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, 7/11/2019, 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, 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

Oooooohhh…Barracuda! With this lead off song, 1977’s Little Queen by Heart fully captivated my young imagination with vivid images of the fabulous Wilson sisters rocking out in all their glory. I got to see them live the following year and my fantasy was pretty close to the mark. Ann sang with a fierceness to rival Robert Plant’s, while her sister Nancy kicked major ass on both acoustic and electric guitars and sang angelic counterpoint whenever needed. The guys in Heart were all amazing as well. Roger Fisher was a severely underrated lead guitarist. Another Led Zeppelin trait that Heart excelled at was the range of lighter folk inspired tunes to balance out the hard rock attack. Love Alive is one of my favorite of all Heart’s songs, and Kick It Out rocked nicely. Nancy got to show off her lead vocal skills on Treat Me Well, and the song Little Queen displayed a bit of a funk influence. Heart had proven conclusively that Magic Man off their debut was no fluke. This band was here to stay.

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

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