Styx / Joan Jett / Tesla Rock Atlanta

Photography by Charlie Holloway

Styx came to Atlanta on the evening of June 16th, and they were on a Mission. Because June 16th, you see, was the one-year anniversary of the release of their most recent studio album, The Mission. They celebrated that as well as last year’s 40th anniversary of their 1977 landmark album The Grand Illusion by bringing their brand of catchy radio-friendly prog-pop to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, supported by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Tesla.

Running through many of their greatest hits, Styx wowed the crowd with a youthful energy and a spectacular stage show, which featured impressive animations based on their various album covers. While still riding the wave of The Mission’s release a year ago (read our review of it here), the band showcased their deep and rich legacy with a setlist that stretched as far back as 1973’s Styx II (playing the perennial classic rock radio love song staple, “Lady”) and featured many of the – if you’ll pardon the pun – cornerstones of its illustrious history. Turn on any classic rock station and at some point during the day you’re almost guaranteed to hear “Blue Collar Man,” “Renegade,” “Come Sail Away,” “Fooling Yourself,” or “Too Much Time on My Hands,” all of which were present and accounted for in the show. Alongside those were some of the lesser hits and iconic standards like “The Grand Illusion,” “Rockin’ the Paradise,” “Light Up,” and James “JY” Young’s big rock classic, “Miss America.” Some of the tempos were a little slower than what you’d hear on the original album versions, but the energy was high and the mood buoyant, belying the various members’ advancing ages. You would never guess from watching and listening to them onstage that the elder statesmen of the band – the cherubic Tommy Shaw and guitar monster JY – are mid-60s-pushing-70. In fact, the only cracks to be found in the pristine image were in Shaw’s voice, recovering as he was from a bout of laryngitis, and he certainly didn’t let affect his performance. The two youngest guys are vocalist/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan at 61 and powerhouse drummer Todd Sucherman at 59. Gowan, in particular, held a theatrical command over the audience, dancing around the stage or standing atop his keyboard, only sitting for the quieter piano numbers like “Lady” and the first two verses of “Come Sail Away.”

The highlights of the night, for me, were hearing four of the songs from The Mission performed live. The album is easily one of the best in the band’s career and the material sounds powerful and accomplished live, sitting quite comfortably and authoritatively alongside the familiar classics. Kicking off the night with the album’s opener and first single, “Gone Gone Gone” is a short, fast, kick-in-the-ass rocker that packs a whole lot of kapow into its 128 seconds. Based on a fiery riff by JY and sung by Gowan, it’s repeated motif of “Light it up, let’s get this show in the road” set the tone for a night of solid rock ‘n’ roll. After a string of big hits, the group presented the centerpiece of the show: Shaw’s modern masterpiece, “Radio Silence.” It’s an epic, expansive song about isolation and a struggle against hopelessness. Think his classic track from The Grand Illusion, “Man in the Wilderness,” but set in space. Two songs later, we were treated to The Mission’s cinematic climax, “The Outpost,” a song about breaking through adversity and seeing hope on the horizon. For his piano solo, Gowan presented the beautiful piece “Khedive” before launching the audience into a big group singalong of the operatic mid-section of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The big surprise of the night, though, was in the encore: after a killer show and a rousing ovation from the audience, Styx resumed the stage to play their 1983 hit “Mr. Roboto.” Two things make that surprising: 1) This tour is the first time the band has ever played that song live. Yes, it was the opening song of the 1983-4 Kilroy Was Here tour, but original singer/writer Dennis DeYoung sang it live to a backing track. 2) Kilroy Was Here was the album that finally splintered Styx after a few years of division and strife about the direction of the band between DeYoung and the rest of the guys, causing Shaw to quit the band. That Tommy and JY have now come to terms with all that song represents is a big thing, and the crowd ate it up.

The whole night was a classic rock fan’s dream, kicking off with those modern-day cowboys, Tesla, celebrating their 30th anniversary. This was my first time seeing Tesla live, and I wasn’t disappointed. I expected to hear a good, competent rock show and that’s exactly what they delivered. Their eight-song, 45-ish-minute set was packed with killer tunes led by the solid guitar delivery of Frank Hannon and the sandpaper voice of Jeff Keith.

Joan Jett and her rowdy gang of Blackhearts played their reliably sturdy brand of kick-ass punk-inspired rock to an enthusiastic crowd. Joan and the boys never fail to deliver a killer show and this was no exception. Armed with a battery of guided rock ‘n’ roll missiles like “Cherry Bomb,” “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Crimson and Clover” and especially “I Hate Myself For Loving You” that never failed to hit their target, the Heartbreakers rocked the faces off an adoring crowd. One of the highlights of their set was a new song, “Fresh Start,” which is featured in a new documentary about Jett’s career called, of course, Bad Reputation, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January. Sadly, checking their setlists from previous nights I learned that the Jetthearts shortened their set by one song, leaving out their excellent cover of Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child,” presumably because weather issues caused the band to start a few minutes late.

Kudos go to the audience as well. This was a pretty fired up crowd that remained standing for much of the show. About a third of the crowd stood for the whole of Tesla’s set and everyone was on their feet for pretty much all of Jett and Styx’s respective sets (except, predictably, for Styx’s new songs). I really hate sitting down at rock shows, so this was a nice surprise. All three bands showed the Atlanta audience a great time and the crowd responded in kind.


Styx:

Live Review of The Doobie Brothers & Peter Frampton at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton

 

With a retro, soulful swagger Matthew Curry took the stage and made it his own when the guitar enthusiast opened for Peter Frampton and The Doobie Brothers at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on Thursday July 17. With Curry’s dynamic presence and blues heart he played songs off his Electric Religion and If I Don’t Have You albums. Curry’s sound is very reminiscent of a young Johnny Lang, both mature beyond their years. Curry performed “Love Me Right,” “Set Me Free,” “Storm’s A Brewing,” “If I Don’t Got You” and ended with “Down the Line.”

 

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry

 

Peter Frampton took the stage next with nothing but a smile as he enchanted the crowd. There is nothing like seeing Frampton live, absolutely nothing. His energy is evanescent as he not only commands the stage, but at the same time he has the audience on the edge of their seats as he highlights and showcases his raw talent. With images of the past scroll across the backdrop screen alternate with psychedelic patterns.

This living rock god delighted all ages with his hits as fans recorded everything from snippets of their favorite songs to the entire show on their phones and iPads. Frampton’s ease on the stage is easily seen as he enraptured the thrall of fans, getting them up out of their seats clapping and hollering at the end of each song. Frampton even egged the crowd on by saying “this is fun (pause). Are we doing okay for you?” Frampton even gets cheeky with the crowd as he discussed about having a tailgate smoking party and even asking if it’s legal in this state, all the while chuckling.

 

Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton

 

Frampton started the night off with “You Had to Be There” then transitioned into “Doobie Wah,” “Lines on My Face,” “Show Me the Way,” “(I’ll Give You) Money,” “Black Hole Sun” (Soundgarden cover), “Baby I Love Your Way,” the highly infectious “Do You Feel Like We Do” and ended on the powerfully evocative “While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles cover).

 

The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers

 

The Doobie Brothers wrapped the night up as they took stage and made it their own as the ‘70s rock band revitalized it’s hits and made them golden again, as they played “Jesus is Just Right” (The Art Reynolds Singers cover), “ Rockin’ Down the Highway,” “Dependin’ On You,” “World Gone Crazy,” “Neal’s Fandango,” “South City Midnight Lady,” “Eyes of Silver,” “Takin’ It to the Streets,” “Don’t Start Me Talkin’” (Sonny Boy Williamson cover w/Peter Frampton), “Black Water, “ “Long Train Runnin,” “China Grove, “ “Road Angel” and ended with “Listen to the Music.” It was like a musical tapestry, all the hooks, choruses and chords coming together to create a perfect evening at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

This is a show that I would want to see again. Highly entertaining from start to finish.

 

Full Photo Gallery of The Doobie Brothers

 

 

 

Full Photo Gallery of Peter Frampton

 

 

 

Full Photo Gallery of Matthew Curry

 

Concert Review of Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on April 27, 2014

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

 

Story by Jemille Williams Photos by Chuck Holloway

Sweet Home Alpharetta

 

After a picture perfect day Sunday, the bottom fell out a couple of hours before showtime at Verizon Amphithetre and made prospects dim for a comfortable evening for Alabama‘s All American Tour. There were still a good many empty seats when Will Hoge took the stage, but the sky stayed clear and everyone enjoyed a beautiful spring evening. It was cool enough not to need the huge overhead fans.

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Hoge is typical of so many artists who have a great sound, but just somehow have missed that big break that propels them to the big time. With any luck, his exposure to legions of Alabama fans will give him the bump he needs. His group served up a heapin’ helpin’ of Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll sounding a good bit like Tom Petty with top notes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, especially on Craig Pair’s piano work in “Suitcase Full of Empty Dreams” and the Oak Ridge Boys, when they sang an almost a cappella “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment.

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

The band definitely had a good beat that you could two-step to it. The audience grew more respectful and less chatty as the show wore on, as they were clapping along on the last couple of songs. The enthusiastic drummer Ron Killen, was similar to Coldplay’s Will Champion in both technique and appearance. Jessie Isley’s bluesy guitar work was reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan on the moving “When I Get My Wings.” Of special note was the rousing cheer when he introduced bass guitarist from Snellville.

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama Superstars Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook took the stage to a roar from the crowd. Owne had the faithful well in hand, at times getting them to wave their hands in the air like they just didn’t care and occasionally inciting couples to slow dance in the roomy rows at Verizon.

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama opened with a spirited “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (Ya Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)” with Cook sawing away on a neon green instrument that looked more Stratocaster than Stradivarius. On many songs they fielded six guitars!

TAM-Alabama-HollowayALA00046

Alabama made mention of their latest album, Alabama & Friends, released last year and even took a tweet request of “Old Flame,” and dedicated a song to a couple, who like the group itself, was celebrating a 40th anniversary.

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on 4/27/14

Alabama gave no less than four encores, rounding out their two-hour performance, which was full of their greatest hits. After a moving rendition of “Angels Among Us” Owen ended the show shouting “Peace and Love!”

 

Full Photo Gallery of Alabama