Butch Walker House Of Blues Cleveland, Ohio
By: Michael Strong
I’ve been to a few concerts in my day – many good ones, many bad. A handful have been great. That being said, I just witnessed a show that singularly encapsulates what live music should be: the emotions, the connection, the spirit. A Butch Walker show is always quite the shindig, but tonight was exceptional.
Butch has a way of wrapping the audience around his pinky, allowing him to pull off the risky proposition of starting his set with four tracks off his brand new album, “Stay Gold“. The crowd sang along from the opening lyrics of “Stay Gold” until the final words of the set closer, the introspective “Record Store”, along with every highlight in between.
New songs,such as “Stay Gold”, “East Coast Girl” and “Wilder at Heart” blended perfectly with all the classic Butch tracks. First reaching back, dedicating “Chrissie Hynde” to her and saying she is his biggest influence, on her birthday, in her area of birth. Then the slow churning sensual “Bed of Fire” had everyone swaying, still singing along.
The show was simmering up to that point. From the opening notes that launch “Pretty Melody”, Butch and his top notch band turned the heat up to a rapid boil. Unrelenting, they dove head first into “Ponce de Leon“, the crowd singing louder than the band at this point. Butch must have sensed the imminent spontaneous combustion, because he backed off the pedal with the heart wrenching “Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find”. I doubt I was the only one with tears during this number.
Back to the party, Butch brought the House of Blues to the most feverish boil on this hot, humid night. Sprinkling in “Come on Eileen” and “Teenage Wasteland” into his songs “Synthesizers” and “The Weight of Her”, with the young James Walker, Butch’s son, taking lead vocals. With a brief moment for James to say “My mom gave me a KitKat so I’d stay up“, James made his exit and gave the crowd a minute to catch their collective breath.
The breather was short lived. “She Likes Hairbands”, “Summer of ’89“, and “Three Kids from Brooklyn” were all delivered spot on.
Butch then implored the crowd to participate in an “upper body freak out” and dance as badly as possible. From the intro of the party anthem in waiting “Hot Girls in a Good Mood”, we all obliged. That is until the surprising post chorus declaration that a couple requested he become an ordained minister and marry them. Mid song! Complete with vows and confetti.
After a moment or two to get the encore chants, the harrowing “Record Store” closed the festivities on yet another heartfelt note.
Commanding the stage, while having that much fun is not an easy task, but the the criminally underrated Butch Walker makes it seem natural. Can’t say effortless because you can tell he leaves it all on the stage. Luckily for his cult-like following, he flies under the radar enough to catch him in mid-size venues, where live music really shines. If Butch and his band come to your town, do not miss them.
Michael Strong of Maximum Threshold Radio recently caught up with rocker Michael Sweet at the M3 Rock Festival for this exclusive great interview.
Click play above to check it out. Get the scoop on all Michael Sweet and Stryper 2016 right here. Talks vocal exercise, vocal chord checked out, being gracious to fans, fans input to selecting their setlist, black & yellow color scheme, yellow & black limo, stealing yard signs, and much more.
Let me start off by stating that the M3 Rock Festival has been my personal favorite of the music festival season so being unbiased is probably not an option here.
That being said, I will get the negative out of the way quickly. The first negative is that with all festivals of any decent size, some bands get very short sets. They are barely able to warm up before their given time is up. Abbreviated sets force the bands to play only their best known cuts, much to the delight of many, but disappoints the die-hard fans. The only other notable negative is that time has not been the friendliest to a select few of these guys.
However, almost every artist gave it their best, which made up for the shortcomings that a couple guys experienced. There was a total feeling of camaraderie in the crowd as well as on stage, which everyone seemed to feed on. Many strangers, arm in arm, partook in countless sing-a-longs, so out of key, even auto tune couldn’t save them. Nobody cared!
The crowd really enjoyed newcomers Gabbie Ray, Enuff Z’Nuff, Britny Fox, Lynch Mob and Vince Neil’s Band on Friday, but of course
the night belonged to local favorites, Kix, as does every opening night at M3. As much as people went bananas Friday for all the bands’ hits from “New Thing” to “Girlschool” to “Wicked Sensation” to “Home Sweet Home” to “Cold Blood”, most paced themselves for Saturday’s early start.
Saturday started with a bang as Faster Pussycat, Heaven’s Edge and Every Mother’s Nightmare all proved that rock n roll can thrive any time of day. Faster Pussycat was an early day favorite, starting their set at 11:20 in their pajamas.That itself is shocking, since many would guess that Taime Downe sleeps in the nude. The early rising crowd was fully engaged for hits “House of Pain” “Slip of the Tongue” and all the other favorites they packed into a 25 minute set.
Another early favorite, Steelheart, complete with Milijenko Matijevic’s soaring vocals, really set the bar for the rest of the day when he effortlessly hit the notes of “I’ll Never Let You Go” . Adler’s set of GnR classics went over big .Steven Adler, with an ear to ear grin, seemed to be the happiest guy on stage all weekend.
Firehouse brought the lighters out in full force during what seemed to be everyone’s wedding song (first or second wedding, that is). Y&T as always deliver. Dave Meniketti”s voice sounds as great live as on 25-30 year old recordings. “Summertime Girls ” and “Don’t Stop Runnin'” put the crowd into an absolute frenzy!
Quiet Riot were steady and powerful, with the criminally underrated Jizzy Pearl fronting them though all the QR favorites. Slaughter, featuring the most insane showman drummer, Zoltan Chaney, were not to be missed. I believe the band pulled double duty, backing Vince Neil on Friday. Zoltan completely steals the show with his crazy antics, but never missed a single beat.
Saturday night basically featured 4 headliners, one after another. Night Ranger hit the stage, blasting through every hit you remember and even a Damn Yankees tune to boot. People forget the non-stop hit machine these boys were. From start to finish of their set, it was a 10,000 plus person sing-a-long. “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”, “Sing Me Away”, “When You Close Your Eyes” and the ubiquitous” Sister Christian” were all killer. The Rangers can still really sing and sincerely enjoy performing.
Next up was Tom Keifer, the former voice of Cinderella. Tom tore the roof off of the still under renovation Merriweather Post Pavilion. Playing classic Cinderella tunes like “Shelter Me”, “Nobody”s Fool”, “Shake Me”, “Gypsy Road” and of course “Don’t Know What You Got” among others, he threw he crowd into an absolute frenzy. As if the crowd wasn’t rabid enough, good old Tom deftly covered “Purple Rain” in a tribute to Prince. That would be enough to close most shows, but we had two more acts to delight in.
Queensyche had the unenviable task of following Mr. Keifer, but proved up for the challenge. Being the most “metal” band of the festivities, somewhat out of place, was not an issue for these guys. “Jet City ,Woman” and “I Don’t Believe in Love” went over big-time. New vocalist, helming the ‘Ryche for about 4 years, Todd LaTorre, is an undeniable powerhouse, breathing a new energy into a veteran unit
Ok, full disclosure time, to say I love Tesla is like saying the sun rises in the east, sets in the west. It’s a fact of life. The perfect closer of the weekend for me. Tesla has never laid the proverbial egg on stage, nor did they at M3. Delivering song after song with an intensity, sense of pride and what appears to be an unbridled love, they were without doubt the most engaging band with the fans in a weekend long
love-fest between the stage and seats. Jeff Keith’s smile might have only been outdone by the previously Steven Adler. Powering through a catalog that is unequaled by anyone, save the likes of Queen, Van Halen and Led Zep in the hard rock lexicon, Tesla fired on all
cylinders. Every song was a showstopper, with the exception of “What You Give” which was as powerful and touching as anything you”ll ever hear in the live music arena. One song absolutely blew everything away from the whole festival.
If you love “hair metal” you have to put M3 on your bucket list. Overall, a very smoothly run festival. Very little dead time, music wise, but plenty of time to drink, mingle and make new friends, all while enjoying great music. That’s what a music fest is all about – killer tunes, great times and making new friends. See y’all next year!
Remember, it’s not what you got, it’s what you give.
M3 Rock Festival
April 29-30 2016
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Concert Review -“The Cult” @ The Hard Rock Rocksino Cleveland, Ohio 3/29/2016
by: Michael Strong
More often than not, a live Cult performance is a mystifying experience that places the legions of fans in a trance with their sensual, hypnotic music. Tonight was no exception. Ian Asbury, in the most jovial mood I’ve ever seen from His Majesty, cast the spell much like a shaman and the crowd was in the palm of his hand all night. Asbury’s voice sounds as regal and commanding as ever and in my opinion, he is the best tambourine player. The other half of the Cult’s original core, the unsung guitar hero, Billy Duffy, hulked over his various guitars, physically imposing his will.
Highlights off the new album “Hidden City” such as “Birds in Paradise”, “Hinderland” and the slow burning “Deeply Ordered Chaos” blended seamlessly with the Cult’s classic cuts from all the way back to “Horse Nation”. Oldies such as “Rain” and “She Sells Sanctuary” sound just as fresh and vibrant as the first time hearing them on the left side of the radio dial back in 1985, leaving little doubt that they were one of the originators of the whole goth movement, before shifting to the visceral rock and roll animal they are mostly known as. “Wildflower”, “Lil Devil”, “Sweet Soul Sister”, “Fire Woman” and the pounding force “Rise” displayed why live rock music, performed by true musicians, is still a beautiful thing. Ian implored the audience to put down your f’n phones and live in the moment, instead of videoing everything before “She Sells Sanctuary”. Then, during the closing bars, said “if you want more music, put down your phones”…not as a rant, but more as to say that we should enjoy life, don’t just take pictures as proof. The encore was another new track, “GOAT” with a slinky groove and an almost rap-like vocal cadence. The show closer, of course, couldn’t be anything except “Love Removal Machine”
The band is fleshed out by the extremely talented and longtime Cult member, John Tempesta, driving the bus on the drums, Damon Fox on rhythm guitar/keyboards and Grant Fitzpatrick on bass. Ian and Billy are the main attraction, but they are willing to share the glow of the spotlight with their guys.
The only drawbacks of being such a long tenured band is having to leave great songs off the set list, such as the iconic “Peace Dog” and anything off the “Ceremony” album. Maybe the time constraints of playing the Hard Rock Casino caused for some hard cuts to the set list. Leaving the crowd spent and wanting more, The Cult are in top form for 2016.
Click below to check out the new THE CULT track “Goat”
The Cult: GOAT
Directed by Juan Azulay
Ian Astbury, lead singer of legendary British rock band The Cult, talks about the inspiration behind their latest video, shot in the Everglades, Little Haiti and Liberty City in Miami:
“The film depicts amateur mixed-martial-arts fighter Orlando Friol alongside his trainer and mentor Diego de Vera of Miami’s Knockout Zone Gym. The song’s title is an acronym for ‘Greatest of All Time’. We were tapping into The Cult’s identification as cultural outsiders, revealing the mystique of a lone fighter who, through discipline and integrity, rises up against all odds.”