The first time I saw Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God live was back in 2003, when they appeared together on the Headbanger's Ball Tour. They've shared many bills in the ten years since, including their current co-headlining run with support from Testament and Huntress. I attended the sold out Boston, MA stop at the House of Blues on November 23.
I thought Killswitch might headline given that it was their homestate, but instead Lamb of God took the honor. Their tight performance, vocal fanbase and arena-style production showed why they were the closers. The stage was equipped with a large platform - off of which frontman Randy Blythe jumped nearly every song - along with two large video screens. The screens displayed a mix of live cameras and footage evoking imagery of the bands lyrics (war, religion, death, politics, etc.), making each track feel like a live music video.
Visuals aside, the band's performance was on point. Blythe is a certified madman, while the technical skills of guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler and drummer Chris Adler (who celebrated his 41st birthday at the show) are always impressive. Bassist John Campbell had to leave the tour due to family emergency, but friend of the band Aaron Patrick (formerly of Massachusetts' own Bury Your Dead) stepped in to fill the void.
The setlist was made up of about 75 minutes worth of material from all six Lamb of God records. All the hits were accounted for, including "Laid to Rest," "Redneck." "Walk With Me In Hell" and "Ruin." This year marks the 10th anniversary of the fan favorite album As the Palaces Burn, so they included a couple of extra cuts from it. Per usual, the band closed with the hard-hitting "Black Label." The song is known to incite a massive wall of death, so much so that the band no longer needs to call for it it. Blythe simply announced, "If you don't know what's gonna happen, get the fuck out of the way!" before the song kicked in and all hell broke loose. It was a nice exclamation point on which to end the evening.
Even for a band as good as Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage is not an easy act to follow. As if they needed to get more pumped up, the hometown heroes entered the stage to the tune of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." They opened with the crushing intro of "A Bid Farewell" and continued for a solid hour of top-notch metalcore through the closing of "The End of Heartache." The crowd's enthusiastic response included moshing to the breakdowns, singing along to the soaring choruses and headbanging to the endless riffs.
I've had the pleasure of seeing the band twotimes since the return of vocalist Jesse Leach, but this was my first time since the release of their new album, Disarm the Descent. I was interested to hear the new material live, and I'm happy to report that it sounded great. In fact, the band seamlessly transitioned between new songs and old favorites, including a healthy dose of material from Howard Jones' tenure as vocalist - and Leach and company nailed them all.
Not only is guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz a great musician (and producer, to boot), but the seemingly boundless energy he brings to the stage never ceases to amaze me. Scantily clad in his signature short shorts, Dutkiewicz could be found running back and forth on the stage - literally - throughout the set. He also ventured into the audience during "Fixation on the Darkness" and played half of "Life to Lifeless" with a beer bottle in hand. It's impossible to tell if his antics are meant to keep himself, the band or the crowd entertained, but it works on all three levels. He and Leach both expressed their appreciation for the audience, the band's supportive fanbase and the Massachusetts music scene.
It was a bit strange to see thrash metal legends Testament so low on a bill, especially considering they inspired (perhaps indirectly) the bands playing after them. Aside from the abridged time, however, nothing about their set felt like that of a support band. They showed no signs of age as they plowed through 40 minutes of breakneck thrash. Even the stage had a larger-than-life feel, with skull-embossed pentagrams atop the amps, intense strobe lights and tons of smoke.
Female-fronted metal band Huntress warmed the crowd up with an opening set. Vocalist Jill Janus took the stage like a hellcat. A standout of the set came in the form of "I Want to Fuck You to Death," a song co-written by Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister. The band's van was in an accident a week prior, so it was good to see them unphased. Between this tour and an opening slot for Danzig earlier this year, Huntress have proved themselves as a band to watch.
The tour wraps up today, so hopefully you caught a show when it came through your area. For my money, it's one of the best metal line-ups of the year. I wouldn't expect any less from Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God; they've been at the top of the genre for a decade now and show no signs of leaving the throne any time soon.
Boston is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but New England is also cursed with unpredictable weather. Those who traveled long distances to attend the inaugural Boston Calling Music Festival learned that the hard way. Although it was Memorial Day weekend, the weather on Saturday was nothing short of miserable; it was rainy and windy throughout the day, and the temperature dropped to the low 40s by the event's end. But the weather didn't affect the spirit of the attendees, as Boston once again proved its resilience for the fantastic music festival.
Fun. headlined Saturday's festivities, and they proved to be the perfect choice. Vocalist Nate Ruess told the 19,000-strong crowd that it was the biggest show the band has ever played. After hearing them sing along, he smiled from ear to ear and thought aloud, "I'm going to have the best fucking night!" Lo and behold, he later said that it was his favorite show he has ever played. He also told the audience that the band would begin working on a new album after completing their tours later this year, and he promised that their first show back would be in Boston.
Fun. opened with "Out on the Town" and continued to go strong for nearly 90 minutes, pulling largely from last year's Some Nights. Among the set's many standouts were "All the Pretty Girls"," "At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)," and an acoustic cover of Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." The loudest segment of the performance - and, likely, the entire festival - was the audience singing along to the massive chorus of the band's breakout hit, "We Are Young." Although most of the crowd members failed to hit the high notes, Ruess did so effortlessly.
The band momentarily left the stage after their rendition of The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," but they returned to perform the anthemic "Some Nights." Although the monumental "whoa-oh" culmination would have been an fitting high note on which to end, the band continued with "Stars." Before concluding the show, the wide-eyed, still-smiling Ruess confessed, "This has been the most incredible night of my life."
I'd be lying if I said I knew who Marina and the Diamonds was prior to Boston Calling, but the crowd's thunderous roar as she took the stage proved that plenty of others did. Although her music is not my cup of tea, Marina added diversity to the lineup as well as the audience; it was apparent that many teenage girls attended solely for her. It was also nice to see a pop singer with a full backing band.
With an Electra Heart neon sign affixed to City Hall behind her, Marina delivered a set that left fans pleased, particularly by the closer, "How to Be a Heartbreaker." She was not afraid to go down to the barricade to get closer to her supporters. Her on-stage drinking and cursing made it clear that Marina Diamandis is not trying to be a pop princess, but the British singer's synth-filled pop tunes are dancey and catchy, landing somewhere between Kate Nash and Katy Perry.
Admittedly, I'm not familiar with much of The Shins' material outside of their hits, but they sounded great. Their top-notch performance successfully recreated studio-quality sounds from the stage. The band played many of their singles, including "Australia," "Simple Song," "Phantom Limb," "So Says I" and "New Slang," before finishing with "Sleeping Lessons."
Portugal. The Man's gave my flashbacks to the last time I saw them - 2011's Lollapalooza - as it was also a rainy, outdoor festival. And, like that time, they did not let the weather affect their performance. The band members are no strangers to Boston; they have recorded two of their albums in the historic city. They were happy to be back in support of their latest effort, Evil Friends (which is wonderful, by the way).
With a large back catalog - the prolific artists have put out seven albums in eight years - it was impossible to pull from everything in their abridged festival time, but the crowd seemed plenty pleased by the set. They opened with their new single, "Purple Yellow Red and Blue," and kept things moving for about 45 minutes until they closed with "Sleep Forever." The loudest reaction of their set, however, came when they transitioned from "Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujahs)" to a snippet of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So."
One of the best performances of the day came from Matt and Kim. Despite being a duo, their nonstop, full-throttle energy went unmatched. They commended the audience for waiting in the cold rain "like only New England can" - and they would know, as they're native New Englanders themselves. Although their power pop stylings are better fit for a sunny day, the rain only seemed to invigorate the musicians, and the crowd fed off their infectious pep. Drummer Kim Schifino professed to the audience, "I like it when things get wet, and I love it when things get dirty!"
Their 50-minute set kicked off with "Black After Block" and included such songs as "Cameras," "Let's Go" and the hit single "Daylight" before ending with their latest single, "It's Alright." Throughout the performance, the band offered plenty of great crowd interaction, including hip hop dance breaks between songs and the distribution of balloons for people to throw in the air on queue. Schifino, who had an ear-to-ear grin on her face the entire set, even awarded her shoes to the crowd members she saw going the craziest.
The day also consisted of performances by dream pop duo MS MR, female-fronted indie pop group Cults, electronic pop project St. Lucia and Boston's own Bad Rabbits. The latter kicked off the event and set the bar high for the weekend, despite it being only 1:30 in the afternoon. Infusing elements of R&B, hip hop, funk and rock, the group transcends genre. They just dropped their excellent debut album, American Love, but they're even better in a live setting.
Although I was unable to attend, Boston Calling went on for a second day, featuring the likes of The National (whose multi-instrumentalist Aaron Dessner curated the festival's admirable lineup), Young the Giant, Of Monsters and Men and Andrew Bird, among others. Thankfully, the weather was better that day.
Unlike most similar festivals, Boston Calling was equipped with two stages that alternated back and forth throughout the day. Although it's nice to be able to see every band, you're forced to wait if someone you're not interested in is playing (although the festival does allow reentry, and the surrounding city has plenty to offer). I'm not sure overlapping performances or the addition of another stage is plausible given the layout, but would be nice to have options. The sets were also noticeably longer than those of a typical festival. Again, this is great for fans, but shorter sets would afford more bands with the opportunity to play.
Despite the city's rich musical history, there is nothing else like Boston Calling. I had originally intended on wrapping up this review by stating my desire for it to become an annual event, but the folks behind festival one-upped me; they already announced a second installment for September. I will happily attend the fest twice a year (or more!) if the high-caliber lineups continue. Kudos to everyone involved for making the first Boston Calling run smoothly, and congratulations on its smashing success. Here's to many more!
Student and non-student music fans alike packed into the UMass Dartmouth auditorium for Delta Pi Omega and UMD Concert Tech's third annual Rock-A-Wish concert. Big D and the Kids Table, Just Surrender, and Night Fevers made up the eclectic line-up to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation on a night filled with fun music for a good cause.
Kicking off the event was Night Fevers, a fresh rock group from New York with a heavy emphasis on groove. Most of the audience was unsure of what to expect from the band when they saw vocalist Jack Tangney make his way to the stage with his wild, red afro and customized, golden microphone stand equipped with a brass knuckle handle. Being an unknown opening act can be hard, as made evident by the apprehensive crowd sitting in the auditorium seats. Drummer William Tully brought a quick end to the awkwardness by going out into the audience to get them up to the front of the stage. It paid off, because from that point on both the band and crowd seemed to enjoy themselves more. Night Fevers have been together for less than a year and are unsigned, but by the time the band concluded their set with the spirited "Way I Am", it was clear that embody they radio-ready sound and chemistry that labels look for.
Up next was New York's Just Surrender, who treated the audience to a fun set of dual-vocal pop-punk. The band played a number of cuts from their two full-length albums. Since they had 50 minutes to fill, they threw in some songs that they don't normally play live, as well as two brand new tracks that will appear on the band's forthcoming release, Phoenix. Guitarist Dan Simons was the most charismatic of the quintet. In addition to handling a lot of the lead vocals, he toyed with the crowd by professing his love for both the Yankees and a girl standing in the front row. He also performed a solo number entitled "Is There No Truth In Beauty?", which showcased his individual talents. My only complaint with their set is that the guitars were too low in the sound mix, but that didn't stop anyone from enjoying their catchy tunes.
Ska fans had been waiting all night to skank along to some good, old-fashioned ska - so much so that they many were dancing to songs played over the P.A. system between sets. So as soon as Big D and the Kids Table hit the stage with the opening number, "Little Bitch", everyone went wild. The Massachusetts natives played a set lasting over an hour with material both old and new, including such fan favorites as "My Girlfriend's on Drugs", "Hell on Earth", "Steady Riot", "Noise Complaint". The band's newer material mixes their traditional ska sound with reggae and soul influences, but they seemed more comfortable playing their older material, with frontman David McWane bouncing around on stage like a true rock frontman rather standing still while crooning. Fans were also hungry for the older, energetic material, during which they went as wild as possible in the ten foot area between the stage and the first row of auditorium seats. The location proved to be problematic, as made evident by the couple of chairs left dismantled by the night's end, but everyone was having a good time. Big D's encore culminated with the F-bomb-filled anthem, "LA.X".
Delta Pi Omega and UMD Concert Tech both deserve a huge congratulations on the success of their latest Rock-A-Wish concert and a thank you for not only raising money for a good cause but also getting bands that people actually want to see - a rarity for the school. The Concert Tech crew deserves additional kudos for the professional-quality light show they constructed.
Also be sure to check out videos of Big D's and Just Surrender's full sets here and here, respectively.
There are few bands that I've consistently enjoyed over the years more than New Found Glory and few albums that I've sung along to more than their 2000 breakthrough, New Found Glory. When it was announced that the band would be playing the entire album from front to back in celebration of its ten year anniversary and that fellow pop-punk upstarts Saves the Day would also be on the tour, I knew that I couldn't miss the nostalgic show when the tour rolled through the House of Blues in Boston on February 21st.
Kicking the night off was Michigan's Fireworks. The quintet were a fitting choice for openers, seeing as how they probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for New Found Glory's self-titled effort. They played their blend of pop and punk with plenty of energy, even though they seemed a bit awkward on such a big stage. The band was unknown to the majority of the crowd but still had a few people singing along, especially during their catchy closer, "Detroit". It's no wonder that this is the second time that New Found Glory has taken them out on tour.
Hellogoodbye were the oddballs of the tour. After the success of their debut EP back in 2004, the band had a fairly big following, but they've since been plagued with record label woes and, as a result, lost a lot of momentum. The crowd was largely uninterested, many of them talking over the band or yelling directly at them, especially when they played new material. The two old songs that they did play, "Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn" and "Dear Jamie... Sincerely Me", received warm reactions. After imitating an exaggerated Bostonian accent, to get in good with the crowd keyboardist Joseph Marro joked that all of their songs were actually slowed, unrecognizable versions of songs by hardcore legends American Nightmare and Converge. For a group once known for zany stage antics such as playing in costumes, they've really come into their own as musicians without losing that sense of fun, regardless of the lack of crowd enthusiasm.
The show really got going when Saves the Day hit the stage. They toured with New Found Glory a decade prior, and both bands are still going strong as if no time had passed. Save for vocalist/guitarist Chris Conley, the rest of the band members were replaced last year, but the new line-up sounds as tight as ever. Their set contained a good mix of material spanning their career, but old favorites such as "At Your Funeral" and "Rocks Tonic Juice Magic" received the biggest reactions from the audience.
With anticipation growing for the arrival of New Found Glory, the house lights finally went down and Miley Cirus' "Party in the USA" blared through the sound system. The Floridians took the stage and immediately set it off with "Better Off Dead". As promised, they played their self-titled effort from beginning to end. Even though you knew what was coming next, each song was exciting. It was particularly cool to hear songs that the group rarely plays live, such as "Second to Last" and "Eyesore", and get some insight on the songs (for example, "Black and Blue" was the first song written for the album). The band's energy was reciprocated by the audience, with plenty of singing, crowd surfing and lighthearted moshing. For album closer "Ballad for the Lost Romantics", guitarist Chad Gilbert went on the barricade with a microphone so the crowd could partake in the anthemic singalong.
After the completion of their rendition of the record, the band came back for an encore containing popular singles and fan favorites, including "All Downhill From Here" and "Head On Collision". Following a quick cover of Gorilla Biscuits' "No Reason Why", the band concluded the night with "My Friends Over You", which had the entire sold out crowd singing along so loud that they nearly drowned out the performers.
I've had the pleasure of seeing New Found Glory so many times that I've lost count, but they never disappoint. This was perhaps the best show I've ever seen them play. The band was having a good time not for themselves nor the mainstream audience, but rather, as Gilbert pointed out, the the entire tour was for the old school fans. The band proved that the album is just as sentimental to them as it is to their fans. It's great to see that they still has as much passion as they did ten years ago.
Also be sure to check out all of my photos from the show here.
I go to a few shows each month, and although I'm always excited to attend (or else I wouldn't), it's rare that I actually get giddy to see a concert. One such occasion was seeing Dashboard Confessional and New Found Glory on their recent acoustic tour. I hadn't been this excited for a show since the Blink 182 reunion. New Found Glory is one of my all-time favorite bands, and they never disappoint live. Although I'm a fan of Dashboard, I had never seen them in concert, but I had heard good things about their shows. Plus the whole tour was acoustic, for which I am a sucker. To add to the appeal -- as if it needed anything else -- the bands were playing small venues. On December 10, 2009, the bands came through The Middle East in Cambridge, MA, and it lived up to high expectations.
Considering New Found Glory concerts are usually high-energy engagements, the band's show translated surprisingly well to an acoustic environment. Their 50-minute set spanned from their early days (busting out "Broken Sound" from their debut album) to their band's latest, Not Without a Fight (surprisingly only one cut, "47"). Some of the songs selected were the slower tempo ones you would expect, but the band also reworked some of their faster songs to fit into the show, such as "Something I Call Personality" and "My Friends Over You." At the end of the latter, the band segued into a cover of Ben Folds Five's "Brick". This lead the band to a conversation about falsetto singing, following which they broke into an impromptu cover of a few bars The Darkness' "I Believe in a Thing Called Love". Their set concluded with the band's rendition of "The Christmas Song".
I thought the band might be a little awkward deviating from their norm, but they had the hang of it at this point on the tour. The guys was their typical fun selves, joking about everything from how they couldn't cover up all of their mistakes when playing acoustic to how drummer Cyrus Bolooki was only allowed in the band because he can play so many instruments. (Bolooki alternated between guitar, keyboard, and various percussion instruments throughout the set.) The band also quipped that they were going by their old monicker, A New Found Glory, with the A standing for acoustic.
While New Found Glory's set was as fun and energetic as always, Dashboard Confessional made it obvious why it was their tour. For these shows, it was frontman Chris Carraba, for whom the ladies swooned, along with guitarist/pianist John Lefler, but the whole crowd sang along to every word of each song (as opposed to NFG, where most people only knew the words to the singles). The crowd-pleasing set was fairly low on dialogue, instead utilizing the (roughly) 75-minute set to play as much material as possible, including some requests. Carraba did mention a few things, including how much he enjoyed playing the smaller venues and the fact that many of his family members were watching from the side of the small stage.
The band opened with a nostalgia-inducing trio of "Brilliant Dance", "Again I Go Unnoticed", and "The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most". They went on to play a near-perfect mix of all of their material, including plenty of older songs that aren't often heard. Lefler also played one of his own songs, "Up My Sleeve", and the band covered Ingrid Michaelson's "Breakable." The duo left the stage after playing "Stolen," but the crowd knew they weren't done. They came back out and Carraba announced, "This song's about the best day I've ever had in my whole life." Fans erupted as he strummed the opening notes to the band's biggest hit, "Hands Down". It was fitting, because this intimate show was surely one of the best I've been to in quite some time.
Also be sure to check out all of my photos from the show here.
Although I am admittedly a bigger fan of his work as a filmmaker than a musician, I’ve always been interested in seeing a Rob Zombie concert. My opportunity finally came on December 2, 2009 when the Hellbilly Deluxe 2 Tour — also featuring Nekromantix and Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures — rolled through the House of Blues in Boston, MA. The band’s current line-up is somewhat of a hard rock supergroup, featuring John 5 (ex-Marilyn Manson) on guitar, Piggy D. (ex-Wednesday 13) on bass, and Tommy Clufetos (ex-Alice Cooper, ex-Ted Nugent) on drums. Zombie himself is a Massachusetts native (although made no mention of it during the show), and I had heard good things about his shows, so I was looking forward to finally checking him out. It did not disappoint.
When I arrived, Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures had already started (damn you, Boston traffic and parking!). Captain Clegg is a psychobilly band created by country musician Jesse Dayton for Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. They played a wonderful rockabilly cover version of the Misfits’ “Hollywood Babylon” and even teased fans with the first few bars of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. Dayton also wrote the songs for Banjo & Sullivan in The Devil’s Rejects and played one of their tracks, “I’m At Home Getting Hammered (While She’s Out Getting Nailed)”. The half hour set set ended with “Transylvania Terror Train”. Considering Dayton created these songs solely for the film about a year ago, he sounded excellent.
Next up was Nekromantix. They got the crowd moving with their energetic psychobilly tunes, but you could tell they were aching for something heavier. Some angry, biker-looking dudes in the crowd heckled the group a bit, but they didn’t let it affect them. I’m not really a fan of the band on record, but they put on an entertaining 40-minute set. Bassist/vocalist Kim Nekroman plays a really cool coffin-shaped, stand-up bass. It was also the drummer Lux’s birthday, so they had the crowd sing to her.
Finally, it was the moment that everyone had been waiting for. Rob Zombie came out to the track “What Lurks on Channel X?”, and the crowd went wild. Following the relatively ‘lighter’ acts, Zombie sounded heavier than ever, and all of the songs sounded just as they do on record. I had previously only seen Zombie do interviews, during which he’s calm and collected, but when in front of the crowd he’s a ball of energy bouncing around on stage. The first thing he said to the crowd was that he was not there for a rock show — no, you can go to a rock show any night of the week — but rather for a party. Throughout the hour and a half set, the band blazed through a number of fan favorites, including “Living Dead Girl” and “Never Gonna Stop”. He also played a couple of new songs, “Sick Bubble Gum” and “What?”. During the latter, he introduced the crowd to his latest invention, the all-girl mosh pit.
The stage set up was fairly simple, with two smaller screens on either side of the state and a large projector behind the band during the songs. The screens sometimes played footage from classic horror films. For example, Tommy Clufetos’s drum solo was set a video from Nosferatu, and the crowd popped when footage from Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses was shown as the band began playing the song of the same name. There were also a couple of set pieces, such as a big robot costume for “More Human Than Human”. In the middle of “Thunder Kiss ‘65″, guitarist John 5 played an impressive solo, culminating with a Jimi Hendrix-esque rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” with his mouth. While he noodled, Zombie went around the perimeter of the crowd with a spotlight as they frantically patted him. The band then left, came out for an encore, left again, and then played “Dragula” to end the night. Zombie put on an explosive performance that can be enjoyed even by those who aren't fans of his music.
Be sure to check out all of my photos from the show here.