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 AKA “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 12/8/2018, Steel Panther brought their Sunset Strip Live tour to Piere’s Entertainment Center in Ft. Wayne, IN.

The opening act was Wilson, from Detroit, Michigan. This was my 3rd time seeing Steel Panther, and the 2nd time seeing the two bands together.

Wilson played a high energy set of catchy hard rock, acting as the straight band for the comedy that was to follow.

Steel Panther are impressive on multiple levels. First of all, in order to parody any style of music, the musicians must be able to master that style, and Steel Panther are without a doubt Jedi masters at the art of hair metal.

The sky high vocals, shredding guitars, hook filled anthems, and let’s not forget the big hair and spandex; all of this is front and center at every Steel Panther show. Additionally, the four members of the band are playing characters, and staying in character at all times while pulling off the larger than life personas they have created and playing all this explosive music. Not an easy task, but they also manage to be hysterically funny and in the moment.

I would guess there is a loose script or outline for the onstage shenanigans, but these guys always manage to make it seem spontaneous and natural, like the best improvisation an audience could ask for.

On this night, Steel Panther were performing without their bass player, Lexxi Foxx, who was in sex rehab (according to singer Michael Starr and guitarist Satchel). Whatever the real reason for his absence, the band used the opportunity to inject massive amounts of speculation in a decidedly politically incorrect manner.

The fill in bassist, introduced as Spider, was dressed up as Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue, and of course he was mercilessly ridiculed as well.

Satchel and Starr do the lion’s share of the talking, and elicit a non-stop barrage of bragging, insults, and sexual banter directed at each other, the other members of the band (drummer Stix Zadinya catches a lof of remarks, too), and the audience. Speaking of the audience, many members of the crowd show up dressed appropriately to the over the top ’80’s, with wigs, spandex and all the props they can add to their costumes.

None of the jokes come across as mean spirited, and a general mood of fun permeates the entire show. As for the music, Steel Panther took the concept of the glory days of the Sunset Strip and ran with it, covering songs by Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, and Def Leppard. They also threw in a bunch of Steel Panther originals, including Tiger Woods, Glory Hole, Death To All But Metal, and Community Property.

Satchel demonstrated his guitar hero chops with a center stage display of fretboard pyrotechnics, and of course, no Steel Panther show is complete without the obligatory stage full of pretty girls from the audience joining the band on stage for a couple of songs to dance and interact with the band.

If you are looking for an evening of great ’80’s metal, gut busting comedy, and a heaping amount of FUN, I highly recommend checking out a Steel Panther show. You might even see me, because I intend to keep coming back for more!

On This Date in History

Written By: Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

On this date in history, 11/18/2018, I was present for an evening of blissful musical carnage as Whitechapel brought their “This Is Exile 10th Anniversary Tour” to Piere’s in Ft. Wayne, IN.

In addition to Whitechapel, we were pummeled sonically by Chelsea Grin, Oceano, and Slaughter To Prevail.

My traveling companions both have photographer passes to Piere’s, so I got to go in early with them, which I am super grateful. This allowed me to witness Slaughter To Prevail do their soundcheck and get everything dialed in.

I had no previous knowledge of this band, but became an instant fan watching them patiently get the details locked in and then delivering a murderous onslaught as a unit.

Their singer bears a passing resemblance to Phil Anselmo, and he shares that titans powerful confidence and ownership of the stage.

The Russian deathcore band Slaughter To Prevail started the show and set the tone early, dishing out a quick set of tightly coiled ferocity and had the crowd running circle pits and a vicious wall of death near the end of their time on stage. Oceano followed with their own brand of crushing power and continued the deathcore from their Illinois perspective.

Chelsea Grin were up next, a band from Utah, but sharing that deathcore heaviness and intensity that united all these bands. Up until Whitechapel hit the stage, each of the openers had only one guitarist, so when the headliners hit the stage with their triple guitar attack, there was a notable rise in both volume and intensity.

Whitechapel had the best light show of the night, a constantly shifting and flashing beast of a display that complemented Whitechapel’s relentless brutality.

They began with a few newer songs and then plunged into This Is Exile with a vengeance, delivering all the crushing power that put them at the forefront of their field.

I am personally just amazed at the amount of sound that emanated from the vocalists of all 4 bands…the guttural growls in particular were simply astonishing.

The only thing deeper than these throat shredding roars were the perfectly placed subsonic bass drops that were sprinkled throughout the performances of all the bands, a nice touch that pushed the right chaotic buttons at all the strategic spots in the savage breakdowns.

Whitechapel did it up right, bringing along 3 hungry bands who did their best to challenge the headliners to prove why they deserved that title.

https://youtu.be/BpgAxcvbkUQ

On This Date in History

Written By Timothy Voldemars Johnston

The night was cold. Perfectly, beautifully, crisp and fresh. The black clad masses had gathered in front of the Coalition in anticipation. We, my Hexenklad bandmates John and Andrew, and myself, made our way through, saying our greetings to all those we knew out front and into the belly of the beast we went. The Coalition was already getting hot and there were already wisps of smoke coming from the stage where the band was setting up. Again, once inside, we did our rounds of greetings, the scene may be small but it is tight, and then Erimha took the stage. Covered in ripped up black cloth and dirty as fuck corpsepaint they blasted through a good 35-45 minute set of mostly newer material. Having seen them several times, and shared the stage with them, I can say that even with only one guitarist and no bassist, they still owned the stage for the time they were on it. As they left the stage we headed back out into the cold to cool off and breathe a bit. Spoke to some more comrades I hadn’t seen in a while and then back into the pit we all went for Panzerfaust. Dark and completely encompassed by pillowing clouds of fog Panzerfaust’s wall of noise smashed the audience relentlessly. From start to end it was an event in and of itself. There is no performance like a Panzerfaust performance. With music that is one part Funeral Mist, one part Marduk, one part Deathspell Omega and one part something completely new and fresh it just holds you and creeps into your head and stays there. Excellent. Then we’re back outside for air. Again, more conversations with comrades and then back inside for one last stab of Black Metal. After waiting for what seemed like a very long time the place filled back up with fog and the sounds of wolves howling filled the air. Up came Uada, the band we were all there to witness. Draped in cloaks that completely hid their identities they trashed around belting out melodic yet almost trance inducing Black Metal greatness. Dissection-like melodies mixed with an almost Batuska occultness twisted forth from the mist and the crowd became one with the noise. For a band that made their appearances so uniform each member still stood out in their performance and were distinct which in and of itself was a site to see. The guitarist looming over the crowd while playing as the bassist and Singer/guitarist writhed around and seemed to play off of each other’s performances as much as to the crowd. Every song was perfectly crafted and performed. When they ended the night was over. We were all satisfied and left with a sense that we had just seen something special. Can’t ask for more than that for a night of Black Metal.

Uada, Panzerfaust, Erimha Concert Review

On this date in history, 8/10/2018, I caught a magical evening of music at Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN. The show featured Paul Rodgers, Jeff Beck, Ann Wilson, and Deborah Bonham. Bonham started the evening’s festivities with a brief set of songs featuring her bluesy voice accompanied by a single acoustic guitar. She is the sister of the late John Bonham (Led Zeppelin’s immortal drummer) and proved conclusively that her brother wasn’t the only one with talent in her immediate family. I really enjoyed her style, and she was great with the crowd, even mentioning that she heard the venue used to be known as Deer Creek (gaining a big cheer from the crowd and making her our friend from that moment on). Up next was Ann Wilson, touring in support of an album that hasn’t been released yet (a tribute to legends who have recently passed away). Hearing Heart’s singer covering The Who, Amy Winehouse, Chris Cornell, Glen Frey, and Dusty Springfield was amazing. Wilson poured her soul and considerably powerful voice into songs that she personally picked for her record. I haven’t listened to a lot of Amy Winehouse’s stuff, but Ann crushed it on the song that she sang from the tragically short-lived British soul singer. My favorite living guitarist was next, and Jeff Beck did that thing that he does so well, conjuring miracles of sound from his Stratocaster. It had been 23 years since I had seen him last, and this time he had a singer with him for about half of his set. Jimmy Hall, from the band Wet Willie, did an amazing job on each of the songs he sang, particularly Superstitious by Stevie Wonder. Beck also had a female cellist and featured a couple of staggeringly beautiful instrumental pieces with her, playing cat and mouse with his guitar and her cello weaving a tapestry of magic tones. Both times I have seen Beck, his drummer has been an alumnus of Frank Zappa’s (Terry Bozzio in 1995, Vinnie Colaiuta this time). The female bass player was fierce, too. This would be my first time seeing Paul Rodgers live, and he was extraordinary. I am utterly in awe of the voice this man still has in his ’70’s…he literally sounds exactly like he does on all the old Free and Bad Company records from decades ago. His band was top shelf, too. Drums, bass, keyboards, and one guitar player (who had to follow Jeff Beck, not an easy task for anyone…but he was great) doing what all classic English rock bands do, which is play in the pocket, rock solid music to support one of the greatest voices in the history of voices. It was kind of mind-boggling to me that only about 5000 people were in attendance, but we sure did get a memorable night of music from some of the giants who still roam the musical earth.

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

On This Date in History

On this date in history, 7/26/2018, Foo Fighters and The Struts played a phenomenal show at Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN (Ruoff Mortgage Music Center if you insist on being up to date). The moon was full, the weather was perfect, and the place was sold out and packed tight with a fanatical crowd of Dave Grohl’s tribe. The Struts opened the show with an enjoyable and peppy set of good songs and great vocals. Luke Spiller, the lead singer/front man of the band, has a look and style that conjures up memories of the late Freddie Mercury, also possessing an impressive vocal range. However, I felt he got a bit carried away with attempting to get the crowd to sing along and wave their hands in the air. The Struts appear to have a good future ahead of them, having opened for the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Guns N’ Rose, and toured with Foo Fighters. Hopefully they will rely on their real strength, which is their music. Three years have passed since Dave Grohl performed with his band at this same venue. At that show, Dave had to remain seated (in a throne made of guitars) due to a broken leg. On this night he was back on his feet and roamed the stage like a man possessed. As a matter of fact, if you could bottle the energy of Grohl and Taylor Hawkins, the Foo’s drummer, you could likely power the entire planet for at least 7 years. Like the previous show, heavy emphasis was on the impressive list of Foo Fighter hits and classics, but new songs from their most recent album were fantastic, too. For me (and probably many others) some of the best stuff was during the block of songs when Grohl introduced the band. Hearing Foo Fighters covering Alice Cooper (Under My Wheels), Ramones (Blitzkrieg Bop), and a hilarious mashup of the piano part for John Lennon’s Imagine with Van Halen’s Jump sung over the top of it was priceless. All of this was a buildup to the moment when Dave went back to play drums while Taylor Hawkins and Luke Spiller from The Struts channeled David Bowie and Freddie Mercury in an outstanding cover of the Bowie/Queen classic Under Pressure. Foo Fighters rocked at a relentless pace for 2 1/2 hours, featuring a killer light show and loud, but crystal clear sound. There aren’t many bands around these days who can stage a grand spectacle of a show like this (and have the songs to pull it off), so I hope we can keep the members of Foo Fighters healthy and happy, and doing this for years to come!

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

A Little About The Author:

My name is Braddon S. Williams and I share Lemmy’s birthday, Christmas Eve (12/24/1961). I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old, not long after discovering the first Kiss album. From there, the process of discovery was unstoppable, and I find that I am still constantly finding new artists who inspire me all these years later. I began writing a series of essays detailing all my concert experiences throughout the years on my Facebook page and was asked if it would be okay to publish them on the Vinyl Lair site, which I obviously saw as a wonderful opportunity! From there I decided to take the 10 album challenge, but quickly determined that I would have a terrible time limiting all my musical loves to such an inadequate number, so I opted to go for 365. I figured if “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, then an album a day should keep boredom at bay! I am in the process of putting an old band of mine back together and also working up a set of mixed covers and originals for a solo acoustic act. Music is my fountain of youth, along with a love of dogs, beautiful women (and anyone who can make me laugh and carry on a deep conversation). Oh yes, I am also a movie fanatic. Feel free to send me a friend request on Facebook or follow my Instagram account @sinisterbrad.

On This Date in History