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

On this date in history, 2/25/2020, I got to see my favorite band in the world deliver a monumental performance at Old National Centre’s Egyptian Room.

The band I’m talking about is Opeth, from Stockholm, Sweden…and they brought another excellent Swedish band along to open the show, Graveyard.

I have been lamenting the state of how too much of modern rock and metal is all starting to sound the same in the way it is produced. Graveyard was such a pleasant surprise by virtue of the fact that they sounded like they just teleported in from 1973. They had this bluesy, analog vibe that was equal parts vintage Sabbath and Zeppelin, but still sounded fresh and original. I thoroughly enjoyed their overall tone and plan to check out some of their studio work.

This was my third time seeing Opeth, and they continue to raise the bar in every possible way; sound, lights, the hilarious between songs banter (a long discussion about the Bloodbath song, Eaten, was spontaneous and lots of fun), and of course the masterful songs.

Touring in support of their latest masterpiece, In Cauda Venenum (Latin translation: Venom In The Tail), Opeth’s music is a breathtaking blend of styles generally labeled either progressive metal or progressive rock. Whatever direction the music takes, it is all played with utter precision and passion.

Each member of the band contributes so much to the overall sound. Martin “Axe” Axenrot supplies the complex drumming that drives the machine, Martin Mendez brings the melodic and powerful bass that holds everything together, Joakim Svalberg plays a wide variety of keyboards that bring in tons of ambience and emotional impact, and also contributes strong backing vocals. Frederik Akesson provides lethal lead guitar work and did much more singing at this show than I have heard him do before (and he has a great voice). Opeth’s leader and chief songwriter, Mikael Akerfeldt, completes the other half of the lead guitar tag team and serves as the amazing lead vocalist…serving up equal amounts of lush clean tones and brutal death metal growls, often in the same song.

Because of their lengthy compositions, the actual song count was relatively short, but 3 songs from In Cauda Venenum made it into the show, and all were magnificent, holding their own with such Opeth favorites as Moon Above, Sun Below, The Leper Affinity, and The Lotus Eater. An incredible encore of Sorceress and the perfection of the final song, Deliverance, put Opeth’s stage time at just over 2 hours.

I have to give a shout out to the audience, too. Everyone was quite vocal during Mikael’s speeches throughout the set, providing a lot of laughter and general happiness, which is always a great addition to a show. The overall atmosphere was pretty euphoric.

This band’s fans are passionate beyond any doubt. Opeth continues to fearlessly explore new territories and make music in their own image. It’s been over a week since the show, and I remain massively inspired!

On This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 2/11/2020, I started my year of concerts with an inspiring club show by Machine Head.

The Vogue in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis was the intimate venue for a rampaging 3 hour performance by the venerable metal band led by Robert Flynn.

Machine Head were in town in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Burn My Eyes, which they played in its entirety during the second half of their marathon display of metal superiority. For me, personally, it was a revelation to see this band get such a great opportunity to stretch their musical muscles. I had previously seen Machine Head 3 times, but always as part of a festival setting, with constricted time limits. I was beyond impressed at the endurance of Rob Flynn’s vocal chords. The man has a superhuman set of pipes, and definitely wasn’t holding back at any point in the show.

During the first set, Flynn led the reconstituted lineup (last year, longtime lead guitarist Phil Demmel and drummer Dave McClain left the band) featuring Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka, drummer Matt Alston, and bassist/vocalist Jared MacEachern through a strong list of fan favorites that covered a wide range of material from various phases of the band’s career.

Kieltyka, a veteran of bands such as Decapitated, Lux Occulta, and Vader, was particularly impressive, playing a mixture of lead styles with ferocity, complexity, and soaring tone that cut through the mix to perfection.

Robert Flynn has grown into a pretty fierce lead guitarist, also, and he went toe to toe with his new partner in several thrilling displays of pyrotechnic guitar battles.

Flynn is a master at getting the audience involved in the action, and he had the small but vocal crowd singing along at every chance, and incited boisterous circle pits throughout the evening.

Some of the highlights from the first set included the massive opener, Imperium, savage versions of Take My Scars, Beautiful Mourning, Locust, I Am Hell (Sonata in C#), Aesthetics Of Hate, Ten Ton Hammer, and Halo. My personal favorite was Darkness Within, where Flynn strummed chords and delivered a 7 minute speech that began on a lighthearted note and gradually became a passionate description of the power that music has to lift us out of depression, eventually beginning the song on solo acoustic guitar and then building into a colossal crescendo of power from the full band, ending with the entire audience vocalizing the melody of the song under Flynn’s direction…a totally breathtaking experience.

After Halo closed the first act on an amazing high note of musical bliss, Flynn brought out original Machine Head members Logan Mader (lead guitar), and Chris Kontos (drums), to pulverize the faithful with a blistering gallop through Burn My Eyes.

Kicking off with the massive tour-de-force Davidian, through other ragers like Old, A Thousand Lies, None But My Own, Blood For Blood, and I’m Your God Now, Machine Head consistently played as if they were headlining a stadium gig instead of a less than capacity club. Before the crushing finale of Block, Flynn and the boys treated us to a medley of Metallica, White Zombie, and Slayer classics that comprised Welcome Home (Sanitarium), One, Seek and Destroy, Thunder Kiss ’65, South Of Heaven, and Raining Blood, that was pure magic!

At the end of the show, Machine Head brought out bags full of guitar picks commemorating the event, and made sure that most of the crowd got at least one. In truth, we got much more than that. We got an evening with a band that proved their love of music beyond all doubt, and delivered a performance of phenomenal power.

In This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 11/29/2019, I saw Steel Panther for the 4th consecutive year.

The spandex clad comedic rockers brought their Heavy Metal Rules Tour to Indy’s Old National Centre’s Egyptian Room for an evening of fun and debauchery.

Opening the show was Snakeskin Cowboy, a local band who played a set of original material that was well received by the audience.

Next up was Stitched Up Heart, a Los Angeles band who used too much in the way of artificial ingredients, i.e. backing tracks, for my taste. Their singer was pretty and sparkly, and I guess their music was, too. They weren’t terrible, but they certainly didn’t do much to make me want to listen to them again, either. Coincidentally, the Indianapolis Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker was going on at the same time as Steel Panther’s performance in the adjacent Murat Theatre, and the boys wasted no time (and no opportunities) to make hilarious comments about the ballet.

I have noticed that every Steel Panther show follows a basic blueprint. The band comes out with a couple of songs, then go into about 10 minutes of their decidedly raunchy standup routine, followed by more tunes, more comedy, and eventually a bunch of happy women from the audience conducting an on stage dance party with the band.

Oh yes, and a lot of throwing and catching (and sometimes dropping) of singer Michael Starr’s various hats!

Somewhere in the middle of the show, guitarist Satchel provides a face melting display of guitar wizardry during his obligatory center stage guitar solo.

Bassist (and resident sex symbol) Lexxi Foxx got to do a Hair solo when Satchel and Starr brought out leaf blowers to send his outrageous locks into dramatic propulsion. And don’t forget the power ballads (usually at least one of which is sung directly to a hot babe from the audience).

On this night we were lucky to hear both Weenie Ride and Community Property, both played to perfection with the entire crowd joyously singing every word.

Steel Panther dropped 3 songs from their latest album, Heavy Metal Rules, the irresistibly catchy All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight), I Ain’t Buying What You’re Selling, and Fuck Everybody.

The opener, Eyes Of A Panther was a fantastic way to start the show, and crowd favorites Asian Hooker, Let Me Cum In, Poontang Boomerang, and 17 Girls In A Row were all high energy explosions of fun.

The show ended with the headbanging, name dropping Death To All But Metal and then encored with Glory Hole.

Even though there is definitely a pattern to all this entertainment, no two Steel Panther shows are ever the same, and that is precisely why I will keep coming back for more.

On This Date in History

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

On this date in history, 11/25/2019, I attended my second Alice Cooper show of the year, titled “An Evening With Alice Cooper”, at the prestigious Old National Centre’s Murat Theatre. In a weird way this concert felt extremely reassuring and satisfying. This requires a bit of explanation, because I have never seen a bad Alice Cooper show. However, some have been more awesome and awe-inspiring than others, and the previous show (July 11 at the Honeywell Center in Wabash, IN) just seemed to be lacking that extra spark. As a matter of fact, the show I caught at the Murat Theatre last year was similar, in that I felt like Alice might have been either a little tired or possibly not feeling 100%.

Whatever the case may be, Alice was totally in command on this night, fully energized and singing like a much younger version of himself. Of course, the band have all become rock stars in their own right, and the entire production is seamless and dazzling in every possible way.

Song wise, the show was virtually identical to the Honeywell performance with the one change being the addition of He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask), complete with Jason Voorhees murdering a pair of young people trying to take an onstage selfie. When Jason made a menacing move on Nita Strauss, Alice stepped in and stopped the horror icon from claiming another victim!

Strauss, Ryan Roxie, and Tommy Henriksen all shared lead guitar duties and executed all facets of Cooper’s historic catalog with gusto. The phenomenal Glen Sobel once again dropped an incredible drum solo, and Chuck Garric held down the bottom end in style (and bared his impressive abs…who could blame him?).

I don’t even need to re-state my love of Alice’s music, but Roses On White Lace, Escape, Steven, Muscle Of Love, Devil’s Food, and the band showcase on The Black Widow were all insanely fun for this lifelong Alice Cooper fanatic. Now I need to find a way to see a Hollywood Vampires show to make my Alice experience complete.

On This Date in History

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, 11/2/2019, Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago hosted a superb triple bill show featuring John 5 And The Creatures, Jared James Nichols, and Reverend Jack. The Invasion Tour 2019 was packed with amazing performances and featured one big time surprise guest artist.

First things first…Reggie’s Rock Club is a really small, intimate and nicely set up place to witness live music, complete with top notch sound and lights. The visibility was excellent and contributed to the entire crowd being treated to that wonderful feeling of energy exchanged between performers and audience.

Reverend Jack started the night with an absolutely KILLER set of original bluesy Southern hard rock. These guys have so much potential to really break big. They are young, have great songs and energized stage presence, but most of all they have this singer named Eric Harmon, and he has one of the best set of pure rock vocal pipes I have heard in years. I knew before the first song was over that this guy has a special gift, and the fact that the lead guitarist and bassist add strong harmony vocal support just adds to the magic.

Near the end of their set, they played a cover of Midnight Rider by The Allman Brothers Band and made it a streamlined muscular slab of modern rock, complete with 3 part harmony a capella vocal intro…Bravo, guys! I expect them to do big things for a long time to come.

Next up was Jared James Nichols and his fiery blues based hard rock. Performing as a power trio, Nichols and company wasted no time in keeping the momentum going with tight playing and Nichols’ passionate vocals. His voice was a pleasant surprise for me, because I had only heard his guitar work prior to this show. I follow him on Instagram and knew he was a blazing lead guitar player, but his voice fit perfectly with his larger than life soloing. Nichols is a tall guy with a great head of hair that brings to mind the lion’s mane of Robert Plant in Zeppelin’s heyday, and between the hair and the animated faces he makes when he is soloing makes him super entertaining to watch.

At the midpoint of his set, Nichols brought out a young man named Peter to play a song and it was a beautiful thing to see the joy radiating from Peter’s face. He proved to be a pretty good player, too, trading leads with Jared James and receiving a thunderous ovation from the appreciative crowd. This simple gesture of kindness, coupled with his obvious talents gained Jared James Nichols a big fan (me), or possibly a whole room of them.

John 5 And The Creatures finished the night with a jaw dropping display of musical muscle, navigating through a dizzying myriad of styles including metal, country, bluegrass, funk, and even a little jazz.

John 5’s playing is breathtaking, full of precision, flash, and passion…and always emanating the man’s obvious love of the guitar featuring lots of Halloween themed stage props and a properly sinister light show.

The insanely tight trio kept the pace moving at a breakneck pace. Midway through their show John spoke to us in several humorous song introductions and proved himself to be the humble and likeable person that could give Dave Grohl a run for his money in the Nicest Guy In Rock Music Category.

To our delight, Charle Benante, the supernaturally gifted drummer from Anthrax was at the show and joined the guys on stage for a crusher of an improvised jam session.

John 5 delivered a fun filled medley of classic song intros featuring songs by Rush, Van Halen, Rage Against The Machine, Metallica, Kiss, Megadeth, White Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, The Police, PanterA, and even The Knack (remember My Sharona? lol).

The band came out for an encore, and apparently had run out of songs, resorting to having to do one they hadn’t rehearsed (of course they nailed it!). I love shows like this one, with new discoveries and new venues.

I first saw John 5 back in 1999 when he was with Marilyn Manson, and have seen him many times with Rob Zombie, but it was incredibly satisfying to see him stretching his wings and demonstrating his full potential as a guitarist and band leader. I will definitely be back for more of all three of these bands if I get the chance.

On This Date in History