Slayer. Megadeth. Testament.

August 28, 2010 at 11:38 am | Posted in Audio, Concert, Metal, science | Leave a comment
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This won’t be my typical review. You have to approach a review of these guys the same way you experience the shows, in my opinion.

This isn’t classic rock. It’s not jazz. This is Heavy Metal. Really, Really Heavy Metal.

As we took our seats at Dodge, Testament thundered onstage. I mean thundered. I couldn’t get a look at how many subwoofers lined the stage due to the number of people in the pit, but I’m guessing close to a zillion. The dual kick drums blazing at about 220 beats per minute kept the amplifiers lighting up red during the entire set, of that I’m pretty positive.

Testament was tight. Really tight. It was literally walls of sound pummeling us at machine gun rates. You know that feeling of walking into a supermarket and getting that blast of air on your head? Think of that initial blast happening over and over, three to four times per second. That was Testament.

Megadeth on the other hand was a bit different. The best way to describe them came from the mouth of a girl I’d say was maybe 22. “They are the scientists of metal.” I couldn’t put it any better. The intricacies of Mustaine’s guitar fury and the depth of his poetry are…well, intricate and deep. He’s a scientist. He’s a scientist that is so metal that he was kicked out of Metallica for being too metal! That’s fuckin’ metal!

Slayer we saw from a different perspective. Literally. Since I had shown up with my tickets that were issued back at the beginning of the year, before the tour got postponed, apparently LiveNation had resold the seats. It was an honest mistake. I had even checked with the box office manager at Dodge a few weeks beforehand and was assured I was good to go. Apparently not. Right before Slayer came onstage, two people showed up with tickets for our seats. The box office quickly remedied the situation by putting us one section over. Dead center stage, eye level with the Araya. Sweet.

Ahhh…Slayer. What can you really say? It’s loud. It’s brutally honest and in your face. It pounds at you faster, I think, than Testament. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 bpm. I think when Slayer is onstage the earth wobbles just a bit. They are really in their own class of metal. You would know that if you were at a Slayer show by looking at the crowd. Close to ninety-eight percent of the people in attendance are wearing their Slayer shirt, or one of them. Not some Slayer shirt they bought at Hot Topic a week ago, but one that they got twenty years ago and there is most likely a story that goes with it. You can bet on that.

So, to sum up. It was Great. Heavy Fucking Metal. What else is there to say?

Oh, yeah…thanks to Dodge/LiveNation personnel for the awesome seat upgrade!

Scorpions at Dodge Theatre

July 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Posted in Audio, Concert, Metal, Review, Rock | 2 Comments
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Scorpions CrowdAs you can see from the quick cell phone shot here, the Dodge was completely “sold out” for the Scorpions final world tour. Every seat was paid for;  almost none of the ones on the floor got used, as people chose to stand up and rock all night.

You just can’t sit down when the Scorps are on stage.  They come out all guns blazing and stay there. In true metal style, all the tried and true crowd pleasers were in effect.

Smoke machines intensified the visual impact of the moving Martin lights while James Kottak pounded the skins atop a drum riser that lifted towards the stinger-shaped lighting trusses overhead. Pawel Maciwoda stood atop his bass cabinets and created a thunderous bottom end. Rudolf Schenker laid down the steely crunch guitar while Matthias Jabs skillfully cut through the thick air like a titanium drillbit sinking into a block of aluminum. Klaus Meine effortlessly laid his unmistakable German voice right atop the layers of metal music pouring from the speakers overhead and the crowd went wild.

These guys have been putting on world class rock shows for decades, and they never disappoint. Ever. From the state of the art sound and lighting systems, right down to each members slight changes in ensemble throughout the night, every detail just adds to the total overall impact of the spectacle. It might be stereotypical, but it seems to me that Germans are really great at getting details just perfect. From the custom made Dommenget guitars to the concept of putting LED video screens everywhere on the stage – its a well-designed package.

You might wonder if this level of detail is necessary in a metal show. In the case of the Scorpions, absolutely. Everyone in attendance knows the songs. They know the words and guitar notes from this year’s album and the album from 25 years ago. They are singing those songs while Klaus extends his microphone into the crowd, and following every note played by Matthias and Rudolf on their own personal air guitar. That gives everyone plenty of time to notice things like videos of speakers playing superimposed over speakers actually playing, or bright little rings of LEDs surrounding a laser-sharp beam of projected light even if they only take it in subconsciously. The ability to lift a drummer high in the air is an absolute necessity, in my mind, if you really want to drive home a crowd-participation drum solo. Yes, details matter.

They played all the hits, they played stuff you know and love but forgot that you know and love. They played a couple that you don’t yet know but will soon enough love. Since we are in Arizona, they played that one too. Complete with video of the state flag, the state motto and they even got some footage of the drummer out in the desert somewhere. Once again, details matter.

As I mentioned, many of the guitar screams you know and love were provided by axes custom made for Matthias and Rudolf. Other riffs were courtesy of the familiar Flying Vees , Explorers and Strats.

As for the drums, I stopped by the sound booth and peeked in to verify that some things just haven’t changed in 20 years. Those definitive kick and snare drum sounds are still being provided by some trusty ol’ Wendel Jrs.

Bottom Line: Details matter. Germans make good stuff. Scorpions rocked 25 years ago. They rock now.

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Tesla opened the show, and sounded great. They played their hits amidst a solid set of hard rock. The new stuff from the album Forever More sounds just as good as anything from The Great Radio Controversy or Psychotic Supper, which were both dipped into during the set. In fact, I even noticed that Edison’s Medicine features a theremin, a fact I was unaware of until last night.

Bottom Line: Hair metal is always fun. People love concert T-shirts, miniskirts, guitars and drums.

Queensrÿche at the Orpheum

May 21, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Burlesque, Concert, Dance, Metal, Rock, Theater/Theatre | Leave a comment
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Queensryche Aerialist

Queensryche Cabaret

What do you do when you are a multi-platinum metal band that’s been around since the hair metal days, but you aren’t a hair metal band? If you ask the members of Queensrÿche, I think they would say this: “Diversify and have fun doing it”.

In this case, that means things like start your own wine label a la Geoff Tate, or delve into creating your own craft beer as Michael “Whip” Wilton has done. It also might mean hiring your son-in-law to play guitar in your band, or have your wife, daughter, and some friends join the burlesque frivolities on stage for a limited engagement tour.

Yes, burlesque. That’s what the Queensrÿche Cabaret tour is all about. Adults only fun. Hard hitting rock ‘n’ roll and scantily-clad, but fashionably attired, ladies performing theatrical skits and aerial artistry. Throw in some jugglers and a couple of Vaudevillian performers to fill time between costume changes and you have the makings of a good show.

Not your normal metal show, for sure. No moving lights, no fancy projections, no pyrotechnics, no haze generators or smoke spewing here. Think fancy curtains and color washes. This is old-school entertainment boys and girls. People. Artists. Interacting with one another without a semi-trailer worth of fancy electronics. What a concept.

Of course, the band was as tight as ever. Not many bands can sound “so studio” live as Queensrÿche always manages to do. Hell, at one point Parker Lundgren had to deal with a malfunctioning guitar strap at least four times during one song. He managed well, only missing a couple of notes.

The set list wasn’t your usual ‘Rÿche, for sure. Yes, they played the hits. They played a couple new things obviously written for this new mini rock opera. They also managed to finesse some of those familiar “filler” tracks right into the story line.

Rock operas and concept albums are cool. Time has proven that. Some times you get lucky in life and get a chance to see Roger Waters do “The Wall” live. Sometimes, you get to see ‘Rÿche perform a cool little cabaret show in a beautiful theater from the ’20s complete with fancy red curtains and gold trim. Either way, you are enjoying music as it was meant to be…live and engaging. You should pull out the earbuds more often, and do just that.

Queensrÿche Rocks Flagstaff

June 2, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Posted in Concert, Metal, Rock | Leave a comment
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Queensrÿche stopped by the Pine Mountain Ampitheater in Flagstaff on Sunday May 31st in support of their American Soldier tour.

As usual, the band sounded as good live as they do on the albums and their dynamic stage presence makes it even more enjoyable than cranking it up on your home hi-fi. This tour there are two new players in the game Parker Lundgren on guitar, and Jason Ames is taking over the keyboards. Both seem to have fit right in, and have mastered that particular “Queensrÿche sound” that the loyal fans are adamant that the band adheres to, or rips them apart on a number of fan communities.

Also joining the tour this time around is Geoff Tate’s daughter, Emily. She actually does a duet with Geoff about midway through the show, and the crowd loved it. Unfortunately, due to the mood of the song the lighting is very very low and none of the pictures I took of the duo turned out publish-worthy.

The band treated us to 3 suites of songs from Rage for Order, American Soldier and Empire. Crowd participation was just like every Ryche show…everyone sings every word to every song. You gotta love a band with a loyal fan base that will show up and sing along no matter what the weather or locale.

Check your local listings – if they haven’t made it to your town yet, perhaps they are on their way. Don’t miss this one!

The Metal Gods Return to Phoenix: Judas Priest & Heaven and Hell

August 29, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Posted in Concert, Metal, Rock | Leave a comment
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Metal Gods

Metal Gods

As the storm broke above our heads, The Priest rolled onto the stage in all of their studded-leather glory.

Just moments before, Dio and his bandmates from the Black Sabbath days; known on this tour as Heaven and Hell, had rocked the venue hard.

Dio, seemingly still as spry as ever mesmerized the crowd with his vocal stylings and his mystical, theatrical gesturing. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinnie Appice all showed that age is not a factor when you are a metal god. They rocked as hard now as they ever have, and all of those years together have created one tight-sounding, polished-looking stage show.

But, I digress…back to The Priest.

The clouds above our heads darkened as lightning flashes filled the sky. Onstage, the backdrop of a huge Nostradamus face glowed red, whilst electron blue light beams scanned the stage. The band took their places as smoke poured forth in true metal show fashion. Halford, as usual made his entrance from a point high on stage, off to the side just to keep the crowd guessing. Tonight, he was dressed in a full length leather (possibly pleather to appease PETA) adorned with more studs than I think even he is used to wearing. From where we were standing (way, way out on the lawn)  I couldn’t tell if the studs themselves were golden, or if they just lit him in a shower of golden light causing his studs to glow like Tut’s gold.

The show ran like any great metal show should. They introduced some new stuff throughout the night, and played some more obscure stuff that only true metal fans would know. Luckily everyone in attendance, was a true metal fan and sang along. Then, just as the skies poured forth buckets upon the crowd – the real fun began. Halford played his little vocal coaching game that he seems to love so much.

He sings something easy like “whoa whoa yeah” and the crowd repeats. This continues on for quite awhile, each phrase getting longer and more complex. By the end of it, if you haven’t passed out from stretching your lungs like you haven’t done in 20 years, you should be covering at least an octave and a half, maybe two! Voila… voice lessons from the Metal Master himself, and you didn’t even realize you were learning something in the process. I’m sure that as individuals, we were all pretty off-key, but as a crowd we sounded damned good! For those of us that have attended Priest shows before, we all knew what was coming as Rob reeled around, and pulled the microphone close to his mouth…and we shouted in unison “You’ve Got Another thing Coming” as KK and Glenn started the opening riffs of the song.

Yeah, of course at some point (perhaps after the vocal lesson, perhaps before I don’t recall) he fired up the motorcycle and rode it out on stage. You really can’t tell from the photo above, but between his jacket and that bike you could have been blinded if you were to stare too long. It took quite a bit of Photoshop to get that photo toned down from the blinding light that occupied the middle!

Once the bike is on stage, and the vocal lessons are done, the Priest likes to play some hard, pounding anthems. They did. The heads banged, the band rocked, the lights flashed, the rain poured. The Metal lived on…

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