Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Perfect Circle at Planet Hollywood

Check out my photos of A Perfect Circle at Planet Hollywood over at Pure Volume.

A line of Tool, Puscifer and A Perfect Circle shirts congested the walkways of Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas as they eagerly lined up to see the only performance of A Perfect Circle for 2012. After a rousing set of comedy from Neil Hamburger, the lights dimmed to illuminate the trademark logo suspended from the stage. Billy Howerdel sat center stage in front of a tiny piano for the delicate keys of "Annihilation". Maynard James Keenan was lurking in the shadows in the back of the stage on his platform as he sung "Imagine" while James Iha provided the shadowy synthesizers for sonic texture. 

The momentum quickly shifted as the storming guitars of Howerdel and Iha combined for "Weak and Powerless".  Matt McJunkins dialed up a snarling bass tone for the crush of "Rose" propelled by the drumming prowess of Jeff Friedl. "Blue" had the lights change to the aforementioned color on cue as you could barely make out the lunges of Keenan in the shadows. Their cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" took on a dirge like quality. It was impressive how well the band sounded given it was their only show of the year. Keenan's vocals were spot on as he deftly switched between screaming and singing for "The Outsider". Howerdel showed off his own vocal skills for "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?". Iha switched back to his keyboard for "When The Levee Breaks" as Keenan's vocals reverberated into you skull. 

Providing some levity for the evening was joke time with James Iha. Iha told a story about a jumper cable walking into the bar and that he wouldn't be served as long as he didn't start anything. Things quickly switched back to heaviness as the stacked vocal harmonies of "The Noose" left me gasping for air. "The Package" was delivered perfectly as Freidl nailed the quirky drum hits before the band dived head first into the avalanche of sound. "Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm of the War Drums" was a monstrous industrial tinged sledgehammer to your head as your whole body felt the reverberations from the stage. Instead of pretending to walk off the stage, A Perfect Circle closed out the evening with the dark synthesizer fueled overtones of "By And Down". One can only hope it won't take another year to see A Perfect Circle again.

"Weak And Powerless"
"The Hollow"
"What's Going On"
"People Are People"
"The Outsider"
"(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?
"When The Levee Breaks"
"The Noose"
"3 Libras"
"The Package"
"Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie"
"Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums"
"By And Down"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Armored Saint at the House of Blues Sunset Strip

It was a historic night for Metal Blade records as they celebrated their thirtieth anniversary at the House of Blues Sunset. Avid hockey fan and metalhead connoisseur Brian Slagel is the head of Metal Blade records has left an indelible mark in the world of metal releasing Metallica's "Hit The Lights" on the infamous Metal Massacre compilation back in June of 1982!
Headlining the festivities of the evening was the highly underrated Armored Saint. My brother got me hooked on Armored Saint back in the day as he constantly would play March of the Saint and Delirious Nomad on vinyl. The House of Blues was buzzing as the curtain lifted to hilariously reveal Armored Saint donning their classic clothes from the '80s replete with long hair wigs to get everyone in the '80s state of mind.
1983 was alive an well as they ripped through "Lesson Well Learned" from their debut EP. Phil Sandoval was rocking the old school armored vest while peeling off leads from his ESP guitar. It was flashback city as "March Of The Saint' had Joey Vera pummeling his ESP bass. The long hair wigs finally were ditched to  reveal a very bald John Bush and Joey Vera. John Bush may have one of the best voices in metal as he has also made a career for himself doing commercial voice over work.

Gonzo Sandoval was rocking the double bass drum kit for "Long Before I Die" as Jeff Duncan added his razor sharp riffs into the mix. While Armored Saint has played sporadically over the years, they were well rehearsed and even made a live debut of "Control Issues" from their Revelation album. Getting into the spirit of Metal Blade records, they covered Metallica's "Hit The Lights" with an assist from Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth.
The classic covers kept coming as Ray Alder from Fates Warning joined the band for Slayer's "Die By The Sword". Keeping things in the family, John Bush's very young son donned a guitar and provided background vocals for "Can U Deliver" for the most heart warming metal moment of the evening. "Chemical Euphoria" closed out their main set that seemed to go by in seconds.
My brother was elated that they started off their encore with his all time favorite Armored Saint song "Aftermath". Doug Pinnick of King's X joined the band for a cover of Thin Lizzy's "Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)" which was a tribute to Brian Slagel since it is one of his favorite bands. My favorite track "Reign Of Fire" was flawless and perfectly set up the closing salvo of "Mad House" as Brian Slagel was coaxed onto the stage to sing background vocals. I only hope Armored Saint can record another album or tour again soon.

Armored Saint Setlist at the House of Blues Sunset (11/30/12)
01 "Lesson Well Learned"
02 "March Of The Saint"
03 "Left Hook From Right Field"
04 "Long Before I Die"
05 "Control Issues"
06 "Hit The Lights"
07 "Human Vulture"
08 "Dropping Like Flies"
09 "Die By The Sword"
10 "Little Monkey"
11 "Can U Deliver"
12 "Chemical  Euphoria"
13 "Aftermath"
14 "Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)"
15 "Reign Of Fire"
16 "Mad House"

Monday, December 03, 2012

Sound City Movie Trailer

With the Foo Fighters on hiatus, Dave Grohl is still keeping busy recording drums for the new Queens of the Stone Age album. Another exciting project is his debut as a director for the documentary entitled Sound City which details the historic recording studio and its analog Neve recording desk.

Grohl also called in a number of musical pals including Trent Reznor, Rage Against The Machine, Tom Petty and Metallica. Being a pedal collector with loads of recording gear, it appears to be quite an interesting journey as they interview famous bands who recorded some of their seminal albums at the studio. The film will debut at the Sundance Festival in 2013. I am hoping for an LA screening.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Deftones at the Hollywood Palladium

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After witnessing a blistering set at the House of Blues San Diego, it was a no-brainer to see Deftones again at the Hollywood Palladium. Koi No Yokan has been in constant rotation since its release and is rapidly ascending the ranks to being my favorite album in their discography. Given the fact that Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter reside in the Los Angeles area, it was a special partial hometown show that featured a few guest appearances.

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While the setlist closely mimicked the San Diego show, there were a few notable exceptions. The crowd was perplexed when Sergio Vega pounded out the ratchet sounding bass line for Joe Jackson's classic tune "Steppin' Out" as Moreno sang it true form to the original. I'm not familiar with Jackson's discography but "Steppin' Out" is a legitimate classic song and it was interesting to hear the song through the sonic prism of the Deftones. "Passenger" had Greg Puciato from Dillinger Escape Plan handle the vocal parts while Alexi Laiho added some guitar muscle to "Root". Hopefully the Deftones will do another run across the States or maybe a slot at Coachella to show some bands how it is done.

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Deftones Setlist at the Hollywood Palladium
01 "Diamond Eyes"
02 "Rocket Skates"
03 "Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)
04 "My Own Summer (Shove It)
05 "Poltergeist"
06 "Rosemary"
07 "Swerve City"
08 "Feiticeira"
09 "Digital Bath"
10 "Knife Party"
11 "Tempest"
12 "Engine No. 9"
13 "Riviere"
14 "Change (In The House Of Flies)"
15 "Steppin' Out"
16 "Passenger"
17 "Bloody Cape"
18 "Bored"
19 "Root"
20 "7 Words"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Deftones at the House of Blues San Diego

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While the year isn't over, Koi No Yokan might race to the finish as being my most listened to album all year. Interviewing Chino Moreno a few months ago was definitely a highlight of the year as I've been a longtime supporter of the Deftones dating back to when I saw them on the Warped Tour during the Adrenaline tour. Most fans of Deftones are accustomed to lengthy delays between albums but the inclusion of Sergio Vega on bass has seemed to reinvigorate the band as they basically leveled a beyond sold out House of Blues San Diego.

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You could feel the energy in the room start to surge as the lights dimmed. Grasping his signature black ESP eight string guitar, Stephen Carpenter unleashed a sonic storm with the crushing riff of "Diamond Eyes" as Frank Delgado manned his synthesizer station adding samples and layers. It was going to be a crazy night as Moreno dove right in front of me into the crowd. This usually doesn't happen in the first three songs.

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It was a barrage of riff after crushing riff. "Rocket Skates" and "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" made the whole floor of the House of Blues one large mosh pit. Usually the energy level drops when bands play new songs at concerts. This definitely was not the case during "Poltergeist" as the crowd echoed the electronic hand claps before Carpenter and Vega unloaded their locked-in bone rattling guitar and bass bludgeoning. Moreno picked up a Gibson SG guitar to add shades of texture to "Rosemary".

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"Feiticeira" kept the mosh pit spinning as Moreno sounded demonic with his processed screams as Abe  Cunningham dutifully crushed his drum kit. Stepping into their dark and ambient phase, "Digital Bath" melted smoothly into "Knife Party". The dreamy intro of "Tempest" could lull you into sleep before the main riff kicks in and kicks you in the face. Deftones are masters of utilizing song dynamics and "Tempest " is a beautiful example of pacing and song structure.

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Stepping into a time machine and landing in 1991, "Fireal" and "Engine No. 9" were white hot with Moreno never missing a beat on the vocals. The crowd up front was getting punished but still sang along every word to "Change (In the House of Flies). One of the most impressive performances was that of "Passenger" as the band was completely locked in and Moreno handled both his and Maynard James Keenan's vocals effortlessly.

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The overall volume was deafening as the Deftones had brought in extra speakers as if they were playing an arena. "Bloody Cape" sounded so gigantic that a light bulb literally unscrewed itself and fell from the ceiling. That is a concert first. A heavy textural dispatch of guitars soon melted into the jackhammer riff of "Bored". "7 Words" sadly brought the evening to a close but I was only slightly relieved that I would possibly catch their show at the Hollywood Palladium. Koi No Yokan will be favorite album of 2012.

Deftones setlist at the House of Blues San Diego (11/19/12)
01 Diamond Eyes
02 Rocket Skates
03 Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
04 My Own Summer (Shove It)
05 Poltergeist
06 Rosemary
07 Swerve City
08 Feiticeira
09 Digital Bath
10 Knife Party
11 Tempest
12 Fireal
13 Engine No. 9
14 Riviere
15 Change (In the House of Flies)
16 Passenger
17 Bloody Cape
18 Bored
19 7 Words

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sea Wolf at the El Rey Theatre

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Sea Wolf received a warm welcome for their homecoming tour finale on a chilly evening at the El Rey Theatre. Wrapping up a headlining tour in support of their excellent album Old World Romance, Alex Church and company weaved together an entrancing set.

The Donnies The Amys
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I wasn't familiar with the name The Donnies The Amys at first. But instantly recognized drum goddess Amy Wood who has slayed on the kit for Big Black Delta and also helmed the drums during Fiona Apple's tour. Quite the impressive resume.

Amy had been pulling double duty as The Donnies The Amys had been opening a handful of shows on the Fiona Apple tour before linking up for a few of the remaining Sea Wolf dates. The Donnies The Amys played a delightful set and I would recommend checking out their album which is economically priced at five dollars on bandcamp.

Hey Marseilles
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Hailing from Washington, Hey Marseilles worked through an infectious set of sweeping orchestral inspired pop.  They have one album so far entitled, To Travels and Trunks with a follow up album promised to be released soon.  Their music had elements of The National, The Decemberists and a touch of Arcade Fire.

Hey Marseilles used every band member effectively though and didn't include instruments just to make noise. Matt Bishop was an engaging frontman with his vocal style reminiscent of Colin Meloy. Since it was the last night of the tour, members of all the bands appeared at the end of their set for a sing along of "Rio". Keep an eye out for their sophomore album.

Sea Wolf
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I distinctly remember Alex Church standing out in Irving when they opened for Silversun Pickups at the Troubadour in 2006. When he eventually formed Sea Wolf, I was onboard from the start. Earlier this year, I caught Sea Wolf's return to the stage when they played the Observatory and debuted some new material from Old World Romance.

Catching the tour finale was a good idea as they sounded razor sharp from the opening chords of "Miracle Cure". A flood of old memories came tumbling back upon hearing the familiar notes of "Winter Windows". Another familiar tune "The Traitor", kept everyones heads bobbing throughout the venue. A tremolo guitar opening for "Old Friend" melted effortlessly into the ringing picked acoustic guitar notes.

Circular guitars and dampened drum snaps dictated the pace of "In Nothing" which sounded even more formidable live. Deftly bouncing between old and new material, "Dew In The Grass" and "White Water, White Bloom" were followed by the symphonic swirl of "Priscilla". The pace quickened with "Middle Distance Runner". Turning back the clock to 2007 and their first EP, "I  Made A Resolution" was a pleasant surprise.

The sublime jangle of "Turn The Dirt Over" washed over the crowd like a cool breeze. "Kasper" haunted the audience with its snappy drums and Church's smooth vocals. The highlight of the evening was "You're A Wolf" with some guest cello from Hey Marseilles. A generous applause had Sea Wolf come out for an encore of "Black Leaf Falls". Church's aching vocals of "Saint Catherine St." were underpinned against shimmering guitars to the point of perfection. "Black Dirt" capped out an evening that seemed to go by in seconds.

Sea Wolf Setlist at the El Rey Theatre (11/ 11/2012)
1. "Miracle Cure"
2. "Winter Windows"
3. "The Traitor"
4. "Old Friend"
5. "In Nothing"
6. "Dew In The Grass"
7. "White Water, White Bloom"
8. "Priscilla"
9. "Middle Distance Runner"
10. "I Made A Resolution"
11. "Turn The Dirt Over"
12. "Kasper"
13. "You're A Wolf"
14. "Black Falls"
15. "Saint Catherine St."
16. "Black Dirt"