The Royal Affair Tour ft. Yes, Asia, John Lodge, and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy – in Baltimore

 

On Saturday, June 22, nearly four thousand excited concert-goers filtered into the seats of Baltimore’s MECU Pavilion.  They were set to embark upon a fresh voyage to the seas of nostalgia, and boy were they excited.  I was excited too, as I hadn’t had the pleasure of witnessing any of these household names in the flesh before that evening.  And it wasn’t too long before the show got underway.

Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy Band (ft. vocalist Arthur Brown)
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

“Are the drums loud enough?” Palmer asked the crowd.  Purely rhetorical.  He knew full well, as did all those in attendance, that he was laying a beating on those drum heads.  And he wasn’t the only one getting into this set, the audience being a given.  The guitarist, Paul Bielatowicz, was bouncing all around, and yet managed to perfectly place each and every note.  Opposite him was David Pastorius on bass guitar, whose thick basslines stitched an aural quilt alongside Palmer’s drumbeats, occasionally jumping to the forefront with slap lines that thrilled the crowd.  And not least of all was Arthur Brown, a living art piece: decked out in a post-apocalyptic costume consisting of a red jacket, black feathered wings, golden pants, cowboy boots, stunning face paint, and a helmet armed with flashlights.  He made me feel as if I was watching musical theater, to the backdrop of hits from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer; Aaron Copland; and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any photos of this set, but I assure you it was a spectacle and well worth you attending to put your own eyes and ears on it.
 

John Lodge (of The Moody Blues)
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

When I heard the words of “Legend Of The Mind” dance across my ears, it was like being transported back to my childhood.  Much of the music of this evening was played to me by my parents growing up, but hearing it live sounded wonderfully vibrant: a credit to the great players on stage.  John Lodge’s voice was full of life and energy, and so was his band.  And it wasn’t just the energy, but also the chemistry between them.  At one point we saw Lodge, guitarist Duffy King, and guitarist / cellist Jason Charboneau set into a synchronized battle stance, headstocks alternating back and forth in an Iron Maiden-fashion.  They were smiling and having fun!  And as an audience member, seeing the band have a good time always puts me in high spirits, so by the time “I’m Just A Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)” came on, I was cheerfully singing along (though I would have anyway).  To close his set, we had the honor of seeing Yes’ Jon Davison join Lodge for a rendition of “Ride My See-Saw,” much to the pleasure of all in attendance.

 

Asia
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |

I have to give credit where credit is due: Asia is the reason I was able to provide you with all these photos.  They were kind enough to approve my press credentials, and for that I am grateful.  But please don’t think this affected my review.  I do have great things to say about their set, but it’s based on the merits of the performance, I assure you.

Firstly, this incarnation of Asia is different in that it features the introduction of Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal as lead vocalist and guitar, replacing Sam Coulson on guitar and relieving Billy Sherwood of vocalist duties.  I’ve been a fan of Thal and his expansive career for around fifteen years, first enjoying his solo career, then his lengthy stint with Guns N’ Roses, and recently his endeavors as a member of the prog super group, Sons Of Apollo.  The only thing which surprised me was his role here as vocalist, not due to being ill-equipped for such a job, but rather because it wasn’t his usual role in bands like this.  But within the first few notes of “Go,” I was convinced that he was going to do justice to John Wetton’s version of the songs.  His voice, matched up with the dulcet backup vocals of Sherwood, truly worked well together.

In fact, all of the band members seemed to work well together.  Palmer was solid as ever throughout the night, but the chemistry really shined through with the duet of Geoff Downes and Thal performing “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” with the keys commanding the atmosphere of the pavilion.  Downes continued to show his prowess during his solo performance, juggling two different melodies on separate keyboards, which still boggles my mind.  During the second half of the set, we were greeted with the arrival of original member and current Yes guitarist, Steve Howe, to huge applause.  The five-some then, with Thal ditching his guitar, finished up the set with a four-song streak from their debut album, and ended with “Heat Of The Moment” to a thrilled, on-its-feet audience.

 

Yes
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

At this point in the evening, the lights had gone out in the city and stars filled our eyes.  Not stars from the night’s sky, but ones dancing across the LED backdrop of the stage.  As members arrived on stage, many of which had just been on stage with Asia, they did so to a standing ovation from every member of the audience.  As they launched into the first song, it was clear that they were all excited to be here and were just as in-sync as you’d expect from the legendary Yes, a fact that was evident from the woman to my right exclaiming to her friend, “I can’t believe how good they sound live!”

Unlike Asia, who focused on the first few albums from their storied career, Yes’ setlist covered songs from every one of their 70s albums starting at “The Yes Album” and a few 80s tracks for good measure.  Included in these was the absolutely monumental, 22-minute “The Gates Of Delirium” from the 1974 album Relayer, a tune that hasn’t seen much play since 2001.  What a treat!

The guys closed out the show with a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” featuring drummer Alan White who had originally recorded the song with Lennon, and finally “Roundabout” which converted the seated audience into a migrating dance party.  As the song came to an end and the band took their bow, I had little doubt in my mind that everyone was about to leave satisfied.  In fact, all I heard on my way home were people remarking how great all the bands had been, and one stating it was the best concert they’d ever attended.  Needless to say, you should do yourself a favor and check the show out when it comes your way.  It’s a rare opportunity to see all of these great bands in one place.

MindMaze in Sparta

MindMaze: Official Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram

MindMaze is one of those bands that I try to make sure I see anytime I can. Their music is my kind of progressive metal, taking cues from legends such as Fates Warning and Queensryche, but producing songs that are entirely their own. There is a level of technicality and precision to their music, too often overlooked by other bands, and yet their stage show is far from admiring statues standing in place. And while my interactions with them are few and far between, they’re always kind and appreciative of those who support them and willing to spend quality time with everyone who seeks it. Their recent concert at Sparta Inn in Sparrows Point, Maryland was no exception, and I ended up talking quite a bit with Sarah and Jeff Teets, the sister-brother duo of vocals and guitars. Before I knew it, we were all doing and impromptu photo shoot outside, first with the whole band, and then just with Sarah as the others went to set up their gear.

Whether it be Jeff jumping off the drum riser, or Sarah and bassist Rich Pasqualone playing a game of “let’s knock each other over,” or drummer Mark Bennett beating the the ever-loving crap out of a $200 house drum kit, the MindMaze crew are full of energy. I had a ton of fun watching this foursome rip into tracks like “This Holy War” and “Slave To The Cycle,” the latter which fans almost didn’t get to witness. Luckily, the band was given extra time on stage, and they made great use of it. And despite Sarah only recently recovering from a lost voice, you wouldn’t have been able to tell if she hadn’t apologized for it. Though she later told me it was uncomfortable to sing, she pushed through it and the crowd was left in awe.

They’re heading to Hollywood’s renowned Whisky a Go Go on August 2nd, so all you West Coast fans should try to make it out. And for those of you on the East Coast, spend that time clearing your schedule so you can ensure you get to their next performance in your area.

Blaze Bayley in Baltimore


 

I’ll be perfectly honest: I hadn’t ever heard Blaze Bayley’s work until Friday, May 17th.  Not his solo work, not with Wolfsbane, not even with Iron Maiden.  But when I heard he’d be coming to Sparta Inn for his Tour Of The Eagle Spirit, I knew this wouldn’t be a show I’d want to miss.  I’d heard great things about Blaze’s showmanship, and coupling that with the fact that he’d be playing tunes from all three of his Infinite Entanglement concept albums, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go.  I mean, how often do you get the chance to catch an artist who’s touring behind a three-part concept?

I didn’t have the opportunity to arrive early, but I did manage to come in with a few of the regional acts still left.

 
Offensive: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Offensive is a heavy metal band out of Essex, MD, and played a combination of originals and cover tunes.  The bassist and lead singer, Leon Sohail, and guitarist Maxim Sobchenko, took turns with the vocals – the former handling the harsh and the latter the clean. The standout moment for me was when they performed a solid version of “Holy Diver” in honor of Ronnie James Dio.

 

A Sound Of Thunder: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

A Sound Of Thunder is always a favorite of mine.  It would be obvious if you saw me, wearing a battle jacket with their creation, Udoroth, displayed in vivid color through the artwork of the talented Trav Hart.  In fact, I brought my wife along to this show and she finds the foursome as delightful as I do.  And, as usually, the band didn’t disappoint with heavy hitters such as “Queen Of Hell,” “It Was Metal,” and the aforementioned “Udoroth.”  Unfortunately, the song they wrote which features Blaze, “My Disease,” didn’t make an appearance that night, but Bayley did end up selling one of their CDs for them while they were rocking out onstage.

 

Blaze Bayley: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

I had a chance to speak with Blaze just before his set.  I let him know that this was my first time seeing him live, but that I was very excited for it.  He was so humble and down to Earth during that interaction, but when he took the stage, something clicked and he became larger than life.  It was really like watching live theater with the way he wore his expressions so vividly.  Adding to that feeling, as Blaze introduced each of the Infinite Entanglement tracks, he spoke as if a narrator, giving us background on the origins and the struggles of the main character, William Black.

Somehow, despite the downtrodden position Black finds himself in, Bayley managed to carry a positivity in his performance that he imbued into each person in attendance.  I think, in part, this is due to the chemistry he and his band have.  They’re really having fun on stage, even at times when Blaze wants you to be certain that the guitarist (and co-producer of the Infinite Entanglement records), Chris Appleton, has committed mutiny by commandeering his vocal melody into a guitar solo.  I couldn’t help but laugh as Appleton urged the crowd to be silent during Bayley’s melody sing-along, but felt too committed to helping Blaze to remain silent myself!

Of course, the crowd went wild for the Maiden staples, such as “Futureal” and “Virus.”  I think Blaze was excited for them too, and he made a point of commenting on how wonderful a time he had during his five years in the band.  He told us that he was living the dream then, but he’s still doing it now, thanks to all of us.  He told the supporting acts to never let people nay-say and discourage them, because if he could come from nothing and be the singer of one of the most renowned heavy metal bands on the planet, they could achieve their dreams as well.  Honestly, his conviction makes it easy to believe, and his stage-show makes you want to dream.  So if Blaze Bayley comes to your town, and you have even an inkling of doubt whether you should attend, wash that thought from your mind.  Regardless of what he and his band play, you’re going to leave happier than you entered.

Live Photos: Styx in Atlanta May 26, 2019

On May 26, 2019, Styx brought The Styx World Tour 2019 to Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Bank. You can find the complete gallery by Chuck Holloway below the review.


James “JY” Young and Tommy Shaw begin their onstage antics

Styx fans are unlike any other breed of musical fandom. We are legion and we are loyal beyond imagining. In the late 80’s and almost the entire decade of the 90’s, Styx could have faded away into obscurity. Instead, the band regrouped, tightened up, and made enough noise to get our attention again.

With the change in the way people began listening to music, Styx reinvented themselves as a touring band that occasionally recorded music, rather than a band that toured on the back of a new album. The model has been a huge success for them. Any given month, Styx is playing somewhere in the US.

This past Memorial Day-Eve, Styx showed up for their annual visit to Atlanta on the hottest day of the year, and lit up (literally and figuratively) the sold out crowd at the Cadence Bank Amphitheatre.

Drummer Todd Sucherman (who replaced John Panozzo after he passed away), and bassist Ricky Phillips provided the strong, relentless rhythm, while guitarists JY and Tommy Shaw, and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, fronted the band. They showed absolutely no sign of slowing down as they jammed through the classics they’ve been playing for decades.

To start off the show, the band came out to the pre-recorded “Overture,” and then launched into “Gone Gone Gone,” both from their 2017 release The Mission.

The Mission is an amazing aural time machine that producer Will Evankovich was able to build with the band to bring the listener back to the greatest era of Styx’s history. The Mission feels like it belongs somewhere in between Grand Illusion and Paradise Theatre. 

Other tracks from The Mission included “Radio Silence” and “Khedive”. If there was one disappointment for me, it was that Styx only performed these three songs from their latest album. I would have loved to have heard “Time Will Bend” or “The Red Storm”.

The set of classic hits included “Fooling Yourself”, “Grand Illusion”, “Lady”, “Blue Collar Man” and “Too Much Time on My Hands”, to name a small portion. Each hit song was greeted by a roar from the crowd and sung along with from beginning to end.

For their finale, as usual, Styx performed “Come Sail Away” from The Grand Illusion. But, it was the encore of “Mr. Roboto” that had the crowd really excited. Hearing the opening keyboards and robotic voice speaking, “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” brought a roar from the fans that put a gigantic grin on my face… I was not alone!

Many of us, including myself, had never had the opportunity to hear “Mr. Roboto” live, due to the band’s history with their former singer, Dennis DeYoung. In 2018, though, the band caved in to the constant pleading from their fans, and added it into their set as an encore, along with fan favorite “Renegade”.

All in all, the show at Chastain will go down as one of the best Styx shows that this writer has been to. Second only to The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight tour.

If you ever enjoyed Styx, now is the time to catch them live. You will never regret it.

For more tour dates, visit Styx website.


Styx Cadence Bank Amphitheatre 2019

 

Queensrÿche’s ‘The Verdict World Tour’ in Baltimore

It’s been a little over two years since Queensrÿche last stepped into the light at Baltimore Soundstage, previously visiting on their Condition Hüman tour, and fans were champing at the bit for another night of Rÿche N’ Roll.  The sold-out show, the fourth stop on the Verdict World Tour, put all of us shoulder to shoulder for an evening that would leave us spellbound.

Opening up the March 7th show was The Cringe of New York City, led by John Cusimano on guitar and vocals.  While best known as a producer of the Rurouni Kenshin: Wandering Samurai anime series and husband of chef Rachael Ray, Cusimano has also released several albums with The Cringe, which has played alongside the likes of Cheap Trick and ZZ Top.  Being as they have a more classic rock sound, their pairing with bands known for progressive metal backgrounds felt a little mismatched, but they put on an energized show, and performed a great rendition of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.”  The Cringe will continue to support Queensrÿche, and they are days away from debuting a new single entitled “I Can’t Take It No More.”

Though Queensrÿche was billed as the headliner, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this tour had been listed as a co-headlining effort, given the amazing longevity and talent of Fates Warning.  It was quickly evident that those in attendance were as much there for them as for the band to come.  Drawing on material going back to the 1991 album, Parallels, up to their most recent studio effort, Theories Of Flight, Fates Warning dished out one classic after another.  The new material was perhaps my favorite, with the tracks “Seven Stars” and “The Light and Shade Of Things” striking a deep chord, and it carried a weight and aura that signaled to me how proud the band is of their recent endeavors.

The Verdict World Tour showcases a new spectacle for Queensrÿche: an array of LCDs displaying individualized visuals for each of their songs.  As we awaited their impending arrival, a ghastly, crimson-cloaked figure danced across the stage.  A hush rolled over the crowd, followed by the band blasting into the opening track off their new album, “Blood Of The Levant.”  While the last tour had been about playing those overlooked deep-cuts from the first five albums, this tour sets out to highlight the La Torre-era releases.  A third of the setlist featured songs from the last three records, and boy did they sound powerful.  This was especially the case for the EdBass-penned tune, “Light-years,” off The Verdict, which radiated an undeniable groove through the air.  Everyone loved the new tunes, but even if it hadn’t been their favorite, the other two thirds of the concert dug into the discography and featured at least one song off of ever release from the 1983 debut EP up through Promised Land (this being the first touring year to feature “I Am I” since 2010, before Todd joined the band).  It felt like an excellently well-rounded evening of wailing dual-guitars from the hands of Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren, and the ever-astounding pipes of Todd La Torre.  And while Scott Rockenfield has yet to return from paternity leave, Casey Grillo held things down admirable alongside Eddie Jackson.  As the spectacle came to an end, as these things are wont to do, and we ushered ourselves out over the smattering of rogue beer cans into the chilly air beyond the doors of the Baltimore Soundstage, we all seemed to have a similar feeling: Damn, that was good!

Be sure to check out the upcoming tour dates for the Verdict World Tour and catch these great bands in action.

Queensrÿche Photo Gallery

Juliana Finch Returns to Georgia with Guest Erik Stucky

Photos by Shaun Krisher (Galleries Below Article)

As the new year has now arrived, a whole new slew of shows awaits as the months peel back day by day. To kick off 2019 for Red Clay Music Foundry in Duluth, Juliana Finch and Erik Stucky graced us with a night of lovely tunes. Being the first Friday night of the new year, the show really set the standard of talent expected at the Foundry. The show was hosted by the one and only Eddie Owen who is the man behind the live music at the Foundry. As the venue is relatively new in the Atlanta scene, it is a place that is here for the long run and personally has a special place in my heart as Duluth is my hometown. Granted, Red Clay Music Foundry and most of current downtown Duluth were only ideas on paper when I was in high school, but my pride for my roots outweighs the changes that have occurred. I will say I hold some jealousy for the facilities at the Foundry, including practice rooms and a cozy green room, that would have been stellar for my high school orchestra days.

Getting back to the show, Erik Stucky was the opener of the evening. Hailing from Nashville but originally from Colorado, Stucky brought a lot of his life experience alive in his music that spans from sappy love songs to upbeat island tunes. He played a solo act on an acoustic guitar accompanied by his soulful vocals that paired perfectly, giving credence to why Stucky had played shows across multiple states in his tour. He made his set more of a conversation with the audience both in the storytelling of his craft and in bantering with the patrons. I fell in love with his song “If The Storm Never Ends” off his recent album Stray Clouds. The song was riddled with soul and heartwarming lyrics to boot about being there for a loved one even if the storm drags on into oblivion. As this was the first time Stucky played in Georgia, I’m looking forward to his next venture south from Nashville to see what new music this cool cat has cooked up.

As the headliner for the evening, Juliana Finch took to the stage with a bassist and drummer backing her up. Both of these musicians have regularly played with Finch, as made more obvious by listening to their set than by watching them walk on stage together. The group was very tight in their performance with each musician’s endless hours of blood, sweat, and tears giving a well deserved return on his or her investment. I really appreciate the bassist as he not only played the classic electric bass found in most bands around the city but also a double bass, which is the bass found in orchestras for those not musically inclined. Being an orchestra kid myself, I have much respect for anyone that can bring an element of an orchestra into a band setting. The drummer also deserves a shout out as he kept a steady beat for each song, adding in some of his tenured pizzazz here and there. From hearing him work his kit, I could tell there were many gigs behind those sticks.

And lest we forget the main attraction of the headliner, and the namesake of it, the one and only Juliana Finch. Finch got her start in the Atlanta scene doing the typical cover band and solo gig track and since moved to North Carolina where she lives now. She has a spunky, soulful voice with a touch of attitude that makes her stand out as an artist. Additionally, her songwriting shares the same vibe as her lyrics cover a wide range of topics, from modern-day drama to old Celtic lore. These three musicians really understand how to capture a moment through the mechanism of live music.

 

Photo Gallery – Erik Stucky

Photo Gallery – Juliana Finch

Amigo the Devil, Harley Poe and Guests Pack Out Purgatory at Masquerade

Photos Courtesy of Ariana Simon (Instagram)

On November 17th, everyone in Atlanta started getting ready for the following week of Thanksgiving. Some started making their way towards family to spend time together. Others started hanging Christmas decorations as their eagerness for the holidays took hold of them. But for all of those heathens of tradition, the place to be was Masquerade. While Mayday Parade took over Heaven, the talent to see was in Purgatory where Amigo the Devil, Harley Poe, Blood Oaks, and Collins Drive packed out the venue. There was a constant overflow of patrons into the alley outside from the first note of the opening act Collins Drive. It was a great sight to behold as Atlanta showed its love for its local music scene.

To kick off the night, Collins Drive took to the stage. Labeled as southern Americana folk rock, this trio of artists really brought out some good soul in their jams. They have a sound that is a cross between Johnny Cash and the Allman Brothers with each tune covered in a cloudy veil of raw life that can only be peered through in the bottom of a shot glass. As this was my first time catching these guys play, I look forward to hearing them again.

Following Collins Drive was Blood Oaks. These guys are a staple in the Atlanta cow punk scene as they keep stepping up their game in each show I attend. For this rendition of their performance, their lead singer The Reverend was dressed up in true unholy attire as he preached the gospel that is rock and roll. His cohorts were all dressed for church with a style that made the crowd expect to be raptured by the music, and they did not disappoint. To start their set, they had their former drummer Shane sit in on one song, giving a tribute to his contribution to the band. From there, their new drummer took the reigns and kept the beat going. The music of Blood Oaks has a very punk rock vibe that puts a dancing to your feet and a warmth in your soul. I even saw a mosh pit form after their second song. I look forward to seeing what new things these guys have in store the next time they preach some rock and roll. Continue Reading