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

On this date in history, 10/12/2019, I saw a trio of bands for the first time at a venue I had never visited before. Jinjer, The Browning, and Sumo Cyco performed at Riverfront Live in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Riverfront Live was pretty impressive, with great sound, lights, and overall visibility. It had a friendly atmosphere and provided a high level of intimacy between bands and patrons.

Sumo Cyco kicked things off with a high energy attack full of movement and punk/metal riffs. Led by the dynamic Skye “Sever” Sweetnam. The Canadian band utilized their limited stage space and set time to the fullest extent, opting to get the crowd participating early. Sweetnam went into the crowd several times and at one point got everyone in the pit area to get down on the floor and wait for her cue as the band vamped away on a mosh inducing riff. When she gave them the sign, the eager fans knew what to do and the singer was suddenly back on stage as the circle pit swirled in front of her.

On a critical level I felt that their guitar player had a tinny tone to his amp, but that may not have been his fault. The opening acts are sometimes prone to not getting the full use of the PA. I also got the impression that their stage moves were a little contrived at times, as if they had practiced hard to look spontaneous. At least they were constantly moving…the effort paid off as their crowd response testified.

Next up were The Browning, from Kansas City, Missouri. I had to do a little research on them to see what musical style they were described as playing. They are listed on Wikipedia as Metalcore, Electronicore, Deathcore, and Crunkcore. That’s a lot of cores, but I must admit I hated their sound within the first 20 seconds they were on stage. The EDM stuff just didn’t seem to fit with the metal stuff, and then there was the super annoying visual aspect of the spinning guitar player. I have to hand it to the guy; he had stellar equilibrium without a doubt. But his playing was monotonous and tedious. If he practiced his instrument as much as he practiced his stage moves, perhaps the band’s music would be more interesting. I found the singer’s constant hype attack pretty pointless, too. The crowd was into it, though, and they had some great pit action going.

I’ve been to enough shows to know that when an audience is in the mood they will mosh to Justin Bieber (just kidding…or am I?) so crowd response is not always synonymous with the quality of the music.

Speaking of quality music, Jinjer saved the night with an electrifying, outstanding display of talent, confidence, and inspired song craft. Jinjer hails from Donetsk, Ukraine, and features a blend of many different styles, making their music both progressive and unpredictable. Front woman Tatiana Shmailyuk possesses a set of seemingly indestructible vocal chords, and uses them to alternately sing beautiful melodies and switch to demonic gutturals in nearly the same breath. Jinjer’s musicians (guitarist, bassist, and drummer) all provide enormous amounts of dexterity on their respective instruments, weaving emotional landscapes that change in subtle and sometimes jarring combinations to suit Tatiana’s flights of vocal fancy.

From the opening blast of Teacher, Teacher to the final chords of Cloud Factory, Jinjer had the place bouncing.

They played a song called On The Top for the first time live and from the sounds of the response, it will become a regular fixture on their play list. Several other songs that really impressed me were Judgement (And Punishment), I Speak Astronomy, Retrospection, and Outlander. Jinjer returned for an encore, playing Pisces and Captain Clock, leaving the stage to a huge and well deserved ovation. Like the time I recently saw Avatar for the first time, I left this show feeling like I had just witnessed a band on the verge of blowing wide open.

Jinjer is poised on the brink of some huge success…mark my words!

On This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 9/20/2019, Willie Nelson brought his Outlaw Music Festival to Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN for a diverse night of musical magic.

Nelson has used the Outlaw Music Festival format for the last couple of years, bringing a package of artists on tour that fluctuates from city to city. On the night of our show, the lineup included Katie Pruitt, Jamestown Revival, Allison Krauss, Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, and Willie Nelson And The Family.

By the time I arrived at the venue, Katie Pruitt had already finished her set, and I listened to only a small portion of the Jamestown Revival’s performance, which was pleasant sounding old fashioned country music.

Allison Krauss continued the laid back and stripped down approach during her time on stage. Her band all sounded fine, but Krauss herself sang like an angel; a really glorious voice that is undeniable. I make no claims to being any kind of expert on this more purified country music, and Krauss only performed one song that I recognized, “I’ll Fly Away” from the soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but I recognize quality in any style of music and I have to say that Willie Nelson had nothing but high quality acts on this tour.

I was thrilled that Indiana got the one tour date featuring Robert Plant, as it made our show even more special and unique, and because Plant fronted my favorite band of all time, the legendary Led Zeppelin.

Plant and his band (the aptly named Sensational Space Shifters) kicked off their set with Zeppelin’s What Is And What Should Never Be, but they tweaked the arrangement to make it more country influenced, and it was a spectacular effect. This rootsy gumbo approach found most of the songs crossing all sorts of genre boarders, including rock, blues, cajun, jazz, electronica, and of course, country.

Several other classics from the Zeppelin catalogue, including Black Dog, The Battle Of Evermore, and Gallow’s Pole, all were transformed into fascinating new shapes, and Plant’s vocals were simply incredible. Like a baseball pitcher who no longer has a reliable fastball, but has developed a wicked change-up and a deadly curveball, Plant has transformed his vocal style to match his age. The high notes are still within reach (as he dramatically proved conclusively on several key moments), but Plant is a cagey veteran who knows when to strike hard and when to remain subtle. Adding to the majestic vocals were his charming anecdotes and insights into the influence that country music had on his musical taste while growing up in Wales. The capacity crowd ate it all up and gave Plant and his band several thunderous ovations.

Willie Nelson is a national treasure, and so is his guitar, Trigger. This was my first time to witness these legends, and I was in awe of the man’s vitality at the venerable age of 86. Nelson’s singing voice literally sounds like it hasn’t changed or aged since the 1970’s…and that wonderful tone that Trigger produces when Willie plays it is magical and makes me smile just remembering how great it was to experience. I was thrilled that Willie paid tribute to some of his peers, fellow legends like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams during his set. All the iconic songs were played; On The Road Again, Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die, Georgia On My Mind, and the Family played excellently throughout.

The shows at Deer Creek are supposed to end at 11:00 pm, but Willie played until 11:30, because although he is old, Willie Nelson is still a badass! In conclusion, I was thrilled to be at this show.

It was the first concert I’ve ever attended where there were not one, but two vendors selling cowboy hats, and for less than $30 I heard an angel (Krauss), a golden god (Plant), and a national treasure (Nelson)…not to mention witnessed the most legendary guitar outside of B.B. King’s Lucille. Thanks, Willie!

On This Date 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