Ahhh, fall is here. The cold weather has settled in. The days are much shorter and that means there is plenty of time for reading. When I am not listening to music, or seeing bands in concert, one of my favorite pastimes is to read a biography (or auto-biography) about bands or musicians that I love. There’s nothing better than learning interesting tidbits about your favorite singer or guitarist. However, not all biographies are created equal. While there are some fantastic writings on musicians, there is also a lot of crap that has to be waded through. So, I’ve decided to share with you my five favorite hard rock biographies—I’ve done the wading for you, all you need to do is read and enjoy.
A lot of books have written about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, and a lot more will be written in the years to come. However, there is no book that better details the life and tragic death of Nirvana’s front man than Heavier Than Heaven, by Charles Cross. Kurt Cobain lived fast and hard, and because of that, his life was short. Yet, to this day the small amount of music that he and two other men made is still beloved and cherished. His story is a sad one, a tale of an often lonely man who never quite understood himself. Being a heroin addict only exacerbated the situation. Charles Cross captures all of these painstaking details with great beauty and insight, making Heavier Than Heaven one of the greatest rock star biographies ever written.
If you’ve ever wanted to read the tale of a drug addict/rock star told with no punches held back, Scar Tissue is the book to pick up. Written in 2004, Anthony Kiedis, of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame, paints a poignant, telling tale of tragedy and triumph. Kiedis tells it like it was and like it is. He details the daily struggles of heroin addiction and walks through what life is like when struggling to stay clean, when completely messed up and immersed in drug addiction, and when drugs are the furthest thing from your existence. These are three completely different scenarios which lead to three completely different actions. And while Scar Tissue is another sad tale of the adventures in drug abuse, it at least, for now, has a happy ending. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Anthony Kiedis are still going strong.
Stephen Davis is one of the greatest rock biographers to ever grace the written page and he is also a writer that I look up to. Having written many great biographies on the lives of multiple musicians, Stephen Davis is revered in the rock and roll community. For Walk This Way he teamed up with Aerosmith to tell the story from their own mouths, which was a smart and satisfying way to write their biography. Written in 1997, Walk This Way covers the history of Aerosmith up to and including the release and subsequent tour of Nine Lives. Walk This Way is a story that is not only told by the members of Aerosmith, but also by a lot of people the band interacted with over the years. From former managers, to disc jockeys, to promoters and former band members, Walk This Way allows everyone to say a little of their piece, while allowing the five main members to be the driving voice behind the story. Brilliant writing and a great story that makes me yearn for a sequel.
Yes, Stephen Davis makes the list twice. No, it’s not because I am a huge fan, it’s because Old Gods Almost Dead is the definitive biography of the Rolling Stones, and a must read for any music fan. Even if you never heard of The Rolling Stones, you will love this book. Davis’ ability to create a phenomenal narrative story of how “The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band” came to be is astonishing. Old Gods Almost Dead reads like a novel and tells the true story of The Rolling Stones. Nothing is left out. All of the details, good, bad, and ugly, are contained within the pages of Old Gods Almost Dead. It’s amazing how much the Rolling Stones have been through. The death of Brian Jones, Keith Richards’ drug problem, Mick Jaggar’s sex addictions… the list goes on and on. Now that they are all in their seventies, we forget that they were once a young, lecherous, wild, out of control band that happened to survive long enough to become senior citizens. Old Gods Almost Dead is the perfect reminder. If it wasn’t for a book that a little sleaze rock band from California wrote, Old Gods Almost Dead would be the greatest rock and roll biography ever written.
Perhaps the greatest rock biography ever written, Motley Crue’s The Dirt captures all the raw, raunchy, out of control debauchery that made the bands career infamous. While their music was solid, interesting, and fun, it was the after parties and their extracurricular activities that made them stars. Motley Crue holds no story back in The Dirt. What I like best about the book is the multiple author angle. Not only do the four current members of Motley Crue write their piece, but former lead singer John Corabi gets a say, manager Doc McGhee gets to tell his side of the story as well as producers and other people involved with the tale. This unique, multi-voice approach only helped make The Dirt that much better, because we get to read everyone’s version of what happened. Of all the music biographies that I’ve read (and it has been quite a lot), The Dirt is still the most fascinating of them all and the must read rock and roll story of all time.
So, if you’re looking for something to read this winter, or you have some friends that you want to get a gift for, but can’t figure out what to get them, I recommend he books above. What about you? What’s the greatest rock and roll biography you’ve ever read? Maybe there’s something that I need to add to my list.
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The Rolling Stones are celebrating 50 years as a rock band. Let that soak in for a moment. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts have been making music together for 50 years. My grandfather was my age when The Rolling Stones released their first single. In a time where no one stays together anymore (especially not bands), the Stones continue to move forward and even have new music that is significant. If you haven’t heard the new single “Doom And Gloom” stop reading this now and go listen to it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you.
Good stuff, right? The fact that men who are in their 70s wrote that song just boggles my mind. The video has been viewed over 2.5 million times (as of this writing). And the song is flat out great. Yes, an argument could be made that The Rolling Stones aren’t really hard rock, and perhaps we can debate that in a future installment of “Is It Hard?” but in the 60s and 70s, they were hard rock with a blues infusion. Now in the year 2012, they are still rock and roll and still a fantastic band.
To celebrate their 50 year anniversary, the Rolling Stones will be performing 4 shows in 2012. There will be 2 in London (at the O2 arena) and 2 in Newark (at the Prudential Center). I am fortunate enough to live near the Newark venue, so there’s an outside chance that I might go to one of these concerts. However, tickets will sell out in approximately 30 seconds, and the prices are a little high, so I am on the fence. I’ve seen the Stones in concert before, and I know they are amazing, but it’s still hard to shell out $115 for the cheap seats and up to $825 for the premium VIP seats. Yes, you read that right—the Stones want more than $800 for the best seats in the house. If this follows the pattern of tours past, that means you get to sit on stage with the band. As cool as that is, I don’t know if it is worth $800 dollars.
The other part of the 50 year anniversary celebration is the release of Grrr!, a greatest hits package available in both a 50 track and 80 track (deluxe) formats. With the exception of “Doom and Gloom” and one other song, these are all songs that have been released in one form or another over the years. Most die-hard fans will already own all of these hits, but that’s the beauty of the modern world. Those fans can purchase only the new songs and not have to worry about paying for songs they already own. And while a full album of new Rolling Stones material would have been preferred, two new songs are nice, especially when they are as good as “Doom And Gloom.”
The Rolling Stones are an inspiration. Keith Richards, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t even be among the living, and yet he is still laying down guitar licks that put most other rockers to shame. Mick Jagger is still swaying to the groove well into his AARP years, and Charlie Watts is still keeping the beat when most men his age can’t even get out of bed. And while Ron Wood is slightly younger than the core members of the band, he is over the age of 60, and still keeping up with his mates. When I’m in my 60s, I hope that I’m still able to listen to and enjoy hard rock music, never mind creating it. The Rolling Stones are a testament to great rock and roll. They are the originators of a rock concert. They are legends. And they are still making music worth paying for.
What’s your thoughts? Are you excited that The Rolling Stones are still making new music? Will you try to see one of their four concerts this year? Do you like the new single? Drop a line in the comments and tell us how you feel!
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As avid readers of Vie’s Verses know (yes, there are avid readers…), I recently attended the Kiss/Motley Crue concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel New Jersey. It would be my 10th time seeing Kiss perform live, and even though I have witnessed their spectacular show that many times, I was still giddy with anticipation as I drove down the Garden State Parkway toward the Arts Center. I was looking forward to all three bands on the bill (The Treatment was the opening act), but I was most looking forward to Kiss.
Unfortunately, thanks to friends who arrived late, walked slow, and forced me to wait in the port-a-potty line because they just COULD NOT make it to bathroom inside the amphitheater, I missed The Treatment. A couple of friends later informed me that The Treatment was not very good, but I still wanted to witness it for myself. These were also friends who had never heard of the band prior to that night. I however, am a lover of their debut album, and still steaming that I missed the band. Stupid small bladder people!
We did arrive just in time for Motley Crue to take the stage and for the food stand to run out of burgers. I only mention this because it was the oddest experience I’ve had at a concert (in relation to food, anyway). I mean, how does one simply run out of burgers before the main act has even taken the stage? That irritated me, because I was pretty hungry by that point and the cheeseburgers looked fabulous. I secretly cursed my friends again, knowing that if they walked a little faster, or learned how to hold their urine a little longer, I could have enjoyed a burger AND the opening act.
Motley Crue took the stage to “Saints Of Los Angeles,” which I thought was excellent. I hate it when bands ignore their newer material in order to play only their classic cuts. That set the concert off to a great start. The rest of the Crue’s performance would be solid, but not as grand as when they took the stage to “Saints Of Los Angeles.”
Motley Crue is putting on a festival with this current tour. It consisted of a cavalcade of strippers in a variety of outfits and poses. There were some in all leather, some in almost nothing at all, and there were even strippers on stilts. And while the only purpose they served was to look good, that was all right, because the men in the audience loved it, and secretly, some of the women may have liked it too. To me, it was just Motley Crue being Motley Crue, and it was what I had expected of the band.
During “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” my friend Dave poised a very poignant question. “Do you think we like this concert because it’s that good, or are we just nostalgic for that time period in our lives?” Damn good question. As I pondered it for a moment, I realized that the song playing was 23 years old and I could remember the first time I ever heard it after buying Dr. Feelgood on cassette tape the day of its release. I didn’t provide Dave with an answer, but he didn’t need one.
Tommy Lee took over the spotlight about halfway through the night. He did his drum solo in a circular roller coaster that sat at the back of the stage, and then performed it again, this time with a member of the audience strapped in next to him. And while I do not care for Tommy Lee at all, I thought it was quite cool to see a member of the audience strapped in next to him as he performed a roller coaster drum solo.
Vince Neil pulled his usual sing every third word, forget most of the lyrics, and hold the microphone out to the audience in the hopes that they will think it’s cool and not realize that he doesn’t know the lyrics to his own songs. And even that has become quaint. While it used to annoy me to see Vince huffing and puffing and singing “He’s…screaming….night….” I find it amusing now. Again, it’s to be expected. And while Vince was huffing and puffing, Mick Mars was still being the coolest guy on the stage. Here’s a guy that’s battling a spinal disease, is in immense pain just from standing, looks like a skeleton come to life, and he’s still the coolest being at the Arts Center. Mick Mars is a true Rock God!
Overall, Motley Crue did what I expected that Motley Crue would. They put on a hot, nostalgic, debauchery filled, hell of a good time, rock and roll show. How could anyone complain about that?
Kiss, too, would deliver exactly what I expected of them, although by the end of their set, I was wishing they had played longer. Yes, I understand it was a double bill and that each band was limited to twelve or thirteen songs. I didn’t care. I still wanted to see more Kiss before the night was through.
Kiss took the stage to the classic “Detroit Rock City” and the night was underway. Most of the songs performed were from 1978 or earlier. And with the exception of their brand new single, “Hell Or Hallelujah,” there wasn’t a song played that had been recorded after 1983. To some fans, this was heaven. To me, it was a cop out, and a put off. Kiss had just toured behind one of their best albums ever recorded and now they refuse to play at least one song from it? How disappointing.
The expected antics were all present and accounted for. Gene would breathe fire and spit blood. Paul Stanley would fly out to the audience and play “Love Gun” from a smaller stage. Tommy would shoot rockets out of his guitar. And even their newest trick was present and accounted for— Eric firing a bazooka at the end of Tommy’s guitar solo.
Tommy Thayer would take over the lead vocals for “Shock Me,” and this was another disappointing moment in the night. No, I don’t mind Tommy singing lead vocals for a song (or two), but why “Shock Me?” As mentioned, Kiss just toured behind Sonic Boom, which contained a fantastic song sung by Tommy Thayer, “When Lightning Strikes.” Why not have Tommy sing his own song? Or, if you must only perform the classics, then have him take over lead vocals for “Cold Gin.” Just don’t have him take Ace’s signature song and then steal Ace’s guitar solo. That has really bothered me a lot over the years.
The rest of the Kiss night was exactly what I’ve come to expect, and even though I have seen it multiple times, I still found myself smiling, laughing, singing along, and clapping my hands. I screamed for “I Love It Loud,” I pumped my fist like a good Kiss Army soldier during “War Machine,” and I jumped up and down like a little boy for “Shout It Out Loud.” Was it because the show was that good, or was nostalgia hitting me hard? Who knows? All that I know for sure is that I had a spectacular time. Kiss ended with “Rock And Roll All Nite,” as expected, complete with confetti bombs bursting and spraying the audience ad infinitum. And while I had seen that gag a million times as well, I still grinned and loved it. It was, after all, Kiss being Kiss, and that was a good thing.
All in all, both Motley Crue and Kiss put on a great show. If you’re going to catch the concert this fall, you’re in for a real treat. Don’t expect any deep cuts, don’t expect any outrageous surprises, just expect a good old-fashioned, rock and roll show, one that’s worth the price of admission. Can you really ask for more than that?
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On October 9th, Kiss will release their 20th studio album (I’m not including the solo albums or hits album in that count). The title of the record is Monster, but I have my doubts that it will be. Most of the regular readers of Vie’s Verses know that I am a huge Kiss fan, so perhaps I can be a bit too critical of my favorite band. I place them on a very high pedestal and only expect greatness from every record. Over the years, the band has never let me down. Even albums that casual fans think are garbage (Crazy Nights, Music From The Elder) are solid, if not great, albums, in my opinion. However, I can’t help thinking that Monster is going to suck.
The first single, “Hell Or Hallelujah,” is just terrible. There’s no way to sugar coat that, and there’s really not even much about the song that I can praise. It sounds like a left over from the Sonic Boom sessions that didn’t make the cut (and for good reason). It’s just a bad, boring song. Paul’s vocals are weak, the lyrics are pretty lame, and there is no cohesiveness to pull the song through. If this is any indication of how the rest of the album is going to sound then there will be a lot of disappointed Kiss fans. (Check out “Hell or Hallelujah” below.)
I’ll admit, I felt the same way when I first heard “Psycho Circus.” I thought that album was going to be a bomb and it turned out to be one of the better Kiss records in their catalog. After a while “Psycho Circus” even grew on me and now I enjoy the song when I hear it. But when the single was first released, I remember scratching my head, saying “what the hell were they thinking?”
Kiss is also coming off a surprisingly fantastic record. Sonic Boom was given the title of album of the year, 2009, by yours truly. It was a record that had depth, found all four members of the band taking over lead vocals at some point, and was very diverse. Yes, there were a couple of lame moments (notably Gene’s ode to women and himself on “Nobody’s Perfect”), but those moments were few and far between. Sonic Boom also gave us some gems like “Never Enough,” “Stand,” and “Say Yeah.” That was a great trade off for one lousy Gene Simmons song.
The point is that it can be very hard to follow up a terrific album with one that is equally as grand, or better. And when it comes to my favorite band of all time, I want each record to be better than the last. It’s been 3 years since Kiss released Sonic Boom, so the band has had time to craft their songs and pick out only the cream of the crop. But with tours, reality shows, art galleries, and the like, I’m not sure how much effort Kiss put into this record. I hope that I am way off the mark. I hope that Monster is one of their best records ever. However, I don’t think that it will be. I have a strong feeling that Monster is going to be a letdown.
Let’s face it, Kiss isn’t getting any younger. And as cool as he is, hearing a 65 year old Gene Simmons sing about all the ladies he wants to bed has gone from crazy cool to kind of old man perverted. That’s one of the downsides of aging. If your grandfather was talking about hooking up with some 25 year old hottie, you’d find it a little off. Yeah, it’s great that granddad still wants to do the nasty, but I’m not really sure that we want all of the details. At their age, Kiss should be maturing and writing music that reflects that. It’s not easy to do, I know. We don’t want songs about hospitals and hip surgery, but I’m not sure that I want songs about Gene getting it on in a one night stand.
In the end, Monster is going to be another record about sex and rock and roll. Perhaps it will be as good as Sonic Boom, perhaps it will be even better. I have my doubts, but again, it’s because I am very critical of the band. On October 9th, I may be in for a huge surprise. What about you? How do you think the new Kiss record is going to be? Do you think it will be a huge hit, or a complete bomb? Drop a line in the comments and let us know.
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We’ve all heard the term bandied about before. A lot of us have even used it to describe some of our favorite records. “A perfect album.” Critics and disc jockeys have been using those words for decades, but what does it really mean? Have you ever stopped to think what really constitutes a perfect album?
I know that I’ve rated a few albums as perfect in my time. AC/DC’s Back In Black, Kiss’ Destroyer, Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, to me, they are all perfect. But why are they perfect? What makes these particular albums so much better than anything I’ve ever listened to? The definition of a perfect album really does vary from person to person and critic to critic. And while there are many albums that most people will agree are great albums, getting people to agree on perfect albums is an entirely different process.
My criteria for an album being perfect are pretty simple, but meeting those standards is tough. A perfect album is when each song on the record is so fantastic that you want to listen to the current song as much as you want to play the last song. That’s it. What that really means is that each song on the record is so fantastic you want to listen to it over and over and over again. Each song is such a masterpiece that you can’t stop playing it no matter how badly you want to hear the next track.
There aren’t many albums in existence where all the songs are that good. I’ve already listed a few, but there are others. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, By The Way, Pearl Jam’s Ten, and the self-titled debut from Boston all come to mind. In the history of rock music, these are some of the very best of the best and to me, they have all scored a 10. The reason for that is because each song is as brilliant as the last. Every time that I play those records, I want to hear the next song as much as I want to replay the last song.
A perfect album is a precious gift that does not come around very often. There are several amazing bands that have never accomplished the feat. Black Sabbath has never had a perfect album (although they have come close). Kiss has only done it once. The Beatles have never recorded a perfect album. Rating an album as perfect is a serious statement, and those records have to really earn the title. Each song on the record has to be perfect. Near perfect won’t get the job done. Each song has to be a masterpiece.
When you think about all of the albums that have been recorded throughout history, it’s hard to believe that there haven’t been more perfect albums, but then, that’s the beauty of a perfect album, the rareness of it. It’s like pitching a perfect game in baseball. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it is pure gold (or platinum).
As a rock music critic/blogger, I am always on the lookout for that next great thing. I always want to find an album that can be perfect. And even with all of the great music that has been recorded recently, perfect albums are almost impossible to come by. As much as I love the first two records from Pop Evil and the debut album from Dead Sara, none of those records are perfect. They have all come close, but they haven’t met the criteria. They all had one song that was just a little too weak to be a masterpiece. Thinking about that makes me smile every time I play Back In Black. Here is an album recorded in my lifetime that is perfect—an album that will be enjoyed years after I’ve passed away. That’s an awesome
What about you? What are your criteria for a perfect album? What albums do you consider to be perfect?
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In the world of hard rock, there are several great bands that put on amazing live concerts. There are legendary performances that have been talked about for years. There are bands that are so grand live, when fans see them once, they become fans for life. Then there are the bands that you simply must see at least once in your lifetime. Here now are Ryo’s five choices for bands that you absolutely have to see live in concert at least once in your lifetime.
While Brian Johnson is a fantastic front man, and the rhythm section lead by Malcom Young is highly talented, it is the outrageous antics of Angus Young that makes seeing an AC/DC concert a must. Anytime that Angus takes the stage, the audience is in for a real treat. Between his brilliance with a guitar in his hand, high energy level, and boogie-woogie school boy style, Angus IS AC/DC.
Every tour, there are new antics from Angus and great music to be heard. AC/DC hasn’t put out a terrible album in years, if ever (some people didn’t care for Ball Breaker, I thought it was excellent). In addition to new music every time they go out on tour, the band has a back catalog of nothing but hits. “Hells Bells,” “For Those About To Rock,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” who wouldn’t want to hear those performed live? Add in the amazing performance from Angus Young and you will definitely get your money’s worth.
There is always a playground for Angus while he wails away on his guitar. Elaborate stage settings, long ramps that run into the audience, and second levels above the main stage are all used in style. The highlight of the night, of course, comes when it is time for Angus’ guitar solo. Most live acts these days find the beer lines full when it comes time to the guitar solo, but not AC/DC. When Angus gets ready to let it rip, that’s when the fans rush back from the food lines. And Angus never disappoints. To even try to describe his guitar solo/strip dance, would be a huge injustice, so I will just say that you need to witness it for yourself. If you have never seen AC/DC live, be sure to buy a ticket the next time they announce a world tour.
Regardless of how you feel about the band and their over saturation in the market with gimmicks, games, toys, and gizmos, seeing Kiss in concert at least once during your lifetime is mandatory if you consider yourself a true hard rock fan. Kiss was one of the first bands to provide fans with a truly bombastic live experience. Between their outlandish costumes, makeup, smoke, and explosions, Kiss has always provided an amazing concert experience. Even during the years without makeup, there were still plenty of fireworks to go around.
Now entering their 60’s, like it or not, Kiss is near the end of their career. And while Peter Criss and Ace Frehley are no longer part of the band, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer are pretty good replacements. The bombs, rocket shooting guitars, blood spitting, fire breathing, live concert amazement is also still there. In one night a fan would get to see Gene Simmons spit blood and breathe fire, Paul Stanley fly through the air, Tommy Thayer shoot rockets out of his guitar, and Eric Singer fire a Bazooka.
Add to that great classic hits like “Love Gun,” “Detroit Rock City,” and “Rock And Roll All Nite,” and you have a recipe for one of the greatest concerts that you have ever witnessed. This is a band that every hard rock fan should see live just once. They are currently on tour this fall. If you don’t have a ticket, do yourself a favor and go buy one. Now.
Is there anything that compare to the power of Metallica in concert? Between the music, the volume, the energy, and the deep song catalog, Metallica always puts on a spectacular live show. Metallica is also one of the few hard rock bands that doesn’t perform the same songs every night on tour. Instead of mixing up the set list from tour to tour, they mix up the set list from night to night. Having rocked the masses for more than 30 years, Metallica is also a seasoned, veteran band with a real stage presence.
While no longer filled with all original members, Metallica’s current lineup is no laughing matter. And whenever you have James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, you have quite an amazing band. Metallica is all about raw power in concert. Try to sit through a Metallica concert without getting super excited, fists pumping, and your heart racing. It’s more effective than a gallon of coffee for waking up the senses.
With albums such as their self-titled masterpiece (also known as The Black Album), Ride The Lightning, and Master Of Puppets, there is no end to how many fantastic songs this band can perform. Night after night, fans are guaranteed one of the greatest evenings of their lives. Metallica should be on tour in the very near future and you should get on their concert alert list.
Up the irons! There is nothing more exciting than when Iron Maiden storms the stage and Bruce Dickinson comes charging out into the night with the energy level of someone half his age. Make no mistake about it Iron Maiden could be the greatest live band ever. Between creative backdrops, a huge mascot that steals the show and the band’s ability to perform like a well oiled machine, Iron Maiden has everything that a fan wants in a concert.
Lead singer Bruce Dickinson leads the charge and by the end of the first song, he has the entire crowd in the palm of his hand. They are his to command and they will do as they are told. If Bruce says scream, the audience screams. If Bruce says rise, the audience rises. If Bruce says jump, the audience jumps. There is almost no one that commands a crowd like Bruce Dickinson.
On top of all that, the rest of the band is so talented that they fit in perfectly. Steve Harris, master craftsman of songs plays an exceptional bass guitar live. Nicko McBrain is a delight behind the drum kit and the three guitar attack of Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, and Dave Murray simply blows the crowd away. Every member of the band has a strong purpose in the live setting and every member of the band delivers on that purpose.
Then at the end of the night, we get to witness the greatest mascot in the world take the stage. Eddie himself pays a visit at each and every Iron Maiden concert. It is a concert experience like no other, and if you don’t walk out of the show sweating and breathless, then you are either dead, or really a fan of Justin Bieber.
Let’s face it—this band is on the list because they are truly the Godfathers of heavy metal. How can you have a list of hard rock bands that need to be seen in concert without including the band that started the genre? Black Sabbath is the reason that there are heavy metal concerts. Prior to them (and Led Zeppelin) music was a lot brighter. Black Sabbath brought the darkness in and continue to do so to this day.
Legends. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward (though no longer with the band). They are legends. And to see these legends live in concert, well it is priceless. Think how much people would pay to see Led Zeppelin reunite. Well, here’s your chance to see a band just as legendary, only they are still touring. Black Sabbath is a must see for any fan of heavy metal. To hear songs like Black Sabbath, Paranoid, and Iron Man live is simply mind numbing. To see the Godfathers of heavy metal on stage and performing is breath taking. Just for the historical experience of saying, “I was there,” Black Sabbath needs to be seen in concert. It is definitely something that you would tell your grandchildren about.
The good news is that all of these bands are still active, although one or two of them may not be active for much longer. My advice is to buy a ticket the next time they are in your area, or if need be, travel to see them perform. You will not be disappointed, and you can add their concert to your list of greatest hard rock memories. If you’ve seen all of these bands live already, then you are a true hard rock warrior!
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I know that I often make statements like this, but it’s hard to believe that Def Leppard’s magnificent album, Hysteria, is officially 25 years old. Maybe I have trouble believing things like this because it is a constant reminder of how old I am getting. Poison’s been around for 26 years? Kiss announced their reunion tour 16 years ago? It’s been how many years since Iron Maiden reunited with Bruce Dickinson (12, for the record)? Sadly, I remember all of those things happening. I also remember being extremely excited when they did.
Def Leppard’s Hysteria brought a similar feeling of excitement. In 1983 I was a hair too young to really jump on the Def Leppard band wagon and shout out my love for the band. However, when Hysteria was released in 1987, I was a freshman in High School and I was all in. At that point in my life, I had started consuming hard rock and heavy metal in abundance. Of course, the biggest flavor of the time was hair metal, and I listened to any band that even came close to representing the genre. Many people would argue that Def Leppard isn’t really a hair metal band, but they often get lumped into the category. And in 1987, we didn’t even call them hair bands we just called them rock and roll.
Given all that was happening with the band during this time period, it’s amazing that Hysteria was ever recorded, let alone released. Between the pressure to create a follow up record that was better than Pyromania, having a producer walk away (only to return a year later), and Rick Allen losing an arm, many people thought that Def Leppard was finished as a band. But they persevered and released an amazing record. And no one could imagine the amount of units Hysteria would sell, nor the popularity that the record would have.
Hysteria is packed with hits. From “Women” to “Animal” to “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” every song on this record is fantastic. Yes, 25 years later, “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” is insanely overplayed and has morphed into a song where you roll your eyes and say “Ugh! Again?”, but in 1987, this song was nothing short of monumental. The entire Hysteria album was. I can remember the first time I played the cassette tape. After hearing “Animal” and “Women” and listening to all my friends rave about the record, I knew that I had to have it. So, I saved up my allowance (I was a few months shy of working regularly) and bought myself a copy. After one listen, I was hooked. I could not stop playing Hysteria. I must have listened to that album nonstop for close to a month.
“Armageddon it,” “Rocket,” “Love And Affection,” and my personal favorite “Hysteria,” were all musical bliss to my eardrums. Every note on the album was production perfect. Joe Elliot’s voice sounded like an angel, and the guitar work of Steve Clark and Phil Collen was incredible. On top of all that, Rick Allen’s drum work defied logic. Here was a drummer that lost an arm and with the help of his band, found a way to come back and play the drums for Def Leppard’s best album ever. He was an inspiration to us all. Def Leppard did not cut corners with the drumming either, as some of the songs on Hysteria have complex drum beats, all played by Rick Allen.
When I review the vast musical collection that I have built over the years (2200 albums and counting), I can easily rank Hysteria in the top 25 albums of my collection. It is a perfect album, recorded during a tumultuous time for the band, and Def Leppard came out on top. Hysteria topped the charts worldwide and would go on to sell 12 million copies in the US, one of the highest selling rock albums ever for the States. If ever there was an album deserving of an anniversary edition, Hysteria is it. And while I haven’t heard of any plans for that to happen, a box set including the remastered album, all the B-sides, and live recordings from this tour, would be a welcome gift to me. What about you? What are your thoughts on Hysteria turning 25 years old? Is it one of your favorite albums too, or do you find it to be an overrated, overproduced, overhyped disc?
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I was at a summer barbecue this past weekend, listening to good music and enjoying cold beer. Like most conversations that happen around me, the talk turned to music. A group of us started discussing concerts that we’ve been to, or plan to attend this summer. One of the guys mentioned that he just saw Def Leppard with Lita Ford and Poison. He told me what a great time he had and how he was surprised that Poison was still around. That got me to thinking. When did Poison get stuck as an opening act?
In the early 00s, Poison was headlining a glam festival every year. They would hit the road with Warrant, Cinderella, Sebastian Bach…the list was endless. They even put out an album of brand new material in 2002, Hollyweird. And while it wasn’t their best record, it was cool that Poison was recording new music for the fans that wanted it. Then, something strange happened. In 2004, Poison (apparently) couldn’t afford to go out on a headline tour, so they decided to open for Kiss. And while that was a cool concept for one tour, it never should have become the status quo.
In 2006 Poison went on a co-headlining tour with Cinderella. In 2007, they hit the road with Ratt in support of their terrible covers album, Poison’D. After a 2008 headlining tour with Dokken and Sebastian Bach, the band spent 2009 opening for Def Leppard. In 2010, Poison did not tour at all. The next year they opened for Motley Crue, and this year, they are out opening for Def Leppard once again. This is a band that ten years ago was headlining sold out concerts. Sure, they were in sheds across America, but they were still headlining to 12,000 people. That’s quite a feat! And now, they have been pushed to an opening act, exactly what they were at the start of their career. How can the band be all right with this?
I am sure that the money they earn makes it easier to swallow their pride and open, but what the band should be doing is working on new material and preparing themselves to be headliners once again. Even without new music, if Poison would decide to perform some different songs live, they could be headliners once again. The biggest issue that I have with Poison is that they play the same set list year after year after year. Why not try and mix it up by performing a few tracks from Crack A Smile, or HollyWeird. Why not play something from Native Tongue other than “Stand?” Why not perform a few of the studio tracks from the live albums? Of course Poison is always going to play “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “Talk Dirty To Me,” and “Nothing But A Good Time.” I understand that. But why not shake it up with “Cover Of A Rolling Stone” instead of “We’re An American Band?” Pull out “No Ring No Gets” and lose “Ride The Wind.” Yes, I love “Ride The Wind” too, but I’d much rather hear a song that I’ve never heard the band perform live.
And if Poison is worried about not being able to carry the load themselves, then gather up another band or two and have them come out with you for support. Warrant (with Robert Mason) would be a great choice. Night Ranger has been incredible on the road, and they would make a great pairing with Poison. If Kix could be talked into doing a summer tour, a Kix/Poison concert would sell like hotcakes. And there is always Cinderella, a very popular draw.
As for opening acts, there are a ton of classic bands out there that would fit this bill. Great White, Lynch Mob, Mike Tramp, Enuff Z’Nuff, and Bang Tango are all available. They would all be a great addition to the tour. It could even be one of the best tours of the summer if done correctly. It’s just a shame to see the once mighty Poison, one of the best live acts of the 80s circuit, to be used as an opening band, when they could clearly be out on their own. I can only hope that the band will hear my plea. Also, a new album of original material would be nice. Please don’t leave us with Poison’D as your final studio album. That would be a disgrace.
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It’s July. It’s hot. The 4th of July celebration has ended and the glorious barbecue food that I ate too much of (as well as the ice cream and beer) has been consumed. July has arrived and that means this year is half over. If you are to believe the skeptics (or would they be critics?) regarding the Mayan calendar, this may be the last six months we have left on Earth. If that’s true, it would mean no “best of” list for you to enjoy in December. And since I feel obligated to share what I think are the best CDs of the year with the faithful readers of Hard Rock Hideout, then it is my moral obligation to produce a half year list (just in case we don’t make it out of 2012). So, out of my debt of gratitude to all of you regular readers, here are the top five albums of 2012. If we do survive to the end of the year, there will be a year end list. It will be fun to see if any of these albums make it to that list.
5. Shinedown – Amaryllis
Following up on the best record of their career (The Sound Of Madness); Shinedown had their work cut out for them with Amaryllis. Fortunately for the fans, the band took their work seriously. The end result was one fantastic, hard rocking record of fun. Amaryllis is a fantastic album, with hit after hit pelting the ears of the listener. Shinedown was able to overcome the high expectations that were laid on them following the success of The Sound Of Madness. They rose to the challenge and created a record that far exceeds their previous work. The only problem now is that they have set the bar even higher for the next record. Given the history of the band, I am sure they will be able to surpass that bar as well.
4. The Cult – Choice Of Weapon
The Cult just released their latest album, Choice Of Weapon. Normally, I like to wait and let a record settle over me before I even think of adding it to any “best of” list. However, Choice Of Weapon is such a fantastic CD, that there is no need to wait to proclaim it as one of the best albums of 2012. If you’ve missed The Cult, or if you are seeking a hard rock beauty to add to your stereo this summer, pick up a copy of Choice Of Weapon. You will not be disappointed. With magnificent riffs, fantastic vocals, and a whole lot of power, Choice Of Weapon satisfies as the choice of album for the summer.
3. Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth
I’ll be the first to admit that I expected this album to suck. After many years of not recording together, combined with all of the documented “Eddie” issues that were lingering over the band, I figured there was no way Van Halen was going to make a solid record. I have never been happier to be wrong. A Different Kind Of Truth is classic Van Halen at its finest. From the opening riff on “Tattoo,” to the closing notes on “Beats Working,” Van Halen delivered the perfect follow up to 1984. While the Dave-sung tracks on Best Of Volume One were fabulous, they were nothing compared to what the band put on A Different Kind Of Truth. It’s sad that we won’t be able to witness these songs live this summer or fall, as Van Halen has cancelled all of their gigs until further notice. However, at least we can enjoy the studio recordings.
2. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
Yeah, yeah, I know there are some regular readers out there who think Springsteen isn’t hard rock and isn’t worthy of being mentioned on this site. Whatever. We can debate that on a future podcast that contains “Is It Hard?” (You are downloading and listening, right?) For those of us that feel The Boss is hard rock, he has produced one of the best albums of his career and Wrecking Ball is one of the best albums of 2012. Blending his 70s style blue collar rock with his more recent Irish folk flavor, and mixing in some good old fashioned classic guitar rock, Bruce Springsteen has struck gold with Wrecking Ball. There is something for everyone. From ballads to blues, from guitar solos, to foot stomping folk songs, Wrecking Ball has it all. That is what makes it such a great treasure. After 40 years, Bruce Springsteen still knows how to rock and roll and Wrecking Ball is the current proof of his lasting musical genius.
1. Dead Sara – Dead Sara
The biggest gift that I was blessed with this year has been Dead Sara. When I received their debut album for review, I really didn’t have high hopes. The band had received all sorts of high praise and I just figured that they would fail to live up to the hype. Not only did Dead Sara live up to it, they smashed it. And while there are still a lot of highly anticipated releases due out this year, I don’t think there will be any record released in 2012 that is going to top Dead Sara’s self titled debut. There is not one negative thing that can be said about Dead Sara. Not one constructive criticism can be made. Dead Sara is about as perfect as an album can be, and the fact that it is a rookie effort, only helps to confirm that Dead Sara is the real deal. If there is only one record that you purchase this year, it needs to be the self titled debut from Dead Sara. You will not hear a better album in 2012.
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Coming soon to the Hard Rock Hideout Podcast (you have been downloading and listening, right?) will be a new game titled “Is It Hard?” In this game, Rob Rockitt and I will debate the hardness of certain rock bands that teeter on the cusp of what could be considered hard rock music. As an introduction to the game, I thought it would be nice to do a column in advance, discussing the first band that I would like to debate in the “Is It Hard?” category—The White Stripes.
The White Stripes were a band that consisted of Jack and Meg White who were either married, brother and sister, or as some believe, both. Regardless of their supposed infidelities, The White Stripes were a fantastic band that split up way too early in their career. I still yearn to hear some new White Stripes music, but instead have to settle for solo Jack White, which is good, but not as good as The White Stripes.
Although the band released their first album in 1999, it wasn’t until the 2002 major label re-release of White Blood Cells that The White Stripes rose in popularity and recognition. The first single from White Blood Cells, “Fell In Love With A Girl” was one of the hardest rocking songs of its time. The power chords that opened this song demanded immediate attention. Once Jack White’s voice filled the speakers, I was hooked. This was hard rock at its finest—a new wave of hard rock. Sure, the purists would label it garage rock, but it was all the same to me.
After listening to White Blood Cells several times, I noticed that it was difficult to pin the White Stripes into just one category. First, their music consisted on one singer/guitarist and one drummer. No bass, no keyboards, no extra anything. It was Jack White’s ability with the guitar in his hand that really drove home the music. The sounds he could make were simply astonishing. White Blood Cells as well as the bands later albums contained soft songs, esoteric songs, and punk songs. However at the center of all their albums, was hard rock music at its finest. From the aforementioned “Fell In Love With A Girl” to “Icky Thump,” the cranking, shredding guitar, heavy drum tunes have hard rock written all over them. Songs like “Offend In Every Way,” and “There’s No Room For You Here” are closer to heavy metal than anything else, and the White Stripes recorded several hard rockers during their career.
Granted, their third major label album, Get Behind Me Satan, was filled with more experimental songs that lacked the punch of their predecessors, but The White Stripes were quick to correct that on their swan song, Icky Thump. And while Get Behind Me Satan was a strong, fun record, it was certainly not a rocker in any imaginable form. However, the short lived experiment found the White Stripes returning to their roots of hard rocking hits on their next album.
In 2009, The White Stripes abruptly ended a tour when Meg White was overcome with anxiety. While it was disappointing to see the band cease the tour, what was even more disheartening was the fact that it would be the beginning of the end for The White Stripes. After 2007’s Icky Thump, the band never released another album. Early in 2011, they officially called it quits, announcing that there would no longer be a White Stripes.
Listening to songs like “Ball And Biscuit” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As Your Told), the logical conclusion is that the White Stripes are hard rock music. Yes, they may fit the bill more for punk rock than any other genre, but a lot of punk bands can still be considered hard rock. The White Stripes certainly fit this category. Their music was edgy and masterful with blistering guitars and thundering drums. Nothing screams hard rock more than that. And while they are gone yet not forgotten, they are still missed.
When you observe the entire body of work that The White Stripes released during a ten year period, there is no doubt in my mind that they are a hard rock band. What about you? What’s your opinion of The White Stripes? Would you say “It’s hard” when it comes to The White Stripes?
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Unless you’ve been living under a soft rock, you have no doubt heard that there is a huge, double-bill, rock and roll tour heading to a city near you this summer. Kiss will be teaming up with Motley Crue for what looks to be one of the hardest rocking double bills I’ve seen in years. I am looking forward to this amazing hard rock show when they roll into New Jersey this September. It’s going to be an awesome, late summer Friday night of fun and havoc!
Like I do with almost any concert that I attend, I’ve been thinking about what the setlists could be for each band this year. Will they stick to only the hits? Are they going to pull out some early classics? Will there be a surprise or two that no one expects? I’m always anxious to hear some deep cuts whenever I see either of these bands live, and this year is no exception. After giving it much thought, I’ve come up with a list of songs that would make me wet myself if they were performed live. Last time I wrote about the Motley songs I want to hear, this time, here are the five songs that I would love to hear from KISS.
Sweet Pain (Destroyer)
“Sweet Pain” could be my favorite Kiss song ever. To the best of my knowledge, Kiss has only played this song live during their acoustic Konvention tour, where they played any song that the fans would call out. I have a copy of that song on a bootleg, and while it took a while for the band to get it down, they did a decent job. As one of the best songs on Destroyer it is a true shame that this song has never received a proper live performance. If Kiss would take the time to study this tune and pull it out for the upcoming tour, the buzz from the fans would be maddening. With the song’s power and intensity combined with it being a deep cut classic, all Kiss fans would love to hear “Sweet Pain.”
I (Music From The Elder)
How in the world does a rock band have a song that is so amazing, so powerful, and so fantastic that they never play it? It baffles my mind that Kiss has only performed “I” less than a handful of times and never since the acoustic Konvention tour back in 1995. “I” is one of those great Kiss classics where Gene and Paul trade verses to the delight of the Kiss Army. The song is a powerful anthem about believing in yourself and going above and beyond to achieve what you want in life. Like other Kiss anthems, “I” is a song that would rev the crowd up to such a massive dynamic, that the audience would scream their throats raw. “I” would be the best main set closer that Kiss has ever done since “Let Me Go Rock And Roll” held that honor in the early 70s. It would be a Kiss fan’s dream come true.
Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em (Rock And Roll Over)
“Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em” is a great late-70s Gene sung song centered on the theme of womanizing. This is a topic that Gene wrote about a lot back in the 70s and 80s and still writes a fair amount about today. “Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em” is a fantastic ode to the one night stand, and a Kiss song that has never gotten the proper attention that it deserves. Kiss has the chance to right that wrong this summer by pulling out this fantastic homage to loving the ladies for one night only.
I Still Love You (Creatures Of The Night)
Granted, out of all the Kiss songs that I would like to hear in concert this year, “I Still Love You” is the one that has been played most recently. It is also the one song on this list that has the best chance of being played live during this concert. “I Still Love You” is one of Kiss’ strongest, operatic ballads and the live version is simply amazing. If Paul Stanley still has the range, pulling out this classic Kiss song would likely see an amazing crowd reaction.
Almost Human (Love Gun)
“Almost Human” is practically an unknown Kiss song. Any time that I mention this song to anyone, even die-hard Kiss fans, they always give me a quizzical look. When I remind them that it was a side two track from Love Gun, I usually get a similar response of, “Oh, I’m going to have to go back and listen to that one again.” That’s how deep a track “Almost Human” is. However, just because it’s a deep track, doesn’t mean that it’s not a good track. This is one of my all time favorite Gene Simmons songs. It’s dark and haunting, with a theme centered on science fiction and fantasy more than women or rock and roll (a rarity for a Kiss song). Perhaps meant to be the sequel to “God Of Thunder,” “Almost Human” received no attention after being released on Love Gun. Now, 35 years after its release, Kiss could really make a statement and perform this song live for the first time ever. This would also be a great song for Gene Simmons to fly and spit blood before performing, giving it an added bonus of excitement for the fans.
Those are the five songs that I would like to hear Kiss perform on tour this summer. What about you? What Kiss songs are you hoping that the band dusts off? Which Kiss rarities have you always wanted to see in concert? Drop a line in the comments section and share your opinion!
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Unless you’ve been living under a soft rock, there is no doubt that you’ve heard there is a huge, double-bill, rock and roll tour heading to a city near you this summer. Kiss will be teaming up with Motley Crue for what looks to be one of the hardest rocking double bills I’ve seen in years. I am looking forward to this amazing hard rock show when they roll into New Jersey this September. It’s going to be an awesome, late summer Friday night of fun and havoc!
Like I do with almost any concert that I attend, I’ve been thinking about what the setlists could be for each band this year. Will they stick to only the hits? Are they going to pull out some early classics? Will there be a surprise or two that no one expects? I’m always anxious to hear some deep cuts whenever I see either of these bands live, and this year is no exception. After giving it much thought, I’ve come up with a list of songs that would make me wet myself if they were performed live. Here are the five songs that I would love to hear from Motley Crue.
Sumthin’ For Nuthin’ (Girls, Girls, Girls)
Perhaps it’s because it reminds me of the summer before my Freshman year of high school where I played Motley’s Girls, Girls, Girls album nonstop, but “Sumthin’ For Nuthin’” is one of my all time favorite Motley Crue songs. Every time that I hear this song, I go berserker and just have to jump around, sing, dance, and scream. I have never seen Motley Crue perform this song live, and I am not even sure if they ever have performed this song live. It may be a deep pipe dream, but if “Sumthin’ For Nuthin’” gets played this summer, you are going to see one insanely happy fan.
Raise Your Hands To Rock (Theatre Of Pain)
Rarely played on the radio, almost never played live, and all but forgotten in the Motley Crue catalog, “Raise Your Hands To Rock” is one of the Crue’s most underrated songs. With a nifty acoustic intro, some hard pounding Tommy Lee drums, and a slick solo by the great Mick Mars, “Raise Your Hands To Rock” really is an excellent song. Why this song never got more love is beyond me. However, Motley Crue has a chance to fix that and bring this song to the forefront this summer by making it a staple in their show. How incredible would that be?
Without You (Dr. Feelgood)
Yes, I know that “Home Sweet Home” is the ballad that everyone is clamoring for. Yes, I know that “Home Sweet Home” will most likely be played in the encore of the show. Yes, I know that “Home Sweet Home” is a better ballad. Even with all of that being said, there is nothing wrong with the Crue performing two ballads on tour and dusting off “Without You” for a proper performance. I don’t think this song has been played since the Dr. Feelgood tour, and that is a real shame. If Vince can still hit the notes, “Without You” is one of the most powerful songs in the Crue catalog.
Afraid (Generation Swine)
With the exception of Saints Of Los Angeles, Motley Crue seems to have forgotten that they recorded music after Dr. Feelgood. I absolutely hate when bands do this. If you record new music, don’t be afraid to pull it out in concert every once in a while. And while Generation Swine wasn’t the best Crue album ever recorded (it may, in fact, be closer to one of their worst albums) it still contained a few gems. “Afraid” is one of those gems. When I first heard this song back in 1997 I was stoked. I felt that the old Crue was back together and really found their groove. And while the rest of Generation Swine made me re-think that statement, “Afraid” is still a fantastic song that needs to be performed every once in a while. This would be a great tour to make that happen.
New Tattoo (New Tattoo)
As stated above, Motley has forgotten about most songs post Dr. Feelgood. “New Tattoo” is one of those amazing songs that just never got the love it deserved. Yes, it made an appearance on the Red, White, And Crue greatest hits album, but other than that, it has been quite dormant. As a mid-tempo, moderate rock song, New Tattoo would be perfect for the middle of the set, perhaps after a blazing version of “Shout At The Devil” or “Kickstart My Heart.” It would provide the perfect way to let fans catch their breath and enjoy a rare Crue classic. Plus, seeing Mick Mars play slide guitar on this song would be worth the price of admission.
Those are five songs that I would love to see Motley Crue perform this summer. What are your thoughts? What songs would you like to see the Crue dust off for this tour?
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The Pleasant Surprises
Every year when I attend the M3 music festival, there is always one or two unexpected surprises, and this year was no exception. Last year the biggest and best surprise to me was the performance given by Pretty Boy Floyd. It turned me into a huge fan of the band and has me seeking them out in concert whenever I can. The 2012 incarnation of M3 came with its own pleasant surprises that made me a very happy metal head.
As part of the Friday night KIX-off party, M3 recruited the likes of Night Ranger to take the stage just before Kix would headline the show. I had never seen Night Ranger perform live before, so I was curious. I also didn’t expect much from them. Their new album wasn’t the greatest and while I loved their early material, I hadn’t listened to much Night Ranger since 1992. I figured they would put on a decent set and I would sing along to some nostalgic songs from my yesteryears.
Holy heck was I wrong! Night Ranger gave one of the best performances of the entire festival. The only band that I think edged them out was Stryper. Night Ranger came out onstage filled with a ton of energy. Jack Blades was running around like a mad-man trading jabs with Kelly Keagy and having the time of his life. Keagy’s drums were set in a unique fashion as well. They were arranged to sit stage left, facing the band as opposed to facing the audience. Where the drums would normally be centered was a ramp that the guitarists used to their advantage, running around and having fun.
Night Ranger was flat out awesome in concert. In addition to playing their best known hits such as Sentimental Street, Don’t Tell Me You Love Me, You Can Still Rock In America, and Sister Christian, Night Ranger also gave a terrific performance of the Damn Yankees classic, High Enough. Jack Blades mentioned how Night Ranger had taken that song and really made it their own. It showed in their performance, because Night Ranger’s version of High Enough was even better than the Damn Yankees version that I recall.
This exceptional M3 surprise left me wanting even more Night Ranger. I can guarantee that if Night Ranger goes on tour and stops anywhere near my town, I will definitely be attending that show.
I will be totally honest here. Prior to last Saturday, I knew almost nothing about Loudness. I knew that they were a Japanese glam metal band. I think I may have heard one of their songs back in the day. Other than that, I knew nothing. So, it was a great surprise to see them give such an amazing performance on the second stage. And while I did not know any of the songs that they performed, it didn’t matter. The band’s stage presence and professionalism, combined with the crowd reaction, was enough to make seeing Loudness live a tremendous experience.
Lead vocalist Minoru Niihara has an incredible voice and sings in perfect English. Guitarist Akira Takasaki is a true showman, playing blistering guitar solos and really cutting loose during his performance. Takasaki was so much fun to watch that it wouldn’t have mattered if his guitar playing was subpar. However, his playing was as amazing as his stage presence. Loudness was definitely one of the highlights of the day for me.
And I have to give props and credit to Hard Rock Hideout’s esteemed owner/editor Rob Rockitt. He told me that Loudness was going to put on one hell of a show. He was right.
Yes, I definitely had high expectations for Lynch Mob. Their last album (Smoke & Mirrors) was fantastic and with Oni Logan fronting the band, Lynch Mob was one of the acts that I could not miss during this year’s M3. I actually left Warrant’s set early to get as close to the second stage as I could for Lynch Mob. It was certainly one of the best decisions that I made.
George Lynch was in fantastic form and his guitar playing sounded better than ever. Add in the fact that this was my first time seeing Lynch Mob live and it’s easy to guess that I was a really happy metal head. Oni Logan’s voice was in fine shape, still hitting the notes just right and putting the perfect amount of inflections where needed.
The Lynch Mob performance consisted mostly of songs from their debut album, Wicked Sensation, with one song form Smoke & Mirrors thrown in. George Lynch also got a solo spotlight, giving a rousing rendition of Mr. Scary. It sounded as good as it does on the album, and it was a real treat to see him perform it live. Overall, the Lynch Mob set made me yearn to see the band at a full length concert. I can only hope that they have plans to hit New Jersey as a headliner sometime in the near future.
All right, this isn’t really a surprise. Every year I eat the cheese steaks at the Merriweather Post Pavilion and every year they taste better than the year before. This year’s cheese steak was the best yet.
Ahhh, another year of M3 has come and gone. I am already starting to save for next year, which I hope will be even bigger and better than ever.
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Another M3 Festival has come and gone leaving behind only the memories. 2012 was once again a great year for the M3 festival, and although Saturday’s portion of the show had a few hiccups and missed cues, overall, the festival was fantastic. A fun filled day of hard rocking, hair metal music, after a fun filled night of the same. As usual both days of the festival flew by and before I knew it, I was on my way home with a music hangover.
As with any major music production, there were plenty of highs, a few lows, and some pleasant surprises. Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail, shall we? Welcome to this very special 3-part edition of Vie’s Verses.
Let’s start with the good stuff. There were a lot of great things to see at the 2012 M3 Festival, but one of the most immediately noticeable was all of the beautiful women. It’s great to know that hair metal still has women who love the music and look terrific. It’s also great to know that there are younger women who love hair metal and look terrific! Now granted, I am a happily married man, but if I wasn’t, the M3 festival is where I would go to find the next love of my life. These beauties were absolutely stunning! As Steve Whiteman said from the stage, “There are no ugly women here!” Well stated, Steve.
For the second year in a row, KIX headlined night one (dubbed the Kix-Off Party) and once again produced an amazing performance. I am always in awe of the energy that Steve Whiteman and Kix bring to the stage each time they perform live. This latest performance was no exception. Whiteman and company brought the goods in both the songs they played and the energy they performed them with. Classic Kix hits were all done to perfection, including surprises like “Lie Like A Rug.” And while Whiteman stated that Night Ranger should have headlined the show, there is no replacement for Kix. They were the true headliners of the evening.
One of the best performances at this year’s M3 was also one of the shortest (see Part Two: The Lows). Stryper came on during the early part of Saturday and after having to do a quick live sound check, they kick-started their 6-song performance with passion. Reach Out, Free, Calling On You, To Hell With The Devil, Soldiers Under Command, and Sing-Along Song were all performed during the condensed set. Each song was performed note perfect and Michael Sweet still has the range to hit all of the notes on every song. And while I would have loved to hear him sing Honestly (to truly test his range), the M3 guffaw to start the Saturday show prevented that from happening. All in all though, Stryper was the best performance of day two. I hope that they return next year as headliners.
Wow! Geoff Tate not only looks great, but the man can still sing too! Queensryche absolutely blew me away during their performance. I had never been a huge Queensryche fan, I only own two albums and one of them is Hear In The Now Frontier, so I did not know a lot of the songs they performed. However, that didn’t matter. Their performance was so mesmerizing and intense, that I was mystified by all of the songs. And while I may not run out and buy their entire back catalog, if Queensryche were to schedule a future show near me, I would certainly have to check it out. Having never seen Queensryche before, my first experience was a grand one.
Once again, Warrant with Robert Mason made me a believer and renewed my membership in the Warrant fan club. This is the best that Warrant has sounded since Cherry Pie. Warrant not only performed all of their massive hits, they also took the time to play new material from their latest release, Rockaholic. The new songs sounded as fantastic as the classic material and if you’re a Warrant fan, I hope that you have a copy of Rockaholic. If not, you need to purchase it. Robert Mason looked as buff and beautiful as ever and his voice and energy has not shortened one bit. The rest of the band seemed rejuvenated by Mason’s lead and they all brought the energy of the early 90s with them. By watching Warrant perform, you would have sworn they were headlining a huge arena, not serving as a middle act for the M3 Festival. In a perfect world, Warrant would be one of the top bands on next year’s bill, perhaps co-headlining with Stryper. Hmmmm, maybe these two bands should get together for a summer tour? I know that I would go see that.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for part two…The Lows.
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Sitting in the back of the Pop Evil tour bus with lead singer Leigh Kakaty, two things immediately engage my attention. The first is the TV screen paused on a Playstation 3 game of hockey showing the Bruins leading the Capitals 1 – 0. I noticed this only due to the fact that Leigh has mentioned his love of hockey video games to me before.
“Still getting your ass kicked?” I ask with a nod toward the television screen.
He laughs in response. “Nah, no one beats me!”
“What about Theory? They are Canadian, you know.”
He smiles in response, committing to nothing. “Yeah, those guys are good.”
The second thing that I notice is how soft spoken and humble Leigh Kakaty is. This is the powerful front man for a rock band that is rising faster than the Phoenix. It is about 45 minutes until Pop Evil will take the stage, opening for Theory of a Deadman, and perform to a sold out Starland Ballroom crowd in Sayreville, Ne w Jersey. Seeing Leigh Kakaty in action on stage, and knowing what a wild and intense performer he is, I’m slightly taken aback by his soft spoken approach when being interviewed in person.
We talk about Pop Evil’s recent announcement first, which brings a huge grin to Leigh’s face. Pop Evil will be touring the United States this summer with several bands including Trivium, Killswitch Engage, and Five Finger Death Punch. I’m curious to know how Pop Evil got on the bill and even more curious to know how they think they will fair on such a tour. Pop Evil seems like the odd band out for the Trespass America tour.
“Five Finger Death Punch gave us this great opportunity,” Leigh states. “And now we have a chance to mix rock with metal and we’re trying to put on more of a festival type atmosphere. And the more we come together as metal and rock the more the fans can embrace that. And Five Finger Death Punch giving us an opportunity to do that is very humbling, because we are very much influenced by (them). We’re a lot heavier than people realize.”
Any band trying to make a name for themselves knows the rigors of constant touring, and Pop Evil is no exception. Over the last 2 years, they have played more than 400 shows and counting. I ask Leigh if he, or the band, ever get road weary and tired of the constant touring.
“What are you going to do with downtime? Play more Playstation video games? We’d rather be touring. We’re here to work. We’re here to play. When we start to work on the new record, then we’ll take some time with the family. Sometimes you miss the family and when your friends back at home are out on their boats and we’re in the middle of Texas where it is 140 degrees and you can’t go outside because it’s too hot. It has its moments, but at the end of the day we have the best job in the world and, you know, we’re pretty blessed.
“It’s very tough to maintain a band this day and age, and we just pride ourselves with touring and we just got to keep it going. It’s great to see the Pop Evil fans just growing at an alarming speed. It’s great. (You) just gotta keep playing,” Leigh says. “Keep writing the good jams, keep touring and staying out on the road, making a living.”
Speaking with fans in the parking lot prior to the show words like spectacular, amazing, and intense are thrown around when discussing Pop Evil’s live performance. While there are several fans that have not seen the band live and many others who have never heard of Pop Evil, there are still a plethora of fans that have seen Pop Evil live and give them high praise.
“I don’t see a band with this much intensity very often,” one fan tells me.
Back on the tour bus, Leigh confirms that sentiment. “It’s our live show that really makes people fans of Pop Evil.”
It is easy to understand why. On stage, Leigh Kakaty and the rest of Pop Evil are akin to un-caged animals set loose on a hostile crowd, ready to take over the world of hard rock. At the center of all the stage antics, is the band’s leader. Between rock screams of rage and passionately sung lyrics during power ballads, Leigh Kakaty is a Bruce Dickinson in the making. The way that he can command a crowd and mold them into his own image is awe inspiring. Leigh and his band mates have an uncanny ability to take a crowd that may not be into Pop Evil, or may not know who they are, and convert them into lifelong fans after just one performance.
Later in the evening, during Pop Evil’s performance of “Purple” a guy in the crowd turns to me and asks what album the song was on.
“It’s from their latest record, War of Angels,” I tell him.
Immediately, he logs into iTunes on his smart phone and downloads the record. He shows it to me proudly, like someone who has just caught a guitar pick in the front row. This is the power of Pop Evil’s live show. This is what the band can do with just one performance.
The previous week, Pop Evil and Theory of a Deadman performed at the Crocodile Rock Café in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was there that Leigh Kakaty walked on the crowd to the delight of the fans. And although Leigh has done this before, it was the first time I was made aware of it (thanks to You Tube). It was an amazing moment in their set where Leigh literally walked on top of a sea of hands. The crowd loved it. I ask Leigh about this and how it came about.
“Walk on the crowd, man. You know, it’s just always been my thing. You know, Jesus walked on water, why can’t a rock star walk on some hands? I think it’s just something that’s always been a fun thing for Pop Evil and our fans. It’s something that you don’t see every day. You know, you’ll fall off and take your lumps if it’s not crazy packed, but it’s cool, it lets the fans get a little more hands on…literally. I’ve been doing it for a long time, but I swear it gets harder to do the older I get. The bruises are definitely a little more painful.”
Later that night, Leigh would re-enact the walk on the crowd for New Jersey. “All right,” he screams into the microphone. “We’re going to try something that I don’t think has ever been done at the Starland Ballroom before.” Leigh instructs the fans at the front of the stage to band together and put their hands up, palms out. “We’re gonna try to walk on the crowd! Are you ready?”
The loud roar in response indicates that they are. Leigh leans forward from the stage, putting one foot on the first hand he can step on. He then hoists himself up to where he is standing high atop a sea of hands. Leigh breaks into song and sings from his position on the hands, walking out just a little bit further. The crowd is amazed and several people whip out their camera phones to make a video for the internet.
At the end of their set, Leigh careens around the stage demanding of the crowd, “When I say Pop! You say Evil!” to which the crowd gloriously responds. “Pop!” “Evil!” “Pop!” “Evil!” This may be a Theory of a Deadman concert, but by the end of Pop Evil’s performance, it has become a double bill, with fans screaming just as loud for Pop Evil as they would for Theory.
I ask Leigh if the band has any plans for a live DVD in the near future.
“No plans right now, because we’re still new, in the scheme of things. It would be nice to do a DVD when we reach some level of touring success—when we do something more monumental, like selling out arenas. We do film everything and have all the footage, but I don’t think that I’m emotionally ready to dive into a DVD just yet, and I don’t think the demand is there. We’d like to do it down the road at some point, but a lot of variables have to come into it. Maybe after the next record, but I don’t think it will be anytime before that. Right now, the Pop Evil focus is solely on new music and developing our identity.”
As we continue our interview, the band’s manager looks into the back room asking if everything was all right. It was his way of saying that we had to wrap up, Pop Evil was due on stage in a few minutes. Leigh politely nods and after the door is closed again he looks at me. “That’s the boss,” he says with both pride and respect uncommon in most rock stars. His humbled statement only confirms how appreciative he is of all the blessings his life has been given.
I transition to the topic of cover songs and Leigh practically shudders.
“(There is) absolutely not one song that I want to cover. We’ve played covers for the first eight years of our existence. And we played all the covers from Afro Man to Sweet Home Up In Michigan, the Michigan version of Sweet Home Alabama. Covers were such a big part of how we paid for our beginnings and we just want to do Pop Evil originals for as long as we can.”
I had heard rumors that the Leigh Kakaty Facebook page was a fake, so I decide to ask Leigh about this. He laughs, loudly, somewhat caught off guard. “I’ve never been asked that question before.”
“There have been some fakes. I do have one, but I just kept it with people that I knew from high school. I use it to look at what everyone else I grew up with does, but as far as me posting, it just seems weird. If you want to know what I’m up to, check out the Pop Evil page.”
Leigh talks of enjoying his privacy right now. He likes where the band is at, because fans know the band, but they don’t necessarily know him. He can go out to dinner without being recognized and he likes that. There seems to be a slight fear of getting too big, because he could lose his anonymity. He hopes the band gets huge, but he worries about the price of becoming too famous. Leigh then tells me a funny story of how Wes Scantlin from Puddle of Mudd would wear a wig so that he wouldn’t be recognized when he went out in public. “That’s just something that I don’t want to do,” Leigh says. “I like dressing the way I dress now.”
“What advice can you offer to bands that are just starting out?”
“You gotta give it up. If you really want it, you gotta be out on the road 365 days a year. If you really want it, you have to sacrifice. Set realistic goals, and if you’re goal is a record deal, start with the little wins. How many people are you bringing to a show? If it’s nobody, make it 10. If it’s 10 make it 500. And if you’re bringing 500 call your local radio station. Do your research.
“And then when you make it big, you have to decide, can you juggle everything? You’re going to want a family, you’re going to want kids, but can you handle everything?
“At the end of the day, you gotta write good songs. You gotta create something that’s going to make someone want to go to ITunes and pay a dollar for something that you created.”
When I tell Leigh that I am going to put him on the spot and want a prediction from him, he immediately stops me with a laugh and says: “Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl next year.” His love for all things Detroit is evidently unwavering, and perhaps he is not far off with his Lions prediction, but it is his band that I am more interested in.
“I want a prediction. How long until Pop Evil sells out Madison Square Garden as headliners?” I ask.
Leigh pauses, not sure how to approach this question. I’m thinking that his humbleness may be preventing him from making too bold of a prediction. “Ahhh, OK, opening act doesn’t count? No, you said headliner. So Pop Evil with Lady GaGa, that should sell out the Garden!”
We share a laugh and Leigh continues, “I’m going to say… 2017… and a half.”
Watch out Madison Square Garden. By the summer of 2017, Pop Evil is going to take over your arena with one of the most spectacular live shows that New York City has ever seen. I just hope Leigh remembers me and offers up front row tickets. I also hope that Madison Square Garden security is ready for when Leigh Kakaty walks on the crowd.
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Sometimes when a band releases a cover song, fans scratch their heads and say “what were they thinking?” Sometimes fans think to themselves, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad. That’s a pretty cool cover.” And then there are times when a band covers a song so well that no other version is remembered. In some instances, fans don’t even realize that it is a cover song. Here are five such songs that bands have made their own, by recording a version so memorable, it destroys the original.
Faster Pussycat – You’re So Vain
Originally recorded by Lite FM radio darling Carly Simon, Faster Pussycat’s version of “You’re So Vain” is one of the best cover songs ever recorded by any band anywhere. Their dedication to the song and the transformation from sappy, easy rock, to sleazy hair metal, was brilliant. Converting this song into a metal mainstay had to be a painstaking chore, but Faster Pussycat did it with conviction. Anytime that I hear the original version, I immediately think of the (far superior) Faster Pussycat version and have to crank it on my I-Pod. Taime Down’s vocals are exceptional on this recording, and the power that the band put into their version is superb. Faster Pussycat made “You’re So Vain” a fun song. And while the theme of the song is still the same, there is something about the Faster Pussycat version that makes it too enjoyable to be considered a “sad” song. Whenever I think of great cover songs, this is the first one that comes to mind.
Van Halen – Ice Cream Man
Take one old blues tune, add one screaming Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, and a lot of David Lee Roth scat-doo-bop-wop, and you have the musical recipe for a delicious cover song. Originally recorded by John Brim in 1953, this blues classic became a fan favorite and a staple of the Van Halen catalog. If you’ve ever heard the original version of this song, then you know how Van Halen drastically changed it. They took a slow picked, harmonica blues song, and turned it into a powerful riff driven, screaming rock song. Prior to Van Halen’s version, a lesser known cover by Tom Waits had been recorded. However, it was Van Halen’s version of this song that brought it the fame. Most fans didn’t even realize it was a cover song, mistaking it to be a VH original. And while the original is decent and maintains the same semblance of the modern version, it is the Van Halen style that put their stamp on this song and made it their own. Van Halen would go on to record many more cover tunes over the years, but none were as fantastic as “Ice Cream Man.”
Charm City Devils – Man of Constant Sorrow
New to this list is the recently released “Man Of Constant Sorrow” by Charm City Devils. For reasons that are similar to Van Halen’s recording of “Ice Cream Man,” Charm City Devils took an old folk song (well over 100 years old) and put their own smoking riffs to it, resulting in a hard rock beauty that is quickly climbing the charts. While Charm City Devils is currently known for their party anthem “Let’s Rock And Roll,” that could quickly change as “Man Of Constant Sorrow” could become their signature song. They’ve already killed any other cover versions that exist (and there are plenty) with their hard rocking version, so it’s safe to say that it’s only a matter of time before people (and fans) forget that this is not a Charm City Devils original.
Tesla – Little Suzi
For years, I never knew that this was a cover song. It wasn’t until I saw Tesla in concert with Rob Rockitt that he filled me in to the fact that “Little Suzi” was not a Tesla original. Originally recorded by PhD as “Little Suzi’s On The Up,” Tesla took an electronic keyboard, almost unlistenable song and made it a modern day rocker. If you’ve never heard the original version and want to see the stark contrast between Tesla’s version and the original recording by PhD, look it up online. It is amazing to see how drastically this song was changed. Tesla took a garbage song (PhD’s version is terrible) and recorded one of their greatest songs ever. Tesla may be forever known as the band that recorded “Love Song,” but their transformation of “Little Suzi” is truly one of the defining moments of their career.
Guns N Roses – Knocking On Heaven’s Door
Whenever I hear Guns N Roses version of “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” I always forget that this was originally done by Bob Dylan. While Dylan did a great, haunting original, Guns N Roses took this song and truly made it their own. What Guns added to this song was the missing element of power. When Axl leads the crescendo into a scream toward the end of the song (Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door….yeah!), I get chills. Although released on Use Your Illusion II, Guns had been covering this song since their early days on the strip. The years of live play, gave the band time to hone their signature sound on “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” A finer version of this song is not known to me, and that includes the original.
I’m sure that there are many other cover songs that could have made this list, so don’t be surprised to see a couple of sequels to this post in the future. What cover songs can you think of that a band has made their own? Drop a line in the comments section and share your opinion.
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Aerosmith tickets went on sale last weekend. It is the first time that the band will be doing a full-fledged tour of North America in years. Rumors of a new album to be released before the start of the “Global Warming” tour have only added to the rallying cry from the band’s camp that the bad boys from Boston are back in a big, big way. Perhaps in Boston they are back, but apparently, in the rest of America, not so much.
Doing research to see if Aerosmith tickets were sold out across North America yielded some interesting results. The band’s lone stop in Boston is sold out. That is to be expected, as it is Aerosmith’s hometown. However, checking stops across the rest of the tour, most notably California, and New Jersey (which serves as the only New York City area appearance) not only found the show far from sold out, but some insane great seats were still available. The reason these seats were still available can only be speculated as due to price. The lower seats for every show on this tour netted out to approximately $167 per ticket. That’s a lot of cash to see an aging band that hasn’t toured in years.
Aerosmith is also offering special packages where you can meet the band, certain members, or do a live Q&A with them. The price for this “gift” to the fans ranges between $250 and $1800. I remember when bands would meet their fans for free. Now, I have to pay (what could be for some) a month’s salary to have the opportunity to meet and hang out? What the hell is that? Pop Evil comes out after some shows and has a beer with me for free. Hell, sometimes they even buy the beer!
All of this begs the question of whether Aerosmith has lost touch with their fan base, and more importantly, have the fans lost touch with Aerosmith? Yes, once they were the darlings of the rock world, but after the recent turmoil amongst band members, the whole “Brand Tyler” saga, and the lack of a new studio album in ten years, perhaps the band isn’t the shining star they once were. Is it possible that the fans have grown weary of all the bullshit that Aerosmith has shoveled over the last decade and have now decided to revolt by not purchasing their overpriced tickets?
I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the announcement of an Aerosmith North American tour, especially with Cheap Trick opening up for them, would bring on sellouts within hours. And yet, after several announcements, e-mails, publicity, and early on-sale/pre-sale opportunities, the great seats are still available at almost all of the major venues. This is another case of an aging band being out of touch with their fans, the current state of the economy, knowing what the fans can pay, and more importantly, knowing what the fans will pay. Not every act from the 60s or 70s are going to be able to command Rolling Stone prices, because not every act has a Keith Richards or Mick Jagger. Yes, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were amazing back in the day, and they may even still be highly talented now, but their lack of attention to the fans for the last ten years appears to have finally caught up with them. And while it’s sad to think that the golden age of Aerosmith is long gone, thus revealing my own mortality with it, it’s refreshing to know that fans aren’t going to put up with crap anymore. If you want to sell tickets, lower your prices!
Even the money loving KISS lowered their ticket prices for their current tour with Motley Crue and they offered an amazing one-day special of $14 lawn seats. Now that’s a bargain! The only bargain I see coming from Aerosmith is the fact that you can watch Steven Tyler for free on American Idol. What about you? Are you going to pony up the bucks to see Aerosmith this summer? Or, are you tired of overpriced tickets and holding onto your money for something more affordable?
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Take several high profile rockers from all different bands, package them together, send them out on the road, and what do you have? The Rock And Roll All Stars Tour. And if you are a huge fan of hard rock music wishing to see this tour, well, I hope that you are comfortable with the cost of visiting South America this spring, because that is the only way that you will see this “once in a lifetime” event.
Members of this all star jam include Gene Simmons, Duff McKagan, Joe Elliot, Sebastian Bach, Glenn Hughes, and Steve Stevens. Rounding out the cast is Gilby Clarke, Matt Sorum, Billy Duffy, Ed Roland, and Mike Inez. While it is not clear exactly how the performance will work, it is obviously an awesome package of stars that will be jamming on the stage together.
From what I’ve been able to capture around the web, there will be several Kiss songs played, a few Guns N Roses tunes, a couple of Collective Soul songs, and some Skid Row material. How the band will play together has yet to be seen. I imagine that there will be a different lineup for certain parts of the show, or at least different singers. Joe Elliot will probably sing some Def Leppard tracks. Bach will sing Skid Row. And obviously Ed Roland will sing the Collective Soul songs. I imagine that the encore of the show will consist of everyone on stage at once doing a huge covers jam ala the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
While I am very excited about this tour, I am disappointed with the fact that there are no North American dates. What’s up with that? I understand there are some die hard rock fans in Central and South America, but there’s no love for the USA or Canada? I would be willing to travel to see this show, but not that far. The cost to travel to South America is just a little bit too much for this hard working man.
My only hope is that this all star band decides to keep on touring in the late spring and add a few USA dates to the bill. However, with Simmons finishing up the latest Kiss record and getting ready for the KISS/Motley Crue tour, and with Joe Elliott set to hit the road on the Def Leppard/Poison tour, it is highly unlikely that any additional dates will be added. I’ve not heard any news on a pay per view event of one of the concerts, so I can’t even enjoy the show from the comfort of my own living room. My only chance at seeing this live, other than trolling for videos on You Tube, is to hope that there will be a DVD release in the near future.
The tour kicks off on April 19th in Paraguay and wraps up on May 6th in Venezuela. If you are in or near the area, then you should definitely check this show out. It truly appears to be a once in a lifetime event that would be worth the cost of tickets. For more information about the tour and the band visit: http://www.rnrallstars.com
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By now, you’ve no doubt heard (or heard about) Dave Grohl’s recent rant at the Grammy Awards regarding how real music is recorded. If you were pirated away to the moon by Amazon women that held you captive as their love slave and are now just returning, then I will give you the quick recap. As Grohl and the Foo Fighters accepted their Grammy for Best Rock Performance, Grohl went on a rant about how real music is meant to be recorded and enjoyed with passion. The music shouldn’t be touched up by computer, or auto-tuned, or even over-edited.
“It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about sounding absolutely correct. it’s not about what goes on a computer. It’s about what goes on in (your heart) and (your head),” Grohl stated. He went on to mention that the Foo Fighters recorded their latest album (Wasting Light) with no touch up at all — real, raw, recording. While it was enjoyable for me to hear Grohl take a huge swipe at most of the artists that were in the audience that night, the music community reaction didn’t seem to share the same sense of amusement.
Grohl apologized, somewhat, the next day via a press release. Even in that press release, Grohl stuck to his original statement, not backing down from his true feelings. That is what I love about Dave Grohl. He isn’t afraid and he isn’t going to back down. Grohl’s not looking for acceptance from the Lady Ga Ga camp. Grohl just wants to create real music the way it should sound. More bands should strive to do what the Foo Fighters are doing.
Even if you take all of the bubble gum, pre-recorded, auto-tuned, crap that almost no reader of Hard Rock Hideout listens to, there are still a lot of rock bands that are overproducing to get a slick, polished sound. Sometimes that’s good, but most times it’s not. A real, raw sound is the most welcomed sound of all. That’s why most of us love to attend live performances, because they are true. They are real. And they are achieved only through hard work and practice, practice, practice.
Auto-tuning and computer correcting are no different to music than steroids and performance enhancing drugs are to baseball. It’s a competitive edge that is also cheating. When the Beatles recorded one of their greatest albums ever (Let It Be) they did every song in one take to get the live feel in the studio. Granted, they practiced the hell out of those songs before finally recording them, but that’s part of what makes them so special. You practice until you are ready and then you unleash what you have on the first try. If a minor mistake is recorded, that’s all right. It’s the beauty of real music.
Raw power and true sound is one of the biggest elements that draws me to rock music over any other genre. Can anyone imagine AC/DC auto-tuning Brian Johnson’s vocals? What if Black Sabbath decided to clean up the sound of Tony Iommi’s guitar on their first album? Innovation would be lost. And unfortunately, that is the direction the next generation of music is heading in. There is limited originality. There are too few risk takers. Everyone wants to sound perfect and clean, so their albums are over produced and polished to a shine.
That is one of the reasons that Wasting Light is such a great record. There is raw, real, music on that disc. It can be felt, it can be heard, it can be believed. What that album teaches most of all, is that if you practice hard enough and dedicate yourself to your craft, you can be a huge success and gain a competitive edge without having to resort to any performance enhancements at all. I can only hope that lesson is leaned on the new wave of rockers that are getting set to take the world by storm.
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Have you ever seen Bruce Springsteen in concert? Have you ever experienced the way he connects with his fans during a live show? Have you ever witnessed the power, the promise, and the passion that is a Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band performance? If you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying this for yourself, let me tell you, it is one of life’s greatest musical experiences.
Envision the showmanship of an Iron Maiden concert, mixed with the power of Kix, and the enjoyment of Kiss. A Bruce Springsteen concert is all of that and more, wrapped into a three-hour set of amazement. Springsteen has been doing this for years, and it’s what has endeared his fans to him as life-long believers in the power of rock and roll.
There are several elements of a Springsteen concert that make him worth the price of admission. As a fan of the Boss who has witnessed him in concert 15 times (and counting), I’ve logged those experiences over the years. The first notable element is the fact that there is no opening act. There is no need to sit through someone to “warm up” the crowd. Springsteen will do his own warming up, thank you very much. The second he takes the stage, the crowd is warm and ready to go, and Bruce is more than happy to lead the charge.
His performances are not for an early night (and I don’t mean because he will come on late like a certain Mr. Rose likes to do). The band takes the stage and remains fixed there, usually for the next 3 hours (sometimes more, occasionally a lot more). When was the last time your favorite band played for 3 hours?
Springsteen’s song selection is second to none. Unlike Kiss, Poison, or Van Halen, Bruce makes each concert a unique experience. There’s a reason that he can sell out ten nights in the same venue, and a large part of the reason is his song selection. Each night brings a different setlist. And the varying differences aren’t one or two songs, they are several. Sure, “Born To Run,” and choice selections from the current album are always going to be played, but after that, all bets are off.
Over the 15 concerts that I have attended, I was witness to 128 different songs. Of the 12 Kiss concerts I’ve seen, I was witness to 39 different songs. Springsteen mixes it up unlike any other performer. He knows that his fans love and want to hear any song in his repertoire and The Boss rewards his fans. Lately, he’s been known to grab sign requests from the crowd and play one of those songs on the spot. Even if it isn’t an E-Street Band song, the band will give it a shot, and almost always nail the performance. Who else has the gusto to pull off a move like that?
What’s most effective about a Springsteen concert is the way that he connects to his fans through the power of rock and roll. Springsteen (and the entire E-Street Band) give their best performance every night. They don’t have “off” nights. Prior to the start of a tour, the rehearsals are long and intense. Springsteen makes certain of that. A perfectionist to the bitter end, The Boss doesn’t want anything going wrong when it is time for the show to go live, even when he’s calling out an audible and changing the next song in the set on a whim. The E-Street Band is prepared and ready for it.
An amazing guitarist, an incredible storyteller, and a perfect showman, Bruce Springsteen is the epitome of what every rock musician should aspire to. He knows his fans and knows how to make them react. If you’re sitting on your ass at a Springsteen show, he’ll call you out for it. There’s no sitting during a rock concert, and Springsteen makes sure that everyone knows this. His passion for music and live performing are ever present and really shape the framework of his concerts. You will never see another artist like Bruce Springsteen. The rabid fans are rabid because Springsteen has spent a lifetime making believers out of them.
The E-Street Band are currently set to head out on a long tour this spring, spend the summer in Europe, and then most likely be back in the states for the fall. If you’ve never seen Bruce Springsteen in concert, this is your best chance. The older the band gets, the more uncertain his fans become of how much longer he will be able (or want) to tour. If you don’t have tickets for the spring leg, then you probably have t wait until the fall as most Springsteen concerts sell out in minutes. However, if you do get the opportunity to purchase tickets, take advantage of that opportunity. If you love hard rock, you are going to really love Bruce Springsteen in concert. The E-Street Band are one of those rare group of performers that can actually justify high ticket prices. They are a band that all hard rock bands should hold up as an inspiration.
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Note: This edition of Vie’s Verses was written before the release of A Different Kind Of Truth
Originally I was going to title this edition of Vie’s Verses “Van Halen Is Coming…Do You Care?” I was planning to refer to the high ticket prices, the new single that fans seem to dislike (or, in some cases, hate), and the fact that Michael Anthony is still not in the band leaving the brothers Van Halen to call all the shots. I was going to go on a tirade about how this tour would flop, how David Lee Roth and the Van Halens would clash, and how this would be the last time that we saw any incarnation of Van Halen.
Then I did some research on the concerts. I was really surprised to find out that most of the concerts have sold out, including the Madison Square Garden dates where tickets were $160 each. I guess the economy is doing better than the media portrays. Either that, or fans are willing to pony up the big bucks to see the legendary Van Halen. Which led to the changing of the title for this post—apparently you do care. It appears that Van Halen is in high demand and a new tour with a new album and new songs to perform has everyone excited.
And I guess when I get past my bitterness over ticket prices and the fact that Michael Anthony got screwed by his longtime band mates, it makes sense. Van Halen isn’t getting any younger, and this could be their last hoorah. Yes, there are several bands that play well into their 60s recording new music that is grand, but look how many years it took Van Halen to come up with new music. And reports are that a lot of the “new” music is just rehashed outtakes from the 70s.
So, yes, this could be the end. This could be the last chance to see Van Halen live with David Lee Roth. And while adding Mr. Anthony back into the mix would be a reward to the fans, that isn’t going to happen. First, Van Halen doesn’t seem to care about their fans, and second, I don’t think Michael Anthony would come back even if he was asked to. There is just too much bad blood.
I happen to be a fan of the new single, “Tattoo,” and while, lyrically, it’s not very advanced, it is Van Halen with David Lee Roth. I don’t find it as great as “Me Wise Magic,” or “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” (from the 1997 Greatest Hits album), but it does offer hope for the new record, which I think is going to be solid. Sure, it may not be their best record ever, it may not even be in the same league as their early material, but I’m sure it will be good. Most of what David Lee Roth does is enjoyable. Almost everything that Eddie Van Halen does is enjoyable (yes, I was a fan of VH3), so I have hope. As for the concerts, well, I’m on the fence. They’ve survived one tour, but can they do it again, especially with new songs to remember? I guess only time will tell, but one thing’s for certain, Van Halen is back and the fans do care.
Post Script: I have now had a chance to listen to the new Van Halen disc, and I must say that it is amazing. I still think that “Me Wise Magic” and “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” are better than most of the songs on A Different Kind Of Truth, but that doesn’t mean this album is bad. It is an exceptional record and one of the best Van Halen recordings to come out in decades. This could be their best record since Women And Children First. Add me to the list of fans that care.
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Let me make one thing absolutely crystal clear before going any further into this edition of Vie’s Verses. I do not, have not, and will never condone illegal downloading. Artists who spend their time and money recording an album expect to get paid for their hard work, and rightfully so. And while there are several arguments “fans” make about how it is the record company making money, not the artist, that’s complete hogwash and an argument for another day. Record companies expect a return on their investment and if an artist doesn’t sell well, don’t expect to see a follow up record. If everyone stole Pop Evil’s debut, there would be no War of Angels.
While I am completely opposed to illegal downloading, there is a gray area…concert bootlegs. Some bands (mostly jam bands) don’t mind their live recordings being distributed to the fans as long as the distributer is not making any money off them. Other bands are not crazy about the idea (Kiss comes to mind) but understand that the fans want all they can get their hands on. They don’t hold the fans accountable, they hold the bootleggers accountable. That leads to a very interesting point regarding file sharing websites and bootlegged concerts.
I will be the first to admit that I own a lot of bootleg concerts. I try to obtain the “live” version of any concert I’ve attended. However, if there is an official live release, I will buy the official release to ensure the artist makes money. If there is no official release, I will seek out the bootlegged version of the show for my personal collection. In the past few years, this has been relatively easy to do. Some internet searching will yield high results, thanks mostly in part to file sharing websites like Megaupload and Rapidshare. Prior to the ease of internet searching, I would buy these recordings off EBay or at record shows, and pay a hefty sum for them—usually $25 – $50.
When file sharing became more mainstream, the bootleggers selling at record shows and on EBay for exurbanite amounts of money became less and less. This was a good thing, at least for the fans. We could obtain a live concert recording at no cost. If the artist was cool with it, there were no worries at all. If the artist was not happy, but understandable, that was cool too. If the artist was completely against it, I usually didn’t seek out the show.
Last week, the US Government shut down leading file sharing site, Megaupload. There are several illegal charges being brought against the company including fraud, copyright infringement, and money laundering. I don’t think the government is going to stop there. I have a strong suspicion that they will move onto the next file sharing service like Rapidshare, Uploading, and others. They are going after them all. And while I think it’s a great way to stop illegal downloading of official releases, I also think there is going to be an unintended ripple effect—the return of the bootlegger. Once live concert recordings are no longer easily accessible, the bootleggers will be back with a vengeance, painting their ads all over EBay and Craigslist. And this time, the price will be $50 – $80 for that rare live show you’ve always wanted (inflation sucks, doesn’t it?).
And don’t think that the sharing sites are the only targets. YouTube will be on their list as well. There are millions of illegal videos ranging from official music videos to live concert recordings that could lead to a copyright infringement suit and shut down. After that, who knows what’s next? Hell, Hard Rock Hideout could be shut down if a video is posted without proper clearance from the record company. Anything is possible.
Personally, I don’t think that shutting down file sharing sites is the right answer. Yes, it’s a step in the right direction, but other sites will pop up to take their place. I don’t have the answer on how to stop illegal downloading. All I can do is spread the word that I haven’t done it, don’t do it, and will not do it, except for that gray area—which could make me a hypocrite to some degree.
One thing is for certain, the ripple effect has already started to take place. A largely well known site that featured Springsteen concert bootlegs (for free) from every year of his entire career was recently terminated for violation of copyright laws. Oddly enough, the site that sells the bootlegs has not been shut down. I don’t understand how that is possible. And I’m sure that other sites will follow. There’s a very well known hard rock concert sharing site that is probably under close watch. It wouldn’t surprise me if that gets downed next. Especially considering that a lot of the links from that site go directly to Megaupload.
While I applaud the fact that illegal downloading of albums has met a roadblock, I am disappointed that the bootleggers will be back in action soon. It could mean the end of my owning concerts I’ve attended, and that’s sad, but there is no way I will pay $50 for a concert recording. I didn’t even like paying $25 in the past. The government may think they have a victory on their hands, but waiting in the wings is the bootleggers, and once the dust settles, they will rise up hoisting their victory signs. That is the scariest notion of all.
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M3 is officially scheduled for May 11th and 12th this year. As of now, the only bands that are quasi-confirmed are Quiet Riot and Warrant. Every year, M3 manages to bring some major hair metal bands to the show. Here are the bands that I’d like to see grace the stage this May.
Jetboy needs to come back and be on the main stage once again. New singer D.K. Revelle has been magnificent and Jetboy was one of the best bands of the festival in 2011. Having them return for the fourth year would be a real treat.
Kix should be back and it would be great if they headlined the Friday night slot once again. Their live performance is always one of the best in rock and roll and playing a hometown headlining gig in Maryland for the second straight year would be worth the money.
Pretty Boy Floyd has to return and they should get a spot on the main stage this year. They were possibly the best band at last year’s M3. While Tesla comes close, Pretty Boy Floyd was fantastic, and anyone who did not get over to the second stage to see them missed out on an amazing experience.
Tesla, Sebastian Bach, and L.A. Guns should also return. They all gave exceptional performances last year and the fans loved them. Bringing them back would be rewarding the fans in a big way.
There are a lot of bands that have not yet performed at M3, but should.
Mike Tramp/White Lion
I don’t know if Vito Bratta and Mike Tramp have officially made up, but Mike Tramp has been able to use the White Lion name in recent years. While a reunion of all original members would be preferred, Mike Tramp’s version of White Lion would be acceptable. With massive hits such as “Wait,” “Tell Me,” and their splendid cover of “Radar Love,” White Lion would be an excellent addition to M3.
After being dead silent since 1990, Vain has recently made a comeback. They put out an album of unreleased material in 2010 titled All Those Strangers and toured the UK in 2011. Last year they released Enough Rope, one of the best rock albums of 2011. While no tour plans have been announced yet, M3 would be a great way for the band to kick off a summer tour to the delight of many fans.
Jackyl is a band that I never get tired of listening to. The energy that frontman Jesse James Dupree brings is legendary and up there with the likes of Bruce Dickinson. The man knows how to work the crowd, how to have a good time on stage, and how to host a rock and roll party. With plenty of hard rocking hits that would wow the masses, Jackyl is a band that should get serious consideration for an M3 performance. They are currently scheduled to tour California this January, and a slot at M3 in May would be a great starting point for a summer tour.
Since it is virtually impossible that a Dokken reunion with George Lynch and Don Dokken will occur, seeing the Lynch Mob would be the next best thing. I’ve always been a fan of lead singer Oni Logan, and Lynch Mob’s last album (2009’s Smoke and Mirrors) was spectacular and one of the best albums I’ve heard in years. George Lynch is one of the finest guitarists in rock and it’s a shame that he hasn’t performed at this festival already. There are rumors that the band is in the studio working on a follow up to Smoke And Mirrors. If the timing works out, Lynch Mob could release the record right around the time M3 arrives. A performance at this festival would be a great way to inform fans about a new record.
Every year, M3 gets an incredible band to headline the Saturday night performance and close out the show in style. This year’s headliner should be WASP. Their concert performances are legendary, and even though it is Blackie Lawless and a bunch of studio musicians, a WASP concert is still an amazing thing to see live. Blackie gives his all, the band plays all the hits, and the fans always leave feeling more than satisfied. Having WASP headline M3 in 2012 could be one of the best experiences the festival ever had.
What bands would you like to see at this year’s M3?
Every band that has been around for a long period of time falls into a similar trap. There is too much material to be celebrated. Certain songs rise to the top, other songs sink to the bottom, but then there are those songs that are spectacular, but never get the attention that they deserve.
One of those bands that suffer this problem is AC/DC. They have a vast catalog of material, ripe with hits and potential hits, but all we ever hear on the radio is “Shook Me All Night Long,” or “Highway To Hell.” It’s like the radio DJs forgot that there are several other amazing AC/DC songs. Sometimes the fans forget this too. AC/DC is much deeper than Back In Black. Here now are 10 AC/DC songs that deserve much more exposure than they get.
10. “Baby Please Don’t Go”
I know that it is a cover song. However, if you listen to Angus’ solo on “Baby Please Don’t Go,” you can’t help but wonder why this song never gets played more, either in concert or on the radio. With Bon Scott on lead vocals, AC/DC recorded an unbelievable cover of this Big Joe Williams classic. As one of their earliest hits, “Baby Please Don’t Go” held up over the years. Every time I hear Angus break into the amazing solo and respond to Bon’s cries of “Baby…!” I want to play air guitar like never before.
9. Breaking The Rules
Perhaps the most underrated AC/DC album is For Those About To Rock We Salute You. The album that followed the greatest selling album in AC/DC history was bound to have some problems standing out, but many fans forget how chock full of potential hits this record is. One of the best songs on the album receives no love at all. “Breaking The Rules” is a two fisted, bar stomping, rock and roll of a good time. The song epitomizes the sound of early 80s AC/DC and I would give a lot to hear this song performed in concert. Why the band continually ignores this song in concert is a huge mystery to me.
8. Hold Me Back
Capturing the more recent style of AC/DC (more jazz and blues, less heavy metal), “Hold Me Back,” is a fantastic song centered around a hard core Angus Young riff. Sure, the basic 1-2-3-4 beat is simple in nature, but the way Brian Johnson sings to that beat is magnificent. “Hold Me Back” is a song that can just get a music fan going. Any time the opening riff is performed, feet will immediately be tapping. “Hold Me Back” is a powerful song that somehow slipped through the cracks. While Stiff Upper Lip is more known for the title cut and “Safe In New York City,” it’s a real shame to forget about the beauty that is “Hold Me Back.”
7. Mistress For Christmas
One of the most innovative songs on one of AC/DC’s best albums is definitely “Mistress For Christmas.” Written about such a simple idea (and many a man’s desire) I’m amazed that the band didn’t think to write this song sooner than they did. Technically a Christmas song, “Mistress For Christmas,” probably won’t be found on any holiday compilations, but you can guarantee that if you come to the Vie household, you will hear this song every year like clockwork. Combining a solid, standard rhythm and playful lyrics, “Mistress For Christmas” is just a fun song.
6. Let Me Put My Love Into You
It’s hard to say that any song on Back In Black is underrated or ignored. Back In Black is the band’s signature album, a perfect album, and an album that every fan knows every lyric to every song. However, when you look at live concerts, radio play, and video collections, “Let Me Put My Love Into You” is nowhere to be found. That is practically criminal as it is one of the strongest songs on the record. Until the most recent Black Ice tour, I’m not sure if AC/DC ever performed this song live. Complete with slow, sex filled lyrics, and humping, rhythmic beat, “Let Me Put My Love Into You” is gold for the ears. A fantastic song that certainly needs to be dusted off and played a lot more often than it is.
5. Love At First Feel
Witty, loose, creative lyrics make “Love At First Feel” one of the greatest AC/DC songs that no one remembers. While “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” And “Big Balls” get all the fame from this album, “Love At First Feel” is one of the best songs on the record. Bon’s voice is at its peak and singing about falling in love with a woman the first time he touched her is a nice change from the basic cliché of love at first sight. The originality in the lyrics is a refreshing change of pace. The playfulness of the words make “Love At First Feel” a memorable song, yet I never hear it anywhere except on my IPOD. That is a true crime to AC/DC fans everywhere.
4. Down Payment Blues
Any hard rock fan who has ever struggled to pay a bill at some point in their life has undoubtedly cranked “Down Payment Blues” up to ten and screamed at the top of their lungs. “I got holes in my shoes…and I’m way overdue…Down Payment Blues!” Bon Scotts wailing cries of poverty struck a chord with me in my younger days when the choice between eating or paying the electric bill was a very real nightmare indeed. Nothing would help me get over the hump of payday poverty more than singing out “can’t even feed my cat…on social security.” Written during the early days of the band, long before a huge payday, “Down Payment Blues” captures the mood of Bon at the time. Being broke sucks. This is an excellent anthem that should be remembered much more often.
3. Love Hungry Man
As is the case with any song from Back In Black, it’s hard to imagine that there is a song from Highway To Hell that doesn’t get recognition. However, that is the case with “Love Hungry Man.” The entire album finds Bon Scott’s voice at its best with the band, however, “Love Hungry Man” stands out for the terrific high notes that Scott hits. I honestly believe this is the reason AC/DC does not perform this song in concert. As great as he is, I am not sure that Brian Johnson would be able to do this song justice. With slick lyrics like “oh baby you’re such a treat, a man’s got to eat.” “Love Hungry Man,” may not be the deepest song in AC/DC’s catalog, but it is one heck of a fun song to rock out to.
One of the best solos that Angus Young has ever performed is stuck on a record that almost no one owns. Flick Of The Switch is an album that suffers from poor timing. Released after For Those About To Rock… in the mid-eighties, Flick Of The Switch received little promotion and even less fan buzz. That is a true shame, because it is a solid album. The best gem from this disc is “Landslide.” The opening riff snaps the senses alive an Angus’ finger picking is second to none. The solos burst the song to life and if AC/DC ever decided to pull this song out in concert, you would hear me screaming from the rooftops. “If you want classic Brian Johnson era AC/DC, you need to listen to “Landslide.” It is one of the best songs the band ever recorded with Johnson at the microphone.
1. Ain’t No Fun Waitin’ Round To Be A Millionaire
The early days of AC/DC being broke and hungry found them at their most creative. Bon Scott penned several songs about needing money, wanting money, and not having money, and most of them were true masterpieces. One of the best of those themes is “Ain’t No Fun Waitin’ Round To Be A Millionare.” With lyrics like “I got patches, on the patches, of my old blue jeans—well they used to be blue, when they used to be new, when they used to be clean,” AC/DC wrote a terrific song about waiting for stardom that was forgotten almost as soon as it was written. That sucks. “Ain’t No Fun…” could be the greatest AC/DC song ever recorded after “Shook Me All Night Long,” and yet, not many fans remember it. Bon sings of being supported by a woman working double shifts while he is trying to make it as a rock star. The doubt of what the future holds, if anything, is painted all over the song. Complete with some great blues rock, “Ain’t No Fun…” is certainly fun if you’re a fan of AC/DC.
These songs deserve more exposure. Perhaps the DJs over at The Boneyard will give them some more attention. Who knows, maybe AC/DC themselves will read this column and dust off some of these beauties for their next world tour. Stranger things have happened.
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Hard Rock Hideout celebrated its fifth anniversary this week. Considering that the average life span of a rock music blog/website is just over 2 years, this is an amazing feat. For the last five years, Hard Rock Hideout has been providing the greatest news, reviews, and information on all of our favorite hard rocking bands, as well as presenting plenty of information on fresh new bands that deserve some attention. I would like to dedicate this edition of Vie’s Verses to what I feel is the greatest hard rock site on the web – Hard Rock Hideout – with a look back into the hard rocking year 2006, the year that HRH launched.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 250 years prior. One of the greatest composers the world has ever known, and clearly a predecessor (albeit centuries early) to rock and roll, there was a memorable celebration for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.
ITunes celebrated 2006 in style, capturing their one billionth download. That’s 1,000,000,000 songs that were downloaded through ITunes. I would call that a most successful venture. It would be nice to know how many of those downloads were heavy metal songs. I wonder if there is a statistical breakdown by category somewhere.
U2 cleaned up at the Grammy Awards behind How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The band took home five Grammy awards that evening, including album of the year and song of the year.
MTV celebrated their 25th anniversary. That harkened back to the days when MTV actually showed music videos. Many of my favorite metal bands were discovered through MTV, specifically Headbanger’s Ball, which I watched religiously throughout high school. Every Saturday night at 11 you could find me glued to the tube waiting to discover the next great metal band.
We lost two great musicians in 2006. Both Pink Floyd’s original lead singer Syd Barrett and the Godfather of soul, James Brown, passed away that year. Both of these legends are still missed.
The hit British music show, Top Of The Pops, which featured some great metal artists such as AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and Faith No More, aired their final episode. The show ran for 42 years (1964 until 2006), one of the longest running music programs in television history.
Some great hard rock bands formed in 2006, including Hell Yeah (Vinnie Paul’s latest band) and rookie sensation Cage The Elephant. Other great hard rock bands decided that it was time to quit the scene, including Cold (most notable for their big hit “Stupid Girl”) and System Of A Down. Cold would reunite in 2008, System Of A Down in 2011.
There were also some great comebacks/reformations that year. Alice In Chains returned the scene with a brand new singer and high hopes. Josh Todd and Keith Nelson reformed Buckcherry (with a brand new supporting cast) and released one of the band’s strongest albums ever in 15. The song “Crazy Bitch” tour up the charts and put Buckcherry back on the hard rock map. Everclear sans everyone except lead singer/guitarist Art Alexakis reformed and released Welcome To The Drama Club.
What other great albums were released in 2006? Papa Roach unleashed their best album ever in The Paramour Sessions. Pearl Jam put out their self titled album, one of the band’s best efforts since the early days of Pearl Jam. Audioslave unleashed their final disc in Revelations. Chris Cornell would go on to reform Soundgarden while the remaining members would put Rage Against The Machine back together. Paul Stanley released his first official solo album, Live To Win. Heavy metal legends Iron Maiden blessed us with A Matter Of Life And Death which would debut at #9 on the Billboard Top 100 in the U.S. The band celebrated their first top ten record by performing the album in its entirety during their 2006 world tour. Fan reactions to that decision were mixed. The Red Hot Chili Peppers released Stadium Arcadium, which would go on to sell 7.9 Million units.
Some notable debut albums were also released that year. Black Stone Cherry put out their self titled debut, which still sounds amazing to this day. And one of my all time favorite records was released. The Red Jumpsuit Aparatus came out with their debut record Don’t You Fake It. This is an album that renewed my faith in both rock music and modern rock bands.
2006 was a great year for music and for music fans. A lot of grand things took place that year, but nothing was grander than the debut of a little rock website known as Hard Rock Hideout. To Rob Rockitt I say “Thank You.” For the last five years you have put out a must read site that I visit daily. I would be hard pressed to find another hard rock site that compares. I hope there are many more years to come.
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In the world of hard rock music, there are several talented guitarists that could be considered the best of the best by almost anyone. Names that come to mind immediately include Yngwie Malsteen, Joe Satriani, Ted Nugent, and Eddie Van Halen, just to name a few. However, in the midst of all this greatness, there are some guitarists that slip under the radar and fail to get the recognition that they truly deserve. One such guitarist is Brian May.
When you hear a mention of the band Queen, the first thought that is probably conjured in the brain is of Freddie Mercury. Mercury was the flamboyant, incredible, amazing lead singer of Queen. He was one of the best band leaders in the history of rock. There are few that could compare to his showmanship, his style, and his voice. He was the face of Queen and when he passed away, the band went dark for many years. It’s easy to understand how Queen would be synonymous with Mercury. Yet, the brilliance of Freddie Mercury should not overshadow the fantastic work of Brian May on lead guitar. Have you ever really listened to Brian May play guitar on any Queen albums? From A Night At The Opera to Innuendo, the man was a guitar genius.
Brian May does not get the recognition that he deserves. Listen to the first two Queen albums and you can easily identify that before Freddie Mercury stepped up and took over the band, Brian May was the focal point of the music. The dark guitars and ripping solos reign on Queen and Queen II. Even after Queen became the Mercury show, May was still showcasing his amazing talents, as is obvious on the solos for songs such as “We Will Rock You,” “I’m In Love With My Car,” and “Flash.”
It’s easy to forget that Queen was actually May’s band. He started Queen from the ashes of Smile and it was Freddie Mercury who joined the band and pushed them in a new direction. Certainly, Queen would never have been as massive as they were without Freddie Mercury, but Queen would not be as grand without Brian May.
The later Queen albums give a deeper appreciation for his greatness. The solo on “Invisible Man” (from 1988’s The Miracle) is one of the best guitar solos I’ve ever heard on a record. The way that May is able to tap his fingers up and down and all around that guitar neck is unbelievable. He has shown other flashes of brilliance throughout Queen’s body of work as well. Songs like “Bicycle Race,” “Tie Your Mother Down,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” would never be the same without May’s signature guitar work finishing the brilliance on each of those songs.
In the world of guitarists, it’s easy to forget Brian May, especially since he and Queen are not in the limelight that often. However, May is up there with Jimi Hendrix and Edward Van Halen as one of the most talented guitarists to change the way we hear rock music. May’s experimental sound and style helped form the backbone of Queen and led to a new wave of intense show rock. When we stop and think of the greatest guitarists to ever play rock and roll, Brian May’s name has to be mentioned in the conversation. I can’t say exactly what number he would rank, but Brian May is definitely in the top ten. The world of rock music is better off for having had Brian May be a part of it.
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Unless you’ve spent too much time at the Occupy Wall Street protests, you know that the Axl Rose version of Guns N Roses is embarking on a North American tour this fall. While this news has some fans excited, it has others wondering when the impending tour will implode, how long it will take Axl to go on a temper tantrum rage, and whether Slash T-Shirts will be allowed into the arenas.
The first thing that caught my eye after the announcement was made that Guns N Roses was going on tour this fall was the ticket prices. I immediately went online, expecting to see some astronomical cost that would immediately cause me to disqualify myself from attending any local area concerts. This would allow me the opportunity to produce a venom filled rage about how Axl was ripping off the fans and it wasn’t even the original band members.
However, when I looked online at ticket prices, I noticed immediately how affordable they were. That caught me by surprise. Ticket prices in the NY/NJ area ranged between $37 and $112 (and that includes the immoral fees that Ticketmaster adds). I could certainly afford $40 to see Guns N Roses. Ticket prices were not going to give me an excuse for an amusing rant.
That being said, there is still plenty to wonder about when it comes to an Axl Rose led tour of Guns N Roses. The first question I had was: who is in the band? Reports from the web confirm that DJ Ashba and Bumblefoot are both playing guitar and that Tommy Stinson is still on bass. While they aren’t Slash, Izzy, and Duff, they aren’t slouches either. Bumblefoot has done some amazing work on Chinese Democracy and DJ Ashba was fantastic with Sixx AM. So while it wouldn’t be the original incarnation of Guns, it’s not a bad replacement band. The band members failed to give me a good excuse to rant and rave about how I refuse to attend this show.
Okay, so maybe the ticket prices are affordable and the band members (while not the original) are solid, but the setlist can’t be great, right? It will probably consist of some Chinese Democracy songs and a couple of overplayed classics. There’s no way that Axl and the replacements would play some deep cuts from the early catalog. Well, after researching the setlists they’ve played overseas, it appears the band is digging deep on this show. If you like the classics (Welcome To The Jungle, Mr. Brownstone, You Could Be Mine, November Rain, Paradise City) they are all there. If you like the new material (Chinese Democracy, Better, Street Of Dreams), they are covered as well. And if you like the deep cuts (Estranged, Rocket Queen) they are also being played. Throw in some surprise covers and it all adds up to a magnificent setlist. Point blank honesty – I was shocked by how inviting the set looked.
Then there’s the last little bit about when the hell will the show start? Well, Axl isn’t changing his ways there, but at least they’ve warned the fans in advance. In a message posted on GnR’s Facebook page, it read the following: “Love it Hate it Accept it Debate it – You want 8 o’clock shows go find F-R-I-E-N-D-S or hit a cinema somewhere.. or you wanna be informed go catch the 10 o’clock news.. this is Rock N’ Roll!…This is Guns N’Roses and when the time is right the stage will ignite…”
All I can say is forewarned is forearmed. Bring a book. Grab an IPOD, or plan to do PLENTY of tailgating in the parking lot. Either way, don’t bother entering the building until at least 10:00PM (and even then you may be a tad early). While late start times bug the heck out of me, being warned in advance that they are going to happen makes it a whole lot easier to deal with.
So perhaps seeing the 2011 incarnation of Guns N Roses wouldn’t be that bad. What do you think? Are you going to see GnR on tour this fall?
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The latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees have been announced. I was not upset with this year’s list, which included the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys on a return ballot, along with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Guns N Roses, The Cure, and Faces. All of those bands had some critical claim to the way that rock music was shaped. So while this year’s nominees are solid, there is still one glaring omission yet again—Kiss.
This notable omission is simply ridiculous. Not only is the Hall of Fame ignoring one of the greatest rock acts of the 20th century (for the twelfth year in a row), they are also insulting Kiss fans everywhere and, by extension, rock music fans.
Putting aside my personal biases, I decided to research the qualifications to enter the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, who makes such decisions, and how many acts are allowed to be nominated in one particular year. I wanted to learn, first hand, if Kiss truly deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
First up is the initial qualification to be inducted into the hall. This comes from the Hall of Fame’s own website and states the following: “One of the foundations many functions, is to recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development, and perpetuation of rock and roll by inducting them into the Hall of Fame.”
Other criteria are:
- 25 years must have passed since the release of the artists first album
- Unquestionable musical excellence
- Musical influence on other artists
- Length and depth of career and body of work
Without a doubt, Kiss meets all of these qualifications. Obviously they make the time qualification (their first record was released in 1974). They have made a significant impact on the evolution, development, and perpetuation of rock and roll. Kiss led the way for an innovative live stage show. Their live act was the stuff of fantasy before Kiss came along and showed every other band what a live performance should be like.
Then they went ahead and changed the world of music by showing how a live album should be done. Prior to Kiss bands did not release live records. It was unheard of—they wouldn’t sell. Kiss forever changed the way that music is heard and now, every band has a live record, some as their second release.
As for musical influence on other artists, let’s examine the following: Red Hot Chili Peppers have stated they were influenced by Kiss. Guns N Roses have stated that they were influenced by Kiss. Looking at bands that are already in the Hall, Aerosmith was influenced by Kiss. Metallica have stated numerous times what an effect Kiss had on their music. Van Halen was discovered by Kiss (or at least a member of Kiss). So it’s clear that Kiss had musical influence on other artists—including artists that are in the Hall of Fame themselves.
As far as “unquestionable music excellence” goes, look at their album sales. After the Beatles, no other band has more gold and platinum albums than Kiss. Obviously fans thought their music was excellent. If the rating is determined by chart position, Kiss had 10 studio albums and 6 live albums that were in the top 25 US albums. 16 albums in the top 25 is a lot more than most of the performers currently in the hall have.
Seeing as how Kiss meets all the qualifications to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame, let’s take a look at the people who are doing the nominating. What makes these people so qualified to determine who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Again, from the hall’s own website:
“The Foundation’s nominating committee, composed of rock and roll historians, select nominees each year in the Performer’s category. Ballots are then sent to an international voting body of more than 500 rock experts.” Performers have to receive more than 50% of the vote to be inducted and usually 5 to 7 performers are inducted each year.
Simply stated, the nominating committee determines who is put on the ballot, and that committee is made up of “rock historians.” And what, pray tell, does it take to be a rock historian? It’s not as if there is a degree in rock music history (or if there is, I’ve never heard of it). Perhaps it is safest to define a rock historian as someone who studies the history of rock music and provides abundant knowledge on the subject. If that is true, or even close, how could these “historians” not nominate Kiss for the Hall of Fame? Is this a personal vendetta? What gives?
Sadly, Kiss’ omission from The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is annoying and confusing. How could a band with this much history, this much influence on other musicians, this much gold and platinum in their catalog, not be in the Hall of Fame? It makes no sense to me. Love them or hate them, the facts remain…Kiss is Hall of Fame material. When will the “historians” see that?
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Regardless of personal feelings about the band, there is no denying the impact the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind had on the hard rock community. That album changed the way music was heard. It pushed the boundaries of what was expected from a hard rock record. Nevermind changed the entire landscape of rock music and countless bands would follow hoping to emulate that sound and that market share. Nirvana would become known as leaders in the “grunge” revolution, but I think what gets lost in the re-telling of the story is how fantastic of an album Nevermind really is.
Sure, Nirvana is often referred to as the band that killed hair metal, or the band that launched grunge, or the band that started the wave of “feeling sorry for myself” rock music, but beyond that, Nirvana released an album that touched the senses in a way not many before had. Take a look at the gigantic first single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The first time you heard the choppy guitar riff followed by the crashing drums of Dave Grohl that sounded like a fireworks display grand finale, you had to hear more. And more importantly, you had to own this album. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was something different, as was the entire Nevermind album.
Over the course of the last twenty years, we’ve all been caught up in the death of Kurt Cobain, the speculation of what could have been had he not committed suicide. We’ve been fascinated with the conspiracy theory of whether he was murdered. We’ve been entrenched in looking for long last demos and unreleased material. What we’ve forgotten though is the complex brilliance of Nevermind. As a young man listening to Nevermind for the first time, I connected with songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” On A Plane,” and “Territorial Pissings”. Finally! A platform where I could shout about the bad things in life and release my pain through primal screaming thinly veiled as rock music. It was an amazing experience.
Don’t get me wrong. The hair metal of the time was exceptional music in its own right. Singing about women and sex and booze and partying had its place, but finally having an outlet to unleash my inner anger without having to burp, grunt, and growl incomprehensibly (ala Death/Doom Metal), added to my already growing feeling of invincibility and immortality. If I were to hear Nevermind for the first time today, I would certainly like it, but I can’t guarantee that I would embrace it the same way I did in my late teens. Nevermind was a calling to all the youth of the nation that it was ok to explode from time to time and that life wasn’t always about the party. Nevermind was a reminder that there is anger inside of us all and that occasionally, that anger needs to be released, vented, and distributed into the world.
There aren’t many albums that affect me the way Nevermind did. The pure unique sound and style, the band’s desire to be decidedly different, their willingness to embrace their independence is something that I was enamored with. Nirvana was truly unique, and my first exposure to Nevermind cemented me as a fan and secured my love for the band. It’s a shame that we never got to see a deeper body of work, but I will always appreciate what we do have and will never forget how groundbreaking Nevermind was and how it shook the rock world to its core, slapping rock music in the face, and waking up the sleeping masses. Yes, we had to endure several copycats and a lot of not so great bands, not to mention endless songs about hating yourself and hating life, but it was all worth it. There are few albums as grand as Nevermind.
In the early 70s, there was really only one band that defined the rock music of the time—Led Zeppelin. Sure, Black Sabbath was around making some incredible heavy metal, and Kiss was winning fans over with their songs about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but if you wanted to hear true hard rock that was redefining musical innovation, it was Led Zeppelin that had to be played. Not since the Beatles (and perhaps Elvis before them) had anyone changed the stratosphere of the music scene in such a prominent and permanent way.
When Led Zeppelin split up shortly after the death of John Bonham, the rock world was devastated and stunned. It was thought that there would never be another band as innovative, stylistic, and amazing as Zeppelin had been. The rock world would feel the loss for years to come. Then in 1987, a little known band from Hollywood, California, released an album called Appetite For Destruction.
Appetite For Destruction put Guns N Roses on the metal map, but it wasn’t that album that launched them into the Zeppelin conversation. That would come later. If Guns N Roses had recorded Appetite and Lies and then called it a day, they would be well remembered in rock history, but they wouldn’t be considered icons.
20 years ago, Guns N Roses released two albums on the same day— Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. It is these albums that really showed their innovative spirit and what these rock stars from California could do when they set their mind to it. Both Illusion albums would prove to be the band’s swan song (although they did release a covers disc two years later). It was a great mark to leave and 20 years later, the music on those records still holds up.
Zeppelin brought a whole new level of creating music with albums like Physical Graffiti and the untitled Led Zeppelin IV. Songs like “Kashmir,” “Black Dog,” and “Stairway To Heaven” had never even been conceived before, let alone heard. Guns N Roses produced a similar effect with the release of the Illusions.”Estranged,” “Coma,” and “Locomotive” are breath taking inspirations that only a genius could create. If “Stairway To Heaven” was the greatest rock song of its day, “November Rain” was the greatest rock song of its day nearly 30 years later.
Zeppelin was unique in all aspects of their music. From Jimmy Page’s incredible guitar and experimental styles, to Plant’s lyrics and song depth, Led Zeppelin had it all in a way that had never been witnessed before. Guns N Roses would follow in that suit. Slash’s solos on the Illusion albums are iconic and the depth of Axl Rose’s lyrics is for deep thinkers only. The way that each song was masterfully constructed truly left its mark on the history of music.
Led Zeppelin rarely recorded a bad song and the same could be said about Guns N Roses (if you don’t count the covers album). Each band has a catalog of incredible material that still holds up to this day and is better than most music being recorded in the modern era. Both bands would make a fortune on a reunion of original members (with son Jason replacing John on drums, obviously). Both bands called it quits at the height of their creative talents. Both bands were amazing in their own right and it would be a great challenge to find any other band that could be compared to either of these grand champions of musical invention.
If Led Zeppelin was the band of the 70s era generation, then Guns N Roses is the epitome of the 80s era generation. There will never be another Led Zeppelin. However, with that being said, there will never be another Guns N Roses either. Both bands are one of a kind and the sound of their generation.