Monthly Archives: November 2015

Heart @ The Fox Theatre, Visalia CA 11/17/15

I took my mom to see the legendary Heart. She’d always wanted to see this group and I always had an admiration for some of those 70’s and 80’s classics. Our minds were blown for several reasons. Firstly, that such a group would even perform in what many consider to be a tiny, sleepy little town nestled in between Fresno and Bakersfield (or nestled between LA and San Francisco – if you’ve never even heard of Fresno or Bakersfield), secondly, that Ann Wilson’s still got it. Her range, her power, her passion, WOW. And she’s 65 years old. I can’t get over that. And lastly, that she nailed that F# during “Alone.” She leaned back, planted herself firmly, clenched that mic and belted it out. You could feel it. That moment seriously made me sweat and made the audience lose their minds.

This set was a great introduction to the group. It wasn’t the longest concert, but it was a tasty sampling, rather than a full-course meal. Most of the signature songs were performed and they sounded great. Age hasn’t slowed these gals. And now I believe the short set helps to preserve Ann’s voice. She’s in her mid 60’s and it’s a hell of thing to sing those kinds of vocal parts in your prime. Now imagine doing that in your 60’s!!! Ann did an amazing job. After the first few numbers, Ann welcomed the Visalia crowd and said “you have a sweet, lovely little theatre, our favorite!” Nancy Wilson is seriously the group’s secret weapon. While Ann is the powerhouse vocalist, Nancy is the sweet crooner that can hold her own with lead vocals on “These Dreams” and “There’s the Girl.” She’s barely entered her 60’s and she still looks and sounds great. She even bunny hopped and did some kicks during the more rockin’ selections. Long time band members Craig Bartock and Ben Smith are performing on this tour on guitar and drums respectively. Rounding out the touring line-up is keyboard player Chris Joyner and bassist Dan Rothchild.

For this tour, social media was abundant with bitching from fans who complained about the show length and about the overuse of cover songs. The set, admittedly, is heavy with cover songs. The average set length is around 16 songs. Five to 6 of those tracks are covers, with the encore itself comprising of 3 Led Zeppelin songs. I didn’t mind that at all, being a Led Zeppelin fan (and seriously, anyone who can pull off Robert Plant’s wail in “Immigrant Song” get’s an immediate “we’re not worthy” bow). This night also saw a gorgeous Ne-Yo cover, “Two,” which fit in perfectly with the set. It delicately flowed from “There’s the Girl” to “These Dreams.” I would seriously buy that track. Nancy also sang a Bacharach/Costello cover mid-set while a Sonic’s song, “The Witch,” was performed near the end of the show. My mom and I were first timers to live Heart. We were giddy that we didn’t have to travel three hours to see them in concert. And we didn’t have any previous experiences so we couldn’t draw comparisons. I can see how repeat customers would have a problem with the set and cover songs. But I appreciate the variety that they put into their live show. Do you really want to hear the same 16 or so songs EVERY tour??? The die-hards might say “I payed to hear HEART songs!” I’d say well, you payed to SEE Heart. They can do whatever they damn well please onstage! But yes, it would have been cool to hear some of the other hits performed, like “Never” or “Who Will You Run To.” Mom was disappointed that they didn’t perform “Magic Man,” something that’s been off the set for a number of years now. And to those who don’t know, “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You” has been disowned by the group. They haven’t performed that thing in 20 years. Thank goodness 🙂 Thanks to the promoter and venue for continuing to bring celebrated acts and culture to Visalia. Glad I got to spend time with my mom like this, and we’re both glad to cross live Heart off the bucket list.

  1. Kick it Out
  2. Heartless
  3. What About Love
  4. Straight On
  5. There’s the Girl
  6. Two (Ne-Yo)
  7. These Dreams
  8. Alone
  9. Even it Up
  10. God Give Me Strength (B. Bacharach/E. Costello)
  11. The Witch (The Sonics)
  12. Crazy On You
  13. Barracuda
  14. Immigrant Song (Led Zep)
  15. No Quarter (Led Zep)
  16. Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zep)

Credit to Ron Holman with VTD for the concert picture below.

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Exodus @ Strummer’s, Fresno CA 11/04/15

I’m proud to say that I survived an Exodus show. This is classic Bay Area thrash. It’s grimey, dangerous and powerful. The music goes between brief doses of punky, musical rage as well as more epic, technically proficient pieces. And you can’t help but get into the chaos. Steve “Zetro” Souza said it best and I paraphrase, this is music to help let off some steam, to engage in a bit of violence. Souza is once again singing for the group, this tour in support of Blood In, Blood Out, is his first since leaving the band around 2004. Back is the classic impish shriek that’s a cross between Bon Scott and, well…some kind of satanic minion. It’s the perfect kind of vocals for such nether-worldly music. The group has played Fresno in the past and I kept hearing about how they put on an excellent show. What I couldn’t figure out is how a smaller club like Strummer’s can contain that kind of mayhem. Later I would find out that a full club can comfortably house the audience, while opening up to accommodate a pit. I don’t know how it happened, but a split down the venue occurred and the audience parted, erupting in a mosh pit. It was like watching a spinning blade, violently twirling around but no one got hurt. Props to the guys (and girl?) who could hang, but I’m definitely too old for that kind of crap.

The group brought it and then some. Most of these guys are nearing their 50’s and they can still kick ass. After “Blood In, Blood Out,” Steve mentioned that at his age he can’t drink and still do this night after night, and added “but I can still smoke a sh*t load of weed!” This is demanding music to perform. It’s aggressive, fast paced and complex, requiring a great amount of stamina and dexterity to perform. That’s probably why the set was shorter by most standards, around 15 songs in length and clocking in at around 90-100 minutes. That kind of brutality and precision can take a toll, and I’m betting that tendonitis is a regular pain for some of the guys up there on stage. So for this kind of music, 90 minutes or so is pretty damn good. Gary Holt is absent from this tour due to his commitments to Slayer. Kragen Lum is filling in for Holt on this tour and he’s been involved with the touring lineup since 2013. Lee Altus, Jack Gibson and Tom Hunting played effortlessly. The set was heavy with classic offerings from 1984’s Bonded by Blood as well as the new album, Blood In, Blood Out, which sounds like classic Exodus but with modern production. It’s a very good album, surprisingly good, especially for a non-‘fan’ like myself. Glad to catch these guys live and with Souza singing. I missed out on seeing them with Rob Dukes when they did a show with Megadeth and Testament. This gig definitely makes up for it but it would be cool to see Gary Holt performing again. I tried desperately to take some pics but a spot light kept screwing up shots 😦

  1. Exodus
  2. Black 13
  3. Blood In, Blood Out
  4. Impaler
  5. Deranged
  6. Children of a Worthless God
  7. Piranha
  8. Body Harvest
  9. A Lesson in Violence
  10. The Ballad of Leonard and Charles
  11. Beyond the Pale
  12. Blacklist
  13. Bonded by Blood
  14. The Toxic Waltz
  15. Strike of the Beast

Kevin Hart @ Save Mart Center, Fresno CA 10/28/15

This was our second time seeing Kevin Hart perform and the first time in an arena setting.  A group of us got in on the Livenation presale and purchased low level seats, third row, near the end of the arena. A tip for people buying more than 4 seats: Most presales have a limit of 4 tickets per order. I was able to use a combination of the Livenation AND venue presales, that way we were able to purchase 5 tickets instead of 4, and the seats were together. I made sure to indicate that I wanted the same price and section, I think that’s how we were afforded 5 seats together and not split apart. I’m betting the soulless scalpers and ticket brokers already use that method to buy a shit-ton of tickets before they go on sale to the general public. Three very good openers warmed up the show, all part of the Plastic Cup Boyz, including the very funny Joey Wells, Spank Horton, and Na’im Lynn. After a brief wait, Kevin came up next to a very loud and receptive applause.

Kevin Hart is one of the greatest story tellers out there. His act revolves around these ridiculous but hilarious life events. His previous routines have involved his family life, personal relationships, experiences in show business, etc. So while he doesn’t have a repertoire of jokes per se, he has a set full of original stories, and his outlandish story telling, delivery and use of recurring characters (his dad, uncle Richie Jr.) propel the show into side-splitting hilarity. He takes his time in setting the story up but there is no lull, no downtime. Kev’s routine just keeps going and it’s amazing that he keeps coming up with new stories, new material. The tour is called “What Now?” As in, well, what now, Kevin? What are you going to do and say next?” Props to Kevin for coming up with an hour of original material that easily stands next to the older material from past tours and TV specials. And in efforts of keeping the material fresh and preventing leaks, there is a tour policy of no phones for video or pictures, anyone caught using a device will be escorted out of the venue, a policy he’s enforced on previous tours. And wouldn’t you know it, several people were ejected with no refunds. Put the phones and cameras away, enjoy the moment. But one live picture would have been nice 🙂

This material was unique. It included bits about Kevin’s new home life, how private school is f*cking up his kids, Kevin’s fear of the dark, the lady with one shoulder, his dad and his lady friend coming to live with him for a bit, his daughter becoming the master of hide and seek, oh and the raccoon problem. Not raccoons, but raccoon (singular). The raccoon was the recurring character for this routine. Evidently there’s a raccoon that taunts Kevin. It points at Kevin, motions “BLAM BLAM” as if it’s shooting a gun (keep in mind it has no thumbs), grabs its d*ck, then runs off into the darkness. All of this sounds more hilarious live of course. Kevin is now tied with Fluffy (Gabriel Iglesias) for my favorite comedian. Awesomely funny show.

Mastodon @ The Soroyan Theatre, Fresno CA 10/23/15

FYI this is primarily a Mastodon review. I’ve been wanting to see the Grammy nominated Mastodon since 2010 or 2011. At that time they were doing a co-headlining tour with Opeth, another one of my favorite acts. When I found out that Priest’s Redeemer of Souls tour would make a surprising stop in Fresno, I practically jumped out of my chair. Popular metal and hard rock acts that perform in the Central Valley are becoming fewer and fewer, so I couldn’t miss Mastodon, even if they were allotted a mere opening set. Although Judas Priest was the headliner this tour I was more stoked to see Mastodon. The Mastodon sound is muscular, complex and impressively diverse. It’s so much more than typical hard rock or metal. It’s chest pumping, fist raising hard rock for sure. But it’s also challenging and exotic, much like the music of Judas Priest (not counting “Turbo Lover” of course). At times it has the mid-tempo, brooding stomp of groove metal like Pantera and Corrosion of Conformity. Other times it has the southern inspired sludge metal like Eyehategod and Down. Then add the virtuosity of prog rock like Dream Theater and Opeth, but without the keyboards. They primarily use harsh, death metal inspired vocals but there’s also the compelling clean vocals on the more uplifting sections of their songs. Additionally, Mastodon possesses a mysticism to their work which can be found in their album artwork, song titles and music, something that’s becoming rarer in regards to a group’s culture and identity.

Mastodon left an enormous impression on the Fresno audience. By the end of their set the capacity crowd gave a spirited and appreciative applause, many metal-heads offering a standing ovation. These guys are extraordinary players, with guitarist Brent Hinds and drummer Brann Dailor soaking up much of the limelight. Hinds is a shockingly good guitar player, playing the majority of the lead work while Bill Kelliher provided most of the rhythm parts on second guitar. Hinds is very skilled, pulling off complex solos that never veered into the ludicrous like many other shredders are guilty of doing. Each member of Mastodon provides lead vocals, with Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders providing the bulk of vocals. Hinds’ vocals were guttural and very much like grindcore and death metal vocals while Sanders shouted most of his lines without the deathy growl that Hinds would usually use. To contrast those harsh stylings, drummer Brann Dailor provided the clean, anthemic singing parts, often soaring above the thick layers of crunchy and sludgy riffs. Dailor’s drumming was crazy good. His playing style is heavy handed with a lot of cut on the snare, while flying across the toms with frequent paradiddles and fills, reminiscent of Neil Peart’s playing style…and while singing! Dailor’s strokes were so forceful that I could see him shaking out his hands in between songs, I hope he’s able to avoid tendonitis. Sanders and Dialor were very appreciative of the crowd response. Dailor stepped up to the center microphone and applauded the crowd, saying “Fres-no? More like Fres-yes!” It was a heck of a treat to finally see these guys live. I would loved to have seen the group perform “Curl of the Burl” and “Colony of Birchmen,” but I’ll take what I can get. The band was able to fit an impressive amount of songs within 60 minutes, playing a good deal of material from their new album Once More ‘Round the Sun. The highlights for me included “Tread Lightly,” “Crystal Skull,” “Blasteroid,” “High Road,” “Blood and Thunder,” and of course my new favorite, “Ember City.” I hadn’t heard “Ember City” until the show and it was cool as heck to hear. I even prefer the live versions over the studio version. The vocals on the studio version are effects laden. The live vocals are purer, and Brann Dailor sounds better without the studio effects all over his voice. This group has been criticized in the past for out of tune vocals, but I think with years of practice they’ve finally resolved that issue. Sanders’ and Dailor’s harmonies on “Ember City” were great and their voices complimented each other well. I think I’ll blast “Ember City” now. Priest’s set unfortunately didn’t possess the awesome qualities like that of the 2011 Bakersfield performance. This set was reduced by 1/3 in comparison to the Epitaph shows, with a set timing clocking in around 80 minutes. Mastodon’s set was a great consolation to this. Plus I was able to score an autographed poster!!!

  1. Tread Lightly
  2. Once More ‘Round the Sun
  3. Blasteroid
  4. The Motherload
  5. Chimes at Midnight
  6. Aqua Dementia
  7. Halloween
  8. Blade Catcher
  9. Black Tongue
  10. Ember City
  11. Crystal Skull
  12. Blood and Thunder