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04.01.2007: Jagermesiter Tour with Stone Sour, Lacuna Coil and Shadows Fall @ House Of Blues

Well let me tell you! It was an ordeal trying to get to this show. I can write a whole story about just traveling to the show. However, this is a show review for fans of heavy metal music. And heavy metal music is what I was experiencing as soon as I walked into the door and down the steps of the House of blues on Sunday April 1st. Shadows Fall was already on stage with Brian Fair’s flailing dreadlocks and all. Their brand of metal is not pushing the envelope too much but they know how to get the crowd moving into a frenzy. I almost felt like it was 1990 and I was at the Agora watching Testament perform. This is a band that has earned their veteran status and judging by the show they will be with us for quite some time. I am guessing this performance isn’t going to be a memorable one for them or the crowd. The energy in the band just seemed a little lackadaisical to me. Maybe just too much of the rock star life creeping up on them.

The show was hosted by one of those tattooed face and surgically implanted things kind of person.
Why does that seem to be standard at a metal show these days? And we had to hear him talk in between every band that night.

After grabbing a 22oz can of beer and of course an over priced shot of Jagermeister (in honor of the people that put this show together) I partook in viewing the performance of the aesthetically pleasing lead singer of the band Lacuna Coil. She kept my interest enough to withstand their entire set. After listening to Shadows Fall complain about how the scene is full of wimpy metal bands, one has to wonder if their successor is who they where talking about. However it isn’t all bad. I enjoy all the different levels of metal music. And actually if you are a fan of Evanescence you should check out Lacuna Coil. They are just a bit more edgy and perform with integrity that dwarfs Amy Lee’s band. The male counterpart to the lovely lady that graced the stage of the Jagermeister music tour was expendable but I suppose necessary to give the band a bit of that male bravado we all love in our metal music. The crowd seemed less alive than when Shadows Fall was on stage. Did I mention that the singer of Lacuna Coil would be a great candidate for a one-night stand with your intrigued reviewer?

Oh! There was that freaky tattooed guy again. I am just wondering what kind of job that guy would get if hosting events ever fell through.

The headliner, Stone Sour, took the stage and the crowd exploded. It was the first track off of their album Come what(ever) may that lead the assault. 30/30 150 seemed to be the shotgun blast that crowd needed to bring them to life. Corey Taylor, with his shaven head and shirtless tattooed body, was incredibly strong vocally. In my opinion, one of the best metal vocals in the business. A key point that made the crowd do that pit thing they do so well was when the band performed “Made of scars”, one of the more memorable songs off the album. The band performed a good mix of their catalog and played all the pop radio hits. Halfway through the set we were all personally serenaded by Corey. He came out with his acoustic guitar and did a little solo performance. He surprised me by playing a cover of Chris Isaacs’ “Wicked Games”; he did the song justice as well. He shows that he is a dynamic and diverse vocalist and musician. He also played “Bother” and when the crowd all sang in unison he made sure to let them all know that Cleveland won the prize for one of the loudest crowds on the tour. (I wonder how many other cities win that prize). He then went into a short version of “Sweet Home Alabama”. I think “Cleveland Rocks” would have been more appropriate. After that the band joined him for the second half of “Through Glass” and ultimately the rest of the show. This performance was completely different then that when Corey is that monstrous looking dreadlock donning maniacal front man of Slipknot. The only thing that was the same is the strength of the performance and his voice. I don’t think I have ever seen anybody go from the level of brutality that Slipknot brings to the pop sounding hard rock that Stone Sour provides with as much integrity.

All in all the Jagermeister tour was a good time with the headliner carrying all of the weight. I almost would have liked to see Shadows Fall play right before Stone Sour. But apparently I don’t work for Jagermeister. I just write about the guy that does.

03.04.2007: Green 17 Tour featuring Flogging Molly, Street Dogs and Twopointeight @ House Of Blues Cleveland

What a way to kick off the month of St. Patrick’s Day with some Irish punk rock served up by Flogging Molly and Street Dogs. They decided to paint every city green and celebrate a bit early with The Green 17 tour. But before these extremely popular punks took the stage, Swedish punk rockers, Twopointeight got the full house pumped up for the show. They kicked it into high gear with an in-your-face attitude that many modern punk groups have forgotten. Twopointeight also gave proper respects to Street Dogs by dedicating “Get Up, Stand Up” honoring the guys who brought them to be showcased. They kept on brutalizing the stage and got the frequency up more with “Roller-Coaster” inspiring the crowd to start moshing up a storm.

The fans started a classic American soccer chant as they continuously shouted “ole, ole, ole!” as Johnny Cash’s “Man In Black” erupted through the loudspeakers as Street Dogs stole the stage away from Twopointeight and never looked back. The Street Dogs started their set with tracks from their recent album Fading American Dream with “Not Without A Purpose” and “Common People.” They continued on a constant non-stop pace with several more songs from their release and got the mosh pit stoked for more. The lead vocalist of The Street Dogs unintentionally got the fans riled up as he mentioned a few of the people in attendance wearing Boston Red Sox jerseys and loud boos reverberated back at him as he got nostalgic of his roots in Boston as they performed another track. He also enticed the crowd to squeeze together to form one massive pit of destructive energy during this performance. He had also reminisced about his days as the former frontman of The Dropkick Murphys and played one of their old favorites; “This Is The Road We Travel.” Things suddenly got surreal as they asked the folks to raise their hands up in the air and remove their hats in honor of our brave men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ones whom had fallen in combat and was obliged as they gave us “Final Transmission.” They also invited the guitarist of Flogging Molly, Dennis Casey to join them on “Toby’s Got A Drinking Problem.” The Street Dogs set was highly frenetic and tons of fun.

If you thought The Street Dogs’ performance was high octane driven and full of laughs, wait until Flogging Molly hits the lights. More chants of “ole, ole, ole!” were shouted by the audience making The House of Blues feel more like an English Premiership League soccer game with a bunch of hooligans than a punk rock concert. Flogging Molly fed off of the adrenaline rush and ate it up like a quick snack as they fired up the white hot fiddle, banjo, mandolin and kettle drums to an electric wattage of love and support by the Cleveland faithful. Everybody was dancing, singing, clapping and wailing along to each song performed by these guys. They would definitely give you a craving for a pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson whiskey that’s how exuberant and beautiful their show was. If you wanted to get ready weeks in advance for St. Patrick’s Day, going to a Flogging Molly or Street Dogs concert would be a great recommendation for your Celtic punk rock starter’s kit.

02.24.2007: Daphne Loves Derby, Waking Ashland, Paulson, Agave, Photo Imprint and Edison Glass @ The Cleveland Agora

The Cleveland Agora Ballroom had a collegiate atmosphere as it felt more like a unique coffee shop than a concert club as Daphne Loves Derby, Waking Ashland and Paulson brought their brand of alternative rock to Cleveland. Before these artists took the stage, Christian alternative rockers Edison Glass opened the show. Edison Glass were raucously loud and got the small crowd up clapping to their frenetic beats. They offered us “Starlight” from their most recent album and kept on rocking out. They also gave us something not on their album with “Let’s Go” and just continued the energetic pace of their set until it was time for them to allow another group to perform.

We went from eclectic alternative to edgy punk rock as The Photo Imprint just kicked it into high gear and never looked back. The Photo Imprint were audaciously aggressive and sounded like a cross between screamo and old school punk rock. They got the people thrashing and dancing to their sequential rhythms and made for a fun experience.

The flow was suddenly turned down several notches as Cleveland’s local emo rockers Agave manufactured their sugary-sweet power-pop to the masses. Although they received a great reception from the audience, they were lackluster and obnoxiously annoying to the senses. Most of their set was peppered with catchy hooks and a failing attempt at trying to sound hard and tough with “So Far” but wasn’t too successful as they couldn’t obfuscate their harmonious tones.

Paulson continued the cavity-inducing musical experience as they went out of their way to make it sound extremely emotional and pop driven. Unlike the previous band that played, Paulson were diverse in their selections and went from progressively harsh to sublime. It was obvious that Paulson knew who they were and didn’t hide it, but at times they did try to sound like a fake grunge rock group instead of showing us their true nature as pretty boys with musical talent. They basically were a fabricated version of something from the early 1990s and would best be described as a Soundgarden cover band than a true rock group.

Waking Ashland were up next and they removed any hint of calmness from the Cleveland Agora as they were a great combination of indie rock and mid-‘90s college radio alternative rock as they shined like a brilliant star with their performance. They smartly incorporated a classical piano with the abrasive guitar, drum and bass combination creating a flashback to the days of Ben Folds, Counting Crows and The Barenaked Ladies. They got the Cleveland faithful dancing and moving around as they had a very exciting set. Waking Ashland were just straight up rock and roll that should get through to the mainstream terrestrial radio stations.

Finally we were graced with the presence of Daphne Loves Derby who brought back the androgynous beats of emo rock back as they started out mellow and on an even kilter. They were horribly annoying to the ears and screamed out loud the innermost feelings of a teenaged girl coming from a group of young men. However, Daphne Loves Derby were very talented on their instruments, but the vocals pulled away from the music itself. Daphne Loves Derby’s music would be perfect for a homosexual pornographic movie as it’s soft and flows like a lilt fairy fluttering through the breeze. But the intimacy of having a petite crowd in attendance may have been good for this type of group. The people at the Cleveland Agora Ballroom went absolutely nuts for these guys, but then again Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University is book ended around this concert venue and it explains greatly that this was a college rock scene that was too cool for the room.

01.27.2007: Winter Jam Tour featuring Jeremy Camp, Steven Curtis Chapman, Hawk Nelson and New Song @ The Wolstein Center at CSU

More than 8,000 people packed into the Wolstein Center at CSU on a fairly cold night in Cleveland to take in some good wholesome Christian rock and Contemporary Christian music at the annual Winter Jam Tour. A combination of sights and sounds from the surreal and enlightening to the energetic and beautiful were represented at this event. They had the hottest acts in this genre combined with the charm of a worship service.

New Song went back and forth from spiritual hymns to good old Southern rock as they were highly fascinating and got the crowd screaming and praising God. The members of New Song pandered to the Cleveland faithful by talking about visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which led into a short rendition of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic “Sweet Home Alabama.” New Song brought the people almost to their knees; but what really got the folks bowing down and kneeling was the deep message by Pastor Tony Nolan who shared his story of abuse and neglect and how that shaped him to become a Christian and spreading the message of Jesus Christ to the masses. He led the audience to a full prayer service and asked everybody to contribute to the ministry that organized the show. It was a wonderful showing of praise and worship coming from all residents of Northeast Ohio who were at the tour.

Hawk Nelson were up next and they brought the raucousness of a modern power-pop, post-punk extravaganza. This fairly young group of guys from Canada showcased tons of catchy melodies as the numerous amounts of young ladies in attendance screamed like little girls as they were swooning for these boys. Hawk Nelson showed a lot of potential as they rocked out with what’s been popular as of late. It was a fun and light-hearted effort by this band and everybody was enjoying their set.

Nolan again came out and gave us a special look at another group that were sponsoring the event, Holt International, an organization that specializes in adopting and sponsoring orphaned children around the world. He asked the crowd to help with this cause by sponsoring a child and his goal for this organization was more than 150 people to support this cause and he was able to succeed. A short film that was shown gave an interpretation of what orphanages were like in China and other nations and galvanized the hearts of the people in the Wolstein Center to cry and feel for these small souls.

Lifting the spirits of the heavy hearts was Steven Curtis Chapman, who entertained the people as he received a roaring ovation. Chapman performed both classic hits and his recent tracks, getting each person sitting down to get up and dance. Near the end of his set, he introduced his rhythm section comprised of his two sons and their friends whom are venturing out toward the mainstream stage as The Following. The Following played a short set that rocked the socks off of the Greater Cleveland faithful. Steven also got sublime with the issue of adoption as he announced that three of his own brood were adopted and had a short film with his seven-year-old daughter, Shaohannah, who was adopted from China telling us in her own special words about “the little treasures of the world” as they panned around to different nations and the children who needed homes. Chapman and company finished off with one of his most popular songs to date, “I’m Diving In.”

We were then treated to a little comedy as John Morgan did his best impersonation of President George W. Bush. Morgan’s dead on resemblance of President Bush resonated amongst the audience which got them laughing hysterically and cheering him on. He also did a blues-inspired anthem, “Red, White and Blues.” Morgan then removed the façade and started preaching scripture to the crowd creating a nice amalgamate of comedy and inspirational speech.

We got to the finale of the show as Jeremy Camp came out to one of the craziest receptions of the night as he kicked things off. Camp and his band started off with high-tempo sounds combining techno, pop and rock getting everyone to scream, dance and sing along. Camp performed tracks from his previous albums and his latest creation Beyond Measure. He got the people into the show as well, getting them to sing with him and his rhythm section. Jeremy’s act was part rock concert and part worship experience and combining secular rock with Christian spiritualism was smart and fun to hear.

Winter Jam 2007 had everything from rock and roll to documentary film to a church service. It had people laughing, crying and praying and where in the world would you find something where all of your emotions are wrapped up into one big organism?

12.10.2006: Lovedrug, Brandtson and Blush @ The Lime Spider

The Lime Spider was the site of Lovedrug’s triumphant return from their first national tour and the hometown faithful made sure to let the guys know that they had been missed.

Blush got things started with their enchanting mix of power pop and straight up rock and roll. With a sound that somehow stretches from the sultry power of Garbage to the pop sensibility of Artificial Joy Club, Blush had the subtlety and power to get the night off to just the right start. With a skill that belies their youth, Blush got the ball rolling with a vibe that was hard to follow, so those in attendance had to hang back and see who could hope to follow in their shoes. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a group to keep your eyes and ears on!

Perennial favorite Brandtson had the unenviable task of following in Blush’s wake and they once again proved to those in attendance that practice really does make perfect. The guys in Brandtson have been at it for awhile now and it shows. They took what Blush had started and infused it with just the right dash of their finely honed electronic sound to take the night to the next level. Playing a mix that was heavy on the newer material, but with just enough of the old stuff, Brandtson stormed the stage and wouldn’t let go until they were darn good and ready. After several weeks on the road with Lovedrug it was obvious that Brandtson just wasn’t ready to call the trip quits yet and everybody in attendance reaped the benefits of a startling tapestry of electronic grace and power pop chords.

In the end, though, this was to be Lovedrug’s night. This was the culmination of their first national headlining tour and their homecoming, as well as a celebration of their new disc, Everything Starts Where it Ends. Taking the reins and stepping into some darn big shoes, Lovedrug started things off on a chillingly tender note and segued seamlessly into their own brand of melodic rock. Reaching back into their earlier works as well as hitting most of the new disc, we were all treated to the opportunity to witness first hand the evolution of a group that has mastered their craft. With a strong rock vibe from the earlier material, mixed with the lighter tone of their new material, Lovedrug crafts a dizzying vista of moods and textures and their live performance bears that out well. The crowd responded to the joyride begging for an encore, which the guys in Lovedrug were only too happy to provide.

All in all, this was one of the better nights of local music that I’ve been to in some time. The place was packed, all of the bands played their hearts out, all of the fans appreciated every last note and the bands appreciated every last bit of applause. Maybe there’s hope for the scene after all.

-Late

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