Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: This Will Destroy You at the Electric Ballroom, 7/6

I’ve never been a big fan of solely instrumental songs or instrumental bands for that matter. Music without lyrics always made me think of movie soundtracks or classical music, two things I wasn’t into at all.

But there was a problem for me as a music lover. As a writer in my day job, I find it nearly impossible to write while listening to songs with lyrics. I needed to find something inspiring and not distracting. I needed to find a band that could create something that could be the soundtrack to my life, representing ups and downs, triumph and tragedy, anger and frustration, while tying it all together with the essence of cool and a touch of mystique. Enter San Marco, Texas band This Will Destroy You and their self-titled 2008 release.

Often compared to Explosions in the Sky, which was recommended by several of my friends over the years which still haven’t dove into yet, this quartet burst onto the scene in the early 2000s and quickly gained notoriety among the most prestigious critics. Their sound has been called “near perfect,” their overall tone referred to as, “it doesn’t get much better,” and one critic, in particular, claimed their debut to be “an astonishingly beautiful work that promises a bright future,” priming the record for many best-of lists that year.

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TVD Live Shots: Run DMC and Slick Rick at the Eventim Apollo, 7/5

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legends Run DMC made a triumphant return to London last week marking their first gig in the UK in three years. Taking the stage at the famed Eventim Apollo, MC Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Joseph “Run” Simmons, and Jason Mizell Jr. (who performs as DJ Jam Master J’Son, the son of the late DJ Jam Master Jay) brought the near-capacity crowd back to a time when hip hop was only just beginning to take over the world. I have never seen Run DMC live, and this would be my first time photographing a hip hop show—and it was one for the ages.

The importance of Run DMC cannot be understated. The list of firsts is second to none. They were the first rappers on MTV, the first rappers on Saturday Night Live, the first rappers on the cover of Rolling Stone, the first rappers to win a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. They single-handedly, seamlessly fused two genres to start a revolution and to breathe new life into a rock ‘n’ roll band on a downward spiral. They would ultimately become one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop culture, and one of the most famous hip hop acts of all time.

Opening the night was British born American rapper and legend in his own right Slick Rick, aka Rick the Ruler. Rick is known for his storytelling abilities and as a pioneer in adding narratives to hip hop. Although he never really broke through to mainstream success as a solo artist, his music has been sampled and interpolated over 600 times, in over 35 songs, by artists including many of the biggest names in hip hop. Rick took to the stage in his signature throne and wowed the crowd with a selection of old school classics that would not only warm up the crowd for the headliner, but set the stage and the mood for an epic headlining set.

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TVD Live Shots: The Adicts at the O2 Islington Academy, 6/28

One of the many things I love about living in London is the fact that I get to see so many of bands from the original punk movement play live in their native environment. The story of punk in London is littered with stories of the best of the best; the Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, The Ruts, The Slits, and of course The Adicts.

A staple of the early ’80s London punk scene and indie charts alike, The Adicts set themselves apart from the onslaught of punk bands by focusing not only on the songs but also on their image. The group wears all-white clothing with black boots and black bowler hats. Frontman Keith “Monkey” Warren sports equally comical and frightening joker makeup, flamboyant checkerboard and polka dot suits, flared trousers, along with the bowler hat and gloves. Their live show quickly became a spectacle of its own as the band complimented their visual style with the likes of novelty items such as streamers, confetti, playing cards, joker hats, toy instruments, and glitter.

I’ve never seen the band live, so when the chance came to catch them at the very cool O2 Islington Academy I jumped on it. The Adicts were recently signed to Nuclear Blast (kudos to NB for being such a fresh and forward thinking label, by the way) and released And it was So!, their tenth studio album, and it’s garnered a slew of positive reviews.

Not a lot of punk bands, or any groups for that matter, can have a 40 year plus career and still look to be in their prime. The Adicts somehow discovered the punk rock fountain of youth which is not only showcased in their recent videos to support the new record, but even live I thought to myself, how old are these guys? They looked fantastic on stage. Maybe it was a couple of drinks impairing my vision a bit, but these guys not only had the energy of their prime in the ’80s, but their Clockwork Orange style dress makes them appear ageless.

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TVD Live Shots: Hollywood Vampires, The Damned, and The Darkness at SSE Arena, 6/20

The history of the Hollywood Vampires originates in the 1970s on the Sunset Strip at the world-famous Rainbow Bar & Grill. The upstairs bar is where the original Vamps formed a drinking club that included legends Keith Moon, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, and just about any other rock star who found themselves passing through.

While the club would lay dormant for a couple of decades, Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp would breathe new life into the Vampires in 2015. Since then, a band has consisted of the core of Cooper, Depp, and Aerosmith axeman Joe Perry. They’ve played gigs and festivals, released an album, and finally made their way over to the UK for a tour in 2018. This is the first time I would see the band live—and they were spectacular.

I’ve read a few recent reviews that claimed Depp was “staggering” across the stage but I’m not sure what the hell they’re talking about. The Vampires looked and sounded great. And anyone who’s asking the question of whether or not Depp deserves to share the stage with rock ‘n’ roll royalty should listen to what his conspirators have to say.

Joe Perry has praised his actor friend’s musical skill, saying he was as “good as anybody I’ve worked with,” and “I don’t think he’d be up on the stage with Alice and me and the other cats if he wasn’t holding his own as he does.” Cooper’s praise is equally flattering, adding, “He’s really a good player. He’s a musician through and through I don’t think of him as an actor. He’s a guitar player.” If that’s not enough credentials, then move along and find another supergroup to bitch about.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Struts at Koko,

It’s make or break time for arguably one of the biggest breakout bands from the UK over the past few years. The Struts will release their long-awaited sophomore record sometime this summer. Will the group be able to shake the stigma of the sophomore jinx? If the first two singles are any indication of what’s to come, that shouldn’t be the case.

Frontman Luke Spiller was recently quoted discussing the direction of the highly anticipated release. “We were very much aware that even though the band has lived with the first album and the songs that come with it for quite a while, for everyone else, it’s relatively fresh,” says Spiller. He continues, “So I felt like it was really important to make this second album somewhat depart from the first one. Not a departure musically, I didn’t want to go completely left. I think it’s important to give people more of what they fall in love with.”

“One Night Only” was released late last year and “Body Talks” was just released last week. Both are strong athematic songs that continue the band’s quest to bring back all the best attributes of ’70s arena rock, but is the world ready for them? Interscope is certainly taking a gamble with a four-year space between albums here, and I can’t imagine the band would agree with this timing, but that’s the price one pays for being part of the major label machine.

Then again, the stars seem to be aligning perfectly as the band is queued up for the opening slot on the Foo Fighters summer stadium tour. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee the future success of the group, especially since the record will not be out yet, it does set the stage for what could be a breakout year for the band.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Vibrators, Menace, and Time to Kill at the Islington Assembly
Hall, 5/26

Punk rock royalty came together for a final showdown celebrating 40 years of angst, attitude, and anthems. The Vibrators were part of the first wave of British Punk carrying the torch for many to later follow. Signing to Epic records in 1977, the band unleashed a genre-defining masterpiece upon the word in the form of Pure Mania. The album stands the test of time and was named to the Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music as one of the 50 best punk albums of all time.

Opening the evening was a new project by current Vibrators frontman Pete Honkamaki called Time to Kill, a three-piece that brought a no-frills approach to celebrating the foundations of punk with some solid songwriting and snarling attitude. I think they are pretty new as I couldn’t find any music available online, but I’d be one of the first to pick up their record once it comes available.

Next up was Menace. I’m not too familiar with these guys, and there’s not a ton of info online when I searched. I did find a few punk sites that reference Menace as one of the wave of punk bands to explode out of London in the late ’70s. Fun band live, now I need to track down their music.

After a few select numbers, it was time to get down to business with the big finale. I’m guessing that this is not only the last time these punk icons would share the stage together but very likely the first as well. 28 songs, a Stones cover, and hundreds of hardcore fans. It was a bittersweet moment in punk history, but one that was necessary and one that will undoubtedly leave its mark on the world of punk.

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TVD Live Shots: Foreigner at the Royal Albert Hall, 5/16

Foreigner’s Records was released on November 29, 1982, the compilation spanning the band’s first four albums through 1981. Along with their second album, Double Vision, the release is the group’s best-selling record. I must have played this one a thousand times when I was a kid. Mind you, I was ten at the time, yet every song on that record is a bona fide global smash hit, and the music still holds up today. It would go on to become certified seven times platinum, something most of us will never see again in our lifetime.

Fast forward almost four decades and a new Foreigner led by founding member Mick Jones (who let’s not forget joined the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013) is alive and well and arguably sounding better than ever before. Sure they’re missing their original vocalist, the almighty Lou Gramm, but holy shit does Kelly Hansen play the part well. He’s been part of the band for more than a decade now and not only is he a stellar vocalist, he adds a new dynamic to the group. Anyone who sees the band live can’t deny the unbridled talent and charisma Hansen brings to the band.

Add to that Dokken bass master Jeff Pilson, Big Country’s Bruce Watson, former Whitesnake drummer Chris Frazier, sax man Thom Gimbel, and keyboardist Michael Bluestein, and you have a group of musicians who not only recreate the legendary songs live, they add a welcome and slight modern twist. The show was a non-stop hits-a-palooza that featured all the classics. “Double Vision,” “Cold As Ice,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Dirty White Boy,”—I could go on for a while here, but the real highlight for me was how incredible “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero” sounded live—two of my favorites.

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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 … 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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