Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at the 3Arena, Dublin, 5/10

I’ve seen the Gallagher brothers shows individually over the past few months and let me tell you that they are two very different experiences. Liam opens with Oasis classics right out of the gate, while Noel focused on his new material and peppers in a few Oasis numbers in the middle and end of his. I don’t think it says anything about the strength of either brother’s solo material as both of their current records are equally brilliant, but I do think Liam is making a statement while Noel is a bit more seasoned on the “solo” road at the moment.

Opening with a one-two (three, four, and five) punch from 2017’s Who Built the Moon?, Noel blasted into “Fort Knox” directly into “Holy Mountain.” It was as if he’d be playing his new record in its entirety as the first five songs of the set matched his latest album in running order. Who Built the Moon? is a bit of a progression for Noel and his High Flying Birds. They’ve dirtied up their sound, injected a punch of soul, and dialed up the volume and aggression which made for a proper Britrock arena show.

It’s interesting to me that Noel’s albums are evolving much like the Oasis catalog—starting out very Beatlesque, then growing darker, adding a touch of soul, and finally going full-on bombastic with the wall of sound fueled by real-time drum loops played by an actual human. Don’t get me wrong, there are elements of all the greatness of Oasis and The Beatles, but the first few songs set the tone for each of Noel’s records, and that tone is very different each time.

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TVD Live Shots: Britrock Must Be Destroyed: Reef, The Wildhearts, Dodgy, and Terrorvision at the Eventim Apollo, 5/6

Britrock Must Be Destroyed brings together four of the best UK bands who were flying high in the ’90s, each with their own unique sound. It’s a welcome comeback as these Britrock pioneers execute their mission to exhibit to the world that they can still bring the noise bigger and better than any of their contemporaries. Technically speaking it was a triple headliner with The Wildhearts, Reef, and Terrorvision rotating each evening playing extended sets. The London show would see Reef as the final band.

Opening the evening was power pop trio Dodgy who were added to the bill as a special guest. I remember these guys from back in the day as they had a couple of minor hits in the States. Nigel Clark and company continue to release new music, and they put on one hell of a show—the perfect opener to set the stage for what would be an intense groove filled evening of Britrock history. Funny enough, even the band themselves mentioned between songs that they questioned how they fit on the bill.

Next up was one of West Yorkshire’s most successful bands, Terrorvision. I had never heard of these guys before as I don’t recall listening to them back in the States, but holy shit they were great. Lead singer Tony Wright sounded spot on, and he doesn’t seem to age, while guitarist Mark Yates was melting faces with songs like “Alice What’s the Matter” and “Discotheque Wreck.” Brilliant set from these guys and I’ve been digging on their catalog ever since, especially the surprisingly good “comeback” record 2011’s Super Delux.

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TVD Live Shots:
Bryan Ferry at the Eventim Apollo, 5/3

The sheer mention of Bryan Ferry immediately brings to mind the word class. Mention his music and the conversation turns to the seductive, sensual, and most importantly—legendary.

His band Roxy Music had two top ten albums and a number one album in the UK before I was even born. They were the original glam rock band and paved the way for so many, and while Bowie tends to get much of the credit for pushing the genre forward, I would argue that Ferry transformed glam into something no one had ever heard nor seen prior.

Some even go so far as to cite Roxy Music as the “first true band of the ’70s,” and while I’m certainly not the most qualified person to write a brief history of Roxy Music or discuss the legacy of Bryan Ferry, I can tell you that I was incredibly fortunate to see one of his sold-out London performances on his UK tour—and a first for me.

The Eventim Apollo was completely sold out. Every seat in the house was taken, and it was virtually impossible even to find a place to stand in the venue. Bryan Ferry took to the stage with a substantial backing band launching directly into the Roxy Music classic “The Main Thing,” quickly followed by Ferry’s signature tune, “Don’t Stop the Dance.” It was immediately clear that not only was Ferry still at the top of his game, but that his music is timeless.

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TVD Live Shots: Trivium at the O2 Academy Brixton, 4/21

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a great metal show and the Trivium bill looked too good to pass up. How many other metal bands can maintain a twenty year plus career while keeping with the same label for more than half of that? Eight studio albums, one million records sold worldwide, and a massive international fanbase is the result of consistency, decent marketing, and a frontman who masterfully leverages the world of social media.

Touring in support of what is arguably their strongest record to date, The Sin and the Sentence, the Orlando quartet have been blazing a trail of sold-out gigs across the UK. Critics love the latest album and praise continues to pour in by the leading metal mags including Wall of Sound which has given the album a perfect 10/10 stating “a fantastic album …..you are in for a treat as they’ve taken everything they’ve learned over the years and just thrown it together strategically to please any (if not all) of their heavier music loving fans.” AllMusic also came in with a strong review stating that “the band has never sounded more confident, delivering a positively lethal 11-song set that strikes the perfect balance between unhinged and meticulously crafted.”

So how was the show? Trivium celebrate all of the core foundational properties of heavy metal plain and simple. Dual guitar harmonies, screaming vocals, epic choruses, and riffs the size of mountains brought to life through a mashup of styles including classic thrash, melodic metal, and a bit of hardcore.

I’m digging the trend of band’s opening up their sets with their latest single which in the case of Trivium is “The Sin and The Sentence.” Not only does this allow the band to come out all guns blazing, but it also gives the fans something new that they’ve not heard live before. Why the hell doesn’t every band do this? While the set weighed heavily on the latest record as it should, it left plenty of room for the classics including “Like Light to Flies” and “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr” which sounded better than ever.

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TVD Live Shots: Hooverphonic at the Islington Assembly
Hall, 4/18

Hooverphonic continues to be one of the most eclectic and versatile groups on the planet. Hailing from Belgium, the core duo of the group, Alex Callier and Raymond Geerts, are the essence of cool as they blend elements of electropop, jazz, rock, and of course trip-hop.

When I heard that the group would be playing only one UK show in London at the Islington Assembly Hall, I jumped at the chance to see them. The last time I saw a Hooverphonic show was in support of the band’s 2000 masterpiece The Magnificent Tree. Geike Arnaert was the vocalist on this record as well as on the previous record, the critically acclaimed Blue Wonder Powder Milk, and she complimented the sonic landscapes of Callier and Geerts perfectly. I would argue that she had one of the best voices in the electronica scene at this time and it was incredible to watch the band evolve and explore new territory.

Fast forward to 2018 and Hooverphonic returns with new music and a new vocalist, Luka Cruysberghs. Cruysberghs was the winner of Belgium’s The Voice contest, which she won in 2017 alongside coach Alex Callier. While it might sound like a leap of faith to trust a reality TV show winner as the frontwoman and voice of the band with such large shoes to fill, she’s off to a great start. This would be a trial by fire in front of a sold-out London crowd.

Her voice is stellar, and she nailed Hooverphonic classics such as “2 Wicky,” “Inhaler,” and the crossover smash “Mad About You,” but there was an element of maturity that might have been missing based on the experience and confidence of the previous singers. That said, I do like the mystique she brings to the group, and it will be interesting to see how she grows and makes the role her own.

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Myles Kennedy,
The TVD Interview

The first time I met Myles Kennedy was when he was on tour with his band The Mayfield Four back in 1998. The band was touring in support of their Epic Records debut Fallout, and they were starting to get traction on their new single “Don’t Walk Away.” A radio hit for a rock band at this time was make or break, and these guys were one of the best live bands on the planet, the label just had to get people out to see them.

The band was in between tours and had a few days off in my hometown of St. Louis, and I was the only Sony Music rep in the city, so I got to spend a few days with these guys taking them around the town. I remember Myles being an introvert and a really nice guy. Get on the right topic with him, and he’s not only incredibly insightful, but he’s the anti-rock star.

The Fallout tour came and went and the Mayfield Four, although not having a breakout year, laid a solid foundation through relentless touring and radio support from the label. Things would go quiet for a bit while they prepped their sophomore release, the mystical powerhouse that would become Second Skin.

I remember being in New York City for our annual Sony meeting and one of the execs from Epic records came out to introduce the new Mayfield Four record. Almost instantly you could hear snickers and snarky comments from the ultra-hipsters from the college department who didn’t get it because this was a “commercial” rock band, but the ones who were in the room who got it, their ears perked up. The Epic exec introduced the record by saying it was, and I quote, “one of the most unique and incredible rock records they had heard in some time.” (The only other time I ever heard praise for a rock band like this internally was when Incubus delivered Morning View.)

Second Skin was one of the most incredible records I had ever heard in my entire life. From start to finish it was a masterpiece of modern rock. Huge guitars, crashing percussion, all laying the foundation for Myles Kennedy’s incredible vocals. Unfortunately, the record came and went as many records do on the major label assembly line, but this one would continue to amass fans and become legendary in its own right. According to Myles, this left him disillusioned with the music industry.

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TVD Live Shots: Macklemore at the O2 Brixton Academy, 4/7

This review should be titled “A metal guy goes to a Macklemore show,” as it’s something that is completely out of the norm for me. Then again, I am someone who can honestly say that I listen to a bit of everything (at one point or another in my life).

The fact is that Macklemore is so huge in the States that I really wanted to see how the world of hip-hop-pop translates to the UK, and it does big time. Two sold out shows at the legendary O2 Brixton Academy turned out to be one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen crammed into the venue. The show was like a giant party—the songs were hook-laden anthems primed for audience sing-alongs, and Macklemore himself strutted across the stage as if he were royalty.

Not being too familiar with Macklemore’s catalog or new album for that matter, I did prep myself a bit by watching video clips from the previous gigs (which is essential for a photographer to get a sense of what to expect). The surprise for me was the second song of the night called “Firebreather,” which is a full on, hard rock explosion. The multi-instrumental genius that is Macklemore guitarist Cinque Kemp was on fire. Man, this guy can shred on guitar, and he makes it look epic at the same time. The energy in the room fueled by the blaring red lights and multiple pyrotechnics looked like a full tilt rock ‘n’ roll party from hell—in a good way, that is.

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TVD Live Shots: At The Drive-In and Death From Above at the Brixton Academy, 3/9

At The Drive-In and Death From Above sharing the same stage? Is this reality?

That’s the first question that popped into my mind when I saw the show announcement for the legendary Brixton Academy in London. Two bands that paved their way through a crowded clusterfuck of terrible early to mid-2000s alt-rock radio staples—one of them redefined the post-punk genre, and the other stripping rock ‘n’ roll down to its absolute core. Both have influenced many over the years—one could argue that their legacy is locked in place with neither have anything left to prove—yet none of that mattered this particular evening.

First up was Death From Above. Having dropped the unnecessary 1979 identifier from their name, the duo of Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastian Granger are currently touring in support of their first new record in three years Outrage! Is Now. It’s a bit of a different sound for the band as this time they’ve enlisted hitmaker Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, Good Charlotte, Ride) to produce the record. The result is exactly what you would expect—slick production, big hooks, tight grooves, a bit of funk, and several options for keeping the band relevant for their core audience while introducing them to an entirely new one.

When most bands go this route, their live show tends to mimic their polished sound on record. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with Death From Above. In fact, they might have gone the opposite direction just to point out that they are a fucking heavy, heavy band live.

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TVD Live Shots: Insecure Men, Raf Rundell, and Pregoblin at Scala 3/8

Whoever is behind the marketing for Insecure Men deserves a prize.

I had never heard of these guys, but I’m a massive fan of The Moonlandinz and Fat White Family. In fact, The Moonlandinz 2017 release Interplanetary Class Classics was my favorite album of last year. Based on my love of that band I was targeted with Fat White Family and Moonlandingz guitarist Saul Adamczewski’s new project, Insecure Men. It was a beautiful campaign that not only turned me on to the band but also got me to pre-order the record, and finally get a ticket to the show. This is exactly how digital marketing is supposed to work, and thankfully someone in Saul’s camp gets it, or otherwise this would have slipped by me.

Insecure Men is a supergroup of sorts formed by Saul Adamczewski and Childhood’s frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft. The record is all sorts of lo-fi brilliance rolled up in ’70s AM rock production. Remember what MGMT tried to do on their second and third records and failed miserably? Well, Saul and Ben fucking nail it. Even taking it up a notch. It’s the perfect soundtrack for mellowing out while taking a break from the world as it seems to be destroying itself.

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TVD Live Shots: Imagine Dragons at the 3Arena in Dublin, 2/26

Finally, I get to see a band that is equally as big in Europe as they are in the US. In the case of Imagine Dragons, they may actually be bigger. The Las Vegas natives treated the sold-out 3Arena in Dublin to a spectacle of rock for the ages. It was exactly what the Irish capital needed before the snowstorm of the century known as the “Beast from the East” would bring the entire country to a standstill.

It’s refreshing to see a band of this magnitude lose the rock star mentality and use their platform for something bigger than just their music. During the show frontman Dan Reynolds shared an intimate moment with the capacity crowd detailing his struggles with depression and later rallied the fans around LGBT rights and the sad state of politics in the US. For those who say they don’t want a side of smart social commentary with their pop rock music, I’d ask what have you done to change anyone’s life? And by the way, there’s no line at the merch booth at the moment in case your bored in between songs.

It’s interesting to read the reviews from across the UK and Ireland. One critic called the band shallow (don’t bother the delicate genius), while others called it exhilarating. While not my exact cup of tea, one cannot deny that these guys can write some fucking massive hooks and fuse genres like no one else at the moment. At the end of the day critics should always take a back seat to the fans, and in this case I didn’t see or hear one disappointed fan out of the thousands who were there. Funny how that ratio doesn’t translate to many of the jaded critics.

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