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

On this date in history, 7/11/2019, I saw Alice Cooper for the 10th time. The show took place at the prestigious Honeywell Center in Wabash, IN.

It is challenging to do these reviews after seeing some of my favorite artists so many times. Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, and Slayer are all similar situations. On the one hand, I keep going back because these artists are ingrained in my musical consciousness and I have absolute passion for everything they do and all they stand for. A simpler reason is that they continue to play incredible shows.

Alice Cooper hit the stage with a brand new set (a haunted castle…quite amazing to behold) and dug deep into his treasure chest of songs and pulled out some gems I had never heard him perform before. The song My Stars from 1972’s School’s Out album was terrific, as was the title track from 1973’s Muscle Of Love. Not only did these songs bring some new energy to the show, they provided some exciting riffs for Alice’s all-star band to add their magical touches to.

Another deep cut that got a particularly hard rocking makeover was Roses On White Lace from 1987’s Raise Your Fist And Yell, providing a fast metallic riff for the shredding of Nita Strauss, one third of Alice’s assassination squad of lead guitar aces. Each of these three got plenty of space to shine, and each have their own distinctive style that suits different facets of Cooper’s career.

During one early song, Cooper displayed some tasty blues harmonica, accompanied by Wabash native Tommy Henriksen, who played some back and forth lead guitar with the bosses harp licks.

Ryan Roxie, the longest tenured of the trio, played lots of melodic and soaring lead lines from some of the most classic songs.

Once again, drummer Glen Sobel delivered an absolutely jaw dropping drum solo on the capacity crowd, accompanied by bass playing muscle man, Chuck Garric (who has been a mainstay since 2002).

As admittedly superb as the musicians are (and they are the top of the line, each and every one), no Cooper show is based solely on music, and this was no exception. The theatrics were all in place, from the giant Frankenstein monster who made a brief appearance during the opening Feed My Frankenstein, and a full rampage later on Teenage Frankenstein, to a truly spectacular larger than life evil baby (looking a bit like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man with Alice Cooper makeup!). This baby took place in the onstage “execution” of Alice by guillotine. Although the guillotine had a malfunction, the old gag still provides a great bit of suspense and entertainment. Alice did his straitjacket appearance while singing Steven from the magnificent Welcome To My Nightmare album (1975), and segued into Dead Babies from Killer (1971).

Cooper’s wife Sheryl played the part of the evil nurse with sadistic glee. So, this was the 10th time for me, but I’m not done yet! Going back for more in November, when Alice brings the show back to the Murat Theatre at The Old National Centre…to be continued!

On This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 6/25/2019, my bucket list was shattered…Shattered! Shidoobee, shidoobee, shidoobee…but I digress…I saw The Rolling Stones! The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band! I never thought this would happen in my lifetime, but I finally got to witness these legends.

As fate would have it, Mick Jagger endured a heart surgery and the entire tour had to be rescheduled over his recovery, resulting in my friend and I getting to see just the second show on the tour!

We traveled through the insanity of Chicago traffic, through an intense hail storm, through being directed to 3 different entry gates before we finally arrived at our excellent seats. At this point I allowed myself to realize it was really going to happen!

I shot some video of Soldier Field steadily filling up with hordes of Stones fans, many of whom probably were feeling the myriad of emotions I was experiencing at the exact same moments.

The opening band, Whiskey Myers, played a good set of rocking Southern tinged Country Blues, and were well received.

Finally, as dusk was giving way to darkness, the lights and video displays started flashing and a booming voice announced the famous words, “Ladies and gentlemen…The Rolling Stones!” Keith Richards was launching into the high octane guitar riff of Jumping Jack Flash; Charlie Watts a millisecond behind him, already steadying the beat and propelling the engine that is the most iconic pure rock and roll band in the history of this universe.

Mick Jagger, 75 years young and fresh from heart surgery, was singing and gesturing, gyrating, displaying moves like, well…JAGGER…and Ron Wood was there with that big lovable grin, and the rest of the extended band were in lock motion with the four mains…and it was absolutely breathtaking!

I have seen the setlist from the Friday night show, and am impressed at how many songs were changed out for our show. The Stones are not a cookie cutter group that plays the same show in every city.

We got a different opening song, and a different acoustic set on the extended stage. Our acoustic songs were a rare Play With Fire, and a killer Sweet Virginia; proving beyond a doubt what I have said for decades;

The Rolling Stones are the best country band on the planet!

A sizzling Miss You midway through the show proved they are also the best r&b and disco band on Earth, too.

Bassist Darryl Jones was featured in an extended bass solo that showcased his funky side without being too flashy; in other words, classy perfection. The horn section had moments to shine, too.

As a former trumpet player I was happy to see an actual French Horn on You Can’t Always Get What You Want, instead of a trombone.

The sax player who took over from the late great Bobby Keyes delivered a sizzling solo on Brown Sugar, as did longtime keyboard guru and band director, Chuck Leavell.

The band introductions were super entertaining, displaying the adoration the fans feel for Ron Wood and Charlie Watts. The biggest love was shown to the immortal Keith Richards, who displayed his rogue pirate persona before he sang the soulful Slipping Away (one of my personal favorite Keith vocal songs) and the wonderful Before They Make Me Run. Keith made a mistake and started Midnight Rambler on the wrong guitar, resulting in Jagger stopping the band and proclaiming they were in the wrong key! Mick said it was still early in the tour and that they still had time for a fuck-up or two! Of course, the crowd loved his candor, and the Stones proceeded to play a blazing Paint It Black.

After a quick guitar change, Keith launched back into Midnight Rambler with a vengeance, and the band matched his intensity, delivering what for me was the highlight of a concert that was totally full of highlights…a stunning 11:30 worth of blazing, muscular, menacing blues…proving that these guys are most certainly not doing this for the money. That type of hunger and passion simply cannot be faked.

Each of the four primary Stones filled me with awe, from Jagger’s nonstop moving (the man literally never stopped for a moment), to his phenomenal harmonica playing and solid rhythm guitar work, Richards and Wood displaying what Keith lovingly describes as “the ancient art of weaving”, guitar lines playing cat and mouse between the two venerable masters, and of course the economy and rock solid dominance of Watts’ sublime drumming.

The sound was pristine (especially considering it was in a football stadium with an open roof) and the lights and video screens were state of the art.

I’m kind of bouncing in and out of the actual timeline, but some other highlights were an astonishing Tumbling Dice, Bitch, Honky Tonk Woman, Start Me Up, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, and Sympathy For The Devil.

There had been an online vote for a song and the winner for our show was Monkey Man…and it was a swaggering gem!

The encores were an incendiary Gimme Shelter and the finale of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (complete with fireworks…a LOT of fireworks)!

For nearly 2 hours, these legends proved without a shadow of a doubt why they are simply the best at what they do. My bucket list is shattered…Long Live The Rolling Stones! Thank you Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie…and all the rest. You guys are the soundtrack to my life…I got Satisfaction last Tuesday…if you try sometimes, you get what you need!

On This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 6/11/2019, I ended a 40 year ban and saw REO Speedwagon for the first time since 1979! This happened because a wonderful new friend won free tickets and invited me.

The concert took place at The Lawn in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis. I had never been to this venue before and I was quite impressed with the sound and visibility of the stage area.

Sister Hazel opened the show, but I must confess that they basically served as background music for a really interesting conversation my friend and I were having. To their credit, Sister Hazel sounded quite good.

When REO hit the stage, we moved up much closer to the stage and I must say the venerable classic rockers played all their biggest hits and managed to breathe some new life into some older deep cuts as well.

Lead singer Kevin Cronin did a lot of talking between songs, but his speeches served a purpose, such as his introduction of the band, particularly describing lead guitar player Dave Amato as the “new guy”, even though he joined the band in 1989. Cronin also talked about the songwriting process before performing Golden Country on solo acoustic guitar. That is one of my favorite REO songs, and the intimacy of just voice and guitar was a nice little change of pace.

Another speech involved the song 157 Riverside Ave., which was featured on their first live album. Cronin reminded us that the live version on that album was recorded in Indianapolis at the Convention Center.

Since REO hails from Illinois, Cronin played up the neighborly aspect of the band’s relationship with Indiana.

All in all there was a good balance between the big power ballads and grittier rockers like Back On The Road Again, Keep Pushin’ and Ridin’ The Storm Out. The crowd was singing along and swaying to the hits for the duration of the show. I’m glad I lifted the ban, because this time around was way more fun than the show I saw 40 years ago!

On This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 5/16/2019, I witnessed the end of an era. Specifically the Slayer era. I will say arguably (for the sake of argument), because in this contentious time we live in everything is up for debate, but for me personally, Slayer are the greatest Thrash Metal band to ever walk the Earth.

I was lucky to get the chance to see them twice on this final world tour they are currently staging; last year in Ohio and this time in Noblesville, IN at Deer Creek (yeah, I’m not going to use the new stupid name!).

Foul weather threatened to spoil our good time. Indeed, we were denied a performance by the mighty Cannibal Corpse due to the delayed start time.

Amon Amarth and Lamb Of God delivered suitably crushing warmup sets, but this night was all about Slayer for me, and the titans delivered the goods just as they had every other time I was privileged to witness their ferocious live attack.

Over the course of my 8 times seeing Slayer I have seen nearly every lineup they have put on a stage (never saw them with Jon Dette on drums or when Phil Demmel subbed for Gary Holt for a few shows recently), and in my opinion as long as Tom Araya was singing and Kerry King was playing those crushing Slayer riffs, it was always pure Slayer. Of course Jeff Hanneman will be forever missed and idolized, but Mr. Gary Holt has done a miraculous job of not only replicating Hanneman’s playing style, but also shining his own immense talent and charisma into the band.

Likewise, Dave Lombardo’s drumming was undoubtedly the best the genre ever produced, but Paul Bostaph is a beast in his own right, and has kept the pummeling brutality of Slayer spot on throughout his tenure with the band. On this final go around, all the expected songs were delivered in larger than life technicolor, flame enhanced glory.

The lights and sound were perfection, and South Of Heaven, Chemical Warfare, Angel Of Death, Seasons In The Abyss, War Ensemble, Disciple, Dead Skin Mask, and Raining Blood (among many others) were magical metal moments.

At the end, Tom Araya walked the stage, soaking in the adoration of his people, clearly savoring the 5 minute roaring ovation. Finally he walked to the microphone at center stage, proclaimed that there would be no speech, then simply told us he will miss us…

I think I can speak for a lot of us…we’re certainly going to miss him…and Slayer.

On This Date in History May 16, 2019 Slayer Farewell Tour

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Pink Floyd: Dark Side Of The Moon

Shortly after I began this marathon project last year it occurred to me that my start date was 4/21, meaning my final review would fall on 4/20. From that point it became clear that there was only one possible outcome for the last album in the series…Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd! Everything about this album is classic, iconic, and larger than life.

It spent an unfathomable amount of time in the charts (over 900 to date), sold a staggering 45 million units (and counting!), has one of the most recognizable covers in all of rock music (with no title or band name listed), and continues to be a staple of rock radio all these many years later.

Dark Side Of The Moon explores timeless topics like death, greed, mental illness, and time itself.

The music was impeccably recorded and engineered, appealing to audiophiles and casual listeners alike. Dark Side was also a more collaborative effort from the band, recorded in a time before Roger Waters became the primary songwriter.

Of course, the songs themselves have become beloved to generations of Floyd fans; Money, Us And Them, Brain Damage, Time, Breathe, Eclipse, and The Great Gig In The Sky.

David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason created something epic and cosmic and ultimately relatable to countless people across the globe and across a significant span of time.

Music is indeed the universal language, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon speaks to the universe.

https://youtu.be/JwYX52BP2Sk

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

The Beatles: Abbey Road

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – Paul McCartney

As I near the end of this most satisfying journey into my musical inspirations and taste, I think it is appropriate to discuss Abbey Road (1969), the final time The Beatles were all in a recording studio together.

Abbey Road featured all the things that made The Beatles so wonderful: the melodies, the harmonies, the creativity, the usage of the studio as a component of their compositions…and the one-of-a-kind chemistry the Fab Four generated.

Lennon & McCartney were now challenged by George Harrison as a writer equal to their immense talents. Harrison contributed Here Comes The Sun, and the incomparable Something, proving he had established his own voice as a composer.

John and Paul had their own triumphs, adding to their own legacy, with Come Together, Golden Slumbers, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), and Carry That Weight.

Ringo Starr even got a fun entry with the whimsical Octopus’s Garden.

The suite of song fragments on Side Two of the original vinyl release was a brilliant display of The Beatles acting as their own editors; making something timeless and thrilling out of songs that might never have been completed otherwise. On The End, the boys had some fun flexing their musical muscles, with the roundabout of lead guitar trade offs from Paul, George, and John, and even a quick drum solo from Ringo.

The album cover generated a lot of speculation, conspiracy theories, and controversy on its own…and though it didn’t include the name of the record or even the band’s name…it wasn’t necessary, because everyone in the world knew The Beatles. They were a phenomenon, and Abbey Road is a phenomenal album.

https://youtu.be/hL0tnrl2L_U

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland

Jimi Hendrix was so much more than just a gifted guitarist. With his final studio album, 1968’s double disc opus Electric Ladyland, Hendrix exploded the boundaries of what was possible in a recording studio.

Assisted by ace engineer Eddie Kramer, Hendrix was able to utilize every aspect of the limited (though state of the art for the time) amount of tracks available, seemingly inventing sounds out of thin air and panning them left to right and surrounding the listener with a dense array of sonic textures.

Jimi had influences just like any other artist, but what set him apart was the fact that there was really no precedent for much of what he did in his short career. He had such a vivid musical imagination, and he found ways to make his visions come to life. Guitar effects pedals were invented from ideas he had and was able to communicate to the manufacturers.

In addition to all this innovative playing, the Experience also gathered some top notch guest stars, like Steve Winwood, Jack Casady, Chris Wood, Al Kooper, and Buddy Miles.

Jimi’s writing and singing always lived in the shadow of his playing, but he both wrote and sang some great stuff on Electric Ladyland. Voodoo Chile, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Gypsy Eyes, House Burning Down, Crosstown Traffic, 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be), Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, and Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) were all great pieces of work, but of course his iconic cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower was the song that drew the most attention. It was so good that Dylan himself started performing Hendrix’s arrangement of it in his own concerts.

Electric Ladyland stands as a monumental achievement of the psychedelic ’60’s, and a testament to Jimi Hendrix’s lasting status as one of the greatest guitarists (and musicians) in history.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind