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

Cathy Flynn, WickedGoddessPhotography.Com

On this date in history, 11/16/2019, King Diamond brought The Institute North American Tour to the exquisite Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Idle Hands were the support bands for this incredible evening of diverse styles of heavy music and dramatic visuals.

Both opening bands were handpicked by the King and they brought headliner worthy performances to prime the capacity crowd for the main attraction.

Idle Hands started the night with a great set of goth tinged melodic hard rock. Their singer, clad all in black, resembled a spookier Joey Ramone, and impressed me with his voice and his stage presence. Of course, the stage itself is marvelous, as is the elegant theater that hosted this collection of thrilling artists.

The Louisville Palace opened in 1928 and seats a capacity of 2800, making this an intimate experience for everyone in the theater. I don’t know how many metal acts have played there, but this place was tailor made for the King Diamond experience. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats took advantage of the high ceiling by use of a large screen hanging above them on which they projected an ever-changing barrage of trippy imagery to accompany their sludgy brand of doom metal. The four piece band from Britain were energetic and resembled classic ’70’s hard rock bands with their long hair flying and their twin guitar attack set to take no prisoners.

As good as the warmup bands were (and they were both great!), there was no confusion about who the crowd was there to see, and King Diamond’s arrival was greeted with a thunderous ovation as he was wheeled out of a door in the center of the gigantic stage set which was designed as a multiple leveled interior of a mental institution. Songs from a number of Diamond’s best albums provided a loose thread of continuity for the visual dynamics that King Diamond excels at, and favorites included Funeral, Arrival, Halloween, A Mansion In Darkness, Out From The Asylum, Welcome Home, and The Lake. One new song, Masquerade Of Madness, held its own among the classics, and an encore of Burn and Black Horsemen (dedicated to the recently departed Timi Hansen) brought the night to a thoughtful and deeply satisfying close.

Diamond’s band was phenomenal throughout, with guitarists Andy LaRocque and Mike Wead delivering consistently jaw dropping playing. Diamond’s eerie falsetto (ably assisted by Livia Vita) sounded glorious in the flawless acoustics of the venerable Palace Theatre. The entire set built up a palpable anticipation of the upcoming double album, which is certain to add to King Diamond’s already supreme arsenal of music, both as a solo artist and as the singer of Mercyful Fate.

On This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 11/11/2019, my girlfriend and I traveled to Kentucky to see Slayer one last time (or maybe not…who really knows?) as part of the Final Campaign.

This concert was held at the KFC (Yum!) Center, a terrific venue with both visual and audio superiority. Along for the show this time around were Primus, Ministry, and Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals (performing a Vulgar Display of PanterA).

I have now seen Slayer 4 times in 4 different states on this farewell world tour, and I have written about each show believing it was the end. Well, I guess I knew at Riot Fest that I still had this one lined up, but at any rate I knew the end was getting close.

First things first: Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals opened the festivities with a blistering set of PanterA classics, including A New Level, Strength Beyond Strength, This Love, Fucking Hostile, Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit, and Walk. They also slid in the verse from Goddamn Electric that name checks Slayer, “Your choices are whisky and weed and Slayer, it’s Goddamn Electric!” to great effect.

Anselmo’s voice has undergone a lot of changes over his years of smoking and other forms of abuse, but he still cuts an impressive presence on stage, and had the assembled metal masses pretty hyped throughout the Illegals’ admirable job of covering the mighty PanterA.

Next up was the Industrial Metal fury of Ministry, a band I last saw in 1992. I was ecstatic to discover that Al Jourgenson and co. haven’t mellowed in the least, and they delivered a virtual greatest hits beatdown complete with a light show that threatened to put the entire crowd in seizures.

Among my personal highlights were Stigmata, Just One Fix, N.W.O., Thieves, and an absolutely ballistic Jesus Built My Hot Rod. I sincerely hope I get a chance to see Ministry again real soon.

Primus brought their unique brand of quirkiness, odd lyrical concepts, and staggering musicianship, along with some of the best bass playing (and bass SOUND) I have ever experienced. I hadn’t seen the Primus experience since the late ’90’s, and, like Ministry, they reminded me forcefully of what a thrilling live act they can be.

Les Claypool guided the trio through epic Primus material including Those Damned Blue Collar Tweakers, Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, Sgt. Baker, Mr. Krinkle, Too Many Puppies, My Name Is Mud, and Jerry Was A Race Car Driver.

As much as I loved all the opening acts and the sheer diversity in musical offerings; the evening belonged to Slayer. I don’t know what I can add about Slayer that I haven’t already said before, but their level of consistency and intensity during this long journey to the end of their touring life has been astonishing.

Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt, and Paul Bostaph are going out in glorious fashion, maintaining the monumental legacy of Slayer at each stop of the tour, performing like a hungry upstart band with worlds still to conquer, and the adoration that radiates between the band and the fans is a palpable force.

As I have said before, at the end of each show, Tom Araya lingers longer and longer, storing up the love and the memories, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that he is truly the one who is retiring, but as the voice of the band, Slayer goes when Tom goes.

In rock and metal, most bands that retire wind up returning after a time…so as I do in real life, I won’t say goodbye…I’ll just say “See Ya!” I hope you guys have a wonderful retirement. You’ve certainly earned it…but if you want to come back in a few years, us Slayer fanatics won’t be mad…and we’ll be ready!

On This Date in History

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