The Metal Files

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Yngwie J. Malmsteen Concert Review, June 10, 2017, Houston, TX

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Last night I witnessed the over the top guitar playing of Yngwie Malmsteen for the 9th time since 1986.  While he is my favorite guitarist, I haven’t liked any of his releases post-Alchemy and his latest one with him on vocals is pretty boring.  That being said, I always love seeing him live.

Local (to Houston) band Apocalyptic opened up.  They were super tight technical shred thrash that at times reminded me of Agent Steel with a singer that could hit insanely high notes at will.  The only real issue I had with them is that the singer wouldn’t shut the fuck up between songs.  They could have played one more song with all the time he spent between songs talking about how cool it was to be there or “show me your horns” or “scream for me, Houston” over and over.  Less talk, more rock, please.  Their main lead player and bassist were also really good.

Of course Yngwie comes on and the wall of Marshalls is lining the back of the stage.  For the record, only 2 heads were actually used.  They opened with Rising Force and the bassist sang.  He sounded good but what irked me to no end was that they only did the first verse then the solo section.  What?  Most of the show consisted of instrumentals, which was fine.  That meant that Yngwie didn’t sing.  In Seventh Sign, the keyboardist sang and they did the whole song.  Sounded great.   Demon Driver and Heaven Tonight were also first verse and solo sections only.  To be honest, if you’re gonna cut out sections of songs like that, just do a full night of instrumentals.  In the encore, they ended with I’ll See the Light Tonight and, yes, first verse and solo sections only.

Beyond that silliness, Yngwie was awesome and I’m glad I went.  His back up band, basically tucked into one corner of the stage, was really good. Of course Yngwie threw a bunch of picks out and only high kicked a few this time.  I’m really glad he didn’t sing

The venue, White Oak Music Hall, holds 1200 and I imagine about 600-700 people were there.  Hopefully the 10th time I see him won’t be too far in the distant future.

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Written by The Metal Files

June 11, 2017 at 10:55 am

Catching Up With Metal Church’s Craig Wells…Again

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Hard to believe that it’s been 6 years since I did a little email interview with the shredder Craig Wells of Metal Church.  I had seen that he moved to Houston within the last year and we couldn’t make a connection to meet until this week, as I’m working here weekly for a while.  He works nights in the TV engineering business and rarely gets a free evening.  Tonight I got lucky.

We went to a nice little Mexican place called El Tiempo Cantina.  Once inside I was given all kinds of great stories about the history of Metal Church.  One awesome tidbit he gave me was that Mark Baker of Strychnine played live for them on the first 2 tours when Vanderhoof wasn’t in the band.  Also that David Wayne (RIP) recorded the vocals for Highway Star in one take!  It was pretty mind numbing taking it all in and even realizing the fact that I’m sitting across the table from the guitar player that played on some of my all time favorite albums.

After dinner, he graciously signed The Book and some of my CD covers.  I couldn’t find my copy of Human Factor and had forgotten to bring my Operation Rock and Roll CD.  There’s also a foto of us from 1989 that I’d like to get signed.  He assured me that he’d take care of that next time.  Craig is an absolutely awesome guy and I look forward to seeing him again.

This was a perfect Halloween!

Written by The Metal Files

October 31, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Zebra Concert Review, Houston, TX, June 11, 2016

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Zebra played last night in Houston at Concert Pub North.  They were fantastic.  Even though I had just seen them in December 2015 in Dallas, I wanted to see them again.  I love this band a ton.

Additionally, a show was announced a few miles away at BFE Rock Club with Jeff Scott Soto (JSS) performing.  JEFF SCOTT SOTO.  It was touted that he was performing with Houston locals Azrael’s Bane.  My plan was see both depending on set times, ot catching half of each show.  Jeff’s vocal performances on the first 2 Yngwie albums coupled with seeing him in 1986 have made him one of my favorite singers, although much of his post-Yngwie stuff has left me flat sans a few things here and there.

Before checking into the hotel I stopped in at BFE and talked with one of the folks that worked there.  He said to come back around 6PM as they’d likely start soundcheck around that time.  I got back there at 545PM and people were setting up for a birthday party which is the reason JSS was in town.  After he greeted some folks and took some pictures, I got a few moments to speak with him.  I showed him The Book and mentioned that he was in there 4 times.  He laughed and said, “Only 4?  Oh, pre-1991, that sounds about right.”  He signed it and I mentioned that ’86 show as being the only time I had ever seen him live.  “Funny, Boals and I replaced each other in that band!”  I told him that I was in town to see Zebra but wanted to make time to see his show as well.  “What show?  I’m not playing tonight.”  He proceeded to tell me that the venue mis-advertised it as a gig and he was only going to sit in for a few songs.  “Go enjoy Zebra and come back and hang out after.”  He signed my Yngwie stuff and gave me a guitar pick, snapped a picture and off I went to my hotel.  It was pretty awesome meeting one of my all time faves.

After a short nap at the hotel, I went to Concert Pub, had a quick dinner while the opener was on and then met some friends there for the show.  I was told at first that they were going on at 11PM, but an announcement was made shortly after that they would be playing two sets.  STOKED.

I’ll just say that aside from the time I saw them in 1987, last night was the second best of the 4 times that I have seen them.  The AC at the venue wasn’t working properly and it was very hot and humid, but Zebra was on their game.  They tore the roof off of the place.  Randy’s vocals were in excellent shape.  They played everything I wanted to hear and it was good getting some of the ones they didn’t play in December.

Great show all around.  And a great day overall after getting to meet Jeff.

 

Written by The Metal Files

June 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Pentagram Concert Review, Houston, TX, March 18, 2016

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I like traveling out of Austin for shows and seeing Pentagram in another city was surely going to be fun.  I first met them in 2010 on the street in Austin and became pals with them over the years since.

I got to Houston around 4PM and a little before the band arrived to load in and sound check.  I noticed a line of people at the venue that seemed pretty young, too young to be Pentagram fans in general.  There was a show in the main room at Warehouse Live from some mall metal/mall core/emo core band called blessthefall.

When Pentagram arrived, I helped them load in during a heavy rain storm.  That was fun(?).  Also loading in were Detroit’s Against the Grain and Oakland’s Mondo Drag.  Once everything got set up, the band ran through sound check with a couple of Pentagram songs and KISS’ Cold Gin, all with Victor on vocals.  After the check, I ran Greg and Victor to Guitar Center to get a fog machine.  Let me tell you, the customer service there was total shit.  The guy working there just seemed annoyed that we had questions and that he needed to get the ladder to get what the band needed from the top shelf. Sorry that you had to provide customer service in your customer service job, dude.  We grabbed a quick dinner across the street and then headed back in the venue.

When we got back, they set the machine up in the dressing room to test it out.  Bobby had come in from the bus and was on the couch next to the machine and they blasted him with it twice.  His reaction was pretty funny.  I guess you had to be there.  The band also decided to prank blessthefall as their dressing room was connected by a sealed doorway that had enough of a crack in it to shoot fog into their dressing room.  During blessthefall’s last song, they got their room filled with fog.  Oddly enough, they got pissed off about it as did the promoter and security guy.  What a bunch of pussies.

I missed Against the Grain’s set while  we were buying the fog machine.  However, I did catch most of Mondo Drag’s set and completely loved it.  If I had to classify it, it’s Uriah Heep meets some Yes meets early 70s jazz/fusion.  In general I detest the 70s psychedelic revival as most of the bands sound the same to me, offering nothing different than any others.  But these guys had a little something different.  Maybe just the Heep styled heavy keyboards and cool jazz riffs here and there, but it set them apart from just about all of the other bands I’ve seen that fall in the sub genre.  The crowd seemed into it as well.

Pentagram hit the stage with about 150ish in the crowd.  It seemed pretty lightly attended overall.  I’ve not attended many Houston shows so can’t really gauge what it should have been.  They opened up with Death Row and All Your Sins and much of the crowd was singing along.  Bobby’s voice sounded great, probably better than any other time I’ve heard them.  The band was energetic and extremely tight.  New drummer, Peter Campbell, has the perfect combination of keeping perfect time and having feel in his playing.  They mixed the setlist up with a lot of classics and 5 from the latest album, Curious Volume.  The album is awesome and I highly recommend it.  It’s easily in my top 5 Pentagram albums.  The crowd went crazy during Forever My Queen. For me Broken Vows and When the Screams Come are two of the major highlights and come from my favorite album of theirs, Day of Reckoning.  They played 7 total from Pentagram (aka Relentless).  The encore also had Be Forewarned, which was the favorite song by my old pal, Sergio.  RIP.  It was a great show overall and the Pentagram band and crew are really all great guys.  Thanks for the hospitality as always!

After the show, I went back to the dressing room and hung out for a bit.  Bobby was worn out and about to fall asleep.  He asked me what I thought of the show and I mentioned that I’ve seen 3 classic singers recently who all blew me away.  Those being Liebling, Mogg and Meniketti.  He perked up when heard Mogg mentioned.  Apparently UFO is his favorite band.  Based on the conversation we had, his knowledge of the band has few rivals.  And I’ll say this, for a guy who’s done the drugs and lived like Bobby has, I’m always impressed that he can get on stage and not miss a lyric ever that I’ve seen.  No teleprompter, just incredible memory.  It’s quite impressive.  Greg mentioned that at rehearsals they’ll start playing a random old Pentagram song and Bobby will come right in and sing it perfectly.

After some quick goodbyes, I headed to my hotel.  I was wiped out.

 

 

 

 

AC/DC Concert Review, Houston, TX, February 26, 2016

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Before last night, I had never seen AC/DC before and to be honest I’m not a huge fan in general.  Radio in the 80s ruined them for me by spinning the Back in Black album over and over.  If I had to pick and era, it would be the Bon Scott era but there are some songs from the Brian Johnson era that I do love.  I’ve played a ton of their songs in bands since 1985 as a drummer and bass player.  They are fun to play and everyone seems to love hearing their stuff.  I’ll say that I do love Powerage, Flick of the Switch and fly On the Wall.

I took the decision a few years ago to catch some of the more legendary bands that I like but may not be a huge fan of.  Seeing AC/DC last night made me regret not catching them in the 80s and 90s a bit.

I picked up a pair of tickets when they first went on sale and Pablo jumped on my spare immediately.  We left for Houston midday Friday and hit some traffic going in, but not too bad.  It was still early enough after parking to grab some food, so we hit Guadalajara for some tacos.  Tacos!  Ran into my Austin friends Larry and Brenda there.  Always great seeing them.

After dinner we walked over to the Toyota Center, hazed a street preacher for a few minutes then went inside to check out the merch.  I was glad to see that they made a TX only shirt and snagged one.

We hung out in the outer ring during most of the opener, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown.  Catching their last 3 songs made me wish I had stayed outside longer.  Boring bluesy rock.  Good for those kids to get on a big bill like that, though.

AC/DC’s pre-show video started right at 8:50.  Their opening track was Rock or Bust from their latest album of the same name.  The sold out crowd was on their feet as they followed that right up with Shoot to Thrill and Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be.  After a quick breather, they went into Back in Black.  I took my seat on that one.

For the rest of the set they played a good mix of the Bon and Brian eras.  I’m amazed as to the energy that Brian and Angus still have.  It’s pretty impressive.  Angus was wearing the blue schoolboy uniform last night and played a mix of different Gibson SGs.  He really is an incredible guitarist and watching him live gave me a new appreciation for his playing and his influence on rock and metal.

Brian’s voice was Brian’s voice.  He sounded as expected and did a good job even though I think he got winded a few times.  Understandable.  He’s a solid frontman.  During Hell’s Bells, he was handed a cowboy hat from someone in the front row and wore it for the song.  “It fits!”, he said.

Angus’ nephew, Stevie is handling rhythm guitar duties since Malcolm’s health won’t allow him to play nowadays.  He did fine and Cliff Williams layed the bottom down perfectly as he has since he joined in 1977.  While Chris Slade is obviously an accomplished drummer and has AC/DC history, he’s no Phil Rudd.  Phil had a groove that few can replicate, even if only playing 2 and 4 as a career.  His recent legal and drug issues kept him from being in the band and on the tour.

Highlight song for me was Given the Dog a Bone.  You see, back in my early teen years a group of mothers in our church got on the “heavy metal is satanic” kick.  We had to endure lectures from this North Carolina preacher named Albert Long telling us that Iron Maiden, KISS, Twisted Sister, AC/DC and other were worshiping the devil.  Laughable but we had no choice but to sit there and listen to the guy and watch him break down metal videos and their satan-ness.  haha.  In one of the lectures, he started reading lyrics from Given the Dog a Bone in his thick North Carolina accent.  I thought we were going to die laughing listening to him read the lyrics and talking about the evils of sex and the devil etc.

She take you down easy
Going down to her knees
Going down to the devil
Down down at ninety degrees
She blowing me crazy
’til my ammunition is dry
She’s using her head again
She’s using her head
She’s using her head again
I’m justa giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone
Giving the dog a bone, giving the dog a bone

I can’t hear that song to this day and not think about that moment.  To be honest, that dude turned us kids on to more metal then he did to sway us away from it.  What a dork.

What a great show.  AC/DC rocks.

 

Written by The Metal Files

February 27, 2016 at 9:40 am

Krokus Concert Review, Houston, TX, April 24, 2015

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My first recollection of hearing Krokus was from buying a tape in the early 80s of their Paymetal_cover11978 album, Pay It In Metal.  I’m pretty sure that hearing Screaming In The Night and Bedside Radio on the radio in those years prompted me to buy that tape.  Plus it was only $1.  That album is quite different than their 80s stuff and doesn’t include Storace.  I bought The Blitz when it came out in ’84 and loved it.  People slag Midnight Maniac but I think it’s a killer tune.  I pretty love all of their 80s stuff but never got to see them back then.  I remember in the late 90s or early 2000s that they were scheduled to play Jaxx in Springfield, VA (RIP) but something happened and they never made it over to the USA.

When I saw they were going to do to a small US tour, I knew I had to go.  They scheduled dates in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas and I promptly bought tix for Houston and SA.

I got to Houston early in the day to beat the rush hour traffic, checked into my hotel and went to the venue to see if any of the guys were hanging out and to try and get The Book signed.  Score.  I got to meet Mandy Meier and Chris Von Rohr (only original and founding member) after their sound check.  Chris was pretty funny.  As he’s signing the book, he just looks up at me and says, “Can you find me a toothpick, please?”  He handed the book back to me and I said I would.  There were some folks there with stacks of vinyl and CDs and I could see in his face that he was getting punished by a few of those guys, especially this one dude that I have seen at a few Houston shows.  The guy just wouldn’t move on after getting his stuff signed.  Von Rohr just stopped paying attention to this dude’s inane ramblings.  I came back a few minutes later with some toothpicks and handed them to Chris who stood up as the punisher was mid-sentence and said, “THANK YOU!  You’re now my new tour manager.”  I think it gave him a reason to just get up and diss that dude.

I ran into some friends right before the first band went on and hung with them most of the night.  The opening band is touring with Krokus (same US mgmt).  They were called The Chimpz and it was some sort of hip hop metal thing.  I stayed outside.  Horrible.  Puerto Rico’s Red Tiger came up next and they were decent.  The drummer and one of the guitarists both handled lead vocal duties and I preferred the drummer’s vocals.  They’re pretty young and their sound is all over the hard rock/metal map, but I think they can likely dial it in.  Love and War was up next and they’ve got a good Houston following.  They’re super solid hard rock and the singer has a great vocal range.  This was my second or third time seeing them.

Finally around 1130, it was time for Krokus.  The show looked about 3/4 full.  I was down in front on the rail for most of the set and it was hot down there.  They come out and open with Long Stick Goes Boom and go right into their cover of  American Woman.  Blech.  Never liked the original and never got into Krokus’ version.  But the band was tight and Marc’s vocals sounded great.  They mixed the short set up with some newer and older stuff, completely avoiding The Blitz album.  There were a few older gems in there like Winning Man and Easy rocker but I’m still a bit surprised that in your first US show in 25 years, you don’t play Bedside Radio, Our Love, Fire, Midnight Maniac or even some of their other famous covers of Stayed Awake all Night, School’s Out and Ballroom Blitz.  Don’t get me wrong, I say avoid covers when you have such a huge back catalog but oh well.  They’ve been pretty good about putting albums out every 5 years or so.  Lots of lineup changes.

Right after Screaming In The Night, I got out of the pit and listened to the rest of the show on the patio.  They had the doors open and I could see and hear everything perfectly.  It was hot inside and I needed some air and a cold beverage.

After the show, they did do a quick meet and greet and I got Marc to sign the book.  There were a lot of people in line to meet them and I just shook hands, said thanks and moved on.

The show was great.  I went to San Antonio to catch them on the second night, but because of their Fiesta traffic, I never made it in.

Click photos to enlarge.

Doro Concert Review, Houston, TX, March 8, 2015

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IMG_8950useFirst and foremost, I need to get this out of the way…“apology accepted”.  Those were the words Doro said to me last night after I apologized for my Butthead moment with her back in 1988.  She thought it was very funny actually.  It had always been in the back of my mind anytime I’d think of Warlock or her, so I’m glad I finally got to get that off my conscience.

When I saw that Doro was coming to Texas again (last time was 2007 in San Antonio but I couldn’t make it), I got a ticket ASAP.  I absolutely love Warlock.  The drive to Houston yesterday and the return home today were tough as it was a heavy rain both days.

Upon arrival to my hotel, I was relaxing a bit after a nice hot shower and looking at Instagram and saw that Johnny Dee, Doro’s drummer, ate at the ramen place next to the venue.  I was very hungry and this sounded like a good idea on such a cold and rainy night.  It was an incredible pork broth, noodle, ground pork, chopped pork, hot sauce, bok choy concoction that set me just right.

After the meal I go to the venue and run into some friends and hung with them for most of the night.  There were 4 opening bands, 3 of which were local and one from Santa Cruz called Archer.  I missed the first opener and couldn’t really get into the other 2 local bands at all.  Archer was a decent 3 piece of heavy rock band that is touring with Doro.

The crowd had thinned out some.  It wasn’t packed in there by any stretch but by the time Doro came on, I’m guessing about 150 were still around.  The band hits the stage and opens up with I Rule the Ruins and plowed right into Earthshaker Rock.  The band sounded awesome and I couldn’t believe how great her voice was.  She looked and sounded like it was still 1988 and she is very appreciative of her fans.  You could tell how much she loved being up there and seeing familiar faces in the crowd.  Some people had traveled from Luxembourg to be there as well as other parts of the USA and Mexico.  I love that.

The setlist was filled with songs from all four Warlock albums.  It was awesome hearing Out of Control and I freaked when they played Evil from the Fight for Rock 12″.  She played a handful of songs from the solo career as well including 2 from her new album, Raise Your Fist In the Air.  Hearing Metal Racer just blew me away.  They performed the cover of Dio’s Egypt (The Chains Are On) and it was just perfect.  I’ve always loved her cover of that.

It was just a wonderful set, which of course I wanted more Warlock songs.  Just play all night, ok?  After the show I got to spend a little time with Johnny Dee which was cool.  I’ve always liked that self-titled Britny Fox album, even though I despise most of that hair band stuff.  That riff on Long Way to Love is killer.  After talking with Johnny, I was afforded a moment to get on the bus with Doro.  It was a cool few minutes.  She signed The Book and my Triumph and Agony CD.  The tour manager was rushing me off the bus so I didn’t get the other Warlock CDs signed, but he did call me “assman”.  I didn’t take but a couple of photos as I really just wanted to stand there and take it all in.

Stay hard, true as steel!