2009 was a great year for live music. I was lucky enough to catch some really amazing shows and here I am with a re-cap of my year in concert!
It was so nice to see a real local metal show. Local metal scenes seem to be a dying breed but on this night it was proven that metal on the local level is not only alive and well but is thriving, full of life and every bit as professional as those that are out now. Armored Uprise took the stage sounding more like a mix of the intense metal sounds of Slayer, Pantera and early Metallica as they delivered such intense songs as “Killdozer” and a face melting cover of the Metallica classic “Damage, Inc.” They were fast and heavy and definitely had the crowd worked up. Praetorius too the stage sounding more like Helloween/Maiden-esque type of metal. They were a great band with really great stage presence and had a more melodic approach to their songs. Their song “The March of Praetorius” was an epic like tune that was almost, ALMOST, Maiden worthy and they also delivered really great covers of Metallica’s “Creeping Death” and the Ozzy classic “Bark at the Moon.” This was a great metal show and for 5 bucks you just can’t get enough shows of this caliber. Keep your eyes open for Praetorius and for Armored Uprise guitarist Greg Klaiber’s new band Zardoz. They are currently out and kicking ass around NC so be sure to check them out if you dig some kick ass, face melting prog metal. Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/zardoznc.
Kevn Kinney is a live show not to be missed whether its him solo, with Drivin’ N Cryin’ or with the Kevn Kinney Band. Kevn was on tour supporting his newest solo album “Pre Approved Pre Denied” and this show was a powerhouse of folk rock, jam rock and good ol’ face melting rock and roll. Kevn and Co. were in top form this night as they performed songs from his new album and songs that spanned his 20+ year career. “Which Jesus” was a rollicking great tune which has Kevn stating that, “The Jesus that I know goes to Allman Brothers shows and yells “Jessica” at the top of his lungs!”, “Pre Approved Pre Denied has Kevn playing the down and out working man that has been his soul character for most his live but it was “Blues On Top of Blues” that REALLY brought the house down as Kevn lead the band into a segue of “Are You Experienced” by Jimi Hendrix with Kevn melting every face in the nearly sold out show. Kevn Kinney is a true American icon and I can only hope that the world will turn their heads, eyes and ears his way.
You just can’t get much better than a live Drive By Truckers show. After over a year on the road supporting an album, you would think most bands would be flat out exhausted but the Truckers at this point were still putting on high energy, in your face rock shows and sounding as tight and full of life as they did at the start of the tour. On this 2nd of a two night stand at Asheville’s Orange Peel, the band took the stage opening with a rarely played “Uncle Frank” to a pumped up and rowdy crowd. The band continued to melt faces all night with a mix of rare songs like “Buttholeville” and “Box of Spiders” only to hit us hard with favorites like “Women Without Whiskey”, “Angels & Fuselage” and “3 Dimes Down.” The encore that night had the band coming out swinging with a hard hitting cover of Van Halen’s “Aint Talkin’ Bout Love” which was an amazing thing to hear. The Drive By Truckers are one of the reigning kings (and queen) the live concert experience. A Drive By Truckers show is something that any fan of a great rock show should take in at lease once because if they’ve done you right, you can’t stop at just one show. You’ll need to see them again and again.
Chapel Hill based Steampunk Champions Lemming Malloy (R.I.P) was a band that took the live experience very seriously and totally used it to their full benefit to not only showcase their tight musicianship but they also used it to showcase their personalities and unabridged love for performance. Frontman/keytarist Jay Cartwright was like a Clark Kent of sorts as he was a mild mannered gentleman by day and a fucking kick ass rock star by night. Lemming Malloy’s live shows weren’t just a band playing “to” their audience but “with” their audience. A Lemming Malloy show was an interactive experience and this night was no exception. The band was firing on all cylinders this night as they delivered songs from their debut EP and from their full length album “The Return of the Norfolk Regiment.” The band launched the show with “House of Cards” which had me moving but it was the epic “The Curse of Grey Face” in which Cartwright shares the legend behind this Curse and if I didn’t know better, it very well could’ve been a real tale of the sea. Lemming Malloy was a live show to take in and I’m glad I got to see nearly all of their NC shows. They will be missed but fear not, their members are busy with other projects that are sure to turn heads and entertain once more.
I totally understand why fans of a certain act feel kinda bummed when that particular artist gets famous and starts playing to bigger audiences. For the past 5 years I have been seeing Neko Case in small, standing room only clubs and even getting to hang out and meet her a couple of times after shows. While it was kinda hard to feel that my little secret had gotten out to the masses, it was somethign that made me proud. I was so proud to see Neko not only playing to a larger audience but to see that it hadn’t changed her a bit. Neko & Co came out opening with “Maybe Sparrow” which drew a HUGE ovation from the audience. Right away I knew this was going to be a great show. Neko performed a set list that was like a Neko was in great spirits as she joked back and forth with long time band mate and friend Kelly Hogan. They even commented and joked a few times at how “serious and quiet” the audience was. The show was jam packed full of musical highlights and hearing newer songs like “Middle Cyclone” and the set closing “This Tornado Loves You” were real treats to hear. The real highlight of the show for me was “Pharaohs” which brought the house down with a rousing ovation. Neko Case is no longer a well kept secret but she seems to handing the transition from obscurity to popularity just fine.
2008 was a great year for Chapel Hill’s Bombadil. They had put out their 2nd album “A Buzz, A Buzz” to rave reviews and embarked on a very successful tour of the US that took them all the way out to California and even saw them performing as part of the annual Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN. The band came back home and went right to work on their follow up which was called “Tarpits and Canyons.” and was destined to continue to wow and awe audiences. Unfortunately, the band found themselves plagued with a serious of unfortunates such as singer/multi-instrumentalist Daniel Michalak and the departure of keyboardist/singer Stuart Robinson. The band’s huge hometown show at the Lincoln Theatre showed that the band wasn’t letting any of this get them down as they recruited the helping hands of friend and Lemming Malloy drummer Dylan Thurston as they plowed through a tight and fun set of songs that featured old Bombadil favorites and songs that from the upcoming 3rd release. The band’s energy seemed to be a bit in the low end, which is to be expected but they played with all the gusto and heart that they have always played with. The band is on an indefinite hiatus now
One of the things I was most excited about moving back to Atlanta was that I would get to see a lot more Kevn Kinney/Drivin’ N Cryin’ shows. Drivin’ N Cryin’ and Collective Soul were playing a free show at the Olympic Park in Atlanta on my birthday and I was super psyched to see them. While I knew Drivin’ N Cryin’ would be great, I was a bit hesitant to think that Collective Soul would rock. Collective Soul is what I like to consider “MILF Rock” along with acts like Nickleback, Sugar Ray and Edwin McCain. Ya know acts that are only believed to rock by Moms from 25-40. Drivin’ N Cryin’ went on first opening with their classic “Honeysuckle Blue” and right away it was apparent that Drivin N Cryin’ were going to melt faces on this hot summer day. The band plowed through songs from their latest “The Great American Bubble Factory” album. The highlight of the show was hearing the band rock everyone with a fist pumping cover of The Dictators’ “I Stand Tall” but it was the sick “Fly Me Courageous” that had Kevn Kinney showing his ability to be a real guitar god and melt faces left and right. So just how did Collective Soul follow this? Well, they kinda came in like a small breeze after a storm that just destroyed your face. They rocked even less than I thought they would and failed to even keep my interest for more than 4 songs. Drivin’ N Cryin’ is a band to see if you really want a facemelting Rock Show but if you wanna increase your chances of hooking up with a MILF or taking a nap, Collective Soul is the band for you.
Once again, living in Atlanta = getting awesome shows. Touring in support of their new album “Through The Devil Softly,” Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions did a handful of dates in the US before heading to Europe and BINGO! Atlanta was on the list. The Loft is a really small venue that holds about 300 people or so. Hope & Co. took the stage and without addressing the crowd, she just stood there with her head down and hands clasped behind hear back as the crowd drew to a hush. The band launched into “Courtin’ Blues” by Nick Drake and the place erupted in applause and then got quiet once again. Hope Sandoval has such a captivating presence. Not only is she absolutely beautiful but she’s got a voice that is subtle, gentle yet strong and intensely passionate. She carries herself in almost a Jim Morrison like manor where you never know if she’s going to break down crying or rip someone’s head off. She completely connects with the songs and gets in to this zone that her audience can’t help but enter themselves. The band concentrated solely on material from the two Warm Inventions album and performed the songs with so much depth and feeling as they melted into jams like “Around My Smile” and “Suzanne” which bordered on treading into Pink Floyd like waters. The entire show was one huge highlight to me but if I had to pick one in general it was getting to hear “Around My Smile” and have it played with such feeling that it gave me chills. The Hope Sandoval live experience is like experiencing weightlessness. By the time the show is over you literally feel lighter in body, mind and in spirit. I know, it sounds corny but you just have to see it to believe it.
I know it’s the cool thing to totally hate KISS and how many times can you hear, “Wow, are they STILL on their Farewell Tour?” before you lose your mind? Touring behind their new album (and best in many years) “Sonic Boom,” KISS took to the road with Tommy Thayer (Frankenace) on guitar and Eric Singer on drums and put their money where their mouth is. The band performed to a nearly sold out crowd in Greenville, SC and proved once again that they are indeed a fan’s band. While I still don’t really dig that they have these two scabs in the band, Eric Singer is a FAR better drummer than Peter Criss ever was and his energy really drives the band and makes them sound way heavier than they ever did. Thayer is merely an Ace tribute act that does a good job delivering the songs “like” Ace but totally lacks the heart and soul that Ace has. This was easily one of the most fun concerts I have been to in a long time and as for a KISS show was probably the best I’ve seen them since the “Revenge” tour. The set list was chock full of classics but it was “She” and an absolutely facemelting “Black Diamond” that had them on their feet and really losing their shit. The band performed a stellar version of “Lick It Up” that floored me and I never even liked that song. The audience age range was easily from 5-65 year old which proves that KISS is so much more than a nostalgia act. KISS is a band that still reaches out to new audiences and continues to inspire and influence generation after generation. KISS showed the masses on this tour that they are still capable of putting on a high quality, high energy Rock & Roll show. If they can keep going at it this way, KISS still has a bright future ahead of them.
Italian Goth Metal heavyweights Lacuna Coil played to a packed house here in Atlanta and proved to the masses just why they are a real Heavy Metal force to be reckoned with. Opening their set with “Survive” from their newest album “The Shallow Life” Lacuna Coil was met with a roaring ovation of fans that were obviously super excited to see this awesome band. The band put on an absolutely amazing show and performed an amazing mix of songs that spanned over their last few albums. The band made a lot out of their 50 minute opening slot for All That Remains and proved just how well they could stand on their own. This band doesn’t need to be an opening act. Song after song, the audience sang along and really seemed to energize the band but when they kicked into “Fragments of Faith” from Karmacode, the place went apeshit and jumped up and down in unison so that I could literally feel the floor of the club shaking under my feet. Another huge highlight of the show was when lead singer Cristina Scabbia thanked everyone that had been there for them since the beginning and then launched into “Heaven’s A Lie” from the Comalies album. Lacuna Coil is yet another band that gives their fans a top notch show that far exceeds the capacity of the small venues they are performing in. This band is capable of going so far and I’m excited to see just what the future holds for them.
Coming in as the last show of 2009, In This Moment was one of the most pleasant surprise of the last few years. I went to this show knowing nothing about this band and left a huge fan. In This Moment is one of those “fans bands” that I love so much. They played to a small crowd of about 100-200 people but every person in the crowed knew every word to every song. They sang along and gave so much energy to the band. The band seemed to push back and give everything they had only to be given more by the crowd. Watching this dynamic was exciting to see live and to hear them was also amazing. The band is extremely tight and beautifully intense and melodic. They played a great mix of songs from their two albums but it was the song “The Great Divide” from their latest album “The Dream” that showcased their abilities as musicians and their ability to craft a metal song of epic proportions. I will be keeping my eye out on In This Moment as I feel that this band is without a doubt destined for greatness.