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09.16.2012: Gwar and The Casualties @ House Of Blues

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Another year, another dose of Gwar and once again, the House of Blues was the sight of Gwar’s battlefield here on Earth.

The Casualities once again supported Gwar and once again kicked much ass doing it. There’s not a lot of frill to The Casualties – none at all, in fact. They’re straight up old school punk, ripped straight off the streets of New York. They blasted through their barrage of Exploited-tinged punk, imploring the crowd to join in the anthemic choruses one moment and berating them into pummeling each other the next. There aren’t a whole lot of acts that can hold people’s attention opening for heavy-hitters like Gwar, but The Casualties showed again that…well…they aren’t impressed. Definitely check them out if you’re a fan of old 80s punk and don’t miss them live.

The untimely passing last year of Flattus Maximus (aka Cory Smoot), threw the Gwar camp into disarray in every conceivable way, including their touring. Determined to continue on, they braced for another tour as a four-piece unit. Having finally secured a new scumdog, Cleveland would be the last night that the four-piece Gwar would take the stage. The sound was stripped down without the two guitar attack and the show was the same set and storyline as last year’s tour, but the room full of Gwarriors didn’t seem to mind. Oderus acknowledged more than once that they were doing the same show again, but everybody knew why and no one has ever complained about seeing the guys in Gwar do what they do so well more than once. As always, they blasted through the standards, as well as last year’s material while disembowling, bludgeoning and decpaitating their way through a laundry list of people that most of us would like to do the same to. All the while, promising bigger and better things to come. At this point, there’s not a lot that can be said about Gwar that hasn’t been said before. If somehow you’ve never seen Gwar before, you need to.

-Late

 

05.14.2012: Mayer Hawthorne and The Stepkids @ House Of Blues

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Welcome to Cleveland, where we have a casino! The grand opening of the new casino may have dominated the local headlines – as well as the downtown traffic patterns – but that’s not to sya that there wasn’t some other great entertainment going on downtown Monday night, specifically at the House of Blues.

The Stepkids got the evening going and they got it off to just the right start. With a sonic 70’s vibe, this trio combined expert musicianship with an understated yet perfectly effective projection show that oozed with psychedelic nostalgia. With all three members of the group switching roles and taking turns leading the experince, they showed an impressive grasp of their art and a willingness to experiment with all of the sights and sounds that go into making a memorable live performance. Musically, their sound is both wild and perfectly measured, dripping with psychedelic acid rock and New Age experimentation. If Rush let Pink Floyd write their music, this is what they’d some up with in the middle of the night.

People debate just when Motown died. Some people say it was in the 1970s when the label left Detroit. Some say it was the 1990s when they were bought out. They’re all wrong, though, because the spirit of Motown is alive and well and living under the name of Mayer Hawthorne. Easily blending the lilt of Smokey Robinson with the soul of Curtis Mayfield, he is at his best live when he flat-out channels Chuck Berry. What he lacks in Berry’s flashy showmanship, he makes up for in swagger and his ability to captivate a crowd. The biggest ovation of the night may have come early in the set, when he broke out his current single “The Walk”, but he played the crowd all night long just as easily as he and The Country played the set list. If you’ve seen Hawthorne on YouTube or on television, you ain’t seen nothin’. Drawing heavily from his new release, How Do You Do, Hawthorne worked the heavier end of his catalog, opting to rock out instead of relying on the older singles that, truthfully, showcase his vocal abilities but don’t give the listener a feel for just what he’s capable of. I can’t really call him jazz or blues or even soul, but if you’re looking for some good, jazzy, bluesy, soulful rock and roll, here’s your guy. He’s touring now, so if he hasn’t hit your town yet, I definitely recommend checking him out because there’s a,lot more going on here than singing.

-Late

 

05.05.2012: Tim Barry @ The Grogshop

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Keeping things simple, Tim Barry took the brightly lit Grog Shop stage with one microphone and his guitar. And then, before playing a song, he exited it…to perform in the midst of the excited crowd. Often during sets Tim Barry, who is touring to support his latest album, 40 Miler, the singer/songwriter rushes through the crowd to sing with the audience, but this time he brought the mic with him and stood still.

Playing by himself, his sister may join him later on the tour, Tim mixed in songs from each of his releases. When Tim came out in the crowd, while simultaneously inviting half of the crowd up on the stage, he mentioned that his voice was giving out. An audience member standing right in front of him volunteered to sing the song to which Tim replied, “You don’t know this one”. Just to prove him wrong, several members of the audience crowded the microphone and sang right along to, “Banker’s Dilemma”, a song released just a few weeks earlier.

As usual he had stories to tell about his songs and about the aspects of life that keep him living moment to moment such as when he recently, “spent my last $400 on new tires for my van that has 240,000 miles and broke down on the first day of the tour”.

Playing his set by feeling out the crowd, Tim Barry got the crowd bobbing their heads to “Dog Bumped” and “Downtown VCU”, reflecting on modern workers’ priorities on “Idle Idyllist”, and rejoiced about the joys of jumping trains during “Church Of Level Track”.

I apologize to the opening acts that I missed due to being on-call for work. From the crowd feedback I got the opening acts did well and earned themselves a few new fans.

04.29.2012: Sabaton, Shok Paris, The Approach and the Execution @ Peabody’s

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Sabaton live performance

I should first admit that I didn’t exactly go into this show with a blank slate. I was waiting for weeks to get down and check out Sabaton live. Every day I was checking out more of their videos on YouTube, reading more about the band anywhere I could…I was stoked. So feel free to read this review was a grain of skepticism. You have been warned.

Cleveland’s own The Approach and the Execution started things off. As much as people may complain about shows where the venue books ten opening acts, starting at 5pm, being the only opener in front of a local legend like Shok Paris and the real reason that everybody came out, Sabaton, is no easier. Let’s be honest: nobody is there to see you. I’m glad I saw these guys. These guys play the most non-cliched power metal I’ve heard in a long time. No war, nor horses, no armor, none of that – but their riffs and their metal still managed to conjure up the likes of Manowar. That they play that same, grand style of metal with a more contemporary almost thrash mentality and lyrical approach is a testament another band that they reminded me of, by the way) to their ability to take some of the great metal that is out there and make it their own. If you’re looking for something that’s truly fresh but don’t necessarily want to sacrifice all of the metal that you already love, check these guys out.

Shok Paris, like their Cleveland home, is on the comeback trail after a long hiatus. These guys may have been gone for twenty years, but the age didn’t soften them any – the metal hasn’t lost its edge. Wailing through their timeless Cleveland metal catalog and mixing in some stuff off of their upcoming CD, Shok Paris reminded everybody what Cleveland metal used to be and – hopefully – can be again.

A live performance by Sabaton is an experience. After getting the crowd warmed up with some “classic Swedish metal” (Europe’s “The Final Countdown”) blasting over the speakers, Sabaton stormed out onto the stage and blistered their way through tales of honor and battle, as only they can. Manowar may be the masters of making you want to run out and slay a dragon, but nobody can transport you straight to the front lines the way that Sabaton can. They tore through Coat of Arms and The Art of War for most of the set, but of course treated everybody to the rousing title-track of the upcoming Carolus Rex. Along the way, they honored the glorious dead in their songs, as well as those who fought and returned. They honored the fighting men who secured freedom – “too many people forget that if it wasn’t for you guys, a lot of us would be speaking German” remarked singer Joakim Broden. He thanked the crowd for coming out checking out a lineup that has been vastly overhauled over the past few months, and all of them really seemed to make a point of sharing the night with the crowd instead of just playing in front of them. He also heaped glory upon all of those who made it out on a cold Sunday night in Cleveland to enjoy and share in a night of great music…as do I.

-Late

 

04.29.2012: Sabaton, Shok Paris, The Approach and the Execution @ Peabody’s

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Sabaton

I should first admit that I didn’t exactly go into this show with a blank slate. I was waiting for weeks to get down and check out Sabaton live. Every day I was checking out more of their videos on YouTube, reading more about the band anywhere I could…I was stoked. So feel free to read this review was a grain of skepticism. You have been warned.

Cleveland’s own The Approach and the Execution started things off. As much as people may complain about shows where the venue books ten opening acts, starting at 5pm, being the only opener in front of a local legend like Shok Paris and the real reason that everybody came out, Sabaton, is no easier. Let’s be honest: nobody is there to see you. I’m glad I saw these guys. These guys play the most non-cliched power metal I’ve heard in a long time. No war, nor horses, no armor, none of that – but their riffs and their metal still managed to conjure up the likes of Manowar. That they play that same, grand style of metal with a more contemporary almost thrash mentality and lyrical approach is a testament another band that they reminded me of, by the way) to their ability to take some of the great metal that is out there and make it their own. If you’re looking for something that’s truly fresh but don’t necessarily want to sacrifice all of the metal that you already love, check these guys out.

Shok Paris, like their Cleveland home, is on the comeback trail after a long hiatus. These guys may have been gone for twenty years, but the age didn’t soften them any – the metal hasn’t lost its edge. Wailing through their timeless Cleveland metal catalog and mixing in some stuff off of their upcoming CD, Shok Paris reminded everybody what Cleveland metal used to be and – hopefully – can be again.

A live performance by Sabaton is an experience. After getting the crowd warmed up with some “classic Swedish metal” (Europe’s “The Final Countdown”) blasting over the speakers, Sabaton stormed out onto the stage and blistered their way through tales of honor and battle, as only they can. Manowar may be the masters of making you want to run out and slay a dragon, but nobody can transport you straight to the front lines the way that Sabaton can. They tore through Coat of Arms and The Art of War for most of the set, but of course treated everybody to the rousing title-track of the upcoming Carolus Rex. Along the way, they honored the glorious dead in their songs, as well as those who fought and returned. They honored the fighting men who secured freedom – “too many people forget that if it wasn’t for you guys, a lot of us would be speaking German” remarked singer Joakim Broden. He thanked the crowd for coming out checking out a lineup that has been vastly overhauled over the past few months, and all of them really seemed to make a point of sharing the night with the crowd instead of just playing in front of them. He also heaped glory upon all of those who made it out on a cold Sunday night in Cleveland to enjoy and share in a night of great music…as do I.

-Late

Larry “LarryMac” McCloskey

 

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