10.12.2006: MercyMe, Audio Adrenaline and Phil Wickham @ The Wolstein Center at CSU

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Picture the largest indoor Christian retreat packed nice and tightly and compliment it with three amazing music acts and you’ll receive MercyMe’s Coming Up To Breathe tour. But before MercyMe would take the stage, Audio Adrenaline and Phil Wickham performed. Phil Wickham kicked things off with “I Adore.” Wickham said that he was just a songwriter who had performed only at worship meetings in churches and it was awesome to sing in front of a larger audience like this before serenading the crowd with “Divine Romance.” He finished his set with “Always Forever” which was a combination of beauty and power getting everybody going before the main attractions of the night. Although Wickham’s set was short, it brought attention to how good he is as a singer/songwriter and introduced himself to Northeast Ohio’s discerning Christian music audience with glee.

In a contrast to the low-key stripped-down nature of Phil Wickam come the wild styles of Audio Adrenaline. They kicked their show off with a great spectacle of blazing light displays and tons of high energy rock and roll. Audio Adrenaline created a great party atmosphere getting everybody in the Wolstein Center to go absolutely insane clapping their hands to the beat, cheering and singing along. They went from soft and sweet with “Ocean Floor” to light-hearted and peppy with “The Goodbye Blues.” Audio Adrenaline gave it their all after more than 15 years and they claimed that this was their last tour and went out with a bang. As they thanked their loyal fans in their own special way both with tears and bittersweet love, Audio Adrenaline performed for one last time in Cleveland and sang “Goodbye.”

Audio Adrenaline passed the torch to the last group of the night MercyMe. MercyMe didn’t drop the fire and burn themselves as they kicked things off with a multitude of melody and splendor. Bart Millard and the boys mixed up a medley of old and new hits such as “Coming Up To Breathe” to “Pours Down Like Rain.” The fans in attendance were off the charts throughout each song as they sang, clapped and chanted during each song. MercyMe had an interesting little graphic on their video monitors of a hand writing down lyrics on a pad helping the people singing along if they couldn’t remember the words joining MercyMe in the harmonious joy. Millard proclaimed how we all have problems in our lives or have deep love for God or not as he led the audience in a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Millard continued another interesting monologue of what it’s like growing up in a Southern Baptist church seeing an older parishioner and wondering how he feels and amusingly talked about his experiences in the church and sharing this with us and how the Holy Spirit affects us each day before playing “Jesus Bring The Rain.”

MercyMe continued to give so much to their loving fans with each drum break, guitar lick and bass groove stunning our ears and crushing our hearts into pulp. Large glowing lights enhanced the worship experience making it feel like we were in Heaven instead of being in Cleveland at The Wolstein Center. Millard gave much love and proper respects to Audio Adrenaline as they were given their first big break more than 10 years ago and the respect was reciprocated by bringing them on their tour and also covering an Audio Adrenaline rarity, “Tremble.” It was heavily requested by the audience and MercyMe delivered by performing one of their biggest hits with “I Can Only Imagine.” The night concluded as MercyMe splashed the fully-packed arena not just with more music, but a rain of confetti to close things out. The amount of energy and emotion squeezed out of this group would make an angel come down and give a big hug around these guys with their glowing wings.

IF you’ve never experienced a Christian rock show or this genre of music, you’re missing out on something. Some may think it’s just wishy-washy and corny but take an open mind and ear and just listen to the words and let the beat move your body. MercyMe and Audio Adrenaline brought their top game tonight and showed that Jesus freaks could rock hard too.

10.08.2006: KMFDM and Combichrist @ House Of Blues Cleveland

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The lights were full and bright as the night breed came out during the full moon for a ghastly treat before Halloween as a double assault of electro-industrial brutalized the masses of House Of Blues in Cleveland as KMFDM and Combichrist premiered a tandem of destructive forces. Combichrist kicked things off with a bang as Andy LaPlegua and his crew performed their most recent hit “Get Your Body Beat” getting everybody dancing. LaPlegua kept on ravaging the stage with his strong presence cramming down our throats more provocative rhythms with “Everybody Hates You.” Combichrist kept on pumping out the grooves as the tightly packed, yet not so full halls of the concert club were enjoying everything dished out to them. The energy was high and emotions were strong as the fans in attendance kept cheering for more and LaPlegua delivered the goods. He even dedicated a song to KMFDM who invited his group to come and tour with them. Combichrist isn’t as melodic as Icon Of Coil or as sludgy as Panzer AG, but a beautiful combination of LaPlegua’s two signature sounds were ringing in their ears tonight. Combichrist finished their set up with “This Shit Will Fuck You Up” as heavily requested by the audience.

Then the kings of electro-industrial, KMFDM took their rightful place on the throne of human flesh and angst as Sascha K., Lucia Cifarelli and the gang furiously took away the spotlight from Combichrist and shone it brightly on their world almost incinerating their gothic gallavanters surrounding the pit area. KMFDM started with some more recent tracks with “D.I.Y” and “Free Your Hate.” They continued the dance floor mayhem with opening up some old school stuff from the vaults with “More And Faster” and “Light.” Sascha K. sporting a Mohawk and dark sunglasses paraded around the stage like a proud parrot striking the nerve with more newer and some older material with “Hau Ruck,” “A Drug Against War” and “Superhero.” Lucia then grabbed the microphone as the vivacious vixen of KMFDM performed something from one of their multiple projects, KGC with “16 Below.” This was a delightful combination of beauty, boldness and devilish hate as KMFDM rocked the place into a fervor. The bloodthirsty ghouls in attendance chanted “KMFDM sucks!” and if you’re a true fan of this group, you’ll know that’s more of a tender sentiment, not a defamatory expletive toward the band as they wanted more. KMFDM finished up with an assaulting blend of virtual devastation with “WWIII,” “Godlike” and “Megalomaniac.”

Having two of electro-industrial’s pillars such as Sascha Konietzko and Andy LaPlegua together for one show is an honor for Cleveland to bestow upon them and gave such a tremendous concert. We should have more industrial music shows like this one. It was like a coven or sect of vampires gathered lushly and scattered throughout whirling, prancing and celebrating with love and devotion for these pioneers in electronic music.

10.05.2006: Monsters Of Death Tour featuring Six Feet Under, Krisiun, Decapitated and Abysmal Dawn @ Peabody’s

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Picture what a party hosted by Satan would look like filled with ravenous savages, crass noise and crude behavior and you’ll get Six Feet Under’s Monsters Of Death tour. Before the festivities began, Mansfield, Ohio’s melodic death metal outfit American Arrogance took to the stage. They were more sludgy and technical than a typical death metal act, but still held the brutal nature of the sound with providing us such tracks as “Beware Of The Centagram” and “Nothing Left.” American Arrogance also did a slick cover of Rob Zombie’s “House Of Zombie.”

Next up were Abysmal Dawn and yes they are what they claimed to be abysmal and futile at best. Some songs that come to mind that they performed tonight were “States Of Mind,” “Blacken The Sky” and “Servants To Their Knees.” Abysmal Dawn was monotonous with a cacophony of hammering drums and bass followed by some gurglings on the microphone. It was quite odd to also hear multiple guitar solos ringing through each song confusing whether or not they were a black metal band. Although Peabody’s was mostly packed to see the show, very few embraced what Abysmal Dawn delivered and we know that Cleveland’s metal fans are the most critical of people to please.

Poland’s Decapitated went afterward and brought a new definition of what death metal was all about. They punished the senses with an array of percussion, heavy guitars and growling vocals reminiscent of their Polish peers Vader and Behemoth. Decapitated were warmly embraced by the audience as the mosh pit grew.

Yet another mockery of death metal came to the stage as Krisiun played to the masses. Just like Abysmal Dawn; Krisiun showed how little style and originality they had tonight. They had to nudge the fans into cheering for them – that is how desperate Krisiun were as they played on track after track to the crowd. But it seemed like Clevelanders enjoyed what Krisiun brought as they used tons of flashing light to enhance what they lacked in collaboration.

We finally get the stars of this spectacle, Six Feet Under. Chris Barnes and company served up chillingly cold hits from something old to something new for the people to salivate. They kicked things off with such selections as “The Day The Dead Walked,” “The Death Clock” and “Hacked To Pieces.” Barnes and crew commanded the audience like sheep ready to be slaughtered. The people were so thirsty for Six Feet Under that they wanted five hours more of carnage. Six Feet Under then churned out another classic from the vaults with “Victim Of The Paranoid” getting the large mosh pit into more a frenzy then it already was. They also showed us a new one to bang our heads to with “Burning Blood.” Barnes then announced that he and the boys would perform a song they’ve rarely played live and they delivered with “Tourture Killer.” They ended the night with their classic cover of Kiss’ “War Machine.”

The Monsters Of Death tour had layers of combinations from the horribly disgusting to the diabolically grotesque and Six Feet Under delivered an interesting display with this show.

10.03.2006: Skyshapers Tour Featuring Covenant, Imperative Reaction and Rotersand @ The Cleveland Agora

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Under a blanket of smoke and backlights, The Cleveland Agora Ballroom was transformed from a simple concert club into a gothic world of cruel intentions as Covenant brought their Skyshapers Tour to the shores of Northeast Ohio. The Agora Ballroom was completely turned upside-down and became a discothèque from succubae and incubae alike. At first, The Agora Ballroom had few creatures of the night but it quickly progressed as the moon became full and pregnant with light shining down on the graveyard known as 5001 Euclid Avenue.

Before Covenant came to perform, Rotersand and Imperative Reaction tickled the senses of the ghoulish freaks lurking amongst the crowd. Rotersand kicked things off and started to slowly gain support from the audience in attendance and kept on pounding us with ebm; better known as electronic body music throughout their set. The fans got hotter and louder for Rotersand as the night went on and soon feet were dancing and bodies were pulsing to the ferocious beats. For their first time touring in the United States, Rotersand were warmly received by a full American contingent tonight.

Imperative Reaction fed off the energy that was ignited by Rotersand and lit the fuse detonating an explosion of electronic dance music that blew up the stage. They played songs from their latest release As We Fall and classic hits getting everyone in a frenzy dancing and wiggling to the music. Imperative Reaction performed such tracks as “As We Fall,” “Arrogance” and “Giving Into The Change.” They gave a solid show and brought it to another level before Covenant came on for their set.

Finally we were graced by the presence of the legends of future pop, Covenant and they came out to an extremely drawn out introduction laced with muffled lyrics and haunting organ melodies. Covenant concentrated on performing material mostly from the Skyshaper album such as “Happy Man,” “The Men” and “Ritual Noise.” The pace was frenetic and heavy as the crowd ate it all up and moved and shook until all of their body parts were like a well-mixed martini. But they also went into their historic back catalogue to let their die-hard fans know they haven’t forgotten the past by playing such songs as “Invisible and Silent.”

Covenant kept on pummeling the audience with high voltage synthesized aggression assaulting the senses with each track they gave. But the love was poured out of the loyal industrial music mavens that filled the cavities of The Agora Ballroom and it was reciprocated in so many ways. Covenant loved their fans so much that they gave a double encore of hits both old and new such as “Brave New World” and “Cryotank Expansion.” Fans were shouting for another performance and wanted to squeeze the sponge of electronic compositions out of Covenant.

This was an amazing package of ebm and future pop woven nicely like an erratic quilt laid upon a leather sofa. You had the intrepid force of three great industrial music acts from different spectrums get pulled together to create an illustrious experience.

08.11.2006: Vans Warped Tour @ Time Warner Cable Ampitheater at Tower City

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Metalheads have a plethora of music festivals, but punks don’t have as many to enjoy. This time punks can be happy as the 11th Annual Vans Warped Tour rolls into Cleveland at The Tower City Amphitheatre.

More than six stages and 50 artists were abundant amongst more than thousands of guests with multicolored hair, pierced bodies and were adorned with Doc Martens on their feet. Many artists opened up the show and here are some most notable to mention.

The Sounds were up and they had a great sound combining pop sensibilities with female vocals backed by a great male rhythm section. Swedish punk isn’t quite known here in the United States, but The Sounds introduced this flavor to the stage. They made for a great start to the day.

The Vincent Black Shadow was next and they had both beauty and boldness in their presence and music. Old-fashioned punk with tons of bass grooves and guitar licks that any guy would blush when listening to them. These ladies had a great style mixing sex appeal with brutal honesty.

Rise Against were next and they brought down the anger and rage that is pent up in everyone. The fans were ecstatic for these guys as they were screaming and moshing to the beat. Rise Against pummeled not just themselves but their adoring fans.

Next was a duel between Shira Girl and Bouncing Souls to grab our attention. Shira Girl was old school chick punk reminiscent of the 1970s, yet they were a modern rock group. No glitz or glamour, just straight up punk rock from these babes. They also did a wicked cover of Joan Jett’s classic “Bad Reputation” paying homage to the queen of punk.

Bouncing Souls on the other hand, were aggressive and less sweet to the ears. They were angst-ridden and played it up to the infinite sounds. Bouncing Souls played some of their new material from The Gold Record and some old favorites. They also did a great cover of Television’s “Stupid People.” Shira Girl and Bouncing Souls both won over the attention of the folks at the event as they gave more than 100 percent.

Less Than Jake took to the stage and gave us a break from the destruction as they whipped out the horns for a little bit of ska. They professed their thoughts on how terrestrial radio thinks they’re washed up and that ska was dead, but they showed the naysayers who was wrong by pumping out the fury getting everyone to skank out to their wild beats. Less Than Jake’s showing was fun and entertaining to dance to as feet were burning up the floors of the pavilion.

Another battle of the attention getters ensued as Ill Scarlet and Oyternatipnal were up. Ill Scarlet had a do-it-yourself attitude that screamed volumes. They had a short and sassy set mixing male and female vocals with some Canadian tint to the tones. Ill Scarlet had no frills, bells and whistles as they were just unadulterated punk.

OyTernatipnal were out of their league as a hip-hop act at the Warped Tour. The crowd was mostly dead with a few exceptions as some were break dancing to this filth. OyTernatipnal sounded like an Eminem rip-off. Ill Scarlet won hands down easily with the people in attendance.

30 Seconds To Mars and Helmet were next. 30 Seconds To Mars tore the house down at the Tower City Amphitheatre as the women were going nuts for Jared Letto’s matinee good looks. They performed everything in their repertoire on stage and in the audience as Letto crowd surfed while performing one of their tracks. Their set was completely interactive and energizing.

Progressive metal powerhouses Helmet came up smoking as they showed the skaters how to bang their heads. They played everything from the past and present, but they had some technical failures on their microphones and speakers making it hard to listen to their performance. But they persevered and got the crowd into the show. Helmet was a little bit out of their element, but their sound was more congenial to the fist-pumping madness in the air.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts kept the buzz going by showing the felines of Shira Girl how to really play “Bad Reputation.” Joan and the gang continued the frenzy by going back to her roots with The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb.” They also showcased some of their new stuff from their latest album Sinner with “Change The World” and “She’s Got Balls.”

Joan and the boys were also joined by Shira Girl on a portion of their set giving us a great match of the old guard meeting the new guard of female punk rock. Jett and the Blackhearts finished up with their most popular song ever; “I Want Rock and Roll.” Everybody was chanting out the chorus as she was singing it out until her lungs bled. Joan Jett’s set was the highlight of the night.

Against Me were unfortunately sandwiched between two legends; Joan Jett and NOFX, but they rose up and this little set back made their set better than ever expected. Their production was off the wall evil as they went on like a jack rabbit in heat on each song.

Nothing stopped Against Me from ripping it up and giving us everything and anything. Hardcore was the name of this group’s performance as they never stopped going from one song to the next . Against Me gave the people a reason not to drink any Red Bull before NOFX took over.

NOFX finally graced our presence with witty banter as a fan threw a shirt on stage with the printed letters “slob the knob” on it and that got the guys in the band laughing and calling the fan a homosexual and said their roadie would love the shirt advocating that he was gay. They kicked things off with a slow-tempo reggae groove that got the place calmed down for the storm that was about to come.

NOFX started getting things pumped up as they broke out both old and new material. They continued on with their banter saying they don’t want to play what we wanted but they wanted to perform what they wanted asking the question of who is here to enjoy the show?

They did play a ton of tracks from their latest release Wolves In Wolves Clothing and did quench the thirst of die-hard NOFX fans with some old songs. NOFX also poked fun at our Midwestern roots after dedicating another new track to our lovely Ohioan ways. Their set was a combination of a comic cavalcade and a rock show all rolled up into one crazy bag.

This incarnation of the Vans Warped Tour was exciting and brought out the best in old and new punk rock.

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