Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots:
The Libertines at the
O2 Brixton Academy, 12/18

My last show for 2019 was one that I’ve waited more than three years to cover. Arguably one of the greatest live bands ever to rise from the UK, The Libertines returned to the legendary Brixton Academy for two sold-out nights of rock ‘n’ roll bliss.

The songwriting partnership of Barât and Doherty is something extraordinary and translates from studio to live show in epic fashion, although sometimes the antics of Doherty overshadow the music. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for rock ‘n’ roll, in fact many times it adds to a mystique and a legacy. I’m not celebrating or encouraging addiction here however, but Doherty’s very public struggles and honest, sometimes outrageous comments, display a vulnerability rarely seen in the music industry today.

Addiction also makes it personal for the fans. We rally around Doherty because we want him to succeed and come out on top as we all love the underdog story. I’m sure there are signs of recovery here and there, but goddamn does the media love it when they catch him doing something silly like eating a breakfast that could feed a small village or riding a Boris bike pulled by his beloved huskies at 4 in the morning. It also begs the question, how far can this relationship be pushed before breaking once again? Have they learned their lessons? For now, it seems that both Barât and Doherty have matured a bit and rediscovered the love they have for one another—and it shows big time.

It’s also hard to believe that a band that makes this much noise on stage—as well as with the critics among the music press—have only released three studio albums. Yet, ninety plus minutes of post-punk, garage rock revivalism (or whatever you want to call it) came across like a masterclass in all things rock ‘n’ roll.

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TVD Live Shots: Sinead O’Connor at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 12/16

No one can argue that Sinead O’Connor is a once in a lifetime talent. When she’s at her best, she has one of the most remarkable voices on the planet and a knack for writing brilliant songs. I received an email from the O2 Academy that O’Connor was playing a one-off gig at the legendary Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, and I immediately jumped on this. A chance to see a living legend play an intimate venue? Count me in. The show quickly sold out, and the wait was on. Being her first UK show in more than four years, what could we expect? After years of O’Connor sharing her personal challenges in the public forum, one wonders if this was indeed a true comeback.

I’m happy to report that this gig greatly surpassed every expectation with a genius musician finding her groove again and truly rediscovering her love for performing. Any question of her emotional state or ability to mesmerize an audience and share the absolute perfection in her voice was immediately quashed within the first song, a stellar cover of John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark.” From then on it was a celebration and a reawakening of sorts as O’Connor proved that she not only still has plenty to say, but that her music is timeless and ready to be introduced to the next generation.

O’Connor now goes by the name Shuhada Sadaqat (Shuhada is an Arabic girl’s name; sadaqat refers to a voluntary sign of faith), but she still performs under Sinead O’Connor. She’s got a new lease on life and career with new management, a memoir in the works, and rumblings of two new albums. The 53-year-old O’Connor dresses in a traditional hijab and takes the stage barefoot, and she still looks as beautiful as ever. There was even a quick moment where she smiled, posed, and gave a wave to the row of photographers in the front—and the moment that I knew this was going to be a show of epic proportions during her only UK date of 2019.

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TVD Live Shots:
Temples at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush
Empire, 12/8

I’ve always been intrigued by British rock band Temples. They have that perfect mix of nostalgia, mystique, and psychedelia, not only with their late ’60s inspired look but most importantly, with their music. They’ve been on my radar for years, but we’ve never been in the same city at the same time, that is until last Sunday at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Having spent quite a bit of time with their latest album Hot Motion, I was thrilled to finally see the live show up close and personal in one of London’s best venues.

After photographing the standard first three songs in some very challenging light, I grabbed a beer and went up to the balcony to watch the show. I quickly found myself thinking, “holy shit, these guys are good.” Each song was getting better than the first. The only other time I’ve seen this was watching Father John Misty for the first time years ago in San Francisco. The setlist was perfect and flowed beautifully to the end—not a dud in sight.

The same thing happened with Temples. New songs such as “Hot Motion” set up the more familiar classics such as “Shelter Song.” It just worked, and the crowd responded accordingly. At one point, there was even a bit of a mosh pit, which makes zero sense to me. Then again, I saw a vicious mosh pit at the My Vitriol show a few weeks back.

In the mess that is the music industry today, talent no longer seems to be the leading indicator of future success. It’s much more about luck, consistency, and building a strong relationship with your fans and advocates. So the question becomes, what the hell do you do with a band like Temples? It’s not like they are going to have a breakthrough “hit” anytime soon, nor should that be the focus, but I think it would be interesting to pair them in 2020 on some interesting tours.

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TVD Live Shots:
Liam Gallagher at
the O2 Arena, 11/28

There are few genuine rock stars left in this world, but Liam Gallagher is undoubtedly one hundred and fifty percent in that club. He’s got the legacy, the attitude, the adoring fans, and most importantly, the songs. Not shy to say exactly what’s on his mind at any given time, he’s no stranger to controversy—one could say that Gallagher is the personification of “it says what it does on the tin.”

This would be my second time seeing Liam Gallagher in London and it was arguably his best. The second to last show of the year was a fitting end to confusing time for the UK, but what better music to bring everyone together than this man’s impressive catalogue?

2019 saw Gallagher return with his second UK number one album, the brilliant Why Not, Why Me, and with a subsequent tour that finds Gallagher at the top of his game once again—and the marketing campaign and launch were equally as brilliant. Gallagher has rediscovered how to take control of his brand, changing the direction of his narrative and expressing himself creatively outside of the music itself.

It’s made him the most engaged and engaging of the two Gallagher brothers–and that’s something few people would have predicted when Oasis split a decade ago. Gallagher’s marketing masterplan is a perfect example of how to apply old-school craft and creativity in a world of social media, AI, constant scrutiny, and radical transparency. It shows how modern marketing works best as a balancing act between the old and the new.

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TVD Live Shots: Feeder at the Roundhouse, 11/23

There’s something incredibly special about a band like Feeder. Not too many bands can continue to endure such a rollercoaster ride for nearly three decades—countless peaks and valleys of critical acclaim, tragic loss, astounding highs, and of course, periods of confusion and lost direction. These guys have seen it all, and yet they’re still playing gigs and making arguably the best music of their career.

I remember these guys from the ’90s Britpop invasion in the States, but lost track of them until stumbling upon one of my all-time favorite records, 2008’s Silent Cry. For me, there’s always been a mystique around the band and their atmospheric yet aggressive sound. Maybe it’s because I lived in the States during their peak and never got a chance to see the live show until moving to London three years ago. Touring in support of their new record Tallulah, this would be my second Feeder show in London, and they sounded bigger, bolder—and ultimately better.

Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose make up the core of the band these days, with Nicholas being the prominent songwriter. The album is named for Nicholas’ wife’s best friend’s daughter (yeah, I had to read that a few times back as well) who was in attendance at the jam-packed Roundhouse theatre in North London.

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TVD Live Shots: Ghost at Wembley Arena, 11/22

The theatrics, the costumes, the grandiose stage and fire, but most importantly, the songs. Swedish metal band Ghost has it all. The stars, or maybe the burning fires of hell, have aligned perfectly over the past decade to propel Ghost as one of the most important bands in metal today.

Tobias Forge, also known as Papa Emeritus I, II, III, and his latest evolution as Cardinal Copia, is the mastermind behind all things Ghost. Backed by a group of nameless ghouls (literally, as listed in Wikipedia) he’s taken metal to an entirely new level and delivered two remarkable albums while bringing back the evil nature of the genre in the spirit of early Black Sabbath, but with the vocal stylings of ’70s prog rock.

What you get is a sound that has evolved over the years into something that is still as evil as ever in spirit, but surprisingly accessible. It’s metal for everyone essentially, and that statement was solidified further when the band won the much-coveted Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance and Best Metal Album. Not that the Grammys matter anyway these days, but it does feel good when they get it right one out of ten times.

This would be my second time seeing Ghost in London, and the show is bigger and much more refined. Upgrading from the legendary O2 Forum to Wembley Arena makes perfect sense when you see the new design and production. It’s truly over the top and rivals any rock tour that’s hit the arena circuit this year.

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TVD Live Shots: Yungblud at Le Trabendo, 11/17

PARIS, FRANCE | Paris is such a magical city, especially when it comes to its fantastic music scene and unique venues. Last time I was in town, I caught Foals playing an “intimate” gig at Le Bataclan, and was blown away by one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. But last week, that show was topped by Doncaster born Yungblud when he played two nights at a very intimate venue called Le Trabendo.

It was easily the hottest ticked that evening (although Tropical Fuck Storm was playing that evening as well, and I would have loved to catch both). It took me a while to find this place as it’s a bit hidden, and once I got in, I was impressed by its cool and unique layout. This place is literally a stage and then a bunch of different levels of platforms, so pretty much every place you can stand has a great view.

Believe it or not, there was a tiny photo pit to which I managed to climb over the jam-packed room to get in. Then it was off to the races as Yungblud launched himself onto the stage and immediately set the room in a frenzy. The energy this guy has is astounding. Yungblud lists among his influences Arctic Monkeys, Eminem, and The Clash, and that’s precisely what’s coming out of him.

And you really do have to admire this guy for not only his ability to write one hell of a hook but also to bring the crowd along with him and make them all feel comfortable in their own skin. While his song titles don’t necessarily reflect positivity, the overall message is resonating with a new generation of youths who are always under pressure to look cool on social media. Yungblud is helping these kids to not only be okay with imperfection but to celebrate it and build it into confidence.

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TVD Live Shots:
Jon Spencer and the HITmakers at Bar Brooklyn, 11/13

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN | The last of three trips of the year for me and my day job find me in Stockholm for the first time at the Swedish Search Summit where I’m the second speaker of the day. My topic, creativity for marketers, and what better way to get my head in the right place for an early morning speaking gig than to head down to Bar Brooklyn for the original king of garage punk—the one and only Jon Spencer. He’s taken a break from the Blues Explosion to bless us all with a solo record of sorts called Spencer Plays the Hits and taken to the road as The HITmakers.

He’s brought together an all-star group featuring the talents of Sam Coomes (Quasi, Heatmeiser) and M. Sord, but the real highlight here is the legend that is Bob Bert (Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore). Bert was on percussion, but it looked more like parts from a junkyard, including an industrial-sized coil and trash can that he played with a hammer. At first glance, it’s a pure what the fuck moment, but when it gets going, it works. While the HITmakers are not a massive departure from the noise rock genius of the Blues Explosion, they have a similar formula—loud, aggressive, groovy, and in your face.

Every time I see Jon Spencer live in any capacity, I can’t help but think he’s got to be the hardest working man in garage rock show business. This guy doesn’t stop moving the entire set. He’s like James Brown crossed with Stevie Ray Vaughan in the bizarro world. Bar Brooklyn filled up very quickly to witness the blistering 90 minute plus set that weighed heavily on the new record. But Jon and company threw us a few bones and a curveball with selections from his vast catalogue including a few Blues Explosion numbers that got the crowd going bananas. I swear I saw “Bellbottoms” on the setlist. It never transpired, and it didn’t need to.

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TVD Live Shots: Heilung at the Roundhouse, 11/10

I’ve seen some unusual shows before, but nothing quite like what I witnessed at the Roundhouse in London last week. Hailing from Denmark, Heilung (translated from German, “heilung” means healing) took to the stage for a ceremonial celebration of all things Celtic and Viking age. With music based on texts from artifacts of the Northern European Iron Age, Heilung call their unique sound “amplified history,” and while it’s an incredibly niche genre, the crowds are getting bigger and bigger.

Founded in 2014 by German tattoo artist Kai Uwe Faust along with Danish vocalist/ producer Christopher Juul and Norwegian singer Maria Franz, the group self-released their debut album, Ofni which quickly garnered an audience. This record would later be reissued on their current label Season of Mist, and become the basis for a stellar live performance, strong critical acclaim, and massive underground buzz that would pave the way for this new genre.

Opening up with a prayer of sorts to a capacity crowd of nearly three thousand, the stage was set to connect the audience back with earth. Nature sounds are played in between sets instead of the sound guy’s random playlist with human bones, reconstructed swords, and frame drums are the instruments of choice. Dark, ominous lyrics pulled from ancient artifacts such as amulets, rune stones, and other iron age artifacts. The level of detail and research that goes into the music is translated very well into a live show. There are moments where you feel as if you were transported back one thousand years into the past and are watching a pagan ritual as it happens. It’s quite an experience.

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TVD Live Shots: My Vitriol at the Islington Assembly Hall, 11/1

Few bands in the world have a flawless catalogue and a reputation for consistently over-delivering, one of those being My Vitriol. Technically speaking, the band has only delivered two full-length records during their twenty-year run. Still, both of them are brilliant in every aspect of modern music, especially their juggernaut of a debut Finelines, which still holds up flawlessly. Add to that a certain mystique around the band and the fact that they single-handedly invented the genre of “nu gaze” (an evolution of the shoegaze but more accessible and forward-thinking).

This would be the third time I’ve seen My Vitriol since moving to the UK three years ago. They don’t tour very often these days, so when they do, it’s a pretty big deal and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Not only is it a spectacle for the eyes, but the sonic explosion that happens with My Vitriol live is unlike any show I’ve seen before. Touring as a three-piece Seth Taylor, Som Wardner, and Ravi Kesavaram (bassist Tatia Starkey remains on temporary leave) the trio wowed a near-capacity crowd for almost two hours and there was never a dull moment.

The setlist pulled heavily from Finelines with a dozen songs from their masterful debut and surprisingly only four tracks from 2016’s Secret Sessions. It was great to hear “It’s so Damn Easy” early on in the set as it sounds brilliant live. Other highlights were the staples, including “Losing Touch,” “Cemented Shoes,” “The Gentle Art of Choking,” “Alpha Waves,” and of course, “Always Your Way.” Between the lights and the sonic bombardment, this was a show that assaulted all of your senses in the nicest possible way. Parts of the show were so heavy that a decent sized mosh pit formed just in front of the stage. I’m not sure that was necessary as I’ve never seen one at a My Vitriol show, but the show was that intense.

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TVD Live Shots: The Cult at Eventim Apollo, 10/27

I’ve seen The Cult a dozen or so times over the years, but this would be my first time catching them in London. It’s quite a difference as they sold out the legendary Eventim Apollo (the old Hammersmith Ballroom), and the venue was packed to the gills. I’ve never seen a show there this full—you literally could not move. And for extra fun, I forgot my step stool, and the photographers had to shoot from the soundboard.

Now, this review may be slightly biased as The Cult are one of my all-time favorite bands—I celebrate their entire catalogue, even Ceremony, and the underrated self-titled record. If that wasn’t enough, they are touring in support of the 30th anniversary of Sonic Temple, the record that pretty much defined my teenage years.

Sonic Temple is a sonic masterpiece from start to finish. That’s what happened in the ’80s when Bob Rock produced your record. From the opening of “Sun King” to the epic “Fire Woman,” the power ballad for people who hate power ballads “Edie (Ciao Baby),” and of course the soaring chorus of “Sweet Soul Sister,” this record has it all. While early fans of the band would never recognize the transition from post-punk/ goth rock to heavy metal, the band was heading that way regardless. Did it even really matter what these guys did anyway? The songs from Love and Dreamtime fit perfectly into the evolution of the band’s setlist in a way that no one could have predicted. It just works.

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TVD Live Shots:
Gary Numan at the Roundhouse, 10/26

I’ve always been a casual fan of Gary Numan over the years, and then I moved to the UK. Not only is he the godfather of electronic music, a composer, producer, badass guitar player, and incredible frontman, he’s elevated himself to demi-god status in London.

While most of us know him for his groundbreaking ’80s staple “Cars,” there’s so much more to this guy than many of us give him credit. I mean, yeah, he pretty much single-handedly invented an entirely new genre with the release of the near-perfect synth juggernaut The Pleasure Principle in 1979, but he also puts on one of the most epic live shows I’ve ever seen.

This is one of those gigs where I go into it thinking I know Gary Numan, but then come out having gone down the rabbit hole of this guy’s insanely impressive career. Starting with the new wave band Tubeway Army before going solo after two UK chart-topping releases, it was time for Numan to introduce his genius to the world in the form of his debut. The Pleasure Principle gave the world a glimpse into the future and primed the world for synth music to take center stage in the ’80s. Its legacy would go on to influence not only Nine Inch Nails and pretty much the entire industrial and electronica movement, but hip hop too.

I attended the second night of two sold-out jam-packed gigs at London’s legendary Roundhouse in Camden. This was my first time seeing Numan live, and it was quite the spectacle. Numan is sixty-one years old but has the energy and stage presence of a young Trent Reznor and his finest, angriest moments. This works perfectly with the futuristic goth-punk wasteland theme of the lights and staging which push the songs and the atmosphere over the top.

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TVD Live Shots: Big Wreck at The Crocodile, 10/24

SEATTLE, WA | There’s something extraordinary about the band Big Wreck. They’re one of the few rock bands on the planet that has managed to create a unique sound that is all their own. I’m still struggling to describe exactly what that sound is, but when I hear it, I know immediately.

If I had a gun to my head, I guess I would say it’s riff-heavy hard rock layered with deep blues, massive grooves, and soaring vocals. There’s no denying that frontman Ian Thornley sounds a bit like Chris Cornell in his prime, but there’s much more than that. Hell, this is the guy who turned down vocal duties for Velvet Revolver because he didn’t feel comfortable singing without playing guitar. This begs the question, what does he do better? The answer isn’t very straightforward.

You see, Ian Thornley is the kind of songwriter that other songwriters aspire to be. He’s the whole package: a unique and incredible voice, guitar god, and most importantly, he can write a fucking song that makes you stop and think how one human being could possibly be able to write such majestic choruses.

Take, for example, their breakthrough “hit” if you will from 1996 “The Oaf.” Of course, it’s got a catchy intro and verse, but when the chorus kicks in, it’s what separates Big Wreck from the rest of the pack. Then take a listen to “That Song” from the same record. Holy shit, this one takes it up another notch by adding storytelling and incredibly smart lyrics. (My friends and I in college spent weeks debating what the fuck a “pocketbook Brando” is.) Furthermore, “That Song” is a story told in song that makes you feel something, it transports you to a specific moment in your life—it’s familiar—yet it’s something that doesn’t happen very often in a modern song.

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TVD Live Shots: Gwar at Showbox SoDo, 10/21

SEATTLE, WA | Last week I was in Seattle for a series of meetings for my day job and happened to be in town to witness another epic Gwar gig. In between corporate presentations and happy hours with my teammates, I was able to take in a show at the legendary Showbox SoDo. What better way to spend a Monday night in Seattle than celebrating 30 years of all things offensive and disgusting with Blothar, Balsac the Jaws of Death, Jizmak Da Gusha, Beefcake the Mighty, and Pustulus Maximus?

It was only a matter of time before Gwar set their sights on the current state of affairs and built an entire show around the most horrible thing to ever happen to the US: Trump. The scumdogs of the universe are back with new storylines, antics, decapitations, and of course, vast amounts of blood and space jizz. I was a bit surprised to not see the venue wrapped like a kill room in the TV show Dexter. Was there going to be less blood this time around? Short answer, no.

Having photographed Gwar several times in the past, I knew the rules of engagement. The more you cover up with a plastic wrap, raincoats, or camera condoms, the more you got it. So I went in with zero protection, just ready to embrace the chaos. I lost focus with the new intro for just a second and was immediately blasted by a torso that had just been beheaded to kick off the gig. My Nikon Z6 better be waterproof, I thought as I ran to the side to wipe the blood off my camera lens and get back into the action.

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TVD Live Shots: Thom Yorke at the Paramount Theatre, 10/20

SEATTLE, WA | Thom Yorke is living in a world that not a lot of us can truly understand. He’s a true disruptor in both a musical sense and as an industry pioneer. He did exactly what the music business SHOULD have done by embracing technology instead of fighting it. He broke the mold for releasing and promoting new music and continues to innovate.

Having seen Radiohead several times over the years, this would be my first-time seeing Yorke solo. The music is so different with its atmospheric overtones driven by electronic beats and offbeat electro-funk, one could ask the question, would he be selling out venues without Radiohead’s success on his resume? That’s the wrong question to be asking, though. While the solo music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does carry forward the complexity of Radiohead’s later records, even pushing them into new territory once again.

The Radiohead frontman was joined on stage by Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barr. The setup was quite small with a couple of digital turntables and a slew of synthesizers, but the sound was enormous. Yorke weaved in and out of the turntables, twisting and turning knobs with the look of confidence in his art, with a glimpse of a smile in between moments where he seemed to be in a trance with the music.

I looked around frequently at the capacity crowd at the beautiful Paramount Theatre. I saw a crowd completely immersed in not only the sonic landscapes echoing through the historic space, but also drawn to the laser-like light show interpreting the sounds by painting with light.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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