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, 7/21/2019, I entered into uncharted territory by attending a superb show featuring Baroness and Torche, 2 bands I knew very little about. This wonderful event took place at Deluxe, the downstairs room at Old National Centre in Indianapolis. I have been to several shows at both The Egyptian Room and The Murat Theatre, but this was my first time at the Deluxe, and I was quite impressed by the sound and visual aspect of the room.

Torche kicked things off with a lethal barrage of stoner rock riffage that pummeled the crowd relentlessly throughout their energetic set. The only complaints I had were that the vocals were too low in the mix, and that there were literally no dynamics in Torche’s music. Otherwise, what they did, they did exceptionally well, and the instrumental mix was on point…crushing guitars, deep and bone rattling bass, and concussion level drumming, all played with tons of energy.

I will have to check out some of their studio stuff to get a better idea of their vocals and lyrics, though.

Baroness is an intriguing band, and although I had only heard a small selection of songs on YouTube about a year ago, I knew enough that I wanted to see this band on stage.

Nothing could have prepared me for how monumentally satisfying this music would affect me. From the moment they took the stage, Baroness was electrifying; with lead singer John Dyer Baizley running to the edge of the crowd with a beaming, nearly maniacal grin on his face.

Lead guitarist Gina Gleason was visibly excited, too, frequently making eye contact and headbanging gleefully whenever she wasn’t providing spellbinding harmony vocals to Baizley’s fantastic voice.

The guitar work that those two graced the boisterous crowd with was a tapestry of richly haunting tones, mixed with savage power, and consummate tasteful elegance.

Vocally, Baizley and Gleason blended together into something truly magical.

Nick Jost provided excellent bass and keyboard work, while Sebastian Thomson held it all together with rock solid drums and percussion.

Baroness made a huge impression on me that night, and I realized that by having virtually no knowledge of their music and no preconceived notions, I was able to have a purely musical experience, taking the show completely at face value. What a glorious concert…what a beautiful band!

On This Date 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, 6/25/2019, my bucket list was shattered…Shattered! Shidoobee, shidoobee, shidoobee…but I digress…I saw The Rolling Stones! The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band! I never thought this would happen in my lifetime, but I finally got to witness these legends.

As fate would have it, Mick Jagger endured a heart surgery and the entire tour had to be rescheduled over his recovery, resulting in my friend and I getting to see just the second show on the tour!

We traveled through the insanity of Chicago traffic, through an intense hail storm, through being directed to 3 different entry gates before we finally arrived at our excellent seats. At this point I allowed myself to realize it was really going to happen!

I shot some video of Soldier Field steadily filling up with hordes of Stones fans, many of whom probably were feeling the myriad of emotions I was experiencing at the exact same moments.

The opening band, Whiskey Myers, played a good set of rocking Southern tinged Country Blues, and were well received.

Finally, as dusk was giving way to darkness, the lights and video displays started flashing and a booming voice announced the famous words, “Ladies and gentlemen…The Rolling Stones!” Keith Richards was launching into the high octane guitar riff of Jumping Jack Flash; Charlie Watts a millisecond behind him, already steadying the beat and propelling the engine that is the most iconic pure rock and roll band in the history of this universe.

Mick Jagger, 75 years young and fresh from heart surgery, was singing and gesturing, gyrating, displaying moves like, well…JAGGER…and Ron Wood was there with that big lovable grin, and the rest of the extended band were in lock motion with the four mains…and it was absolutely breathtaking!

I have seen the setlist from the Friday night show, and am impressed at how many songs were changed out for our show. The Stones are not a cookie cutter group that plays the same show in every city.

We got a different opening song, and a different acoustic set on the extended stage. Our acoustic songs were a rare Play With Fire, and a killer Sweet Virginia; proving beyond a doubt what I have said for decades;

The Rolling Stones are the best country band on the planet!

A sizzling Miss You midway through the show proved they are also the best r&b and disco band on Earth, too.

Bassist Darryl Jones was featured in an extended bass solo that showcased his funky side without being too flashy; in other words, classy perfection. The horn section had moments to shine, too.

As a former trumpet player I was happy to see an actual French Horn on You Can’t Always Get What You Want, instead of a trombone.

The sax player who took over from the late great Bobby Keyes delivered a sizzling solo on Brown Sugar, as did longtime keyboard guru and band director, Chuck Leavell.

The band introductions were super entertaining, displaying the adoration the fans feel for Ron Wood and Charlie Watts. The biggest love was shown to the immortal Keith Richards, who displayed his rogue pirate persona before he sang the soulful Slipping Away (one of my personal favorite Keith vocal songs) and the wonderful Before They Make Me Run. Keith made a mistake and started Midnight Rambler on the wrong guitar, resulting in Jagger stopping the band and proclaiming they were in the wrong key! Mick said it was still early in the tour and that they still had time for a fuck-up or two! Of course, the crowd loved his candor, and the Stones proceeded to play a blazing Paint It Black.

After a quick guitar change, Keith launched back into Midnight Rambler with a vengeance, and the band matched his intensity, delivering what for me was the highlight of a concert that was totally full of highlights…a stunning 11:30 worth of blazing, muscular, menacing blues…proving that these guys are most certainly not doing this for the money. That type of hunger and passion simply cannot be faked.

Each of the four primary Stones filled me with awe, from Jagger’s nonstop moving (the man literally never stopped for a moment), to his phenomenal harmonica playing and solid rhythm guitar work, Richards and Wood displaying what Keith lovingly describes as “the ancient art of weaving”, guitar lines playing cat and mouse between the two venerable masters, and of course the economy and rock solid dominance of Watts’ sublime drumming.

The sound was pristine (especially considering it was in a football stadium with an open roof) and the lights and video screens were state of the art.

I’m kind of bouncing in and out of the actual timeline, but some other highlights were an astonishing Tumbling Dice, Bitch, Honky Tonk Woman, Start Me Up, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, and Sympathy For The Devil.

There had been an online vote for a song and the winner for our show was Monkey Man…and it was a swaggering gem!

The encores were an incendiary Gimme Shelter and the finale of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (complete with fireworks…a LOT of fireworks)!

For nearly 2 hours, these legends proved without a shadow of a doubt why they are simply the best at what they do. My bucket list is shattered…Long Live The Rolling Stones! Thank you Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie…and all the rest. You guys are the soundtrack to my life…I got Satisfaction last Tuesday…if you try sometimes, you get what you need!

On This Date in History

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