The annual M3 Festival has come and gone for another year leaving me to once again reflect in its magnificent rearview mirror on all the great bands and events witnessed over the two day performing period. Year six of the M3 Festival proved to be one of the strongest yet with a solid line up of amazing bands. And even though the weather was a little chilly (and rainy for day one) it was still a fantastic experience witnessing the magic that is the M3 rock festival. Join with me now as I look back on all the highs, lows, and in-betweens of M3: 2014.
Extreme: Without a doubt, Extreme was one of the best bands to perform at M3 this year. Hard Rock Hideout editor, Rob Rockitt, and I argued if they were the best band of the weekend, and while a case could be made for Night Ranger, Tesla, and Red Dragon Cartel, I would not shun anyone for picking Extreme. I will admit this was the first time that I ever saw Extreme in concert, but my first view bias does not take away from their stellar performance.
This was the first time that Extreme performed in America since 2009 and they really made up for lost time. They opened their set with a blistering performance of “Decadence Dance” that tore open the crowd. Things only took off from there. Gary Cherone looked and sounded phenomenal, Nuno Bettencourt proved that he still has the chops, and the rhythm section of Pat Badger on bass and Kevin Figueiredo on drums kept a steady backbeat. Extreme was nothing short of amazing.
The band carved their way through all of their hits including “Kid Ego,” “Rest In Peace,” “More Than Words,” “Cupid’s Dead,” “Hole Hearted,” and “Get The Funk Out,” which had the entire audience on their feet and screaming along. I was absolutely blown away by Extreme’s performance and if I ever get the chance to see them again, I would gladly pay top dollar.
Night Ranger: As usual, Night Ranger gave a brilliant performance, reminding everyone what a fantastic live act they are. And even though they did not perform two of my favorites, “Sentimental Street” and “The Secret Of My Success,” they did pull out two Damn Yankees songs—“Coming Of Age,” and “High Enough.” Both sounded exceptional and it was a nice treat to hear Night Ranger perform Damn Yankees.
Night Ranger also performed a new song, “High Road,” which sounded as spectacular as their classic hits and has me excited for their new album, due out on June 10th. It’s amazing that after thirty-plus years, Night Ranger still sounds magnificent in concert. Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy still have strong voices and they, along with the rest of the band, provide plenty of
energy and antics for rock fans to enjoy. Their stamina would stagger most bands half their age, and the pure joy that they get from being on stage together clearly shows in their performance. The bottom line is that after seeing Night Ranger at M3, I want to seek them out locally so that I can see their full headlining set.
Red Dragon Cartel: As most fans know, it’s been years since Jake E. Lee has been in the public eye. This year he has resurfaced with a brand new band and they are embarking on an extended tour in support of their debut album, which is superb. One of their key stops in support of the album was the M3 festival and I was extremely happy that they made the visit.
With lead singer DJ Smith at the helm, Red Dragon Cartel performed Jake E Lee hits from Ozzy Osbourne, Badlands, and this new band. The performance was tight and grand. The Badlands and Ozzy tunes sounded terrific, but the Red Dragon Cartel material really garnered the spotlight, especially, “Deceived” which is just earth shattering live. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Red Dragon Cartel yet, do it and do it now. No metal fan should be without this record.
Queensryche: This was the first time that I got to witness Queensryche with Todd La Torre on vocals. I was absolutely enthralled. He made me forget who Geoff Tate was. Todd La Torre was simply incredible. His vocal range was outstanding, he hit the note to every song performed, and best of all, Queensryche went deep into their catalog of fan favorites. “Eyes Of A Stranger,” “Queen Of The Reich,” and “Warning” were all performed to perfection and could not have sounded better. If you have not had the chance to see Queensryche with Todd La Torre, do yourself a favor and go. You will be absolutely blown away.
Slaughter: The last time I wrote about Slaughter it was for their last performance at M3 which I gave a painfully truthful review—Slaughter just could not bring it. That was three years ago, so I figured I would give the band another try and hope for the best. I was praying that 2011 was an anomaly and that Slaughter would deliver this time around. Much to my disappointment, that did not happen. Yes, they were better this year than their last trip to M3, but they still fell short of the bar. Way short.
The bottom line is that Slaughter is a frail shell of what they used to be. Mark cannot sing the songs that made his band famous, he is still painfully out of shape, and their stage show delivered no energy at all. Add in the fact that the band took the stage 20 minutes late (the only band at M3 to go on late), and it adds up to a recipe for disaster. From now on if I want to enjoy Slaughter, I will just pull out my CDs, put on my headphones, and close my eyes.
Lita Ford: Yes, I know I was tough on her last album (which I still don’t think was that good). And yes, I know that some fans may think I have something against Lita (I don’t). She just isn’t that good of a performer, and she doesn’t have the same talent she did oh so many years ago. Age has not been kind to Lita, and that’s a shame, because I really wanted her to have a rocking set.
Lita resorted to an old gimmick by bringing Cherie Currie out on stage to perform with her for multiple songs. And yes, from a rock historians perspective, that was a very cool moment, especially since it was only the second time these two have been on stage together in more than 30 years. Yet, after one song with Cherie Currie, I found myself getting bored and just wishing Lita’s set would end already. That is never a good sign, and truth be told, Lita Ford may have had the worst set at M3.
The Odds & Ends
Sebastian Bach: I can’t really categorize this as a low, because overall, Bach’s performance was a strong one. However, his ranting at the crowd and his apparent anger onstage was annoying at best. Bach seemed pissed off that the fans wanted to hear the classic Skid Row songs, angered that they wouldn’t cheer his newest song (“All My Friends Are Dead” – which was a highlight of his set as far as I am concerned), and was just generally a douche. Perhaps Bach is still mad about the fact that he fired Nick Sterling (the best guitarist he has played with in over 20 years and who was sorely missed in concert), or maybe he’s just angry in general. Whatever the case, Bach’s sour attitude and desire to constantly remind us that his album was number one on I-Tunes was a complete turn off. Even though his overall performance was great, his overall antics left me wondering what the hell is wrong with this guy?
John Corabi: I don’t think there were many fans happier to see John Corabi take the stage than I was. It was my first time ever seeing the crab live in any capacity. I never saw him with the Crue, or Union, or Ratt, or solo, so to see him live at this festival was a great moment for me. Corabi was sporting a shock of blonde hair at the front of his head and a big bushy beard that made him appear to be more of a Grateful Dead member than a hair metal rocker. Looks aside, Corabi sounded great, performed songs from his entire career, including “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)” one of my favorite Corabi songs. It also happened to be Corabi’s birthday which was celebrated by the road crew presenting a birthday cake onstage and having the crowd sing out a rambunctious “Happy Birthday.”
New Stage Set-Up: The second stage drew a lot of attention this year. Normally, fans who are seated in the pavilion area leave their seats, walk up the hill, and are in view of the second stage where the other acts perform. This year, the acts on the second stage included Heaven’s Edge, John Corabi, Red Dragon Cartel, and Slaughter, just to name a few.
For this year’s M3, fans had to do a little extra walking, as the second stage was no longer at the top of the hill—this time around it was nestled up the hill, past the pavement, and a few hundred feet into the woods. That’s right, the second stage was set up in the woods, surrounded by trees. While it was additional walking time and the trees blocked out the view of the stage depending on where you were standing, I thought it was a neat new setting for the second stage, and more fans were able to gather and see the second stage. All in all, I thought that it was a great new way to showcase stage two.
The Lovely Ladies: Once again, the beautiful female fans proved that you can get older and still look awesome in leather pants, tight skirts, and/or low tops. There were several female head bangers in attendance, and each was more beautiful than the last. No wonder these bands keep coming to rock. They’re hoping to make a memory after the show!
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