Metal Monday 5-9-2022

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

After a lengthy hiatus, we will study the albums of Nirvana.  This Washington state group is often credited with bringing alternative music to the mainstream, combining punk music with melody and pop.  Furthermore, Nirvana is considered to be the kingpins of the grunge scene that also produced Seattle area outfits, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden.

Nirvana was founded by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic.  After a series of drummers, the band’s classic line-up was formed with the initiation of Dave Grohl. 

Up front, I must say that back in the day, I loathed any of the grunge bands, considering them to be murderers of my beloved hair metal.  However, after decades of (mostly) maturing, I must admit that rock music needed something to kick the genre in the behind, as hard rock had become cheesy and watered down (Remember Danger Danger, anyone?).  I have grown to admit that I enjoy Nirvana and their counterparts.

I also must break free from my standard of only ranking studio albums.  While Nirvana only had three full length LP’s, they released an EP with plenty of unreleased material, as well as a wonderful live Unplugged record that contained several dynamic cover songs.  Please forgive me!

#5

Incesticide-1992

While not a proper follow up to the 1991 smash breakthrough, Nevermind, this collection of songs include many tracks that would become fan favorite deep cuts, some of which were part of the group’s, Hormoaning EP, as well as staples in the band’s live set.

Best Song:  Sliver

Best Deep Cut:  Sliver

#4

In Utero-1993

The final release during Kurt Cobain’s lifetime, In Utero had the unfair and daunting task of following up Nevermind.  This record contains hits, All Apologies, Heart-Shaped Box, and Pennyroyal Tea, as well as fan favorites, Rape Me and Dumb.

Best Song:  Heart-Shaped Box

Best Deep Cut:  Rape Me 

#3

MTV Unplugged in New York-1994

OK, I normally wouldn’t put a live or unplugged record in my rankings, however, with the addition of several amazing cover songs, I view this to be a separate Nirvana album on its own.  The band eschewed the unplugged tradition of simply regurgitating its big hits acoustically, as mega songs Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium are nowhere to be found.  Rather, the group performed deeper cuts On a Plain, Something in the Way, and About a Girl among others.  Meanwhile the cover versions of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World, the Meat Puppet’s Lake of Fire, and the brilliant rendition of Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night became new Nirvana songs to most fans.

Best Song:  Where Did You Sleep Last Night

Best Deep Cut:  Where Did You Sleep Last Night

#2

Bleach-1989

Nirvana’s studio debut flew under the radar until the band’s smash Nevermind boosted its sales a couple of years later.  The album features cult hits Blew, Floyd the Barber, and About a Girl, the latter gaining in popularity by its inclusion on the unplugged record.  Bleach is a more than respectable debut.

Best Song:  About a Girl

Best Deep Cut:  Blew

Nevermind-1991

The band’s gigantic breakthrough transformed an entire genre that sent those who enjoyed mainstream success in the 80’s into small clubs and dive bars.  The hits are plentiful with Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come as You Are, Lithium, and Polly.  Meanwhile, the album is strong from start to finish, with deeper tracks more than holding up.  Give a listen to On a Plain, Breed, Drain You, Territorial Pissings, and the amazing Lounge Act.

Best Song:  Lounge Act

Best Deep Cut:  Lounge Act

Metal Monday 4-11-2022

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

I understand it may not be totally metal, but this week I am ranking Foo Fighter albums.  The Foos are an alternative rock/post-grunge band, with elements of hard rock and pop rock, so they are close enough to the bands I have covered in weeks past.  Furthermore, I am honoring the late Taylor Hawkins, the band’s drummer since the late nineties who tragically passed away in March.

The Foo Fighters started as a one-man project by Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, who found himself without a band following the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.  In fact, Grohl sang and played all the instruments on the 1995 debut record.  Eventually, Grohl collaborated with other musicians, with the long-time line-up consisting of Grohl on vacals/guitars, Hawkins on drums, Nate Mendel on bass, Pat Smear on guitar, Rami Jaffee on keyboards, as well as guitarist Chris Shifflet.

#10:

One by One-2002

Although the album features standout tracks, All My Life and Times Like These, as well as the heavy, Low, there is a lot of filler on the record, which makes One by One the worst of the bunch.

Best Song:  All My Life

Best Deep Cut:  Come Back

#9:

There is Nothing Left to Lose-1999

The first album to feature Hawkins, it provides the listener the hit Learn to Fly, as well as the outstanding Stacked Actors.  Meanwhile, Breakout and Next Year were minor hits.  As is the case with One by One, there is enough filler material to keep this record from climbing higher on this list.

Best Song:  Stacked Actors

Best Deep Cut:  Gimme Stitches

#8:

In Your Honor-2005

A double album, In Your Honor contains the harder rock material on disc one, while disc two is full of acoustic tracks.  If anything, you must applaud the band for changing things up a bit.  Disc one is the better of the two, and features the smash hit Best of You, as well as No Way Back, DOA, and the title cut.  Virginia Moon and Cold Day in the Sun highlight the second disc. 

Best Song:  Best of You

Best Deep Cut:  In Your Honor

#7:

Foo Fighters-1995

The band’s debut is actually a one-man band, save for a couple of minor collaborators.  Grohl does it all on this one.  The record is steeped in the grunge style of Grohl’s previous outfit, Nirvana, as he had yet to transform his sound into what became the gazillion dollar outfit the Foos are today.  There are a couple of classics on this one, This is a Call and Big Me (Mentos anyone?).

Best Song:  This is a Call

Best Deep Cut:  Alone + Easy Target

#6:

Concrete and Gold-2017

While the latter-day Foo Fighters albums might not contain an anthemic single, there is still plenty of solid music to discover.  Case in point, Run, The Sky is a Neighborhood, Sunday Rain, and The Line, all highlights of this 2017 offering.

Best Song:  Sunday Rain

Best Deep Cut:  Sunday Rain

#5:

Medicine at Midnight-2021

The final album to feature drummer Taylor Hawkins, Medicine at Midnight is a tidy 9-song, 36-minute collection that proves the band still has plenty left in the tank, if, sadly, they must carry on without their longtime skinsman. 

Best Song:  Cloudspotter

Best Deep Cut:  Cloudspotter

#4:

Echoes, Silence, Patience, Grace-2007

It seems like every Foo Fighters album features a classic song, and this one is no different with The Pretender.  Meanwhile, Let it Die, Long Road to Ruin, Come Alive, Stanger Things Have Happened, and Statues make up a strong record.

Best Song:  The Pretender

Best Deep Cut:  Come Alive

#3:

Sonic Highways-2014

Again, hand it to the band for going outside the box.  On Sonic Highways, they travelled to eight different cities (the album contains eight tracks), and interviewed musicians, producers, and engineers to learn more about the musical history in each city.  Collaborators on the record include Rick Nielson (Cheap Trick), Zac Brown, and Joe Walsh.

Best Song:  Congregation

Best Deep Cut:  I Am a River

#2:

The Colour and the Shape-1997

The first Foo Fighters album as a full band, The Colour and the Shape includes guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel, and drummer William Goldsmith.  The record features huge radio hits that catapulted the group into superstar status; Everlong, Monkey Wrench, and My Hero, while also containing strong deep cuts such as, My Poor Brain, Up in Arms, and February Stars.

Best Song:  Everlong

Best Deep Cut:  My Poor Brain

#1:

Wasting Light-2011

Do you want singalong, anthemic radio tracks?  These Days and Walk provide that for you.  Hard driving rockers?  Try Bridge Burning, Rope, and White Limo.  A haunting ballad?  I Should Have Known shall suffice.  Other shifty and catchy rock and roll tunes?  Dear Rosemary, Back and Forth and Miss the Misery will do the trick.  Simply put, Wasting Light is by far the greatest collection of songs by the Foo Fighters and remains the gold standard for which they have yet (but have come close) to achieve.

Best Song:  Miss the Misery

Best Deep Cut:  Miss the Misery

Metal Monday 4-4-2022

This week, we will discuss Queensryche.  This Seattle area outfit came out in the eighties and is known for its melodic hard rock, mixed with plenty of experimentation into the world of progressive heavy metal.  It’s 1988 album, Operation: Mindcrime, is widely considered to be a landmark concept record.  The band’s original and classic line-up consisted of vocalist Geoff Tate, dual guitarists Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson, and drummer Scott Rockenfield.  Only Wilton and Jackson remain from this line-up, as Queensryche has traveled down the ill-advised path of multiple versions of the band.

#15

Dedicated to Chaos-2011

Quite frankly, while Queensryche’s post-1990 output contains its share of fits and starts, this album is easily its worst.  I find nothing on here that I would care to listen to again.  This is the final record featuring Tate before his dismissal from the group, and it is apparent that things weren’t well within the camp.

Best Song (Because I must):  Retail Therapy

Best Deep Cut:  Retail Therapy

#14

Tribe-2002

Original guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who had been out of the group for several years, contributed somewhat to this album, although he permanently left the group before the recording sessions were finished.  The result was a very uneven output; however, the strongest tracks are ones in which he contributed: Falling Behind, Doin’ Fine, and Art of Life.

Best Song:  Falling Behind

Best Deep Cut:  Falling Behind

#13

Hear in the New Frontier-1997

The band was shifting closer to a mainstream sound, and it struck a nerve with many of its following.  Singles Sign of the Times and You are decent tracks, along with Get a Life, The Voice Inside, and Anytime/Anywhere.  Alas, the album’s longevity (14 songs) does it in.

Best Song:  Get a Life

Best Deep Cut:  Get a Life

#12

American Soldier-2009

The conceptual idea of this album, collecting first-hand accounts from American veterans who experienced all aspects of war, was a very noble one.  In some instances, the results are touching.  Unfortunately, while most of the songs aren’t bad, the record lacks anything memorable.  I do enjoy the duet Tate sang with his daughter, Emily, entitled Home Again.

Best Song:  Home Again

Best Deep Cut:  Home Again

#11

Q2K-1999

There’s not much about this 1999 offering that stands the test of time.  I will mention that this is the only Queensryche record to feature guitarist Kelly Gray, as longtime axeman Chris DeGarmo had left the group.

Best Song:  Falling Down

Best Deep Cut:  Falling Down

#10

Promised Land-1994

By 1994, Queensryche was still able to headline major venues, however, it was based on past success, as grunge was taking the rock scene by storm.  Promised Land is a hit and miss affair.  I Am I, Bridge, My Global Mind, and Someone Else? highlight this uneven affair. 

Best Song:  Bridge

Best Deep Cut:  My Global Mind

#9

Operation Mindcrime II-2006

A sequel to a signature record that we will discus further down in this ranking, Operation: Mindcrime II is a fitting follow-up.  In my opinion, while sequels are hardly ever better than the original (movies, records, girlfriends), at the very least, this offering brought Quennsryche back down its proper progressive metal rabbit hole. 

Best Song:  I’m American

Best Deep Cut:  I’m American 

#8

Queensryche-2013

New singer Todd La Torre’s debut signaled a return to a more classic Queensryche sound.  While none of the songs feature the left-hand turns of the band’s progressive metal heyday, the album is an enjoyable listen just the same.  For me personally, this record rejuvenated my feelings about the group going forward.

Best Song:  Fallout

Best Deep Cut:  Fallout

#7

Rage for Order-1986

By far my least favorite of the classic 80’s/early 90’s releases, Rage for Order was far more progressive than its predecessors.  The band utilized keyboards to a much higher degree, as well as heavy vocal and echo affects.  To some degree, the shift works, primarily with the brilliant Walk in the Shadows and the album closing I Will Remember, however, the filler on the release is too much to overcome.

Best Song:  Walk in the Shadows

Best Deep Cut:  I Will Remember 

#6

Condition Human-2013

Another La Torre classic, this album is progressive and gets quite heavy at times.  Close your eyes and see if you don’t hear Geoff Tate, circa 1984.  Arrow of Time, Hellfire, Toxic Remedy, and The Aftermath are the highlights.

Best Song:  Toxic Remedy

Best Deep Cut:  Toxic Remedy

#5

The Verdict-2019

Word on the street is that Queensryche is planning to release a new album later this year.  While I had soured on the group due to subpar offerings in Tate’s later years, the three La Torre records have me looking forward to the new one.  The Verdict continues a string in which the band outdoes its previous effort.  Credit La Torre, with his ear-splitting vocals, as well as thunderous drumming, filling in for regular drummer Scott Rockenfield.  Give a listen to Blood of the Levant, Man the Machine, Light-years, and Dark Reverie.

Best Song:   Blood of the Levant

Best Deep Cut:  Blood of the Levant

#4

Queensryche EP-1983

Yes, it is normally against my policy to include anything but full studio albums, however, this brief four song offering features two of the band’s early classics:  Queen of the Reich and The Lady Wore Black.  Meanwhile, Nightrider is not to be ignored.

Best Song:  Queen of the Reich

Best Deep Cut:  Nightrider

#3

The Warning-1984

An early Queensryche classic, The Warning gave fans a glimpse into the progressive metal that was to come yet maintained its heavy metal sound.  The album features mainstays Warning and Take Hold of the Flame, as well as lesser-known gems Child of Fire and Roads to Madness.

Best Song:  Roads to Madness

Best Deep Cut:  Roads to Madness

#2

Empire-1990

If the record stopped after track 8, it would perhaps be the king of the mountain.  Alas, there are three lesser quality cuts that close the album.  That said, the momentum gained in tracks 1-8 is to be taken seriously.  Best I Can, Jet City Woman, Another Rainy Night (Without You), and Empire are outstanding singles, while Silent Lucidity is the song most people know the band for.  Meanwhile, don’t fall asleep on The Thin Line and Resistance.

Best Song:  Jet City Woman

Best Deep Cut:  The Thin Line

#1

Operation Mindcrime-1988

The band’s opus is a concept album, as well as a rock opera that follows the story of a man who is swept up in the world of social and political violence, reluctantly becoming a hired assassin.  Along the way, he falls in love with a young nun who is escaping her former life as a prostitute.

The singles are the remembered tracks, including Revolution Calling, Speak, Breaking the Silence, I Don’t Believe in Love, and Eyes of a Stranger.  That said, the robust deep cuts are aplenty.  Give a listen to the title track, Spreading the Disease, and the ten-minute Suite Sister Mary.

Best Song:  Eyes of a Stranger

Best Deep Cut:  Spreading the Disease

Metal Monday 3-21-2022

Archived Concert Review

Slayer

Final World Tour

w/Lamb of God, Anthrax, Testament, Napalm Death

Times Union Center

Albany, NY

August 1, 2018

It was an evening of nostalgia on August 1, 2018, when thrash metal titans Slayer brought their final world tour to Albany, NY.  While not the original four members from the group that terrified me as a child, and clearly showing their age (don’t we all), there was no way I was missing this performance.  As a teaser, the band brought along quite an enticing package to share in the on-stage debauchery with.

As had been the case on Slayer’s previous tours, the band appeared on stage after the into tape of Delusion of Savior and a climatic curtain drop, which led into the breakneck opener, Repentless, the title track of the group’s final album.  Bassist and vocalist Tom Araya showed some signs of wear and tear by strategically choosing which high notes to hit and which ones to lay off from.  While he was hardly the same man who pulled off the blood curdling scream on Angel of Death in 1986, Araya’s performance was more than adequate for someone on the backside of his fifties.

Blood Red, Disciple, Mandatory Suicide, and Hate Worldwide followed, displaying a diverse setlist that bounced around from the obscure to more recent to classic old cuts.  Slayer in the 21st century has become a band that eschews the tired between-song raps, preferring to segue from one song to the next.  The first time Araya addressed the crowd was five songs deep into the set when he introduced, “Waaaaarrrrrrr Ensemble!” 

The other original member, guitarist Kerry King, mainly stayed stage right, bobbing his head along to the frantic pace of the band’s material, his braided beard swaying to the beat.  King traded scorching guitar solos with Gary Holt, an original member of thrash metal band Exodus, who had replaced the late Jeff Hanneman.    Holt has appeared more comfortable in his role in the band, playfully joshing with the audience.

Mid-set found Slayer mixing up newer tracks (from 2000 to the present) such as Jihad, When the Stillness Comes, and Payback, with classics Postmortem, Black Magic, and Seasons in the Abyss.  Blinding lights, strobes, and lasers, combined with hot orange flames gave the crowd a visually pleasing stage show that coincided nicely with the musical selections.  Things really ramped up during 1985’s Hell Awaits, with flame throwers setting the stage ablaze.

Drummer Paul Bostaph is easily Slayer’s most maligned member, having replaced (twice) original skinsman Dave Lombardo, who is considered by many to be the finest drummer in all of thrash metal.  Simply put, Bostaph, himself a talented beat keeper, has little chance to sway most opinions on who the better player is.  For what it’s worth, on this night, Paul put on a show, especially during the show closing trifecta of Raining Blood, Chemical Warfare, and Angel of Death.

All in all, watching this version of Slayer is more than a pleasant experience, especially considering the decades the band has been around.  That said, I wish I had the nerve back in the day to see them with Hanneman and Lombardo when they were in their prime.  That must have been something!

Slayer Setlist:

Repentless

Blood Red

Disciple

Mandatory Suicide

Hate Worldwide

War Ensemble

Jihad

When the Stillness Comes

Postmortem

Black Magic

Payback

Seasons in the Abyss

Dittohead

Dead Skin Mask

Hell Awaits

South of Heaven

Raining Blood

Chemical Warfare

Angel of Death

Slayer-War Ensemble (Albany NY; 2018)

Metal Monday 3-7-2022

Archived Concert Review:

Iron Maiden

June 20, 2008

Xfinity Center

Mansfield MA

I remember being stoked to learn Iron Maiden was heading out on what would be called the Somewhere Back in Time Tour.  A big Maiden fan since the 80’s, for reasons here and there, I had never seen the band live before.  Now, here they were announcing a show that would roughly resemble the epic World Slavery Tour, with its illustrious and elaborate staging, complete with modern upgrades.  I bought a pair of tickets for the show in Mansfield, Massachusetts.  I was not disappointed.

Anyone who has been to a Maiden show or has read concert reviews knows that the band is notorious for taking the stage right after UFO’s Doctor Doctor plays on the PA.  It’s the audience’s warning to get to their seats.  As to be expected, the house lights dimmed, and the stage and amphitheater became thick with darkness, the only light being the road crew’s flashlights leading the group from the back of the stage.  As was the case with 1985’s Live After Death release, Winston Churchill’s famous We Shall Never Surrender speech played overhead, before the band launched into Aces High and Two Minutes to Midnight.  I was 13 all over again!

Iron Maiden was (and still is) a six-piece outfit.  When old guitarist Adrian Smith rejoined the group in 1999, his replacement, Janick Gers, stayed on, giving the group, along with veteran Dave Murray, a three-guitar attack.  The trio worked tirelessly, producing a string of wonderfully incorporated guitar harmonies.  Drummer Nicko McBrain, barely visible behind his monster kit, pounded out the beats and rhythms he is known for, especially showcasing his rapid-fire single bass drumming talents.  Meanwhile, bassist Steve Harris, one of the best in the business, perched in the front of the stage, one foot on a monitor, leering over the crowd, lip synching every word back to the audience.

A benefit of the nostalgia tour is that the band will play songs that haven’t seen the light of day in decades.  Iron Maiden was no different.  Revelations, Wasted Years, and Powerslave all made their way back into the setlist, along with old standbys, The Trooper, The Number of the Beast, Run to the Hills, and Fear of the Dark.  Personally, the highlight for me was the 13-minute Rime of the Ancient Mariner, complete with enough fireworks to make a Disney Fourth of July event proud.

Singer Bruce Dickenson is a timeless soul.  Even in 2008, at the age of 50, he was sprinting from one end of the stage to the other, jumping from catwalk to catwalk, dressing in period clothing to represent a particular song, and proudly waving the British flag.  Vocally, this man amazes me.  At an age where bands routinely must lower song keys so the singer can properly hit the notes, Dickenson can easily and comfortably reach the high ranges he nailed decades prior.  Clone him. 

The band’s title track, from its 1980 debut closed out the main set and featured iconic mascot, Eddie, for the first time.  When the group returned to the stage, the treated us to a triple shot of Moonchild, The Clairvoyant, and Hallowed Be Thy Name.  The show was complete.  Iron Maiden had delivered.  When McBrain emerged from his drum set to throw sticks into the crowd, many of us were getting our first visible look at him.

Iron Maiden Setlist:

Churchill’s Speech

Aces High

Two Minutes to Midnight

Revelations

The Trooper

Wasted years

The Number of the Beast

Can I Play With Madness

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Powerslave

Heaven Can Wait

Run to the Hills

Fear of the Dark

Iron Maiden

Encore:

Moonchild

The Clairvoyant

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Iron Maiden-Aces High

Metal Monday 2-28-2022

This week, we take a look at one of the more frustrating bands to come out during my formative years.  One whose music has not aged very well commercially and who may only be remembered by a small window of people who grew up in the 80’s.  This is a band that had all the tools to hit it big such as a killer guitar player, a lead singer with a robust vocal range, and songs filled with memorable hooks and alluring harmonies.  But alas, it was a band that couldn’t get out of its own way.  We are talking about Dokken.

Dokken was a very talented band whose early catalog ranks up there with most artists from the hair metal days.  Unfortunately, they became an all-too-common victim of what got a lot of bands from that era, namely ego and internal strife.  Vocalist Don Dokken and uber-talented guitarist George Lynch hated each other to the point that the band ceased to exist right at the height of their popularity, reconvening in the mid-nineties when groups of the hard rock/hair metal regime had fallen off the popularity pedestal in favor of grunge.

It was fun while it lasted.  For a stretch from about 1983 to 1988, Dokken, at least from a musical standpoint, was at the top of its game.  Don Dokken and Lynch were complimented nicely by a strong rhythm section in bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Mick Brown.  When I need that little kick of nostalgia, Dokken is one of my go-to bands.  Here are their studio albums ranked from worst to best.

#11:

Shadowlife-1997

A sharp change in direction to alternative rock, this one is perhaps the band’s most criticized.  While there are some decent moments, notably, Bitter Regret, there is a more than a fighting chance I may never listen to this album again.

Best Song:  Bitter Regret

Best Deep Cut:  Bitter Regret

#10

Dysfunctional-1995

Dokken reunited for this one, which was originally expected to be a Don Dokken solo effort.  The album flopped commercially, mostly since bands of this mold were not well received at the time.  There is a subtle shift from the melodic hard rock the band hit it big with to a sound more akin to the alternative style that was hitting the airwaves.  It’s not a bad record at all; it’s just not a great Dokken release.

Best Song:  Too High to Fly

Best Deep Cut:  Too High to Fly

#9

Erase the Slate-1999

Erase the Slate is a step back toward the classic hard rock sound that made Dokken successful, albeit with plenty of late nineties production.  The title track, Maddest hatter, Shattered, and Haunted Lullabye are the highlights.  This would be the one album to feature guitarist Reb Beach and the final one bassist Jeff Pilson plays on.

Best Song:  Maddest Hatter

Best Deep Cut:  Maddest Hatter

#8

Long Way Home-2002

The first Dokken album to feature new bassist Barry Sparks, and the only one consisting of Europe guitarist John Norum, Long Way Home, although heavily influenced by the sounds of millennial modern rock (at least in terms of production), offers glimpses of the band from yesteryear.  Namely, the occasional signature Don Dokken wail that was prevalent on the early records.  Give a listen to Sunless Dyas, Little Girl, Magic Road, There Was a Time, and the cover of the Yardbirds’, Heart Full of Soul.

Best Song:  Magic Road

Best Deep Cut:  Magic Road

#7

Hell to Pay-2004

Oh, what could have been.  Hell to Pay, the first record to feature guitarist Jon Levin, starts out like a ball of fire before a nondescript ballad zaps all of the momentum that the band never recaptures.  Indeed, The Last Goodbye, Don’t Bring Me Down, Escape, Haunted, and Prozac Nation have the listener wondering to what heights Dokken can take them.  Unfortunately, Care for You begins the decline that sees the album close with five ballads out of the final seven songs.  That said, the first five songs are so strong, it lifts the album up to this rather high ranking on the list.  How high could it have gone?

Best Song:  Escape

Best Deep Cut:  Escape

#6

Broken Bones-2012

The latest Dokken album, it is the first not to feature drummer Mick Brown, who was unavailable.  Veteran Jimmy DeGrasso filled in behind the kit.  Meanwhile, bassist Barry Sparks had given way to Sean McNabb for this one.  Broken Bones is a fine release that continues the band’s recent attempt to come full circle regarding its sound.  Listen to Empire, Best of Me, Victim of the Crime, For the Last Time, Tonight, and the title track.

Best Song:  For the Last Time

Best Deep Cut:  For the Last Time

#5:

Lightning Strikes Again-2008

A triumphant return to the classic Dokken sound, Lightning Strikes Again takes its name from a song of the same title off the Under Lock and Key album.  After two decades of sonic and style experimentation, some good, some bad, it is refreshing to listen to a record from the band that pays homage to yesteryear.  Standing on the Outside, Give Me a Reason, Heart to Stone, Point of No Return, Judgement Day, and This Fire are the strengths of Dokken’s finest release since 1987.

Best Song:  Point of No Return

Best Deep Cut:  Point of No Return

#4:

Breaking the Chains-1981

The band’s debut, originally released in Europe in 1981, Breaking the Chains saw the light of day in the US in 1983.  Considered a failure by Elektra Records, Dokken’s management had to convince the label to give the band another chance.  The lead-off title track is the best song here, while Felony, Stick to Your Guns, and the live cut Paris is Burning are notable.  

Best Song:  Breaking the Chains

Best Deep Cut:  Paris is Burning

#3:

Back for the Attack-1987

This is the final record before the band broke up for the first time, and it was not a bad way to go out, even if the group killed its own ascent by imploding.  There are plenty of hits, including Burning Like a Flame, Heaven Sent, Prisoner, and opener, Kiss of Death.  In addition, album strengths include a remake of Dream Warriors, as well as the Lynch-led instrumental, Mr. Scary.  These moments overshadow some of the filler, no doubt due to the ambition of releasing 13 songs.

Best Song:  Kiss of Death

Best Deep Cut:  Standing in the Shadows

#2:

Tooth and Nail-1884

Dokken made good on its promise to its label with the strong Tooth and Nail.  The album is chock full of the formula that made a band successful in the day with loud crunchy guitars, screeching vocals, and catchy choruses.  There are four Dokken classics on this one:  the title cut, Just Got Lucky, Into the Fire, and Alone Again.  Don’t fall asleep on Turn on the Action.   

Best Song:  Into the Fire

Best Deep Cut:  Turn on the Action

#1:

Under Lock and Key-1985

The best Dokken album was released in 1985.  The trifecta of Unchain the Night, The Hunter, and In My Dreams gets things off to a rollicking start, while It’s Not Love is noted for its popular MTV video.  Songs to maybe revisit include Lightnin’ Strikes Again, Jaded Heart, and Don’t Lie to Me.

Best Song:  In My Dreams

Best Deep Cut:  Lightnin’ Strikes Again

Metal Monday 2-21-2022

Concert Review Archive

Ozzy Osbourne

w/Korn and Life of Agony

PRI Fieldhouse

Troy NY

January 27, 1996

A Saturday night blizzard was not keeping me away from this show.  Not this one.  Not the Prince of Darkness.  Not after my history of bad luck when it came to seeing the man perform live.  No, I was sure as hell going to catch this Ozzy Osbourne show.

Backtracking four years, in early 1992, Ozzy announced his farewell tour.  Never having seen him before, I grabbed a pair of tickets for the July show in Saratoga NY.  Well before the days of alerts and social media, my eyebrows were more than a little ruffled when I pulled into a barren parking lot less than an hour before showtime.  A young fellow at the ticket booth confirmed my worst fears.  Ozzy was ill and the evening’s performance was rescheduled for August 31.

Call it a bad feeling, but on the morning of August 31, I called the venue and asked if that night’s Ozzy Osbourne show was still on.  They informed me that the concert was the previous night, August 30.  Unbelievable!  The guy told me the wrong date!  I ended up getting my money refunded (good luck with that today!) but I was now never going to see Ozzy, as his farewell tour was wrapping up in a couple of months and I didn’t have anymore available time to take off from work.

Funny thing about rockstars who think they have had enough of the limelight:  the itch always comes back.  Even in my indie band days I have sworn off gigging only to get back out there.  It never completely goes away.  Ozzy was no different.  He announced a new tour in 1995, appropriately named the Retirement Sucks Tour.

After putting the truck into four-wheel drive, I plowed through approximately 90 miles of fresh powder to get to the venue.  Along the way, a frantic fear hit me.  What if the show was cancelled due to weather?  My worries alleviated as I got closer to Troy and the snow tapered off.  It was much worse back home.  A full parking lot greeted me this time.

The show kicked off with a video that celebrated Ozzy’s history, from the early days with Black Sabbath all the way to 1996.  It was an updated version of the intro I saw on a video from the 1992 tour.  The curtain dropped and Osbourne and his band launched into the Sabbath classic, Paranoid

The band consisted of old friend, the late Randy Castillo on drums and Mike Inez on bass guitar, both veterans of the 1992 tour.  Meanwhile, Ozzy introduced a new guitarist, Joe Holmes, following the string of legendary axemen Randy Rhodes, Jake E. Lee, and Zakk Wilde in the fold.  Holmes proved every bit of the shredder, hammering out nearly identical versions of his predecessor’s solos, while adding his own twist.  Unbeknownst to him and to us, his tenure in the band would prove to be short-lived

Osbourne, meanwhile, in his mid-forties, was in fine form, no rust from the long layoff evident, nor showing the vocal strain that would cause him to lower the keys to his songs in later years.  He was active, as well, commanding the stage from one side to the other, bellowing out his trademark stage rap, “Go fuc*$#ng crazy!”  He masterfully led the band through classic solo cuts, I Don’t Know, Flying High Again, and Goodbye to Romance, with the only track from his latest Ozzmosis record to get played being I Just Want You.   

A triple shot of Sabbath classics, Iron Man, Fairies Wear Boots, and Children of the Grave, highlighted the middle section of the show, sending the crowd into a frenzy.  Meanwhile, the middle of Suicide Solution featured a long jam that Holmes, Inez, and Castillo took part in so Ozzy could get a break.  This was the mid-nineties and, for the most part, the token guitar and drum solos were becoming obsolete.

Refreshed, Osbourne came back and delivered a closing shot of Mr. Crowley, War Pigs, and Crazy Train, the latter containing his use of the water guns that fans had come to expect.  Ozzy and crew returned to encore with Mama I’m Coming Home, before closing out the evening with Bark at the Moon.  A short set indeed, clocked in at about 85 minutes, but an energetic one at that. 

I missed the evening’s first opener, Life of Agony, due to the aforementioned snowstorm.  The second band of the night was a little-known metal group named Korn.  I’ve never been a huge fan of them and do not remember much about their performance.

Ozzy Osbourne Setlist:

Paranoid

I Don’t Know

Flying High Again

Goodbye to Romance

I Don’t Want to Change the World

I Just Want You

Suicide Solution

Iron Man

Fairies Wear Boots

Children of the Grave

Mr. Crowley

War Pigs

Crazy Train

Encore:

Mama I’m Coming Home

Bark At the Moon

https://www.ozzy.com/archives/tour/retirement-sucks

Metal Monday 2-14-2022

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

This week, we are discussing, perhaps the baddest band in rock and roll, Motorhead.  This English outfit came out in the seventies as a trio, although during a stretch of their history, acted as a quartet.  The group’s classic line-up consisted of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister on bass guitar and lead vocals, “Fast” Eddie Clark on guitar, and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor on drums, although guitarists Wurzel, and especially Phil Campbell had long tenures in the group.  Meanwhile, drummer Mikkey Dee pounded the skins for more than 20 years.

Motorhead has been considered to be of many genres, including heavy metal, however, prided itself on being a simple rock and roll band.  Lemmy began most concerts by proclaiming, “We are Motorhead and we play rock and roll.”  Its classic line-up abandoned for good in the early nineties, Lemmy, Campbell, and Dee carried on until Lemmy’s death in 2015, permanently ending the band.

Speaking of Lemmy, in my opinion, there is perhaps not a cooler rock star figure that ever lived.  Known for enjoying his Jack and Cokes, and seemingly always puffing on a cigarette, along with his well-known reputation of extreme hard living, it amazes me he lived until age 70.  His on-stage humor, presence, and charisma only adds to his coolness.  The man dressed in black and demonstrated one of the iconic stances when singing into the microphone.  Long live Motorhead!

#23

March or Die-1992

Coming off the success of the 1916 record a year earlier, Motorhead attempted to hit it commercially.  Unfortunately, the effort failed, resulting in the worst album in the band’s catalog.  Stand and Jack the Ripper are the highlights, however, the highlights are few and far between.

Best Song:  Stand

Best Deep Cut:  Stand

#22

Snake Bite Love-1998

There’s not much to say about this one.  To me, this is a very uneventful album, one that offers nothing new (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and, unfortunately, one whose songs are less than memorable.

Best Song:  Dogs of War

Best Deep Cut:  Dogs of War

#21

Kiss of Death-2006

An average offering at best, Kiss of Death, most likely not deliberate, presents a sound at times more akin to the days’ modern rock groups, rather than anything cutting edge or resembling the classic Motorhead sound of albums before.  Devil I Know and Christine are the only tracks that make me turn my head. 

Best Song:  Christine

Best Deep Cut:  Christine

#20

Iron Fist-1982

Plagued by production problems, as well as having to follow the topflight live album No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith, Iron Fist was the last to feature the classic line-up.  It’s a record whose many songs were written in the studio, with a rushed effort being the result.  At least the title track is a classic.

Best Song:  Iron Fist

Best Deep Cut:  Iron Fist 

#19

On Parole-1979

What was intended to be the Motorhead’s debut album in 1976, On Parole was released three years later, to the band’s chagrin, who do not consider it to be an official release.  There are some decent tracks here, including Motorhead, Lost Johnny (both on the band’s self-titled record), the title track, City Kids, and Fools.

Best Song:  Fools

Best Deep Cut:  Fools

#18

Motorhead-1977

A very punkish debut, the album solidified the patented Motorhead sound, with Lemmy’s throated vocals, Eddie’s chugging guitars, and Philty’s thunderous drumming.  As far as debut records, you could do worse.

Best Song:  Motorhead

Best Deep Cut:  Motorhead

#17

Overnight Sensation-1996

The band transitioned back to a three-piece unit following Wurzel’s departure.  The result was a heavy if uneven album.  Mid-nineties vocal effects were very much in play on this record that at times, sounds a bit dated.  That said, Civil War, Crazy Like a Fox, and the title cut are decent tracks.

Best Song:  Crazy Like a Fox

Best Deep Cut:  Crazy Like a Fox

#16

Hammered-2002

A solid collection of new tracks, Hammered fits nicely alongside 2000’s We Are Motorhead as more than respectable representations of what the band had to offer in the 21st century.  Walk a Crooked Mile, Brave New World, Mine All Mine, and Red Raw draw most of my attention.

Best Song:  Walk a Crooked Mile

Best Deep Cut:  Walk a Crooked Mile

#15

We Are Motorhead-2000

The band’s first output of the new century has some moments, including the thrashing See Me Burning, the grooving Slow Dance, a cover of the Sex pistols’ God Save the Queen, and a ballad titled, One More Fu*&#ng Time.  At least the record proved that the band still had some gas left in the tank at this point in its career.

Best Song:  Slow Dance

Best Deep Cut:  Slow Dance

#14

Bad Magic-2015

Sadly, this is the final Motorhead album, as Lemmy would pass away soon after its release.  That said, considering the man was almost 70 years old, Bad Magic is not a bad way to go out.  There are highlights here for sure.  Take a listen to Victory or Die, Thunder and Lightning, Fire Storm Hotel, The Devil, and the ballad Till the End.

Best Song:  The Devil

Best Deep Cut:  The Devil

#13

Motorizer-2008

This is another underrated album that hits the listener in the face with tracks such as Runaround Man, Where the Eagle Screams, and Buried Alive.  Meanwhile, other highlights include Teach You How to Sing the Blues and The Thousand names of GodMotorizer is a significant upgrade over 2006’s Kiss of Death.

Best Song:  Runaround Man

Best Deep Cut:  Runaround Man

#12

Another Perfect Day-1983

The only release to feature Thin Lizzy’s Brian Robertson on guitar, Another Perfect Day is a decent offering with stellar production, despite Lemmy’s claim that it is the band’s, “most hated album.”  Back at the Funny farm, Shine, Dancing on Your Grave, and the title cut are the highlights.

Best Song:  Back at the Funny Farm

Best Deep Cut:  Back at the Funny Farm

#11

Rock and Roll-1987

Philty Animal came back for this record, one that is often overlooked by diehard fans.  The opening one-two punch of the title cut and Eat the Rich get things off to a rollicking start, while Stone Deaf in the USA, The Wolf, and Dogs are worthy of a listen.

Best Song:  Eat the Rich

Best Deep Cut:  Eat the Rich

#10

Sacrafice-1995

A heavy album, most likely in part to the tension within the band, primarily surrounding second guitarist Wurzel, who was claimed to already have had one foot out the door during the recording process.  The title track, Sex and Death, Over Your Shoulder, Dog-Face Boy, and All Gone to Hell highlight the record.

Best Song:  Over Your Shoulder

Best Deep Cut:  Over Your Shoulder

#9

Inferno-2004

When you thought that Motorhead might be at risk of becoming a nostalgia act, they surprised you with a strong album.  Case in point, 2004’s InfernoTerminal Show gets things off to a thrashy start, while Killers might be the best number from the band in the entire 2000’s, while making a case for the 90’s, as well.  Meanwhile, In the Name of Tragedy is a mid-tempo, catchy thrasher that sticks in your head.  Suicide, In the Black, In the Year of the Wolf, and Keys to the Kingdom are other key highlights to focus on.  The record closes with the acoustic blues track, Whorehouse Blues

Best Song:  Killers

Best Deep Cut:  Killers

#8

Aftershock-2013

Motorhead appeals to me mainly because of its versatility.  They can tap into a plethora of genres of rock, including the high-octane tempos of thrash and heavy metal, hard driving straight up rock, and heavy tunes mixed with a blues influence.  When they mix things up from song to song on an album, I’m hooked.  Aftershock does this for me.  Although the filler is limited, I do tend to think 14 songs is a bit too much.  However, I am nitpicking here. 

Best Song:  Heartbreaker

Best Deep Cut:  Heartbreaker

#7

Bastards-2003

A more than formidable comeback from the career low March or Die a year earlier, Bastards features a strong first half, including On Your Feet or Knees, Burner, I Am the Sword, and Born to Raise Hell.  Meanwhile, the album’s biggest surprise is the haunting Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me, a song that tackles child molestation, sung beautifully and only in a way that Lemmy could.

Best Song:  Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me

Best Deep Cut:  Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me

#6

The World is Yours-2010

A late career masterpiece, The World is Yours was dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio, who passed away earlier in the year.  There is no shortage of strong tracks here, with many being in the vein of the hard driving, mid-tempo, thrash metal that greatly appeals to yours truly.  The highlights a plenty, including, but certainly not limited to, Born to Lose, I Know How to Die, Get Back in Line, Devils in My Head, and Outlaw.

Best Song:  Get Back in Line

Best Deep Cut:  Get Back in Line

#5

Bomber-1979

In the precarious position of being sandwiched between classic releases Overkill and Ace of Spades, Bomber sometimes gets a bad rap.  It’s unfortunate because there are some great tracks on this record.  Dead Men Tell No Tales, Lawman, Stone Dead Forever, All the Aces, and the title track are the highlights.  Plus, the lighting rig from the concert tour was brilliant! 

Best Song:  Bomber

Best Deep Cut:  Bomber

#4

1916-1991

This is an album that displays a wide variety of Motorhead’s musical influence.  Singles The One to Sing the Blues, I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care, and No Voices in the Sky triumphantly lead off the record, dripped in hard rock and heavy metal.  Going to Brazil and Angel City bring a fifties honky tonk mix to the table, while R.A.M.O.N.E.S. appeals to the punks.  Meanwhile, the band brings something new in the form of a ballad with Love Me Forever.  Perhaps the biggest shock is a vulnerable Lemmy crooning his ode to fallen soldiers in World War One with the album-ending title cut.  The versatility works beautifully.  This is a go-to Motorhead album for me.

Best Song:  Going to Brazil

Best Deep Cut:  Going to Brazil

#3

Orgasmitron-1986

An outstanding album in which all nine tracks are at least solid, with some being brilliant.  Deaf Forever is one of my favorite Motorhead songs of all time, while Nothing Up My Sleeve, Ain’t My Crime, Mean Machine, Doctor Rock, and the title cut all more than worthy of your attention.

Best Song:  Deaf Forever

Best Deep Cut:  Deaf Forever

#2

Ace of Spades-1980

Now we are entering revered territory.  The album features so many outstanding tracks, including the anthemic title cut, as well as Live to Win, Fast and Loose, (We Are) The Road Crew, Jailbait, and the amazing The Chase is Better Than the Catch.  You could easily make the argument that this record belongs in the top spot, however, that only speaks to the strength of the number one album in the band’s catalog.

Best Song:  Ace of Spades

Best Deep Cut:  The Chase is Better Than the Catch

#1

Overkill-1979

A vast improvement over its debut, Motorhead hit it out of the park with its second release.  My go-to Motorhead record that has no weak moments.  All-time classics such as the title cut, Stay Clean, No Class, and Damage Case highlight the record.  Meanwhile, Overkill is strengthened by spectacular deep tracks (I Won’t) Pay Your Price, I’ll Be Your Sister, Capricorn, and Metropolis

Best Song:  Stay Clean

Best Deep Cut:  Metropolis

Metal Monday 2-7-2022

Archived Concert Review

AC/DC

Times Union Center

Albany NY

August 2, 2009

My dad was 63 years old in 2009 and claimed AC/DC to be his favorite band in the world.  This is a statement I didn’t deny, given how his attention would be swayed whenever one of the band’s songs was on the radio.  As he had never been to a concert of such magnitude, when I heard that AC/DC was going to be bringing its Black Ice tour to my region, I got the idea to surprise him with tickets.

Dad had no idea where we were going when I picked him up that afternoon.  Waiting until we were parked in a garage two blocks from the venue to show him the tickets, his eyes lit up when he realized the end result of the surprise.  He was downright giddy as we waited for the doors to open, openly chatting up folks who were around his age about the band.

Our seats were on the right-hand side as we faced the stage, right behind the barrier leading to the floor, and in the first row.  This placed us approximately 75 feet from the stage, with a ramp extending right in front of us.  Australia’s The Answer opened the show with a set of unknown, but solid, rock and roll, complete with modest production.  Dad’s reaction to the meager stage and light show was that of a wide-eyed kid going to his first rock show.  I giggled to myself, knowing he would be blown away once the headliners took the stage.

AC/DC opened its show with a 2-minute video featuring an animated train rollicking down the tracks, getting more and more out of control, before culminating with a high-speed crash, transitioning into the band taking the stage amidst a large train as the main stage prop, real time flames set off to complete the trick.  Not coincidentally, the band launched into the lead single off its latest Black Ice album, Rock and Roll Train.  It was at that moment, my dad realized he was seeing a real rock and roll show.

The train as its lone prop (until the cannons at the end), AC/DC entertained as it had for more than 30 years.  Lead guitarist Angus Young, in his trademark schoolboy outfit, raced, bopped, and gyrated over every inch of the stage, clearly the evening’s main attraction.  Lead vocalist, Brian Johnson, a more than competent and willing second banana was the next most mobile member of the quintet, trading spaces with Angus on the main stage, as well as the ramp, sounding in fine form with his scratchy and deep throated vocals.

The band mixed a setlist of new songs from Black Ice with classic tunes throughout the evening.  Big Jack, the title cut, War Machine, and Anything Goes made up the former, while Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, Back in Black, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Thunderstruck, Shoot to Thrill, You Shook Me All Night Lone, TNT, and Whole Lotta Rosie highlightedthe latter.  Angus’ brother, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, and bassist Cliff Williams remained glued to their posts, each taking up a spot just to the left or right of the drum riser, only moving simultaneously to their respective microphones to sign back-up vocals.  Meanwhile, drummer Phil Rudd, who could be called a human metronome, manned the drum kit, at times further solidifying his coolness by displaying a lit cigarette in his mouth while playing.

The group had some surprises left in store.  The black AC/DC bell that lowered to the point that Johnson could hang from it before crooning Hells Bells especially impressed my dad.  Main set closer Let There Be Rock was turned into a marathon affair, with Angus going berserk while assaulting his guitar.  Encore number Highway to Hell featured an impressive series of flames and fireworks, while the final song of the night, For Those About to Rock (We Salute You), gave the audience its trademark firing of the cannons, a finale that left my dad with his mouth wide open.

This was not my first AC/DC show, and I knew well beforehand how special their performances usually were.  However, for a first-time concert goer, going to see the group is mostly a blessing, given how amazing they are live, but could be considered a curse, as there is no way another band could live up to what we saw in Albany that night.  Just ask my dad.  He’s been to one other concert since:  AC/DC in 2015.

AC/DC Setlist:

Rock and Roll Train

Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be

Back in Black

Big Jack

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Shot Down in Flames

Thunderstruck

Black Ice

The Jack

Hells Bells

Shoot to Thrill

War Machine

Dog Eat Dog

Anything Goes

You Shook Me All Night Long

TNT

Whole Lotta Rosie

Let There Be Rock

Encore:

Highway to Hell

For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Concert Review

Van Halen

Verizon Wireless Arena

Manchester NH

May 28, 2008

My adult years have been filled with the classic bands of my youth reuniting.  There was Kiss and the Eagles in the 90’s, and no shortage of groups from the 2000’s, including Motley Crue, The Police, even Simon and Garfunkel.  In 2007, Van Halen joined the “get back together” fray by mending fences with original singer David Lee Roth.

It was with great excitement when I first heard the news of the reunion.  Van Halen had been one of the few bands I had yet to see live.  My enthusiasm was tempered some with the fact that original bassist Michael Anthony was being replaced with guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang, however, this revelation did not prevent me from purchasing tickets for the Manchester NH show.

In this day of YouTube and other Internet avenues, one’s ability to gather information is at his or her fingertips.  Never one to be patient, I logged on the morning after the first show on the tour to see the setlist.  And what an amazing selection it was!  All the hits and plenty of deep cuts from the Roth era made the cut.  YouTube provided the video for us to see the stage and hear the band’s performance.  I did notice after a few shows that people in chat groups were complaining about the sound quality, but I attributed it to the acoustics in the respective venues.

The original date of the Manchester show was in the winter but was pushed back to May 28.  Upon entering the arena, I recognized the strange S-shape walkways on the stage itself that I had seen on YouTube, however, they were partially obstructed by black drapery, not to be revealed until the band took the stage.  Classic rock was playing on the public address system and the band’s crew released a few gigantic black beach balls with the VH logo for the crowd to bop around.

The lights went down and after a brief build-up, Van Halen appeared!  Eddie was on the right and I was immediately struck by his simple t-shirt and jeans attire, accompanied with short, grayish hair, complete with a goatee, more akin to a car mechanic than a rock star.  This would be a workmanlike performance, indeed.  Wolfgang was on the left, while his Uncle Alex (Eddie’s brother) was entrenched behind his colorful and always impressive drum kit.  Meanwhile, Diamond Dave, ever the showman, appeared at the top of the stage, donning a sparkling outfit, similar to what a circus ringleader might wear.

The band opened with their cover of the Kinks classic, You Really Got Me.  Other classic hits and deep cuts followed, including, I’m the One, Runnin’ with the Devil, Beautiful Girls, and Dance the Night Away.  I couldn’t help but notice the muffled sound and thought back to those chatroom reviews.  It really was a jumbled mess.  I wondered if it were due to my seat location, which was in the first row of the upper level, immediate stage right, behind the frontline of stage monitors.  Perhaps I was hearing the sound the band was hearing through the monitors and not out of the main PA?

I observed Roth was experiencing difficulties with the stage sound.  On five or six occasions, he wandered over to my side of the stage and offered us with a clear view of him berating a poor sound guy, undoubtably in charge of stage sound.  I also noticed Roth didn’t provide us with his between-song stage banter, save for the obligatory, “Good Evening Manchester,” and a quick one-liner here and there.  Rather, the band kept segueing from song to song, its momentum not stalled, even with Alex’s drum solo, and certainly not Eddie’s guitar solo, a staple that is a treat for a VH concertgoer, instead of a mere excuse to visit to john.

The hits kept on coming, including, Unchained, I’ll Wait, And the Cradle Will Rock, Hot for Teacher, and Panama.  Meanwhile, fans were treated to numbers that the band had not played in nearly a quarter century, such as Atomic Punk, Everybody Wants Some, Mean Street, Little Dreamer, and a cover of John Brim’s, Ice Cream ManAin’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love closed out the main set, while the encore consisted of 1984 and the classic, Jump.

I am happy I got to see Van Halen with Roth.  Although I am a big fan of Sammy Hagar and the music he made with the band, it’s the Roth era tunes I will always gravitate to.  The fact that I got to see the band play so much of the soundtrack of my youth is something I will always be grateful for, especially since it is not possible to see them again. 

My only complaint is a big one.  Frankly, the sound was bad.  At times, I could not understand what Roth was singing, or could even tell what song was being played until an undeniable chorus or hook came along.  In the elevator to the parking garage after the show, I came across a couple of guys who mentioned the same thing, and when I asked them where their seats were, they told me they were in the stands behind the sound board, directly center of the stage.  My theory of the stage monitors flew out the window.  I find that an act of this caliber, on a highly anticipated reunion tour, should not sound like this.  It was a damper on what should have been a magical evening.

Van Halen Setlist:

You really Got Me

I’m the One

Runnin’ with the Devil

Romeo Delight

Somebody Get Me a Doctor

Beautiful Girls

Dance the Night Away

Atomic Punk

Everybody Wants Some!!

So This is Love?

Mean Street

On, Pretty Woman

Drum Solo

Unchained

I’ll Wait

And the Cradle Will Rock

Hot for Teacher

Little Dreamer

Jamie’s Cryin’

Ice Cream Man

Panama

Guitar Solo (featuring Eruption, Cathedral, Spanish Fly, Mean Street intro, and Women in Love intro)

Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love

Encore:

1984

Jump

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/eddie-van-halen-van-halen.html
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