Category Archives: Reviews

REVIEW: System of a Down Mezmerize Phoenix Fans (10-16-18)

  • 47
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    48
    Shares

PHOENIXFor a band as dynamic as System of a Down, one would expect their live performances to be equally, if not more engaging, than their studio releases. Gaining popularity from classic songs like Chop Suey for example, which features a quickly strummed acoustic guitar intro leading directly into a frenetic musical meltdown. This is arguably one of the defining attributes of the band and last night’s show at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix was certainly no exception.

El Paso rock band, At The Drive In, set the tone of the night with energetic grooves and polished musicianship; a nice preview of what was to come later on. Their set wasn’t without its technical hiccups however, as lead vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala wildly gyrated his arms in an upward motion towards stage left during the first song. This was a clear indication that his vocals weren’t loud enough in the mix and he most likely couldn’t hear himself. The band didn’t miss a beat and continued on into the next few songs, but not without Bixler-Zavala interrupting himself mid-lyric to say “turn up the vocals!” He was obviously frustrated with the technical side of things, but this didn’t take away from their overall performance. With Bixler-Zavala and the rest of the band continuously powered through and made sure the people got what they came to see. Roaring reception from the crowd and an ever turbulent ocean of bodies in the open floor area indicated they were delivering on that promise for many fans.

Following Cedric’s politically charged closing announcement after the final song, that the band was “going backstage to hang out. Don’t call ICE on us,” there was a quick tear-down period as various stage hands took their gear away and made room for the main attraction. Soon after, the lights darkened and System of a Down broke into “Innervision”, a song I didn’t expect as an opening number but a great decision nonetheless. This song has a slow-burning intensity that served as an excellent preamble for what was about to hit the audience next.

Immediately after “Innervision”, lead guitarist, Daron Malakian hit the immensely-heavy opening power chord to “Prison Song”. As if this song alone wasn’t enough of a reason to get the crowd filled with excitement, the band faked everyone out by hitting the opening chord a few more times than expected which stirred up the suspense and generated added fervor.

It’s worth noting that by the time System of a Down took the stage, the sound was immediately dialed in and they sounded absolutely perfect. Every single instrument was balanced well with one another, and both Serj Tankian and Malakian’s vocals had achieved just the right volume levels to allow their harmonious vocals to soar and blend in beautiful ways.

From this point on, each song flowed smoothly into the next with virtually no time in between, allowing them to pack as many songs into the night as possible. The third song played was “I-E-A-I-A-I-O”, which was followed by yet another acronymic song “B.Y.O.B.” Behind the band was a giant jumbotron displaying many visually arresting images including bombs exploding, girls dancing in chorus lines, and inflamed cars driving down the highway at light speeds.

Bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan held down the rhythm section with machine-like musical precision while still remaining animated on stage and engaging with the crowd when necessary. Odadjian particularly stole the show at many points during the set with his excellent bass tone cutting through the mix and his charismatic dance moves.

Odadjian was not the only one who visibly enjoyed himself on stage either. Both Tankian and Malakian employed their own dance routines of hopping around on one foot and spinning around in circles. This struck me as particularly impressive when you consider how fast and technical each of their roles in most of the songs are. Malakian also had me laughing at multiple points during the show when he chose to introduce the song “Psycho #13” by singing his own rendition of “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. He had a lot of excellent banter with the audience during other songs too, like chanting the words “everybody spin around” to the tune of the outro guitar riff in “Toxicity”. This gave way to a maelstrom of people swirling around in one of the biggest mosh pits I’ve ever witnessed. The power that the band and their songs have over their fans is undeniable and an incredible thing to witness in person.

Other notable highlights of the night were “Aerials”, “Question!”, “Deer Dance”, and especially the closing song “Sugar”; an excellent choice to cap off the night and a highly memorable setlist. System of a Down have proved once again that despite a 24-year music career, their enthusiasm has yet to wane. Over 10 years after the band’s last double album release Mezmerize/Hypnotize, they have teased new music with various contradictory information coming from different band members over time. However, one thing I certainly take comfort in is that regardless of whether or not we ever get to experience new music from the band, they’ve left a lasting musical legacy that has left an indelible impression on me, as well as many other fans from around the world.

REVIEW: No Throw-Aways With Garbage at Marquee Theatre (10-7-18)

  • 28
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    29
    Shares

Tempe, AZ — On Sunday night, Garbage played at the Marquee Theatre as part of the “20 Years Paranoid” tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of their Version 2.0 album. Opening for them was Rituals of Mine, a Los Angeles-based duo previously known as Sister Crayon.

At the start of the show, it wasn’t clear that Ritual of Mine’s self-described electronic/downtempo R&B sound would appeal to the packed house of late-to-middle-age Gen Xers. But as Terra Lopez sang “To Show You Violence,” the mood in the theater shifted from one of silent, reserved judgement to silent awe. Her indisputably powerful and clear voice resounded throughout the theatre to the applause of a crowd won over.

Rituals of Mine - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Rituals of Mine |
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Rituals of Mine recently collaborated with Tricky and The Glitch Mob, and the duo is now working on their sophomore LP. They will also accompany Garbage throughout the entire U.S. anniversary tour. “This is a dream for us,” Lopez told the crowd. While Rituals of Mine isn’t a new act, the tour along with their recent collaborations could expose the group to a much wider audience.

Rituals of Mine - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Terra Lopez (Vocalist), Rituals of Mine |
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It is a privilege to share our stage with them,” Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson said later during the show, “cause not all musicians are good people, you know what I’m saying?

When Garbage finally took the stage, they opened with “Afterglow,” followed by “Deadwood,” and “Temptation Waits”. To the delight of the audience, Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” was mixed in midway through “Wicked Ways.” By the time “Special” began to play, the crowd was fully amped.

Garbage - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Garbage |
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

This is an incredible surprise for us… We never ever know what we’re getting, and it is always extraordinary and it’s fun,” a breathless Shirley Manson told the screaming crowd. “We’re here to celebrate a record that was immensely influential for us as people. It took us all over the world.

Version 2.0, the band’s sophomore album released in 1998, was immensely successful, quickly gaining Platinum status in the U.S. and selling more than four million copies worldwide. It received two Grammy nominations, including “Album of the Year” and “Best Rock Album”. And in 1999, the single “Special,” was nominated for “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal”.

Garbage has often credited Version 2.0 with solidifying their place in 90s rock music. In June, they reissued a special edition of the album that included 10 B-sides, several of which they played during their show at the Marquee, including “Lick the Pavement” and their cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen.” The group also has plans to record a new album for release in 2019.

One of Garbage’s last visits to the Valley was during a show at the Arizona State Fair to promote Strange Little Birds. Maybe it was the venue — the Veterans Memorial Coliseum has seen better days — or maybe it was just the changing state of affairs in the world at that time, but Manson seemed drained, world-weary and even a little sad. They delivered a powerful performance, but you couldn’t help leaving with the impression that maybe they weren’t coming back.  

By contrast, Garbage was more alive than ever on stage at the Marquee. Manson seemed to have a renewed energy and vigor that made you forget you were singing along to songs that are now 20 years old.

Garbage - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Shirley Manson (Vocalist), Garbage |
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

During “Push It,” nearly the entire front of the house was jumping up and down with Manson and screaming the chorus. The stage was backlit with playful rainbow hues for “When I Grow Up.” Then, at the end of “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine,” Manson joined Duke Erikson at the keyboard to play glissandos back and forth across the keys.

Despite what they will tell you, this is not a celebration of nostalgia,” Manson told concert-goers early in the evening. “It is a moment in which to collect you all in one space and feed off that mental energy that you just provided for us.

But there was something undeniably nostalgic about the sound clips from familiar old movies interspersed between each song. Before “Hammering in My Head,” a clip of Rutger Hauer’s iconic monologue from the final scene of Bladerunner played: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. … All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” And before “Medication” they played a clip of HAL 9000 repeating: “Take a stress pill and think things over.”

Garbage - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Shirley Manson (Vocalist), Garbage |
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Perhaps the most poignant messages of the night came after Garbage returned for their encore. “No life is very easy,” Manson told concertgoers. “Remember that today’s just a day. Tomorrow will be better. And if tomorrow isn’t better, maybe the day after that might be,” Manson said before dedicating “The Trick Is to Keep Breathing” to any fans who might be struggling.

They followed it with one of the band’s latest singles, “No Horses,” which Manson took some time to speak about.

We must focus on the things that are precious. Not the things that are of the most financial value, but the things that are truly truly precious that make our world beautiful, that make us want to live, that make us want to breath and thrive. And this is what this song is about, Manson said.

It is about the fact that we must never fuck up our planet and our beasts and our animals and the things that don’t make money and that, above all else, human beings are our biggest and most important resource.

Garbage - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Shirley Manson (Vocalist), Garbage |
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Garbage closed the show on a high note with “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go),” a song that Manson called their ode to the LGBQT community, which she has been a very vocal supporter of over the years.

It’s good to be free, and it’s good to be a nonconformist.
So this one goes out to you.

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Garbage & Rituals Of Mine – Marquee Theatre 10-7-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Goo Goo Dolls Celebrate 20 Years With a Sold Out Show at The Van Buren (9-30-18)

  • 53
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    53
    Shares

PHOENIX — The Valley of the Sun was transported back in time to the halcyon 90’s Sunday night as Goo Goo Dolls kicked off their “Dizzy Up the Girl” Anniversary Tour at The Van Buren. The four-time platinum certified album contains thirteen songs, four of which made it into the top 40. As the tour name suggests, Dizzy Up The Girl was the primary focus of the show, taking up the entirety of the first of two sets from the band, being played from beginning to end. It certainly did not feel like two decades had passed since its release, as thick crowds of people covered every square inch of the venue for this sold out show.

There was a tangible current of excitement in the air, and people were becoming antsy and murmuring to one another about their impatience for this much anticipated show to start. Each time a new melody would boom from the speakers, or a guitar was tweaked backstage, the excitement could be felt as it was mistaken for the beginning of the show.

The lights dim and the stage goes dark. A melody begins to play as lights begin to dance in unison to the music across the platform, engulfing the instruments in various colors as vocalist Johnny Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac, and current touring members: guitarist Brad Fernquist, keyboardist Jim McGorman, and drummer Craig Macintyre moved slowly towards them. A sea of light from cell phones rose up from the crowd to capture the initial moments of the show. As each found their way to their place on stage they wasted no time heading straight into the opening chords of the albums first song “Dizzy.”

Goo Goo Dolls - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Johnny Rzeznik (Vocalist/Guitarist), Goo Goo Dolls
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Following an intense performance of the first song, they effortlessly flowed into the following song on the album which also happens to be the second most popular song, coming in at #9 on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop list from 1992-2012. The beginning notes of Slide glided out of the speakers and it was like a fire had been lit inside the venue. Screams and cheers rang out as Rzeznik sang the words that any true Goo Goo Dolls fan would know. Goo Goo Dolls exuded a palpable “rockstar” energy. At points during the song, the audience was so jazzed up and into the music that they began to drown out the band with their singing. Not wanting to be outdone, this caused a chain reaction of events as the five progressed powerfully through the next seven songs on the album without any breaks in between.

Dizzy Up the Girl album cover

While talking about the anniversary of the album, Rzeznik tells the audience about the iconic girl on the album cover, saying that everyone wants to know who she is. Thinking there would be an intricate story involved, he surprises everyone by saying they have no idea who she is, other than the assistant of the photographer despite casting models for the shoot. Even without a great story, the crowd loved it and snapped right back into their trance as they sang their hearts out from song to song, dancing with the strangers next to them and thrusting their drinks and hands in the air. This was the general reaction throughout their set, with a vibrant light show and dozens of black latex balloons floating around during another hit single, “Black Balloon.” Set one was brought to a close at the conclusion of the last song on the album, “Hate This Place.”

Goo Goo Dolls - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Brad Fernquist (Guitarist) & John Rzeznik (Vocalist/Guitarist),
Goo Goo Dolls
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

“Thank you! Hang on a sec, we’ll be right back,” Rzeznik said as the band left the stage for a short intermission. Before long, the musicians were back on stage ready to keep the party going for the second part of their set. Already having played thirteen songs, the band proceeded to double the experience and play thirteen more for set two, entitled “Deep Cuts”. Fans went down several paths of memory lane while the band played some of their biggest hits outside of their most popular album. “Better Days”, “Can’t Let It Go”, and “Two Days in February” were all played with acoustic guitar, evoking a range of emotions from their followers.

Goo Goo Dolls - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Robby Takac (Bassist), Goo Goo Dolls
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The remainder of the show was more amped up, wanting to bring the audience back to full volume before they ended with a two-song encore including “Big Machine” and a mindblowing performance of “Flat Top”. Right before that, though, Takac addressed the audience a final time with a simple “Thank you guys for coming out to celebrate with us tonight. Truly truly truly means a lot,” no doubt with mutual feelings in the hearts of fans. As the show ended after 26 songs, people could be overheard talking all around about how wonderful the show was and how much it meant to them to be there for it. For over twenty years the Goo Goo Dolls have brought several beautiful songs to life, and if this tour has anything to say about them, no amount of time can weaken the love their fans have for them, or their music.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Goo Goo Dolls – The Van Buren 9-30-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Death Cab for Cutie Fans in Phoenix Are Left Thankful for Today (9-29-18)

  • 16
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    16
    Shares

PHOENIX — For the fourth stop of their Fall 2018 tour, Death Cab for Cutie returned to Phoenix to promote their ninth album, Thank You for Today. In the first album since 2015, the band comes back strong in their signature indie pop songwriting and foggy vocals. The band has already released three singles since the August 2018 album release date, building anticipation for their tour. Death Cab for Cutie added two new members to the band after the departure of guitarist and producer Chris Walla. The two new members, guitarist Dave Depper and keyboardist Zac Rae, seem to bring a new cohesive energy to the band, which made for a polished and low-key performance at the sold out music venue in Phoenix.

Charly Bliss - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Eva Hendricks (Vocalist/Guitarist), Charly Bliss
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

When the show started at 8:00PM, opening power-pop band Charly Bliss welcomed the crowd. Lead vocalist Eva Hendricks bounced around the stage, swinging the white fringe from her short shorts. Her spunky attitude infused the crowd with energy, starting off the night with a positive jolt of indie pop rock, reminiscent of the early 2000s.

Charly Bliss - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Eva Hendricks (Vocalist/Guitarist), Charly Bliss
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

Joining her on stage was guitarist/vocalist Spencer Fox, drummer Sam Hendricks, and bassist/vocalist Dan Shure. At the end of their set, they generously thanked the audience and anticipation crescendoed for the main act, Death Cab for Cutie. Charly Bliss’ debut full-length album, Guppy, was released in April of 2017.

As the stage washed with ambient purple light, the four members of Death Cab for Cutie took the stage clad in  black.

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Death Cab for Cutie |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Lead vocalist Ben Gibbard jumped right into their new song “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”, washing the audience in his unique melancholy vocals. Guitarist/vocalist Depper complemented Ben’s voice in creating a beautiful harmony, while drummer Jason McGerr, bassist Nick Harmer, and keyboardist Rae rounded out the sound; making for a solid performance that reflected the band’s years of refinement.

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Zac Rae (Keyboardist/Guitarist/Vocalist), Death Cab for Cutie
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Without pause, they began “Summer Years”, and then picked up the pace with the following song, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive.” After the third song, Gibbard addressed the audience, introducing the band and briefly thanking those in attendance.

After a few more new songs, they went into “Gold Rush,” the fresh-sounding first single released from their new album. Recognizing the song from heavy rotation, the crowd erupted in cheers and voices rising up in unison. Reactions were similarly enthusiastic when the well-known notes of “Title and Registration” from  Transatlanticism reached their ears.

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Gibbard (Vocalist/Guitarist/Pianist), Death Cab for Cutie
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The next few songs were a mix from earlier albums, including “Company Calls,” “No Sunlight,” and “What Sarah Said.” The chill vibes of their show would make for a great date night, or an escape from the work week. Gibbard occasionally dances about the stage facing the drummer and side stepping to the beat. While their performance was strong and their live sound comparable to their albums in every sense, the band’s minimal audience interaction and dependance on old songs might cause a loss of interest in newer listeners. There seemed to be a lack of connection that was sorely needed between the band and the audience. All members could benefit from some storytelling. Their lyrics are so beautiful and meaningful, the audience would surely love to hear some stories behind writing them.

A piano was rolled onto the stage for, “I Will Possess your Heart,” and Gibbard temporarily switched his guitar for the keys. The following song, “Autumn Love”, includes some beautiful lyrics such as, “If there’s no beacon tonight to guide me, I’ll finally break the shackles of direction and let the headlights lead me anywhere that they wanna go.” The depth of their latest album was described in a Facebook post on the date of release, which refers to it as “a record that reflects upon and asks questions of the past”, and “also a record about the future. Looking forwards and backwards simultaneously, from summer to autumn.”

Death Cab for Cutie - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Dave Depper (Guitar/Keys/Vocals), Death Cab for Cutie
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

As they finished out the set they finally addressed the audience once again, giving a big thank you to Charly Bliss for being a great opening band. Of course they had to play one of their biggest hits, “Soul Meets Body”, and the crowd went wild, nearly everyone singing along. At the end of the song, Gibbard triumphantly held his guitar up in the air like a trophy. The last song, “Marching Bands of Manhattan”, left the audience still wanting more, cheering into the emptiness as the stage went black.

It only took a few minutes before Gibbard returned, playing an acoustic version of their hit “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark.” It was at this moment that Gibbard opened up to the crowd with some cheerful banter, and he asked the audience to sing the second verse of the song. Afterwards, the rest of the band joined Gibbard on stage and played not one more, but three more songs: “Your Hurricane”, “Crooked Teeth”, and they finished the night with “Transatlanticism”.

With a generous 24-song setlist, Death Cab for Cutie brought a unique and beautiful energy to The Van Buren, and a recording-quality sound. The title of Thank You for Today no doubt resonated with die-hard Death Cab for Cutie fans.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega

Death Cab For Cutie & Charly Bliss – The Van Buren 9-29-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Mommy’s Little Monsters, Second Generations, & New Beginnings: Social Distortion Fall 2018 Tour Launches in the Valley of the Sun (9-10-18)

  • 12
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    12
    Shares

Tempe, Ariz. — Social Distortion are no strangers to touring, and after a one and a half months long summer tour and 8 weeks of recuperation, they were back at it again and kicking off their Fall 2018 tour to a sold out Monday at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Known for bringing along with them some promising new talent to get the crowd revved up before they make their grand entrance, this tour is no different. Accompanying the band for their September shows is Justin Townes Earle, as well as Valley Queen, to be followed by Will Hoge and Pony Bradshaw for the month of October.

Half an hour before the theater doors were set to open, and the parking lot was nearly full. With hopes of snagging a great vantage point, several generations of Social D fans braved the 100 degree heat while standing in line, donning their page boy caps, Black Kat Kustoms shirts, tattoos, and multi-colored hair.

The Los Angeles-based group Valley Queen were the first to take the stage, giving fans a sampling of songs from their recently released debut album, Supergiant.

Valley Queen - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Natalie Carol (Vocalist), Valley Queen
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The four-piece group, with an excellent energy and apparent cohesiveness, seemed to truly enjoy what they do. With a voice reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor and a carefree flit about the stage, front-woman Natalie Carol lit up the room with an unparalleled vibrance. Not long into their second song, amidst the sound of Shawn Morones’ slide guitar and Neil Wogensen’s energetic bass licks in alignment with Mike DeLuccia’s drumbeats, Natalie broke a string for the very first time on a guitar she stated she’d had for over 6 years and chalked it up as an omen of great things to come.

Next up was singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who connected with the audience on a level that few musicians are known to do. With a smirk and eye contact with the folks up front, he touched on the motivation behind each song he’d written before he performed it.

Justin Townes Earle - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Justin Townes Earle
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Accompanying him were bassist Mike Luzecky from Denton, TX, and drummer Bill Campbell from Brooklyn, NY, who had only met that day and had one rehearsal prior to playing together — not that anyone would be able to tell, however, which is a true testament to their talents. It is apparent that this second generation music star is definitely forging his own successful path in the industry; from the fun, upbeat “Champagne Corolla” and “Short Hair Woman”, off of his most recent album Kids in the Street, to the deeply genuine “White Gardenias”, from his album titled Single Mothers. “White Gardenias” was preceded by a shout out to Billie Holiday and all others affected by the opioid epidemic.

The roadies took to the stage to ensure everything was perfectly set as the crowd inched closer to the front in anticipation of Social Distortion’s arrival. Impatient fans gained some visual stimulation from strategically placed items around the stage, like signs that said “funeral, no parking” and “inmates stand here,” as well as boxing gloves, a RCA dog statue, and mannequin parts with lingerie.

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Social Distortion stage props
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Without a warning, the band swiftly took to the stage and went right into their opening song, “Reach For The Sky”, followed by “Highway 101” and “Don’t Take Me For Granted”, all from the 2004 album Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The seemingly endless sea of rowdy fans swayed as Mike Ness, Jonny Wickersham, Brent Harding, and David Hidalgo, Jr. entertained with seamless precision, as Social D is known to do.

Social Distortion - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Mike Ness (Vocalist, Guitarist), Social Distortion
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Preceding the 12th and final song of the set, frontman Ness opened up in a heartfelt monologue about having written the next song in 1994 about racism and dedicated “Don’t Drag Me Down” to the Chicanos in the audience.

No show is complete without an encore performance, and Social Distortion did not disappoint. After their flawless performance of “Angel’s Wings”, Ness explained his friends’ unfavorable reactions years ago when he told them he was going to record a Johnny Cash song. He said they all asked, “Why?” to which he quipped, “because it’s cool and I want to,” and asserted that Johnny Cash deserves to be back on the top where he belongs. The crowd roared as the band finished up with a double dose of Cash with “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire”.

Social Distortion - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Social Distortion
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Though Ness did mention that he doesn’t know a whole lot of places that Social Distortion could sell out on a Monday night, it seems evident that with the fervor of the fans filing in to see them perform live, it’s bound to happen more often than he may think.

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Social Distortion, Justin Townes Earle, & Valley Queen – Marquee Theatre 9-10-018

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Butch Walker & Greg Holden Celebrate The Last Days of Summer, Starting at Crescent Ballroom 9-7-18

  • 76
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    77
    Shares

PHOENIX — While Journey and Def Leppard were “on fire” at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Butch Walker and opener Greg Holden ignited their own explosive show at Crescent Ballroom just a little more than a mile away. As is often the case, Phoenix was the tour kickoff location of Walker and Holden’s tour, and they would thereafter embark on the 17-date “The Last Days of Summer Tour” (2018). While some dedicated fans had even flown in from out of state to see the show, no one was prepared for just how hype this show would get; apparently not even Walker himself, who likened coming out to perform again like getting back into your old prom clothes.

Greg Holden

Greg Holden - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Greg Holden
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Greg Holden, who recently interviewed with us prior to the concert date, performed at acoustic set, which as you would expect, was chill and low-key. But while Holden generally presents a fairly serious demeanor overall, he cracked a number of smiles while engaging with the vocal crowd, and joking during stage banter.

Greg Holden - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Greg Holden
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Of course, many fans recognized his “claim to fame”; the infectious hit song “Home”, written by Holden and chosen by American Idol finalist Phillip Phillips. Solidarity and warmth were felt with a strong cheer from the audience as he reached the end of the heart-wrenching song “Boys in the Street”, about the strained relationship between a father and his gay son, and finally growing to acceptance.

Holden’s “On the Run” was actually produced by headliner Butch Walker, who has an impressive list of work as a producer; including the likes of Katy Perry, Panic! At The Disco, Weezer, Pink, Fall Out Boy, The Maine, and many more.

Butch Walker

Anyone unfamiliar with Butch Walker was in for quite a surprise when he and his live band took the stage, as the shift in energy was immediate and palpable. Walker is not a country artist. Despite a name that might suggest as much, and Butch Walker’s charming southern roots poking through his stage presence, the more dominant and effortless image and energy he exhibited conveyed his background of a music career in glam metal (SouthGang) and pop punk/post-grunge (Marvelous 3). Walker has 8 studio albums under his belt — the most recent being Stay Gold, which was released in August of 2016.

Butch Walker - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Butch Walker
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The 48-year-old, who shared his age with the crowd himself, seemed almost surprised, and definitely pumped, that as the night went on, his solid and seasoned musical prowess had no problem kicking into high gear. Not to be taken for granted or uncredited, Walker’s live band matched his enthusiasm and skill perfectly as they danced and jammed with a fury.

Butch Walker - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
Butch Walker
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

As his set was coming to a close, his performance climaxed after a medley of magnificent covers of David Bowie that couldn’t have felt like more of a worthy tribute, which segued into Walker’s “Hot Girls in Good Moods”. With his shining sense of humor, he began a drawn-out activity amidst the crowd that built anticipation and inspired nearly all, save for the wallflowers on the bleachers in the back of the venue, to participate and, “GO CRAZY!” Confetti and streamers popped out over the thrilled concertgoers.

The duality between Walker and Holden’s performances indeed complemented each other perfectly, and the show was unforgettably dynamic and downright mind-blowing. We highly recommend picking yourself up and heading out to this show in a city near you, because it is so worth it.

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega
(View separate Butch Walker & Greg Holden photo albums)

Butch Walker & Greg Holden – Crescent Ballroom 9-7-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Journey & Def Leppard Rock Phoenix for Ages 9-7-18

  • 13
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    14
    Shares

PHOENIX Historic classic rock duo Journey and Def Leppard put on a massively vivacious performance Friday night at their sold-out stop at Talking Stick Resort Arena on the North American tour (2018). It’s been twelve long years since Def Leppard and Journey co-headlined a tour, with rumored signs of an aging sound. On the contrary though, this arena setting was more than fitting, as the show proved to be impressively larger than life.

Def Leppard

The crowd continued to pour in by the thousands even as Def Leppard took the stage, erupting in a phantasmal melting-pot of emotions from fans of all ages when their vocalist, Joe Elliott approached the crowd.

Def Leppard - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Joe Elliott (Vocalist), Def Leppard
| Photographer: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

With his hands held high, Elliott teased the rippling stadium, loosely conducting the opening instrumentals to “Rocket” with closeups of the band members flashing in-and-out of 2-D televisions seemingly stacked above and behind the stage. Def Leppard’s energy was as contagious as ever, coaxing fans along to hit after hit beneath blaring blankets of velvety light that morphed into everything from hypnotizing geometric patterns to a striking laser show.

Def Leppard - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Joe Elliott (Vocalist), Def Leppard
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Each song seemed to ignite even more elation than the last. Fans sang along to every word of “Animal”, “Foolin’”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, and “Let’s Get Rocked” as the stage transformed again, almost magically, from a wall of vintage neon signs into thick rotating rays of foggy light before turning to a dim, red glow that illuminated the buzzing audience. Elliott could be seen thrusting the mic stand back and forth across the stage as the first few notes of “Armageddon It” rumbled out from beneath the speakers.

Def Leppard - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Rick Savage (Bassist), Def Leppard
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Def Leppard’s current and longest-lasting lineup to date also includes Rick Savage (bassist), Rick Allen (drummer), Phil Collen (guitarist), and Vivian Campbell (guitarist); and like Elliott, none of them showed any signs of slowing down. Their British heavy metal style is as alive and well as ever, complete with leather and tight pants, sweat-glistening, guitar shreddin’, and an incredible one-armed drum solo.

Between nostalgic performances of the David Essex cover “Rock On”, “Two Steps Behind”, and “Man Enough”, Elliott introduced each member of the band while offering a small bit of history on each iconic track to follow. “We’ve been touring for 38 years,” he announced, speaking briefly on the group’s English background and how they got their start. “All we ever wanted was to make music.”

Def Leppard - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Phil Collen (Guitarist), Def Leppard | Photographer: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Without all the fancy high-tech showmanship, it would have been easy to forget that we were seeing Def Leppard 20 years post multi-platinum success of Hysteria and Pyromania – which ranked at #384 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. “Love Bites”, “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak”, and “Switch 625” were up next, each accompanied by its own light display and related imagery glowing boldly in the background.

Speaking of multi-platinum, Def Leppard definitely knew what they were doing when they saved “Hysteria” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” for last, but not of course without the explosive encore we’d been dying for – “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”. What more could a Def Leppard fan ask for, right?

Journey

After a refreshingly brief set change, it was time for Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Famer, Journey, to steal the show with their own non-stop marathon of legendary greatest hits. Despite having been noted as “one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time” – No. 96 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time to be exact, Journey’s continued evolution has left some critics wondering how things could ever sound the same.

Arnel Pineda (Vocalist), Journey
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Current vocalist Arnel Pineda put those rumors to rest with a heart-wrenching opening performance of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” from chart-topping album Frontiers (1983). Despite not being a man of many words, Pineda undeniably uplifted the crowd with his infectious, positive energy as he jumped, kicked, and bounced across the stage. The entire arena followed in suit, immediately pointing their phone flashlights and lighters to the sky and singing along to every word.

Pineda was overflowing with a spectacularly excitable stage presence, making sure to run the full perimeter of the platform while high-fiving everyone within reach during emotional renditions of “Only The Young”, “Escape” and “Stone In Love”. Meanwhile, psychedelic album art filled the towering screens surrounding the stage while flashes of bright white light spliced across the arena. Closeups of Neal Schon (lead guitarist), Ross Valory (bassist), Steve Smith (drummer) and Jonathan Cain (keyboardist) could also be seen rotating in and out, with big smiles on their faces.

Journey - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Jonathan Cain (Keyboardist), Journey
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Each member boasted their own bit of personal wardrobe style as well. Cain could be seen with an old school Suns jersey peeking out from behind his jacket. Fans belted out the lyrics to the ever-popular tracks “Chain Reaction” and “Be Good To Yourself” before Pineda finally addressed the crowd. “How are you doing Phoenix?!”, he echoed. “Thanks for coming out and seeing us tonight!

Journey - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Neal Schon (Guitarist), Journey
Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Schon stepped into the spotlight to set the mood with a smooth-and-sultry, otherworldly guitar solo before launching into “Lights” with Pineda once again. Time seemed to slip away as listeners lost themselves in the music, rocking out to “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”, “Who’s Crying Now”, “Open Arms”, and “Ask The Lonely”, followed by “La Do Da”, and “Any Way You Want It”. From lovestruck couples to lonesome onlookers, it was clear why Journey’s music has achieved such timeless success.

Schon stepped forward once again to introduce “Wheel In The Sky”, a song he composed along with Robert Fleischman and Diane Valory – wife of bassist Ross Valory. He went on to say, “That’s when I realized we were family. We all love the same way. I’d like to dedicate this song to a man that just had a birthday recently, our vocalist, Mr. Arnel Pineda. And to the fans who stayed over the years.

As one might have guessed, Journey concluded the night with that one track that hits us all right in the feels – “Don’t Stop Believin’”, which crescendoed to a climax of strobing light, squealing guitar, and eruption of glittering white confetti that combusted into a weightless cloud drifting out over the audience. It was a feeling of total bliss and slight overstimulation, of not wanting the night to end, while also being so incredibly satisfied, overjoyed, impressed, and amazed. That’s the thing about bands like Def Leppard and Journey; they’ve not only carved out a place in our memories, but in the depths of our hearts as well.

Journey - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Journey
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Pineda stepped forward to address the crowd for the last time,
Arizona, you are magic tonight.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Journey & Def Leppard – Talking Stick Resort Arena 9-7-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Crazy World Tour Brings Scorpions to the Desert, Along With Queensrÿche 9-5-18

  • 143
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    143
    Shares

PHOENIX – Scorpions brought the third stop of the North American leg of their “Crazy World Tour” to sizzling Phoenix, with special guests Queensrÿche opening the night. Last year, Scorpions were supposed to “sting” (or delight) fans, but their lead singer Klaus Meine had a laryngitis diagnosis, and was advised by doctors not to sing, resulting in a cancellation of the rest of their tour. The band apologized for missing Arizona last year, and made up for it with their amazing sixteen-song set list.

Queensrÿche did a phenomenal job of starting the show and warming up the audience. For those unfamiliar with Queensrÿche, they are an American heavy metal band from Bellevue, Washington. The band was formed in 1980, and originated as Cross+Fire, which was renamed to The Mob, and finally to Queensrÿche. The band has sold over six million albums in the United States and over twenty million albums around the world. They kicked off the show with the song “Best I Can” from their 1990 album, Empire.

Queensryche - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Todd La Torre (Vocalist), Queensrÿche
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The lead singer Todd La Torre banged his head to the beat, greeted the crowd, and invited all to sing along to  “Empire.”  Many people stood up and sang along with the band, throwing their fists up into the air. La Torre expressed his appreciation, saying, “We are happy and honored to play for you. Thanks to Scorpions for having us. This song has been on our set for a while. Sing along if you know it. This is ‘Guardian’.” Later, La Torre referenced the band’s history, saying, “Who is an old school Queensrÿche fan? You know how we got our name. Here’s ‘Queen of the Reich’.” They wrapped up their nine-song set list with the song, “Eyes of a Stranger” from their 1988 album, Operation: Mindcrime.

As the roadies prepared the stage for Scorpions, a giant black banner went up with the logo of the “Crazy World Tour”. It proudly overlooked a nearly sold out show. When the banner dropped, a video of a helicopter going over a bright city at night began to play. The helicopter clipped the arm off of the statue of Scorpions’ “Crazy World Tour” logo, a spaceman.

Scorpions spaceman logo
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

As the video played, fans whistled and cheered. The video segued into the performance, with visuals that gave appearance of the band’s black silhouettes jumping out of the helicopter. The lights over the crowd were blinding as Scorpions took the stage, immediately going into the song, “Going Out with a Bang,” from their 2015 album, Return to Forever. The backing screen proudly displayed “Scorpions” in Titanic-sized letters behind the legendary band. Nearly everyone in the audience stood up and rocked out. Lead singer Meine addressed the crowd before the third song, “Come on, Phoenix. I want to hear you!”

Scorpions - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Klaus Meine (Vocalist), Scorpions
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

As the song “Make It Real” played, the entire screen behind the band displayed an American flag waving, with the silhouettes of the band jamming out. After five songs in, Scorpions did a 70s throwback with a mashup of songs, “Top of the Bill”, “Steamrock Fever”, “Speedy’s Coming”, and “Catch Your Train”. During the entire throwback, the screen was tie-dyed, and the name “Scorpions” flashed on and off the screen in multiple colors. It was almost dizzying to see the graphics move. The side screens were also incorporated, making it appear there were three of Meine in different colors as he sang, while the crowd indulged in a drug-like music high.

Scorpions - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Matthais Jabs (Guitarist), Scorpions
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

As “Send Me an Angel” from their 1990 album, Crazy World, began to sway the audience, Meine said, “I know you know the words. You can sing by heart. ‘Send Me an Angel’. Come on Phoenix. I want to see your hands in the air.” All over the venue, arms went up into the air, and some people held up drinks, their phones, and more sparsely, lighters in the air. Couples grew closer, even attempting to slow dance while standing in their row.

Scorpions played Motörhead’s title-track “Overkill” from the 1979 album, to honor the late English musician and singer-songwriter Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister who passed away in December of 2015. In honor of the singer, fans rose up their metal horns, and the primary LED screen flashed with a compilation of images of Lemmy throughout the song. After the touching tribute song, the drum stage began to rise as drummer Mikkey Dee, former member of Motörhead, rocked out on a drum solo.

Scorpions - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Mikkey Dee (Drummer), Scorpions
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

As he murdered the drums and sent a shockwave of sound around the venue, cover art from all of the albums Scorpions have released in their music career fifty-three years slowly appeared on screen, one-by-one. A total of eighteen studio albums are currently under their belts.

In typical concert fashion, the best known songs were saved for last. “Big City Nights”, from their 1984 album Love at First Sting, got everyone up and jamming. Cities were displayed, as if the audience was taking a cruise through the heart of each big city. One city was Tokyo, which is actually the city that inspired the song. Scorpions stepped off the stage for a brief minute before coming back for the encore. The last two songs were “No One Like You” from their 1982 album, Blackout, and “Rock You Like a Hurricane” from the album, Love at First Sting. Before going into “No One Like You,” Meine teased fans by singing the first line of the song “Arizona” from their album, Blackout, and then praised the fans, “Phoenix, there is no one like you!”

Scorpions - Photo Credit: Mark Greenawalt
Rudolf Schenker (Guitarist), Scorpions
| Photography
: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The drums were amazing, the lights were blinding, the colors on the screen were hypnotizing, and the 70s mashup was a trip. — One might wonder what the show would have been like on an acid trip, while it’s no doubt that some long-time fans know exactly what that would be like. Scorpions, with special guests Queensrÿche, performed with great ferocity that resonated throughout the crowd and Comerica Theatre. This tour is a unique experience that’s worth every penny, and a must-see for every diehard classic rock fan.

Scorpions did not disappoint in Phoenix. They brought the house down and left fans of all ages happy to see this classic rock band. After the final song, the band waved to fans and gave out drumsticks and guitar picks. One lucky fan got a piece of autographed merch. Scorpions gathered in the middle of the stage, standing side-by-side, to wave at fans, and Meine closed out the night saying, “Goodnight Arizona. We love you!”

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Scorpions & Queensrÿche – Comerica Theatre 9-5-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: OTEP Brings the Kult 45 Resistance to Mesa 8-6-18

  • 36
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 2
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    38
    Shares

Mesa, AZ Award-winning performer, artist, and activist Otep Shamaya rallied fans at Club Red Tuesday night in an impassioned, politically-charged performance. Heavy metal veterans OTEP (the band) [an anagrammatic name derivative of the word “poet”] recently dropped their eighth full-length album entitled Kult 45 via Napalm Records. According to an exclusive interview with Blabbermouth.net, “This is OTEP like you’ve never heard them before.

Fatal Malady - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Clinton Rackley (Vocalist), Fatal Malady
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Along with Kult 45’s highly anticipated release, OTEP announced a headline tour, to tease their newest work of art; beginning at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 5th, and ending in Ventura, California on August, 18th 2018. Tour-mates include Dropout Kings, an AZ-based nu-metal band on the rise (who just released a burning hot new album called “AudioDope” this past Friday), and European progressive rock band Ragdoll Sunday. First to take the stage was anime-themed punk rock band Usagi (formerly Unagi Usagi), followed by progressive metal group CharonIncentive a band heavily influenced by iconic black and death metal styles, and groove metal band Fatal Malady, whose skull-faced aesthetic captivated the now overflowing trickle of bodies entering through the back of the venue.

View Photo Albums: 
Fatal Malady & Ragdoll Sunday

Dropout Kings - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Dropout Kings |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Following a supercharged performance by Dropout Kings, audience members began to chant in unison, “OTEP! OTEP! OTEP!” Drummer Justin Kier could be seen jetting on and off the stage, while crew members worked diligently to set the scene. Illuminated only by sporadic flares of light, Kier stepped forward to address the crowd, breaking the ice with a little marijuana-related humor before being joined by bandmates Ari “The Spartan” Mihalopoulos on guitar, and bassist Andrew Barnes. With time to spare, Kier went on to talk about a new, lesser known project in collaboration with Phoenix’s own hard rock female-fronted foursome Doll Skin, which they’ve aptly named “PETO”, once again utilizing OTEP’s iconic anagram, only this time – backwards. The trio commenced with an ear-splitting rendition of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, immediately provoking a mosh pit nearly the size of the entire room.

OTEP

Creepy baby doll holding a sign reading "Where are the children?" - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

After the music faded and fans had settled into standing-room-only once again, Shamaya exploded onto the platform between two vertically-balanced rifles, adorned with severed baby heads, faux weapons, LGBT symbolism, the U.S. flag, and a variety of other props yet to be revealed. Hanging delicately beneath the deceased infant’s haunting yellow eyes was a crooked sign that read, “Where are the children?” It’s no coincidence Shamaya’s performances have been dubbed “a two-decade invasion of the senses” and it’s clear she has no intention of dulling that edge now.

“We want to empower people,” Shamaya says of Kult 45. “This album wasn’t written to only wake people up, it’s meant to carbonate people with the hope and confidence that they can make a difference.”

Are you ready to riot?!”, Shamaya asked the crowd, growling into the mic with intensity while being met with a reverberating wave of hoots, screams, and howls.

OTEP - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Otep Shamaya (Vocalist), OTEP |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Beneath a beer-soaked haze of golden strobe lights, attendees raged along to political anthems “To The Gallows” (during which Shamaya fiercely spun a hangman’s noose from the end of her mic), “Battle Ready”, and “Lords of War”, succeeded by what is arguably one of OTEP’s most iconic tracks to date, “Crooked Spoons”. Shamaya playfully pulled from her rifling of props for each new track, punching her fist in the air as a bloody, severed pig head was tossed out from behind the stage.

OTEP - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Otep Shamaya (Vocalist), OTEP |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Fans roared along to every word of “Blood Pigs” and “Apex Predator”, off OTEP’s earlier albums Sevas Tra (2012) and Hydra (2013), erupting with raw emotion and appreciation for the purpose embedded in each verse. OTEP is a band that’s known for it’s ultra-loyal fanbase, but the reasoning behind that is something so much deeper than fame or catchy music. Shamaya’s ability to continually utilize OTEP’s music as a vessel for societal change through a variety of synchronized creative mediums is seriously impactful and evidently similar to that of legendary musical influencers like Woodie Guthrie, Bob Dylan or Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine.

OTEP - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Ari “The Spartan” Mihalopoulos (Guitarist), OTEP |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

OTEP went on to make their stance on mass shootings known with newly released track “Shelter In Place”, during which Shamaya aimed a presumably plastic, silver pistol at one of the severed doll heads while chanting with the room, “enough is enough!” Shamaya did go on to clarify her stance however, noting that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” before moving into “Zero” off the group’s 2016 album Generation Doom, which was followed-up by a couple of surprise tracks from the group’s self-titled poetry EP Wurd Becomes Flesh  originally released in 2005, one year prior to OTEP’s infamous addition to Ozzfest (2004).

OTEP - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
OTEP |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

The audience rippled with excitement as Shamaya waved her rainbow flag high. OTEP moved to close the night with staple track “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts”, prior to transitioning into an anger-charged protest, which peaked to the opening notes of “Wake Up” by Rage Against The Machine; a cover included as the second-to-last track on Kult 45.

OTEP - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Otep Shamaya (Vocalist), OTEP |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

In one final call to action, OTEP ignited fans with an ear-splitting performance “Confrontation” from The Ascension (2007). The props did not end there though; Shamaya had one final trick up her sleeve – a fake severed Trump head. Almost in a single motion, Shamaya plunged the barrel of one of the rifles into the base of Trump’s rubbery neck, twirling him around until the two were facing eye-to-eye, spitting in the mock President’s face before a final punch which sent Trump’s spitclad face soaring out of view.

OTEP - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Otep Shamaya (Vocalist), OTEP |
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

It was a night of disruption, a night of rage, empowerment, catharsis, emotion and unity. It’s obvious that Kult 45 was intended as more of a social catalyst – a statement piece that simultaneously disrupts and unifies. This is an album that gets people to look; each track furiously spotlights a variety of recurring social issues in the forefront of the United States’ current political landscape. Regardless of whether or not you agree with their stance, OTEP is making one thing exceptionally clear: “Art is resistance. Art aloows us to fight back without violence.”

“This is why we rally, this is why we march, and this is why I write. Because when I look back someday I want to know that I did everything in my power as an artist, activist and citizen.”Otep Shamaya

PHOTO ALBUM

by Katherine Amy Vega
(View separate Fatal Malady, Ragdoll Sunday, & OTEP photo albums)

OTEP, Dropout Kings, Ragdoll Sunday, Fatal Malady, CharonIncentive, & Usagi – Club Red 8-7-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: Shania Twain Is Still The One at Talking Stick Resort Arena 7-30-18

  • 61
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    62
    Shares

PHOENIX — If there was any doubt in your mind that Shania Twain could ever make a comeback after being out of the limelight for over a decade, rest assured, she’s back. There are over 18,000 seats in Talking Stick Arena, and it was filled to capacity. The roar of the crowd made them oblivious to microburst thunderstorm hovering overhead outside. Their focus was on the stage waiting for their queen of “country pop” to appear. Queen’s “We Will Rock You” was pounding through the PA, foreshadowing the next surprise. The music stopped and the lights went down, but there was no one on stage. The We-Will-Rock-You beat filled the room again as a spot light landed on a second stage in the middle of the arena, where drummer Elijah Wood flailed her blond hair along with her drumsticks. The sleight of hand continued then as Twain magically appeared, coming down the steps at the back of the arena, greeting her majesty’s minions as she crossed the distance to the stage.

Shania Twain - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Shania Twain
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

As she found her way to center stage wearing a black shimmering long dress, she asked, “Are you ready Phoenix?” Behind her was a projection screen that must have been more than 5-stories tall, so that even those in the nosebleed seats could see her up close. Twain kicked off the show with “Life’s About To Get Good”, the first single from her new album entitled Now.

The projection screen was retracted to reveal a truly impressive and dynamic stage set of larger-than-life video cubes. Throughout the song, the show’s cast began to populate the stage, starting with the backup singers and dancers. The musicians were introduced during the second song, “Come On Over” from her third album of the same name, released in 1997.  This was the album that cemented her in country music history by going 18x platinum, and scoring three number 1 singles.

The video cubes doubled as riser platforms and Twain climbed the stairs to tower over the stage floor as she sang “Up!” Her vocals were flawless all night, and it was amazing how she replicated the recordings that were so familiar to our collective memories. Her signature sound, especially in the lower registers, was especially showcased when the energy level dropped for an intimate moment singing the heartfelt “Poor Me”. The song is a reminder of the tumultuous relationship with her ex-husband that seemed to hover like a cloud over her career, but her burgeoning success and musical independence should eventually overshadow that storyline.

Shania Twain - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Shania Twain
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Like a slow wave, everyone had taken their seats during the calm moment of the show. That all changed when the dueling fiddles began “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)”. Hands were in the air and everyone was singing along (some more in tune than others). That ended the proverbial Act 1, led to a set change, and Twain’s first costume change.

In the video for “That Don’t Impress Me Much”, you may remember that she wore a sexy leopard print outfit (boots, hooded long jacket, long flared pants, and a little top that revealed her midriff). Well, that was nearly 20 years ago so she didn’t wear that, but she did pay homage with a leopard print dress with a flowing cape-like night robe.

The setlist included 7 songs from the Now album. Next up was “Let’s Kiss and Make Up”, which was reminiscent of her earlier material, and had a calypso feel. The song seemed well-received, and as the end faded, Twain was lowered into a trap door in the stage. A brief drum solo culminated into that We-Will-Rock-You beat again and the crowd was getting revved up. When the guitar riff started though, it was apparent that this was actually an Any-Man-Of-Mine beat.

Costume change number 2 produced Shania Twain in a black cowboy hat, a black leather jacket, a black dress with sheer sides and candy apple red boots. “Any Man of Mine” segued into her breakthrough hit, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” The dancers two-stepped with mannequins made of spring coils that wore red cowboy hats and comically bounced to the music. “Honey I’m Home” continued the country music vibes.

Shania Twain - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Shania Twain
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

With such a string of hits there is no question that Shania Twain is a gifted songwriter. The focus of the next two songs shifted from staged theatrics, to melody and lyrics, with “I’m Alright” and “Soldier” from the Now album. The first was a masterclass in weaving in and out of minor and major keys, and the second, a lyrical tribute to our troops that tugs at the heartstrings. She sang “Soldier” while suspended in the air, riding on a open acoustic guitar case, floating across the venue to the center stage by the soundboard.

This was a very special moment, and it gave the folks in the back a chance to be “up front” and see her next costume change into a white dress with a ruffled low-cut collar, a sheer black robe, and white boots inspired by ancient Rome. The great songwriting continued with her number one song “You’re Still The One”. She went back up above the crowd with her magic flying guitar case, but this time she took an acoustic along which reminded everyone that she plays guitar too. This performance was beautiful and moving.

Two lucky fans were picked from audience once Twain landed her flying trapeze, and were escorted with her up on stage for some light conversation and a once-in-a-lifetime selfie. This part of the show was a bit awkward, but we were soon back to the music and mischief as the Sun’s gorilla mascot came out and lifted Twain onto the piano as she broke into the song “More Fun”, another song from Now that hints of Beatlesque influences.

Shania Twain - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Shania Twain
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

An amazing blue laser show filled the arena as the music began for “From This Moment On”. A video of an ever-evolving lotus flower played on the screen, while Twain emoted the lyrics, alone on the stage. It was like the best karaoke version ever without the band on stage, but it would have been even more fantastic if Bryan White would have been there to duet with her — no such luck. Another costume change had her in a glimmering black catsuit with a flowing black overcoat.

That was the end of the slow stuff, and the stage set became more robust as the video cubes would rise and fall and become characters in the show. Lasers and illuminated costumes for the dancers added to the festival of light as Twain belted out “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!”

Bastian Baker - Photography: Mark Greenawalt
Bastian Baker
Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Swiss singer/songwriter Bastian Baker was the opening act for the show, and Twain invited him back to the stage to sing the duet “Party for Two” with her, and then he stuck around to play guitar on “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed”.

Twain removed her top layer and strutted around in her catsuit that looked like a superhero outfit and showed off her figure. She turned on the sex appeal with “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here”, and ended it with a bang of graffiti canons that poured over the audience and left them in suspense for an encore. Panning around the arena, everyone was out of their seats and it didn’t seem they could get any louder…but they did.

Da-Da Da Da-Da Da-Da

Those seven notes that kicked off the anthem for women and lead into the line, “Let’s go girls,” produced 10,000 primal screams from fans. “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” did not disappoint. This was the last costume change, and it gave an appreciated nod to the video with all-black thigh high boots, long-sleeve gloves, a choker, and of course a short skirt. Like the massive eruption at the end of a fireworks display, this song left no holds barred as the lasers, video screens, dancers, musicians, and Shania Twain left it all out on the stage.

Bottom line, she’s back NOW.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Shania Twain – Talking Stick Resort Arena 7-30-18

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved