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CJSS & Thruster Concert Review, Cincinnati, OH, October 9, 2015

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posteruseI’m tired, but tired in the best way possible.  It’s a rejuvenated sort of tired.  This past weekend was another road trip for a show, but perhaps the longest trip I’ve made for one so far.  It was dubbed #MitchfestCJSS

CJSS announced a few months back that they were doing a reunion show, their first since 1999.  I’ve been a Chastain fan since around 86 when I heard Ruler of the Wasteland.  David Chastain was churning out albums pretty quickly back then with Chastain, his solo gig David T, Chastain and with CJSS, who released 2 in 1986.  He was a busy dude!  I had always wanted to see them and remember a few times that Chastain was to play the Baltimore area but I couldn’t make any of those shows at the time.  I posted the show link to Kelz’ page saying something to the effect of, “I’m just going to leave this right here.”  He took the bait and we started making plans.  Flying into Cincy was going to be costly.  I could have flown into Chicago and driven 5 hours and met Kelz in Cincy or the final option was to fly to Raleigh and ride with Kelz to Ohio.  So that’s what we did.

I arrived in Raleigh Thursday around noon and we rode around taking care of a few errands.  He’s got a wife and kids so we had to manage some of that coordination with soccer, school etc.  Good times.  After an NC style BBQ dinner (the best style!), we hung out in the basement having a few drinks and watching football before starting to fade out.

Friday morning we got up, got the kids out the door to school and got on the road for the 8ish hour drive to Cincy.  We arrived to our hotel in Bellevue, KY around 530, checked in and went and found some food.  Donato’s Pizza to be exact.  Good, cheap pizza and fast.  Well the pizza came out quickly, Kelz’ Stromboli not so much.  The manager apologized and offered free pizza coupons but we explained that we were in town for a show and couldn’t use them.  This will come back into play later in the night.  So we opted for 2 free chocolate chip cookies.

We get back to the hotel, freshen up a bit, get our stuff together for signatures and call Lyft for a ride across the river into Cincy for the show at Bogart’s.  Doors were at 7PM and we got there around 730.  Lots of people lining up to get in and it was apparent that some of the folks attending this show hadn’t seen each other in a long time.  Thruster and CJSS are from the area and played around there pretty regularly.

Once inside we scope the place out a little bit and get some drinks…expensive drinks.  But whatever.  We find a spot on the floor about 10′ away from the stage and out comes Thruster right at 8PM.  I had only listened to a little bit of their stuff on YouTube and liked what I heard.  Good solid 80s metal.  They opened with Back In Time and Excellorater.  It was pretty apparent that these guys kept their chops up.  Both guitarists were pretty bad ass, especially Russ Willoughby.  McFarland’s vocals were strong and their whole set was pretty enjoyable.  Third song in they played Maiden’s Revelations.  I was a bit surprised to hear a cover in their setlist but I’ll just go ahead and assume it was a live staple of theirs from back in the old days.  They covered really well, by the way.  I usually cringe when bands cover Maiden, but they pretty much nailed it.  Their whole set was enjoyable and it was cool hearing the crowd sing along to much of it.  Back in Time, Screams of Pain, M.I.A. and Enemy Below were the standouts for me.  Their set clocked in at just under an hour.  Great show.

There was a 45 minute intermission between bands and we mulled around for a little bit, bathroom break and got a second drink, hanging out with the promoter of Chicago’s Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse fest.  Good seeing him.

Kelz and I found a spot in dead center of the stage with only 2 people in front of us.  CJSS hit the stage at 932PM opening with Out of Control and went straight into Praise the Loud, two of my favorites by them.  Admittedly I didn’t pick up any of CJSS’ material after Praise the Loud so there was a lot of material played that I was unfamiliar with.  But it didn’t matter.  They were great.  One always wonders after so many years how the band is going to be after a long absence of playing shows, especially on the vocal front.  I’ll just say this, When Russell Jinkens took the microphone and started singing, all those doubts went away.  CJSS hadn’t played since 1999 and I don’t know if he’s been involved with other stuff since then, but he nailed it as did Mike Skimmerhorn on the songs he sang on. The band was tight and it was great to finally see Dave Chastain play live.  His unique style and tone were certainly noticeable.  Dave stayed pretty stationary while Russ and Mike moved around quite a bit.  Les Sharpe’s drum solo was solid.  Dave did a cool guitar solo which added riffs from Ruler of the Wasteland and Angel of Mercy, of which the crowd sang with.

The main body of the set closed with Welcome to Damnation and World Gone Mad, followed by a one encore of Metal Forever and then another one song encore of their take on Tull’s Locomotive Breath which has a cool guitar solo part that Dave jammed out on.  They ended right at 11PM.  Of course I brought The Book with me and Kelz has a stack of CD and tape covers.  After the place cleared out a bit they came out and hung out with everyone.  I tried not getting too into fanboy mode.  I was hoping they’d all come out and figured they would since it had been so long since their last show.  We met Les, Russ and Mike first and got the signatures and photos taken care of.  Then we saw Dave.  He recognized me from Facebook and said hello and we got to talk to him for a few minutes.  It’s always a little surreal sometimes to meet bands that I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager.  These guys were all super cool and I don’t think Kelz and I could have been much happier in how it all played out.  They were thankful of the travel that we made for it and I was just thankful to be there and to have witnessed it.  If I had to lodge one complaint, it would be about the lighting during CJSS’ set.  It just wasn’t good.  But that didn’t distract from the great concert.

After finally being kicked out by the staff, I called for a Lyft ride back to the hotel.  Kelz and I decided we were hungry again and a little research showed that the pizza place was still open.  So we called in, walked up to the drive thru and ordered pizza and walked it back to the room.

After some chowing down and downing of some water and Mountain Dews, it was time to wind down and get some sleep.  A few traditions from our childhood sleepovers in full effect, of course.  Mama jokes, Back In the Village, and just talking about the olden days.  It was perfect.

Next morning we headed back for the 8hr drive, finishing up the playlist I put together on my phone.  As normal, lots of air drumming and more ball busting.  It was a perfect drive.  Back to his place around 8 with some Asian takeout, a couple of beers and Stoned Age on the TV.  It was the perfect ending to a great trip.

My overall trip went something like this…
By air – Austin – Atlanta – Raleigh
Car (going) – Raleigh thru VA thru WV thru KY
Car (returning) – KY thru OH thru WV thru VA thru NC
By air – Raleigh – Tampa – Austin
1025 miles by land and about 3000 miles by air

Let’s do it again!

Written by The Metal Files

October 12, 2015 at 7:14 pm

Billy Idol Concert Review, Austin, TX, October 1, 2015

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I’m not a huge Billy Idol fan and I don’t think I’ve ever owned any of his albums, but I liked most of the radio hits and what little bit of Generation X stuff I’ve heard over the years.  I do like Steve Stevens quite a bit though.  His Atomic Playboys album was really good as well as the first Bozzio, Levin, Stevens album.

The setlist was pretty much as expected mixing up the hits, a few Gen X songs and some new stuff.  Stevens rocked it.  Idol’s voice seemed out of key through much of the set and in some spots it sounded perfect.  Too perfect really.  I’m pretty sure that some of his vocals were pre-recorded.  I’m not the only one who noticed it as others around me were making the same comment.

That being said, I had a good time and he did play Blue Highway, which is one of my faves.

Riot V & Helstar Concert Review, San Antonio, TX, September 26, 2015

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I will start out by saying that Riot V is pretty much one of the best live bands out there right now along with Satan.  Last time I saw them was last year in Chicago at the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse and was completely blown away.  Prior to that I had only seen them one other time at Scout Bar in San Antonio which was Mark Reale’s last USA show before his death.

A couple of friends and I headed down to 210 Kapone’s last in the afternoon, get parked and head in.  As always at a show like this one, we ran into a lot of friends from both San Antone and Austin and elsewhere.

There were 5 local openers for this show.  FIVE.  As seems to be pretty typical in San Antone and I imagine some or all of them paid to play.  Helstar was also a later addition to the show.  That’s 6 bands before Riot if you’re keeping track here.  The schedule was set as follows and was a recipe for disaster:

METALRISER 6:50 – 7:15
JESSIKILL. 8:10 – 8:40
SEANCE. 8:55- 9:25
LOS WICKED WAYS. 9:40 – 10:10
HELSTAR. 10:25 – 11:10
RIOT. 11:30 – END

The show ran late I’m told because Riot’s soundcheck started late.  We didn’t get there until right before Jessikill was going on.

Helstar came on about 30 minutes later than their scheduled time and delivered a solid set as usual that I think was cut short, or at least during Run With the Pack their sound got cut and they finished it with just their stage sound.  Rivera was spot on with his vocals and I always enjoy watching Larry play guitar.  I’m not sure who the bassist is, but he’s good.  Unfortunately, they seemed to be getting hit with poor sound as I couldn’t hear the drums that well at all through the PA.

Riot finally hits the stage a few minutes after midnight opening with the instrumental Narita and then Ride Hard Live Free from their latest album.  Up next were two songs from Thundersteel and the crowd roared for Fight or Fall and Johnny’s Back, a personal favorite.  The rest of the set was mixed up with songs from all eras of of the band but didn’t touch the last Tony Moore album which was really good.  I guess they can’t play everything.

Former guitarist, Rick Ventura, who played in the band from 1979 to 1982 sat in for a handful of songs and it was really cool to see one of the almost originals on the stage.  He rocked it alongside Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee and looked like he was having a good time.  Don Van Stavern is from SA so he’s got an automatic contingent in the house when he plays shows.  Frank Gilchriest laid down a powerhouse set of drum work as he always does.  And finally, vocalist Todd Michael Hall.  Dude looks 25, turned 46 last night and sings like a lark.  Pretty much the best singer out there right now in my opinion.  The only thing missing last night was Tammy’s backing vocals.  She’s in another band with Flyntz and sometimes provides live backing vocals.  Look up the Bloodstreets video from this year’s Keep It True festival.  They’re perfect.

All in all it was a great show and I can’t wait to see them again…again.  RIP Mark Reale.  Riot V is keeping your spirit alive.

Because of shitty lighting, I couldn’t get a decent picture of Helstar.

Written by The Metal Files

September 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Christopher Cross Concert Review, Austin, TX, September 18, 2015

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Two nights in a row of yacht rock?  And with the guy who essentially created it?  Sure!  Probably should hand over my Metalhead Gold Card for a little while, eh?  No worries, lots of metal shows coming up!

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Cross since as long as I can remember.  Good easy smooth rock.  Ride Like the Wind is still such a fantastic song.  I took the decision yesterday to see the show and got a seat in the upper balcony of the famed Paramount Theater.  I had only seen Cross when he sat in with Michael McDonald a few years ago for Ride Like the Win.

The show opened with Got To Be a Better Way from his new album.  Never Be the Same was up next and he spoke a little about TV preachers, which was an intro to another song called Reverend Blowhard from his new album, The Secret Ladder.  Is this a 1989 metal show?

He played a mix of old and new songs split between 2 sets.  Of course Sailing drew a huge response.  I was really stoked to hear Thinking of Laura and Minstrel Gigolo which featured an appearance by Eric Johnson.  He mentioned that he and Eric had been best of friends since the 70s and I think it rubbed off on him.

It was a really good show and what I was most amazed by was Cross’ guitar skills.  The guy is a bit of a shredder.   I was blown away.  I’ll really have to go back and revisit his early catalog and give a better listen.  And of course his backing band was top notch.  His drummer and piano player especially.

Peter Cetera Concert Review, San Antonio, TX, September 17, 2015

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IMG_0807useI don’t believe in “guilty pleasures”, especially when it comes to music.  You like what you like and that’s that.  Screw what others may think.  Since the 70s and partially because of my mom, I’ve always loved Chicago and still go see them live when I can.  They still sound great but I’ve never seen them with Peter Cetera nor have I seen Cetera on his own.  Fortunately that changed last night.

In as much as I like Chicago, I really like Peter’s early solo work, especially 1988’s One More Story album.  So as is generally the case, I bought two tickets for the show.  My lovely friend, Margarita, was available to attend and is also a Chicago/Cetera fan, so it made for an enjoyable evening.  In my best Troy McClure voice, “You might remember her from such reviews as ‘Lionel Richie in Austin’ and ‘Journey in San Antonio.'”  haha

I bought tickets a little late so I didn’t quite get where I wanted, but still got good seats on the front row in the balcony.  By yesterday, the show was only 3/4 sold out based on the Ticketmaster map.  No matter.

His band comes out first after the lights go down they go right into Restless Heart.  His voice sounded a lot clearer than I expected.  Some recent footage I had seen sounded a bit rough.  He followed up with One Good Woman, a personal favorite, and Glory of Love which drew a loud applause at the beginning and end.  He then asked everyone down front to put their phones away.  “Use them during the encore all you want, but for now just enjoy watching the show.”  Cheers, Pete!

He mixed the rest of the set up with a mix of Chicago and solo hits, doing a few duets with his back up singer and a few with his guitarist.  He left during 2 covers songs, You’re No Good and Come Together, letting the band take care of businees while he took a break.  He closed the main set with Hard Habit to Break, Dialogue I & II and Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away, another personal favorite.  I was so happy that they did the Get Away part at the end of the song.  It just brings the whole thing together.  Rarely is that part ever played on the radio edit of Hard To Say I’m Sorry.  The band exited the stage and people started trailing out quickly.  He had stated that there would be an encore, but whatever.

Before the encore started, he finally strapped on a bass and they went into I’m a Man by the Spencer David Group and has been a Chicago set staple for years.  It transitioned into Feelin Stronger Everyday and closed with 25 or 6 to 4.  I sort of wish that his touring bassist would not have been playing along, but you could discern Peter’s tone between the two.  He’s such a good bassist and I would liked to have seen him play more last night.  It was pretty clear that they were tuned down to help him reach some higher notes, maybe as much as a full step, but he still sounded great.  It was an energetic show and he was entertaining between songs.  The only song I wish he would have played from his solo works is the slow roller You Never Listen To Me.  So glad I got to get him off of my list of bands to see.

Yes & Toto Concert Review, San Antonio, TX, Ausgust 26, 2015

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IMG_0595useLast night was filled with a bunch of bad ass musicians playing great rock and progressive music.  I could end the review right there, but we’ll keep going.  I scored the VIP/meet and greet when it was first announced because I’ve always wanted to meet Chris Squire and Steve Howe.  Unfortunately shortly after I got my ticket, Chris announced he wasn’t doing the tour due to health issues and subsequently died.  Terrible.

Since they didn’t offer a refund and the pass was non transferable, I went through with the show.

Toto was the opener and while I respect them and love their hits, I’m not a huge fan.  Having never seen them before, I was a bit excited to see them.  Toto is a band, like Yes, who has seen some real loss.  RIP Porcaro brothers.  A big plus is having Steve Lukather in the band.  I was tempted to buy their meet and great instead of Yes’ just to have Lukather sign my Alice Cooper From The Inside CD.

Toto’s set started promptly at 7:30 consisted of their biggest hits Hold the Line, Rosanna, Pamela and Africa.  I was pretty much lost on the rest of their set, although they sounded amazing.  I was impressed with Steve Porcaro’s vocals more than anything.  His range is still amazing.  Lukather’s vocals sounded good, too.  His playing was solid.  His solo at the end of Little Wing was pretty amazing.

One thing that was really cool was that they had the legendary Lenny Castro on percussion.  What a treat!

The whole band sounded great and they had their original bassist back in the band as well.  David Paich only sang Africa, and he was having some issues.  I don’t think it’s an easy song for anyone to sing in general.  They were good but I doubt I’d go out of my way to see them again unless they were part of another great bill like last night’s.  The played a full 90 minute set and I was really hoping to hear 99 and Georgy Porgy, but oh well.

After a 30 minute changeover, Yes came on at exactly 9PM with a tribute video to Chris Squire with his signature Rickenbacker bass lit up in the middle of the stage.

They opened with Don’t Kill the Whale and followed up with Tempus Fugit from the Drama album, probably my favorite album by them.  They went through America and Time and a Word, which I had never seen them do.  It sounded great.  Jon Davison does a great job on lead vocals.  Billy Sherwood is handling bass duties and holds his own, but there’s only one Squire.  The band is certainly older and a bit slower, but they sounded great.  I love watching Steve Howe’s facial expressions and cues making sure that Alan White was ready for a break or whatever.  Just like last time, it’s obvious that Alan has lost a few steps in his delivery, but he still played fine.

Seeing Steve play Owner of a Lonely Heart was quite weird.  You could see that he didn’t care for it.  They extend the end, though, and he gets to rock out with his own solo which was quite awesome.  The whole show was except for the drunk girl next to me.  We were on the front row.  She and her boyfriend showed up with 2 songs left with Toto and she had a purse full of airport liquor bottles of vodka.  Towards the end of Yes’ set, she was wasted and kept flipping off the band while they were playing complaining that they should be closer to her near the end of the stage.  She looked over at me during the encore, Starship Trooper, and said, “Sorry.  Am I bothering you?”  I looked at her and her boyfriend, shook my head and just said, “You’re an idiot.”  After the band finally walked off stage she turned to me again and said, “You should add me on Facebook.”  I just said, “Not interested.”

They stumbled out and we went side stage for the meet and greet.  I was shocked that they had about 70 people.  Tour manager rambled off some procedural stuff and a few rules about how you can shake hands with anybody except Steve Howe.  “No hand shakes, fist bumps, hugs, pats on the back etc.”  I asked of we were at least allowed to look him in the eye and he and the crowd laughed.

They were cycling everyone through the line twice.  First time for your picture with the band and the second to get stuff signed, 2 items only.  As I got in front of them for the photo, Geoff Downes says, “Cool jacket, but I don’t know any of those bands except for Judas Priest.”  Jon Davison stated that he loves their metalhead fans.

I was near the end of the line and when we got to the signing part, I was going to have them signed the poster given to us as part of the VIP swag and have Howe, Downes and White sign my Drama CD.  All of the guys were very laid back and signed the poster.  Everyone got to spend a few moments at the table.  When I got to the 3 that were on Drama, I mentioned to Steve and Geoff that I had seen their Asia reunion show a few years back and that I had the CD cover with me.  Steve said, “That was a fun tour.  Where’s the cover?”  I mentioned the 2 item limit and he smiled and just said, “I’m running this show right now, let me have it.”  haha.  Sweet!  I finally got in my truck at 12:15AM for the 75 mile drive home.

I liked how the show was set up with two bands both playing full 90 minute sets.  If Yes comes around again, I’ll go for sure.

Written by The Metal Files

August 27, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Upcoming shows/reviews

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Lots of stuff coming up.  It’s going to be a whirlwind few months.

YES/Toto (San Antonio)
Motorhead/Saxon (Austin/Houston)
Rick Springfield/Romantics/Loverboy (Austin)
Peter Cetera (San Antonio)
Frost and Fire Fest with Manilla Road, Ashbury, Visigoth, Night Demon, Steel Prophet, BAT, Savage Master and more (Ventura, CA)
CJSS (Cinicinatti)
Loudness (San Antonio)
Cheap Trick (San Antonio)
King Diamond (Houston)
The Cult (Austin)
Zebra (Dallas)

Written by The Metal Files

August 24, 2015 at 11:25 am


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