Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 8/31/2019, Kiss brought The End Of The Road Tour to Deer Creek, effectively completing a circle that began with my very first concert in 1976.

Kiss played the old Market Square Arena that long ago night (with support from Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band and Artful Dodger). Tickets for that first show were $6.50…yeah, you read that correctly! Times have changed quite a bit since then. Tickets for this one ran me considerably more than that, and to make matters worse, we didn’t even get an opening band this time. Instead, we got a painter. Yes, a freaking PAINTER! In his defense, David Garibaldi has talent with his brushes, but somehow a balding guy wearing a leather jacket and prancing around on stage while Guns ‘n Roses and Aerosmith songs are piped in over the PA is a pretty lame substitute for a live band. Enough about that guy…let’s talk about the main attraction.

Kiss delivered the goods and put on a pretty incredible display of an epic arena show. The staging was on a grand scale, the lighting was on par with a Hollywood blockbuster, the sound was suitably huge, and the band performed with admirable energy. Was it perfect? Of course not. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (the 2 remaining original members) both struggled vocally. Stanley, in particular, sounded ragged from the moment he delivered his first of many between-songs speeches very early in the show. To his credit, Paul never made excuses, nor seemed to back off at all in his delivery, which always seemed to be in a quest at 100% effort.

Luckily, the Kiss Army were there in force to lustily sing along with all those arena sized choruses. Yes, you can say what you will about Kiss, but Stanley and Simmons have crafted an arsenal of classic material that lies firmly in the pantheon of rock music that will endure for generations to come. These songs were born for the big stage and they shine brightly in that environment eternally.

Tommy Thayer, sporting the costume and signature face paint of Ace Frehley, possesses none of Ace’s originality as a guitarist, but is a solid player nonetheless. Thayer’s solo spot was fun, complete with the rocket shooting guitar shtick made famous by Frehley.

Eric Singer, on the other hand, is a far better drummer than Peter Criss, and played a crowd pleasing drum solo mid-set that undoubtedly bought Stanley and Simmons some much needed vocal rest. Singer also sang and played a piano with enough sparkle to make Elton John green with envy on Criss’s big hit, Beth, during the encore.

Was this truly the end of the road? I find it difficult to not be more than a little cynical regarding this question. It seems as if Kiss have been on their farewell tour for at least 20 years at this point, but if it is indeed the end, Kiss have gone out with dignity and pride.

I started playing guitar because of Kiss. Would I have found my desire to do so without them? Most likely, but I don’t ever have to answer that question, because there is zero doubt in my mind that Kiss were the ones who lit that spark within me.

Thank you, Kiss…for everything…Love & respect, gentlemen! You were glorious on August 31, 2019. I wanted the best, and I got the best!

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic

On this date in history, 8/24/2019, Iron Maiden brought their Legacy Of The Beast Tour to Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN, and what a magnificent show it was!

The Raven Age were the warmup act, and the London based melodic metalcore band seemed to be well received by the early crowd. I didn’t really connect with their style, but have to acknowledge that they had a good mix and professional staging and lights.

I’m sure that one of their guitarists being the son of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris probably has a lot to do with them being on this prestigious tour. Nonetheless, they played with enthusiasm and youthful energy, and are undoubtedly having the time of their lives on that stage.

After a quick set change, Iron Maiden hit the ground running, unveiling a replica of a World War II Spitfire plane suspended above them as they played a thrilling full throttle aural assault on their classic opener, Aces High.

From the get go, Bruce Dickinson was in perpetual motion, exhorting the capacity crowd of diehard Maiden fans to sing along and share in this larger than life experience.

Dickinson’s voice was a razor edged wonder that night; powerful and still capable of hitting the highest notes of his considerable vocal range.

After Aces High, with the plane being manipulated to appear as if it were in flight and looking at times as if it were about to dive into the crowd, Maiden immediately launched into Where Eagles Dare and then 2 Minutes To Midnight.

Dickinson made a speech and informed us that there would be no new material and that we were basically being treated to a “best of” Maiden set. He said they were originally going to end the show with the plane, but then decided to open with it, and then make everything else better. This drew a roar of approval from the faithful, and it turned out to be a true statement, as the band just kept adding song after song to this incredible display of how to stage an epic heavy metal show.

As a guitarist, I have to say that the triple threat of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers were just phenomenal. All three contributed stunning solo work and blended together with harmony lines and the chugging, galloping rhythms that are the hallmark of the Iron Maiden sound.

Steve Harris (bass) and Nicko McBrain (drums) propelled everything with that relentless precision that everything else is built on top of.

Some of the later highlights for me were The Evil That Men Do, Fear Of The Dark, The Number Of The Beast, The Trooper, Flight Of Icarus,and Hallowed Be Thy Name.

Honestly, there wasn’t a weak moment in Maiden’s entire time on stage.

Kudos to the sound man for keeping Dickinson’s voice on top of everything else, for spotlighting each guitarist and making the solos stand out, and for keeping the bottom end full and bright at the same time.

The lights, staging, props, and of course Eddie, were all fantastic as well. All that is left to say is “Up The Irons!”

On This Date in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this this date in history, 8/16/2019, Slipknot brought their Knotfest roadshow to Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN. Although the masked marauders hail from Iowa in the USA, the other 3 bands brought international diversity to the heavy music showcase.

Behemoth, from Poland, began the proceedings with a ferocious display of Black Metal mastery. The corpse painted band’s dark theatricality and Satanic imagery probably didn’t win over too many of the Slipknot faithful, but I thought they were the best of all the bands that day.

Behemoth are playing for keeps, and that emotional approach always finds its crowd.

Gojira, hailing originally from France, were barely below Behemoth in my estimation, and they played a fantastic set, too. In particular, Mario Duplantier’s drumming is beyond amazing. That guy simply plays patterns that seemingly no-one else has thought of, and he is a lot of fun to watch while he is up there slaughtering his drum kit.

Up next were Denmark’s Volbeat, and they were definitely the least metal of all the bands, but they were quite well received.

A friend remarked that their singer’s voice reminded him of the Swedish chef from The Muppets, and now I simply can’t “un-hear” that comparison!

Rob Caggiano (who previously played lead guitar in Anthrax) played some solid guitar solos and they sounded great mix-wise, but I think overall that Volbeat would be better on a tour more suited to their musical style.

Slipknot did what Slipknot does, which is to say that everything was bigger, brighter, and louder than everyone else. One small complaint for me personally was that one of the utility guys seemed to spend way too much of his time playing around on the treadmill up on the second level of the stage. It was pretty distracting, to say the least. Okay, it was downright annoying! Oh, yes…and Corey Taylor’s vocals were often too low in the mix. With all that is going on in Slipknot’s music, it can’t be easy to give everyone equal attention, but in general, vocals are supposed to be audible in the mix, and the sound guy wasn’t getting it done.

This was my 9th time seeing Slipknot, the 4th seeing Behemoth, the 2nd seeing Gojira, and the first time for Volbeat. All in all, I had a fantastic time, but I stand by my original reason to attend this show. I was there for Behemoth and Gojira, and for my money, those were the best 2 bands on that stage.

Kudos to Slipknot for their generosity towards the support bands.

Everyone had excellent sound, lights and backdrops…all 3 of the openers actually had better mixes than the headliners, but Slipknot is a cottage industry at this stage in their career, and like Metallica, they kind of play by their own rules.

As long as they take this approach to touring, I imagine I will be seeing them several more times before they hang up their masks.

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 8/11/2019, my girlfriend and I traveled to Ft. Wayne, IN to witness the Twins Of Evil: Hell Never Dies Tour, featuring Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson (with Palaye Royale in support).

The concert took place at Memorial Coliseum, a cozy little arena with great visibility and sound. Palaye Royale began the proceedings with a high energy set of raw, glam rock with plenty of attitude. Originally from Toronto, Canada, but currently residing in Las Vegas, the Sin City vibe definitely suits this band. I would love to see them in a club setting sometime.

They suffered somewhat from a lack of brightness in their light show, but the music and enthusiasm with which they performed was absolutely top notch.

Palaye Royale were much better than the opening band from last year’s Twins Of Evil tour. Yes, this was my second time seeing the Zombie/Manson combo, and much of both artist’s sets remained the same for both concerts. However, I was front and center last year in Noblesville, and this time our seats were a higher elevation looking nearly directly down on the stage, which gave me a new perspective…quite enjoyable.

Marilyn Manson remains problematic as a live performer. Having seen him in his prime, I am perhaps expecting too much at this stage of his career, but it just seems like his heart isn’t in the live performing as it once was. Manson is erratic, to put it delicately, and kindly. His live vocals are pretty rough, and his energy is sporadic at best. When he went down into the area in front of the stage and interacted with the fans in the front rows, he was electrifying, delivering a 9 minute version of The Beautiful People that was pure Manson at his best.

On the plus side, he now has a fantastic drummer, and several times the thunderous performance from that guy seemed to light up sparks with the goth icon.

I just long for the days when Manson put as much into his live act as he does in his studio efforts, The man is hilarious when he talks to the crowd, too. I really appreciate that he seemingly says whatever floats into his mind at any given moment….definitely not reading off a script!

As long as he keeps putting out great albums, I will keep supporting the live shows, because when he tries, Marilyn Manson is still capable of rock theater on a grand scale. Speaking of grand scale, Rob Zombie is the textbook definition of over the top spectacle. His light show, back screen projections, and sound are consistently cutting edge, and his band is a lethal machine.

One of the highlights for me was John 5’s ripping showcase of his incendiary guitar technique. He blazed away for nearly 5 minutes, covering several styles at dangerous levels of speed, but with a surgical precision.

Piggie D supplied the booming bottom end and contributed key backing vocals, while Ginger Fish supplied the blasting beats that provide that signature Zombie swing.

Zombie himself is perpetual motion, and totally committed to involving his audience in the experience of full immersion into the BIG SHOW. As I mentioned before, there weren’t a lot of changes in either headliners song lists this time around, but Zombie and band did throw in a scalding version of Blitzkrieg Bop by Ramones in the middle of Thunderkiss ’65, and that was a huge highlight for me. Near the end of the show, Manson and Zombie teamed up on The Beatles’ classic, Helter Skelter, completed with images of the infamous Manson Family on the assorted screens. Zombie pointed out that the 50th anniversary of the Tate/LaBianca murders had happened just a couple of days prior to our show…”Better late than never,” he said. Even after seeing this show twice, I am pretty confident I would go back for more next year. That’s how much fun the Twins Of Evil are!

On This Date in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 8/7/2019, Heart brought the Love Alive

Tour to Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN. Along with the Wilson sisters, we were rocked by stellar sets from Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Elle King.

It was a smart move by the veterans to bring fresh new talent along for this all female front line tour, because Elle King got that crowd pumped up from the very beginning.

I hadn’t heard much of her music prior to this show, but I was impressed with her powerful vocals, her energy, her easy rapport with the audience, and her musical diversity. Elements of rock, blues, country, and pop all weaved in and out of her songs that were born for the stage.

Her song Ex’s & Oh’s is an anthem for certain. That one had the crowd in the palm of her sassy hands! I was an immediate fan watching her play a Flying V guitar that was nearly as big as she was…and handling it like a boss.

Speaking of bosses, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts wasted no time in asserting their badass brand of punk tinged hard rock. Jett is beloved nearly universally, and she effortlessly exudes cool confidence and sexy swagger.

Even on the big screens, one can see that glint of playful excitement in her eyes, and it is as contagious as a rock ‘n roll epidemic. When she lights into Bad Reputation, Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah), and I Love Rock ‘n Roll, everyone in the venue feels like they are 16 again, at least in spirit.

Heart proved beyond a doubt their legendary status with a sterling selection of their career spanning deep treasure chest of classic songs.

Not content to just play their own stuff, Heart tossed in some absolute gems of cover songs, including Your Move by Yes, The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, and an absolutely breathtaking tour de force rendition of Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin. Ann Wilson’s voice was a force of nature throughout, and younger sister Nancy played electric and acoustic guitars and mandolin with masterful intensity, contributing some lovely lead vocals and harmonizing beautifully with her sibling.

All 3 bands were comprised of men playing their roles with anonymous but fierce contributions; content to let the legendary ladies claim the spotlight. My only complaints about this show were that it was too quiet (crank it up!), and that the crowd on the lawn were too lazy to get off their lazy asses and feed these amazing artists with some well earned energy. Everyone sounded great, but it was almost like someone has decided that the audience is old and tired and might want to just sit in their trendy little lawn chairs and not have to deal with that loud rock music.

I sure hope that doesn’t become the norm, because these artists deserve a better fate than that.

On This Date in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 8/4/2019, a group of friends and I attended The Night Running Tour, featuring co-headliners Beck and Cage The Elephant, with support from Spoon and Wild Belle. This diverse lineup hit the stage at Deer Creek (Ruoff blah, blah, blah) in Noblesville, IN on a picture perfect Midwest sunny day.

Wild Belle kicked things off with a set of mellow electronica, psychedelic pop, and soulful grooves. I enjoyed the first 2 or 3 songs, but ultimately felt Wild Belle were a little bland for my taste. They had a great sound mix (as did every band on the bill) and looked sharp in their fashionable white outfits, but I just felt they stuck around a little too long.

Up next was Spoon, who I just discovered are from Texas. This kind of surprised me, as I found their sound to be kind of British pop influenced, and very smoothly executed. I enjoyed Spoon a lot more than the opening band, likely due to much stronger songs and more of a rock band vibe.

Cage The Elephant delivered a fantastic set filled with the antics of the wildly entertaining lead vocalist, Matt Shultz. In no way do I want to imply that Mr. Shultz was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, but that would certainly go a long way towards explaining his choice of stage clothing, unorthodox physical movements, and cryptic speeches between songs.

Vocally he was on point, delivering his songs with loads of passion and consistency, on pitch throughout Cage’s long set. The band played with fiery intensity and all seemed to be having a lot of fun (and a shared amusement at their singer’s actions). When the final song began, Shultz headed into the pavilion seating area (where he had previously serenaded audience members for an entire song earlier in the set) and then out into the lawn, where excited crowd members thronged around the security guards who tried to shield the fearless singer. Eventually the song ended, and Shultz was lifted into the air by the wildly enthusiastic fans. He wound up crowd surfing all the way to the back fence of the venue, where he then climbed onto the roof of the gazebo in back, striking a victorious pose on the peak of the building, soaking up the thunderous ovation!

Beck closed the concert with a phenomenal light show, an incredible band, and his own quirky and funky delivery of his many hits. The years have been quite kind to Beck, because he still looks the same as he did back in the early 90’s, and he was equally effective with a few songs performed solo on guitar as he was with the full force of that airtight band.

A long final song that also featured the return of Matt Shultz and Natalie Bergman from Wild Belle, plus loads of confetti and a great atmosphere of pure party time fun, was the perfect ending to a diverse and massively entertaining concert.

This one was outside of my comfort zone and I have to admit I should venture there more often!

On This Day in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 7/21/2019, I entered into uncharted territory by attending a superb show featuring Baroness and Torche, 2 bands I knew very little about. This wonderful event took place at Deluxe, the downstairs room at Old National Centre in Indianapolis. I have been to several shows at both The Egyptian Room and The Murat Theatre, but this was my first time at the Deluxe, and I was quite impressed by the sound and visual aspect of the room.

Torche kicked things off with a lethal barrage of stoner rock riffage that pummeled the crowd relentlessly throughout their energetic set. The only complaints I had were that the vocals were too low in the mix, and that there were literally no dynamics in Torche’s music. Otherwise, what they did, they did exceptionally well, and the instrumental mix was on point…crushing guitars, deep and bone rattling bass, and concussion level drumming, all played with tons of energy.

I will have to check out some of their studio stuff to get a better idea of their vocals and lyrics, though.

Baroness is an intriguing band, and although I had only heard a small selection of songs on YouTube about a year ago, I knew enough that I wanted to see this band on stage.

Nothing could have prepared me for how monumentally satisfying this music would affect me. From the moment they took the stage, Baroness was electrifying; with lead singer John Dyer Baizley running to the edge of the crowd with a beaming, nearly maniacal grin on his face.

Lead guitarist Gina Gleason was visibly excited, too, frequently making eye contact and headbanging gleefully whenever she wasn’t providing spellbinding harmony vocals to Baizley’s fantastic voice.

The guitar work that those two graced the boisterous crowd with was a tapestry of richly haunting tones, mixed with savage power, and consummate tasteful elegance.

Vocally, Baizley and Gleason blended together into something truly magical.

Nick Jost provided excellent bass and keyboard work, while Sebastian Thomson held it all together with rock solid drums and percussion.

Baroness made a huge impression on me that night, and I realized that by having virtually no knowledge of their music and no preconceived notions, I was able to have a purely musical experience, taking the show completely at face value. What a glorious concert…what a beautiful band!

On This Date in History