Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: Skunk Anansie at the O2 Brixton Academy, 8/17

Skunk Anansie live at the legendary Brixton Academy in London—something that not many Americans can claim that they’ve witnessed.

One of the UK’s most successful and exciting bands of the Britrock movement of the early ’90s, Skunk Anansie are celebrating 25 years and touring in support of their latest release [email protected] which features 25 tracks taken from across their six studio albums, all captured live from various performances on their 2017 tour. Even if you are somehow not familiar with the band, you will undoubtedly have heard of their incredibly talented frontwoman Skin. Skin is one of Britain’s more acclaimed rock singers, as well as a fashion icon, a renowned DJ, an actress, and an activist.

The first time I heard Skunk Anansie, I was living in St. Louis and working at a record store in college. The rep from Epic records sent a copy of the advance CD with a note that said, “this is going to be huge.” Epic had one hell of a track record at the time for breaking new artists including Korn, Rage, and Prong just to name a few. So they were definitely on the right label at the right time, so why didn’t they break?

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TVD Live Shots: Queensryche at the Islington Assembly
Hall, 8/14

The mighty Queensryche made their triumphant return to London last week, stopping by the Islington Assembly Hall for an intimate gig between a slew of European metal festivals.

Touring in support of The Verdict, their third studio record with bonafide rock god Todd La Torre on vocals, the band finds themselves with a functional problem: too many great songs for one set. How does one select songs from such an incredible legacy and catalog to fit into a 90-minute set? I would love to be a fly on the wall in that conversation as the band painstakingly chooses between pre-Mindcrime and post which represent two incredibly different styles for the band. Which one is better? The answer is neither, as they are equally epic in their own right.

The new album is an absolute beast of a metal album from start to finish. I won’t go as far to say that The Verdict is a return to form, because that happened on 2015’s breakthrough Condition Human. Oh, and did I happen to mention that La Torre played the drums on this record filling in for the recently departed Scott Rockenfield? Take a moment to let that soak in—this guy hits the notes on the classics without breaking a sweat, takes it up a notch or two on the new material, and now he’s taking over drum duties from one of the all-time greats? This guy is a fucking juggernaut of all things metal.

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TVD Live Shots: Dead Kennedys at the Electric Ballroom, 8/9

Dead Kennedys remain a force to be reckoned with, four decades on, with yet another triumphant return to London.

This time instead of two shows in a smaller venue the band opted for one night only at the legendary Electric Ballroom. The excitement around the recent release of the three-CD set, simply titled DK 40, and the jam-packed venue makes a clear statement about the sign of the times—impending doom for the climate and the political landscape—but also offers up a lesson in longevity. East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride, D.H. Peligro, and Ron “Skip” Greer were once again in top form tearing through a blistering 75-minute set that celebrated one of punk rock’s most excellent catalogs.

It’s way, way, way past time to stop with the lazy comments, “It’s not DK without Jello,” because it is. Go see this fucking show and tell me you didn’t think it was spectacular. Skip does a brilliant job keeping the original angst of the songs while also adding a jolt of his own explosive style. I think it’s time to see the band record a new album with him as the chemistry is 100% there and the fans are ready. It’s clear that the band is open for a reunion and the ball’s in Jello’s court. While he says he’s just too busy to make it work, but we can all bet that it will happen in time, DK 40 certainly lays the groundwork while provoking the question of a new record.

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TVD Live Shots: The Descendents, CJ Ramone, and Pears at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 8/2

Punk rock royalty came to London recently via Rebellion—the world’s largest punk rock festival—in the form of The Descendents, CJ Ramone, and Pears. Having been a longtime fan of The Descendents, this would be the first time for me seeing them live. These pop-punk pioneers are one of the most significant bands of the ’80s hardcore punk movement. The band’s brand is a staple in the punk community and lead by the instantly recognizable caricature of singer Milo Aukerman which continues to be the mascot for the band since the early 1980s.

Aukerman has been called a champion of the nerds because he would land the unlikely punk rock role of a plant molecular biologist at DuPont. Or does that make it even more punk? (Remember when Johnny Rotten did the butter commercial and claimed that was the most punk thing he could do?) Although he quit his job after being relocated to Siberia for work (you really can’t make this shit up) Aukerman decided to go at it alone. There’s a spectacular interview with him where he talks about breaking free from the corporate world (“the man”) and setting out to do his own thing. I think he quickly had the realization that he could have done this much earlier on, then again as the great James Altucher says, “it’s never too late to reinvent yourself,” and that certainly applies to punk rock.

The show was packed to the fucking gills with old and new school punks alike. Hell, there were all types of people in the crowd that night which is a common sight lately with the London punk scene. (It’s always full of surprises.) The band came out guns a-blazing, blasting through their signature pop-punk setlist—and the first three songs were over before you knew it. Thank the punk gods that security let the photogs stay in for a few more minutes.

Milo and company fully evoked the spirit and energy of punk and kept it going for 90 minutes plus. How many other bands can fit 35 songs including two encores into a standard set before curfew? Not many. Pulling heavily from 2016’s Hypercaffium Spazzinate as well as the classic albums Milo Goes to College and Everything Sucks, The Descendents were in top form and never missed a beat.

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TVD Live Shots: Zig Zags at The Black Heart, 7/24

I may be late to the party when it comes to discovering the punk-metal genius that is the Los Angeles trio Zig Zags, but better late than never. And it’s prime time to jump on board as the band has seen several lineup changes over the years, finally landing as the power trio that they are today.

Their new album They’ll Never Take Us Alive could be labeled as a throwback, but I think it’s more than that. This record perfectly captures the glory days of early thrash metal classics such as Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, Stormtroopers’ eponymous debut, DRI’s masterpiece Thrash Zone and more. Zig Zags don’t merely regurgitate, but they add punk righteousness to reignite a lost sound.

This was the first time seeing these guys, and holy shit do they make a lot of noise. It’s a huge fucking sound coming out of three dudes. Cram that into the legendary upstairs room at The Black Heart in Camden, and you have the makings for something quite epic.

The set was fast and furious like a potent mix of piss and vinegar thrown at your face. The songs from the new record are the ones that I wanted to hear live, and they stood out—the strongest of them being the track “Fallout” which was a real highlight of the evening. If you want to be transported back to a simpler time when thrash was primed to take over the metal world, this is your aural time machine.

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TVD Live Shots: KISS at the O2 Arena, 7/11

This is the seventh time I’ve seen the self-proclaimed “hottest band in the land” and sadly it will likely be the last. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer took to the stage in front of a capacity crowd at the legendary O2 Arena for one final statement to the fans in London and to say goodbye and thank you for more than forty years of love and support.

It’s bittersweet to write this review knowing that I will likely never see these guys again live,  and it’s interesting to watch Paul and Gene do their signature move and antics one last time. It’s hard to believe that Paul Stanley is 67 years old as he looks to be in the best shape of his life. It looks like the guy just finished a triathlon.

Opening up the evening with the KISS classic “Detroit Rock City the band descended from a steel platform gliding through an enormous cloud of smoke from the opening fireworks. Within seconds Gene and Paul were front and center interacting with the crowd (and the photographers) in classic form. These guys don’t miss a beat and they still have the energy of a rock ‘n’ roller half their age.

In traditional KISS fashion, Stanley brought the stage to the middle of the arena as he ziplined over the crowd with his guitar strapped to his back arriving in style to deliver a rousing version of “Love Gun.” Gene took it up a notch with his fire-breathing and blood spitting for “War Machine” and “God of Thunder.” While it would have been epic to see Ace and Peter return for a song or two, Tommy and Eric have proven to be worthy members of the line up over the years and when they all come together it’s truly magical.

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TVD Live Shots: Rammstein at Milton Keynes Stadium, 7/6

I’ve seen thousands of shows in my life, and I get asked quite often what’s the best show I’ve ever seen. After last week’s stadium show in Milton Keynes, I will answer that question with the same way for the rest of my life: Rammstein. Hands down this is the biggest, baddest, coolest gig I’ve ever seen.

I’m not even sure how to describe it, but I’ll give it a shot. The music falls somewhere between metal, industrial, techno, and rock, but that’s just the beginning. Oh, and they sing in German, which means that 90% of the audience here in the UK have no idea what they are saying, but that doesn’t matter. This show is bigger than the music, it’s bigger than the constant stream of controversy that follows the band and the top the charts, it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever seen before; it’s a culture of its own.

I saw Rammstein back in the states on the Family Values tour in 1998 with Korn, Limp Bizkit, Ice Cube, and Orgy. I thought they were great back then, but twenty years later these guys are on a new level. I remember meeting frontman Till Lindemann backstage at that tour, and although he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak German, we hung out for a bit along with the others in the band. I remember him having a very good sense of humor about the backstage experience, even when the singer from Orgy brought out the porn video of his wife.

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TVD Live Shots:
Live at Shepherd’s
Bush Empire, 6/30

Live made a triumphant return to the UK for the first time in almost a decade. Touring in support of the 25th anniversary of their magnificent 1994 release Throwing Copper, the original members of Live are back and sounding better than ever before.

The last time I saw Live was back in 1997 when the band was at their peak. Their highly anticipated third album Secret Samadhi was just about to be released and the band was touring intimate theatres debuting the music and playing nothing additional. This idea would be career suicide for any group in today’s confused musical landscape, but twenty years ago it was bold and made a certain statement of confidence that the new material was solid.

Lead by the hard-edged single “Lakini’s Juice,” Live had kept the mystique behind Throwing Copper while adding a harder edge to their sound which would showcase a third evolution of the band. The record debuted at number one the Billboard chart and went on to go double platinum, but it may have proved a bit too ambitious for the band. They would follow with The Distance in 1999 which would also achieve platinum status, but nothing would match the enormous success and mass appeal of Throwing Copper.

Hearing these songs live again reminds you instantly how many hits they did have and why they sold more than 20 million records. The setlist didn’t include anything from their debut album, and rightfully so. Throwing Copper is simply on another level. Few bands can take their songwriting and production to new heights in such a short amount of time. These guys did it all while upping the ante with a statement and a lot of mystique.

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TVD Live Shots: Lynyrd Skynyrd at Wembley Arena, 6/29

When you think of Southern Rock, there’s really one band that comes to mind, and that’s the rebels of the south known as Lynyrd Skynyrd. Through tragedy and triumph across four decades, this band has not only defined the genre and carried the torch, but they inspired every generation after them to keep the spirit alive.

The band’s impact is even more impressive as it crossed over into pretty much every other genre on the planet. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the group No. 95 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and the following year the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Lynyrd Skynyrd would be inducted alongside Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, and the Sex Pistols. That’s some fucking good company to be in. Having never seen the band live, I thought I had better get off my ass and go see them in a proper arena, in London of all places.

Does southern rock ‘n’ roll translate across the pond? Holy shit, yes it does. How about a sold-out Wembley arena for starters? While technically there’s only one original member in the farewell line-up—the great Gary Rossington—that really doesn’t matter. There remains a bloodline and furthermore a legacy that has evolved and has continued to celebrate the most crucial element here: the songs. Johnny Van Zant does an excellent job of leading the pack while the triple guitar attack of Rickey Medlocke (who was absolutely on FIRE this night), Mark Matejka, and Rossington being second in command. The band was rounded out by piano, bass (I swear that was Johnny Colt from the Black Crowes?), one hell of a drummer, and two incredible backup singers elevating those southern style harmonies.

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TVD Live Shots: Riskee and the Ridicule at The Black Heart, 6/22

Ah, the joy of going to an album release show for a band that is primed to be the next big thing out of the UK. It’s a rare thing these days to catch a band just before they explode and I just caught lightning in a bottle last week at the legendary Camden Town rock ‘n’ roll shop The Black Heart.

Ashford based Riskee and the Ridicule came onto my radar a bit last minute as the record was sent to me along with an invite for the show. I get a ton of links to records and videos alike, but when a publicist with a stellar track record recommends something, I take a listen. The next question is always, when’s the London gig? Friday? Too perfect, I’m there.

Riskee and the Ridicule blasted onto the stage to a full house celebrating the release of their stellar new record Body Bag Your Scene which sees its worldwide release today. The energy in the room matched the explosiveness of the new album perfectly, and I’m so glad that I made it to this gig.

These guys have crafted their own over-the-top style over the years, but on the new album they take it up a notch. That sound falls somewhere between The Dropkick Murphys, The Clash, and Eminem, bringing together the angst and fury of punk with street smart storytelling tackling issues of addiction, depression and more. The new record hits hard out of the gate with tracks like “Accelerate” and the insanely catchy “Kaboom,” but it keeps your attention with stories of self-destruction and hope brought to life through another standout track “In the Dark You Dwell.”

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TVD Live Shots: Candlebox at the O2 Islington Academy,

I was a teenager in the ’90s growing up in the Midwest of the United States and I remember the exact day and time when grunge single-handedly killed hair metal. It was during an episode of MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and host Rikki Rachtman had just finished introducing Motley Crue’s “Don’t Go Away Mad” as the number one Skullcrusher of the week (yeah, I know). Rachtman declared to the viewers, “I have a new band from Seattle that I think you all are going to like, they are called Nirvana.” This was the nail in the coffin for bands like Poison and Warrant, but it paved the way for a new breed of rock ‘n’ roll.

While Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains owned the harder edge of the genre, there was room for a band to step in and bring a bit of soul to this new sound. That band would be Candlebox. Their debut self-titled record is arguably one of the best debuts of the era and it stood out from its peers because of one man, Kevin Martin. The first time I saw the band was during a promotion for Jolt Cola, an overly caffeinated drink that was all the rage with rebellious teenagers at the time. If you brought a bottle cap from the drink to the venue (the famed Mississippi Nights in this case) you could get in free.

There were about 20 people at the show that night as the album had just been released and it was just beginning to get traction. I remember the band being on stage but missing their singer, literally calling out to the crowd, “Has anyone seen our singer Kevin?” Several minutes later said singer comes waltzing through the crowd unassumingly as if he’s at his own house party with high school friends. Seconds later as he grabs the mic, history would change once again with one of the most electric and dynamic performances that I’ve seen.

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TVD Live Shots: Deadland Ritual
at the O2 Islington Academy, 6/13

Who doesn’t love a proper rock ‘n’ roll supergroup? Especially when it’s made up of four people you never really thought would jam, let alone write songs and tour together. Say hello to Deadland Ritual, the new band featuring bassist Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), guitarist Steve Stevens (Billy Idol, Michael Jackson), drummer Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, The Cult, Velvet Revolver), and singer Franky Perez (Apocalyptica).

Even though these guys have only been together since December of last year, they’ve already written seven songs, played their debut gig in LA last month, and embarked on a European tour of select club dates and major festivals including Download and Hellfest. Filling out the setlist with various numbers from their past, Deadland Ritual is quickly building a fan base and looks to be setting itself up for a full-length record as well, but that remains to be seen. When I saw that the band would be stopping by the intimate O2 Academy in Islington on their way to play to tens of thousands at Download, I jumped on it.

I will say that I’m a bit partial to Steve Stevens and Matt Sorum only because they played with two of my favorite artists, The Cult and Billy Idol, respectively. Sorum’s not only one of the best dressed and most stylish musicians on the planet, but he’s also one hell of a drummer to boot. Then you have easily one of the most innovative guitarists on the planet with Stevens, the man who single handedly redefined what the word “tone” means for a new generation of guitar players. This is enough to pique my interest alone. Add a real metal icon in Geezer Butler to the line up, and you have a supergroup, along with the very capable vocal power of Franky Perez taking things up yet another notch.

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TVD Live Shots: James Walsh at Bush Hall, 5/30

Starsailor frontman James Walsh has just released his second solo record, Tiger on the Bridge. It’s one of the most beautiful records I’ve ever heard, and sees the celebrated UK-based singer-songwriter taking a page from the Americana playbook.

If you’ve read any of my past reviews, then you know that Starsailor is favorite of mine, having seen them four times here since I moved to the UK three years ago, with an additional three shows in the US. I think they are easily the best band from the ’90s Britpop invasion and have followed them ever since. 2014 saw the release of Walsh’s first solo record, Turning Point. I was first in line to pick that one up, and I thought it was a solid debut. Tiger on the Bridge is on another level.

From start to finish every song showcases Walsh’s exceptional voice on top of some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in a decade. The opening track “Germain” sets the stage and preps the listener for the Americana twist that many of his fans probably didn’t see coming. “Germain” segues into arguably the strongest track on the record “Heavy Heart” with its tribal-like crescendo, reminding all of us very quickly how no one on the planet can sing quite like this guy. From a soft soprano to a powerfully piercing perfect falsetto in an instant, he makes it sound so easy. I was in the studio when he recorded this record, and it’s fucking mindblowing how remarkable and powerful his voice is.

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TVD Live Shots: Juliana Hatfield Three at the O2 Academy Islington, 5/21

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than three decades since Juliana Hatfield burst onto the scene as a core member of the Blake Babies. Ever since, she’s consistently released some of the most unique and celebrated indie pop records of our time.

Even though I’m a fan of pretty much anything she touches, my favorite will always be The Juliana Hatfield Three. 1993’s Become What You Are was my introduction to Hatfield and the entry point into her world. This was her major label debut, and in the ’90s when a major wanted to push something to break through, they did a hell of a job. Not so much anymore. Furthermore, this was the record that polished Hatfield’s garage-rock, folkish punk while adding a dark overtone and touch of mystique. Combine that with the tongue in cheek lyrical genius that is Hatfield, and you have the makings for a remarkable debut.

The setlist that night was a bit of a surprise, to be honest. Touring as The Juliana Hatfield Three one would suspect that material would be the majority of the set. Become What You Are was represented with the classics “Spin the Bottle,” “My Sister,” and “I Got No Idols.” Curiously missing from the set however was “Supermodel.” Even more surprising was the lack of songs from the 21 years in the making follow-up, Whatever, My Love, with only one song in the set, “If I Could.”

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TVD Live Shots: Foals
at the Bataclan, 5/13

PARIS, FRANCE | There’s something incredibly unique about Foals. If you ask one hundred different people how to describe their music, you’ll get 100 different answers. How many bands can say that—in a good way that is? I’ve seen these guys live three times now and this is the best they’ve ever been—one thousand fucking percent. Maybe it’s the intimacy of the venue? Perhaps the fact that the buzz on these guys never seems to die? Or maybe it’s just that from start to finish the band delivers a punch to the gut that channels perfectly into controlled chaos.

Foals have figured out a way to masterfully combine the best of synth pop, new wave, and post-punk into a universally appealing sound. Back that up with a cutting edge light show and a frontman who spends an equal amount of time crowd surfing and diving off balconies than he does actually on stage singing, and you have arguably the hottest band in the UK.

Touring in support of part one of their hotly anticipated fifth and sixth studio albums, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 and Part 2 (Part 1 was released in March while the latter will release in September) Foals played a more intimate venue than what most fans are used to.

These guys also have a different rule for photographers. While the industry standard for almost every show is the first three songs, no flash, Foals break the trend by only allowing photographers to shoot during the last three songs. (The most accepted reason being that musicians look their best during the first three songs, although there’s also a story that Springsteen came up with the rule in the ’70s because the photographers were becoming increasingly distracting.)

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