its way, but I don’t think the boys can do it anymore. Vocalist Phil Mogg still acts like he’s been drinking since 1973, even though his voice has weathered the storm of this band’s career rather well. The rest of the guys-guitarist Vinnie Moore, keyboardist/guitarist Paul Raymond, drummer Andy Parker and whoever plays bass for Pete Way since he has visa problems and can’t get into the U.S., are all capable, but the band plays too much new stuff, while the old hits just kinda sit there. Good songs all, but we’ve seen and heard them played much better with that German guitarist (Michael Schenker) ripping them up. And they forget to play “Doctor Doctor”-oh my.
Steelheart has a big buzz surrounding it, since the group was the surprise band from the 2007 show and was asked (pretty much demanded) back to play here in 08. These guys are good, but not as good as everyone has made them out to be. Vocalist Mike Matijevic is known for his soaring voice, but boy, does he know how good he is. Cocky to a fault, his ego often gets in the way of putting on a good show. It took the band nearly five minutes to start opener “Stand Up and Shout,” as the group repeated the opening beat pattern (you might remember that Matijevic provided the vocals for Mark Wahlberg’s character in Rock Star) as the vocalist rode onstage on a motorcycle (hasn’t Judas Priest done this already). He also has an irritating habit of pulling his mike away from his mouth when hitting the highest notes, and since the sound mix wasn’t as great as it could have been, the vocals were sometimes lost-and that’s the band’s strength. Things took a turn for the better once “I’ll Never Let You Go” and “Blood Pollution” were played, but then the band was told to take its leave after just 55 minutes onstage. An encore, which might have took five minutes, was not allowed, and once again showed the ignorance of those running this show to give the crowd what it wants.
For some reason, many were writing off Ace Frehley before he came on-what a big mistake that was. 18 months sober and playing with a group of young, hungry lions who grew up idolizing KISS, Frehley got everything back on track with a 60-minute set that featured the best of his solo stuff and a number of KISS chestnuts. It was loud, sleazy and the epitome of rock and roll, as Frehley rocked such staples as “Rip It Out,” “Parasite,” “Rock Soldiers,” “Shout it out Loud,” “New York Groove,” “Shock Me,” “Rocket Ride,” “Love Gun,” “Deuce” and “Cold Gin.” It was great to see a healthy, sober Frehley playing guitar like he did during his old band’s heyday-too bad he can’t get along with Gene Simmons anymore.
What can you say about Tesla that hasn’t already been said and written 1000 times? This is one of the great bands of the 80’s and a group that never, ever disappoints live. I’ve seen the group over 20 times, and the only time I ever even complained about a live show was the night I saw them play without a second guitarist (they only did this a handful of times) 15 years ago, and we all know that this band’s sound demands two guitarists. We got that sound here, with Frank Hannon and Dave Rude replicating all of the great riffs and solos from the band’s catalog. Vocalist Jeff Keith was in fine voice, the rhythm section of Brian Wheat and Troy Luccketta were rock solid, and Tesla was the first band that truly brought this diverse collection of bands, musicians and fans together as one. All of the biggies were present, and after the band shut things off with “Modern Day Cowboy,” you had to wonder if Queensryche had what it would take to top this show.
Amazingly, the Seattle-based progressive rock band was up to the task. Performing the entire Operation Mindcrime in its entirety, the band sounded tremendous in the festival’s closing slot. Not exactly everyone’s cup of tea, the band still was able to hold the attention of this exhausted gathering with a 100-minute set that also included “Walk in the Shadows,” “Take Hold of the Flame,” “Jet City Woman,” “Empire” and “Silent Lucidity” as encores. Geoff Tate sounded great as the band roared away behind him, and despite some cheesy acting and ensemble play that was used to explain the concept album’s plotline, the band turned in a great performance as the weather-beaten, exhausted, inebriated and deaf crowd made its way home for another year.
Hold that thought-there was still another round of side stage bands, now relocated to the beer tents to contend with, and for some reason, one of the organizers thought it would be a good idea to put Ron Keel, the Bulletboys and Dirty Penny all on at the same time. I chose Keel, since I’d seen Dirty Penny and don’t really care too much about the Bulletboys, and the veteran singer did not disappoint. Mr. Keel hung around all four days, signing autographs (he was in a merch tent that was damaged when one of the small stages collapsed) and generally holding court with anyone who would approach him. His set included all of his best numbers, including covers of “Because the Night” and “Rock and Roll Outlaw,” along with “Tears of Fire” and “The Right to Rock” from the band that carries his name. I saw the Bulletboys do “Smooth Up in Ya” and Dirty Penny cover “Live Wire” before my ears, feet and head gave out. It was 2 a.m. on Monday morning and it was time to call it a weekend.
Sunday’s best band: Ace Frehley
Runner-Up: Tesla, Queensryche
After living through Rocklahoma 2008, I don’t know if I’ll be back or not. It really depends on the bill. The organizers promised a much stronger bill and bigger headliners than they delivered this year, and I’m not the only one who is sitting on the fence, seeing what they pull off in 2009. These guys really need bands like Whitesnake, Def Leppard, the Scorpions and perhaps a KISS or Crue to make this hellish venue worth the trouble. Anyway, we’ll be at a festival somewhere next year (maybe here, maybe elsewhere), and we’ll bring you all of the details right here at CCR.
October 21, 2008
San Francisco, CA
By Dan Wall
In Sacred Flames, Behold the Wicked Child, Invasion/Motivation of Man/ Setian Massacre, Burning Times, Declaration Day, Vengeance is Mine, Ten Thousand Strong, Storm Rider, Pure Evil, Watching Over Me, The Coming Curse, I Walk Alone, Dracula, High Water Mark.
Encore: Melancholy, My Own Savior, Iced Earth. 100 minutes.
Iced Earth is another one of those bands that you’ve probably never heard of, but if you are a fan of classic metal, you are definitely missing out. Oh, you might have heard of the name, or seen the very cool t-shirt in the mall, but let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t know a member of Iced Earth if he was at your family reunion.
The band swung through San Francisco on its current tour to support its The Crucible of Man record, and for the 500 or so diehards gathered in a small concert hall, it was heavy metal heaven.
The band hasn’t created its own sound or style, but band leader Jon Schaffer knows who to borrow from, and he’s picked some of the biggest names in metal for influences. The group mixes the majesty of Iron Maiden, the crunch of Judas Priest and the technical proficiency of Metallica into a metal stew that could make any fan of heavy metal happy.
And these fans were ecstatic, not only to see the band back in town for only the third time this decade, but also to see vocalist Matt Barlow back in his rightful place in the band.
Barlow first left the group at the height of its popularity, right after 9-11, because he wanted to do more for the country than sing in a heavy metal band. Ripper Owens replaced him, the band put out a couple of good records, but just about everyone associated with the group admitted there was something missing, and it was Barlow. He re-joined the group earlier this year for the recording of the new record and its current tour, while still maintaining his job in law enforcement.
Barlow’s voice is an impressive tool, at times shrieking like Rob Halford, and at others sounding like Paul Stanley on steroids for the more melodic (yet still heavy) moments. Unlike some of the older singers who have been doing it for decades, Barlow has re-energized the band’s live sound because he can still hit the notes (six years off will do that for you).
Make no mistake though; this is Schaffer’s band. He runs the band with an iron fist; if you can name every member of this group during its nearly 20-year history, then you are a rare bird. He writes all the songs, plays guitar, sings (very well, I might add), does the marketing, drives the bus and writes the checks. It’s his band, and Barlow gets special treatment only because he is his brother-in-law.
Onstage, Schaffer has enough going on upstairs to hire a great live band, and I thought that this unit was the best band I’ve seen him assemble. Drummer Brent Smedley is a double-kick machine, a man/robot that beats the hell out of drums. Bassist Freddy Vidales is as solid as they come, and guitarist Troy Seele could play heavy metal with any outfit.
The group does have one classic album to push, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which was featured more in this set than any other record. But Schaffer did a great job to mix in some oldies (“Storm Rider” was particularly impressive, as well as “Vengeance is Mine”), and even the songs from the Owens era sounded impressive with Barlow singing them.
It all adds up to a pulverizing live sound that is both brutal and beautiful. Barlow hits all of the notes, the band locks into a groove behind his spectacular voice, and the fanatics out front shout out all the words to the band’s best known songs. I saw one couple, a young man and his girlfriend who couldn’t have been over 24 years old, singing every word to every classic song during the set. If they were 24, it means they were both around seven when the band’s first record came out.
Too bad there aren’t more like them; perhaps Iced Earth would have become a household name, much like the band’s that they idolize and emulate.