Speedwagon and Benatar; A Serious Rock Concert

July 25, 2010 at 3:39 am | Posted in Concert, Rock, Uncategorized, Vocal | 2 Comments
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REO Speedwagon Pat Benatar Ticket Stub

Rule 1 – Kick ass.

Rule 2 – Have Fun.

Rule 3 – Make sure everyone in attendance knows you are abiding by rules 1&2. (Involving them in the process helps immensely.)

Edwin McCain Review

Kevin Cronin of REO ran out to introduce this guy as his good friend while the house lights were still up. Those house lights were immediately killed and Edwin started to tell stories. Yes, actual stories. He talked to the audience. Why? Because, it turns out the guy is pretty easy to listen to, and his songwriting is awesome. It also tells stories. Good stories. Listenable stories.

Along with his long time buddy, Craig Shields, they told stories and played great songs that kept the crowd engaged the entire half hour that they were in front of us.  This guy grabbed my attention from word one, and captivated me through the last note.


What can I really say here? If you  normally read my reviews, you know what it boils down to – they suck or they don’t.

This is different. This should be the encyclopedic definition of ROCK CONCERT.  Okay, aside from the fact that Dodge Theatre isn’t going to allow pyro, nor smoking inside the venue – this was a rock show by definition in any form.

Kicked ass.  Guitars made of solid pieces of wood and sporting fresh steel strings, wailing under fluid fingers. Turned to 11, I’m pretty sure. Drum beats were so solid, so tight that I can’t begin to tell you how great they sounded.

Kevin Cronin, the lead singer, sang the songs just like you always heard them. Whether you heard them on vinyl, CD, or 8-track; it doesn’t matter. That’s how you heard it live, assuming you heard a live version. 🙂

The players played. They interacted with one another like they had been friends for years. Probably because they have. They gave their stage techs a hard time over mis-tuned guitars or the inability to hear something through their stage monitors. It was all casual and fun, like friends ribbing each other over a mis-spelled word in a scrabble competition.

Seriously, the band was incredible. Sound mix was incredible.

The light show was awesome. Finally, a lighting operator that understands you can mix colors. Orange and purple – cool. Red and white – very cool. Move the color zones, very nice. Not everything has to be a wash of one color. Complementary and contrasting colors are put into a wheel in art school for a reason. This operator used those wheels well. Kudos.

I believe the stage and light setup was designed by Paul of Masterworks. Looked awesome, and you should give him credit for that. He is, apparently, a badass that doesn’t subscribe to the front/back  linear truss theories but likes triangular lighting designs married with a clean back line. I like that too. Cheers, Paul.

Bottom Line – REO Speedwagon Kicked Ass. No need to take our names.

Pat Benatar ReviewPat Benatar Logo

What do you want me to say? She subdued the video intensiveness of REO, preferring to go with primal colors and simple objects for the most part. The moving lights, that were so accentuated during REO, became bit players in a choreography that did nothing but drive her vocal abilities home.

Tonight proved that Patricia, as her husband and guitar player calls her, was not an MTV fluke. She didn’t sell millions of records because she looked cute. She sold them because she can belt out lyrics like nobody else, and present a story that is timeless.

Pat is a vocal powerhouse.  She’s a  girl with a voice 50 feet tall. I want to see her do a duet with Rob Halford, or Bruce Dickinson; perhaps Geoff Tate. I don’t know. She is in that class.  The waters where nobody wants to even tread.

Her hubby, Neil, is a guitar master. The two of them together have to be seen to be believed. Well, maybe not. You know the songs. They are just like that in real life, only better. She belts, he makes his guitar scream. It’s awesome to witness. The drummer is surrounded by glass, because his drum kit really is that badass. Of course, the bass player is up to par too. You really have to see the four of them onstage to really understand why MTV made theirs’ one of the first music videos ever aired. They rock.


Kick ass rock and roll. Go see them. Don’t miss them. Plan on being on your feet for at least 3 hours. This, my friends, is a rock concert. Moving lights, smoke, video, and above all awesome musicianship and vocal abilities that will keep your fists pounding and ass shaking. Rock on.

Alice Breaks The Chains At Dodge Theatre

February 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Concert, Review, Rock, Theater/Theatre | Leave a comment
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I’m happy to report that rock ‘n’ roll as we know it is still alive and kicking ass.

Alice In Chains

Warm up act Creature With the Atom Brain sounded pretty tight with a solid back beat. However, the guitars and melodies were probably more suitable for an all day festival where you could really get into a nice groove a la Deep Purple. Their stage set consisted of nothing but a big black curtain behind them and 8 moving lights in the front which were limited to color and iris changes. But hey, as an opener even being allowed iris changes isn’t always guaranteed.

As their set ended a big white drape came down in front so the set change could happen in privacy. Turned out that it really wasn’t just a privacy screen. Alice In Chains used it to project their shadows on as they opened their show. Definitely caught me off guard, and looked really damn cool.

That shadow screen dropped to reveal what we called a rock concert back in the day. With Sean Kinney pounding the skins and Mike Inez on bass; an incredibly tight, awesomely loud vibe filled the room at Dodge. I’m sure that had a lot to do with the fact the pit chairs were removed for Standing Room Only GA Pit admission. Something we almost never see anymore.

Jerry Cantrell’s definitive guitar sound and new vocalist William Duvall let us know immediately that Alice In Chains is back in full force. That was a big relief, as I’m sure many of my fellow concert-goers were unsure that AIC could rock like they did before the loss of frontman Layne Staley in 2002.

Opening with old, familiar tunes brought even the seated crowd to their feet, where they stayed all show. Familiar material dominated the first half of the show before they threw in new material from Black Gives Way to Blue at us. even though the new stuff was unfamiliar to me I can tell you it kicks ass. William has a great voice for rock in roll, though he did let us know he was “sick as a fucken dog”.  That definitely accounts for his voice tiring a bit near the end.

Like I said above, this was definitely a rock concert. Moving lights were the order of the day. Looked like perhaps a mix of Vari-lites and some cool new stuff from High End Sytems including three DL-3 projectors and some fancy LED automated wash luminaires. I’ll have to see if Mike Baldassari can give me specifics. Update: Mike did get me some specifics. I was wrong on the Vari-lites. The majority of the movers used were actually Martin MAC 700’s. I knew something was different about their shape, but I didn’t grab any pictures – sometimes its hard to guess make/model numbers by memory.

Those DL-3’s are ultra-cool little units. They look like a standard moving light, but they pack some secret weapons. Namely, the ability to project and shoot full motion video. That means they can film the band and project them on any surface they can reach. They’re bright, so they can reach just about anything in the theatre, too.

Concert audio was supplied by the standard Dodge line array system (not sure of manufacturer – EAW perhaps? I’ll have to ask the guys next time) which, for the most part, sounded great because of all the standing people really tightening up the bass. It had some fleeting moments where the high mids broke up slightly and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps my “usual seats” might be a “weird spot” for those frequencies in particular, or if the system could use just a tad more headroom (insert standard soundman joke here).

All in all it was another great concert at Dodge Theatre. As usual, we took the light rail down there and I definitely encourage you to do the same as its very convenient and costs less than parking in the garages!

~~I’m throwing some photos up on the photo page but be aware that Dodge has a policy against ultra-zoom cams so these are done with a tiny pocket cam~~

Symphonic Zeppelin and Queen

January 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Posted in Concert, Photography, Review, Rock, Symphony, Theater/Theatre | Leave a comment
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Another night using the light rail to get downtown to Dodge Theatre has passed. This time it was to check out the music of Led Zeppelin and Queen with a full rock band and the Phoenix Symphony.

Stairway Symphony

The show was pretty amazing.  Symphonic rock bands are nothing new, but it’s always nice to go see and hear a symphony without having to get all dressed up beforehand.

I’m not sure why this is at Dodge and not Symphony Hall, but since I have season tickets to Dodge it worked out well for me. As well as can be expected without the orchestra in a proper pit anyhow. It’s really difficult to capture the nuances of an orchestra when a lot of their sounds are being sucked up by stage curtains and overshadowed by a lead guitarist. Don’t get me wrong, the guitarist was very good and has obviously spent a lot of time recreating the exact tones of Jimmy and Brian but last night’s performance was a little harsh on the ears in the high-mid frequencies. Not sure whether I should blame the player or the sound engineer there. Either could have alleviated that problem.

Conductor Brent Havens did a great job, considering he is touring around and working with a different group of musicians each day. He was also kind enough to step aside at one point and let an audience member come up and conduct a song! Her name was Morgan, and she did a pretty awesome job for an amateur maestro, so props to her.

The show is divided into two parts. The music of Queen and then Zepp after an intermission. All the players remain the same except for the lead singers.  Randy Jackson does Zeppelin and Brody Dolyniuk fronts the Queen portion of the show. At one point electric violinist, Allegra,  joins in on the fun. Powell Randolph, drummer, even pounds the skins bare-handed Bonham-style during the obligatory Zeppelin drum solo.

Phoenix Symphony Does QueenLighting and sound were minimal, but adequate. They tossed in some good effects from the movable lights, and did some nice guitar panning during key points of guitarist George Cintron’s shining moments.  The audience even showed its knowledge of symphony protocol by providing standing ovations a few times, and remaining seated the rest of the time. Of course, we all stomped and clapped along at the appropriate times and a few even brandished lighters, not cellphones, during the last song. That was a welcome sight. All in all – it was a pretty good show and I’ll definitely check it out when it tours again.

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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