Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: Bash & Pop at The Garage, 6/29

It wasn’t all bad news when The Replacements split up in the early ’90s—the world of rock ‘n’ roll was given the gift of Bash & Pop. And while the band only delivered one full-length record, it was a righteous debut and birthed the anthem known as “Friday Night is Killing Me.” However short-lived it was, it was great to see Tommy Stinson put down the bass and pick up a six string and step up to the helm.

Stinson has the resume of a seasoned vet anchored of course by his time with alt-rock pioneers The Replacements, but also through his stellar projects in the form of Bash & Pop and Perfect. While both projects were equally short-lived, they showcased an incredibly talented frontman with some serious songwriting skills. Add to that a stellar decade-plus journey with the greatest front man of all time as the bass player for Guns N’ Roses and you have a bonafide rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut.

Fast forward to last week when Bash & Pop dropped into The Garage in North London for a warm-up club gig. The band would be gracing the big stage in Hyde Park the following weekend with Green Day, Rancid, and The Hives just to name a few. Bash & Pop were absolutely on fire and came out of the gates swinging. There’s a certain sense of punk rock-ness that comes alive when Stinson gets going. It starts about 2 seconds in and doesn’t let up until the last chords come crashing down.

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TVD Live Shots: Cheap Trick at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, 6/27

I have seen Cheap Trick live more than a dozen times now and they never cease to live up to the announcement that precedes this legendary quartet taking the stage, “The best fucking rock band you’ve ever seen.” This time though was different as it was the first time I would be seeing the band perform in London.

Forty years strong, the band continues to fire on all cylinders. Touring in support of their brilliant new record, We’re All Alright, Cheap Trick brought their latest show to the O2 Forum Kentish Town in north London. The magnetism of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsen, the thundering 12 string bass of Tom Petersson, and the bombastic drums of Nielsen’s son Daxx played an incredibly diverse set full of deep cuts, hits, and new material.

It was amazing to see the man of one thousand voices, Mr. Robin Zander decked out in his black leather Dream Police uniform. His voice sounds amazing as well. He’s still got the power and plenty of range to hit all the notes in all the right places—while still enjoying every last bit of leading such an epic band. Rick Nielsen’s personality remains bigger than his collection of oddball guitars, and his quick wit and connection with the audience is second to none.

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TVD Live Shots: Jeff Lynne’s ELO at Wembley Stadium, 6/24

Jeff Lynne’s ELO and a sold out Wembley Stadium—are you kidding me? This one had all the makings to be one of the most epic shows on the planet, and it delivered. I’ve seen hundreds of shows in my life and several stadium shows, but I can tell you that this was one for the ages. The handful of rock bands who can even attempt to play stadiums cannot hold a candle to the magic that is Jeff Lynne and his expert band of musicians.

2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for Jeff Lynne. Earlier this year ELO was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017, and now a string of sold out stadium and arena tours of the UK. What’s in store for the rest of the year? Many fans are hoping it’s a US tour announcement.

This show was my first time in a proper stadium (capacity here is 90,000). Walking through the halls as I was heading to my seat, I got a sense of just how much history had taken place in Wembley. From Live Aid back in 1985 to just a few weeks ago with the triumphant return of The Stone Roses who also packed the venue to capacity, to the upcoming four-night run from Adele, this place has—and continues to host—some of the biggest shows on earth.

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TVD Live Shots: Idina Menzel at Royal Albert Hall, 6/15

The title of this article should be “a metal fan goes to a pop show.” After taking my wife to numerous metal shows around the world, most recently King’s X and Guns ‘n Roses (within the same week), she asked me to get tickets to a show that SHE wanted to see. She was dead set on seeing Idina Menzel perform live, and I owed it to her. To be completely honest I wasn’t familiar with who Idina Menzel was, although I like to think if myself as that one music fan that does listen to “all types of music.”

I scored third row center seats for us because I thought, if I’m going to see a pop show of this magnitude, I’m going to get the absolute best seats possible—in case I have a miserable time, I’ll at least have a killer seat. Add to it that the show is at the legendary Royal Albert Hall. It’s my first time seeing a show there and it’s starting to get interesting. The stage is set, and after a fantastic dinner I take my wife to our seats and I head back to the soundboard (which is way, way, way in the back) to get ready to take a few shots and try to capture a story within the first three songs (standard photog rules of engagement). Then Idina hits the stage.

Any parent who has a toddler will recognize her voice in about 2 seconds. I have a 2 ½-year-old little girl who dreams of being a princess and can’t stop watching the movie Frozen. I’ve heard the soundtrack so many times I feel like I was its producer—3 to 4 times a day for the past year, I’ve probably heard these songs more than any other rock/ metal classics in my lifetime.

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TVD Live Shots:
King’s X at the Islington Assembly Hall, 6/14

The first and last time I saw King’s X live was back in 1994 at Mississippi Nights in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. I was 19 years old and thought I knew what amazing musicianship looked like, but I was wrong. Doug Pinnick and company were touring in support of their landmark album Dogman, and it was one of the most incredible musical spectacles I’ve ever seen. These guys make a hell of a lot of noise for a three-piece, but furthermore, their musicianship is unmatched.

Pinnick is known for playing a 12 string bass live. If you’ve never heard one of these beasts live, it pummels your chest and rattles your soul, laying the groundwork for one of the most precise (and animated) drummers on the planet, Jerry Gaskill. The rest comes to life by Ty Tabor’s vivid calm-to-roar style guitar playing. It’s the type of music that the metal heads love as well as the prog folks—and even the Beatle-maniacs.

So why was it the band never broke through to the mainstream? I haven’t a clue, and neither do the majority of critics and fans alike. Eddie Trunk takes a stab at solving this mystery on his radio show which you can listen to here. The pieces were all lined up many times over, but while lightning certainly did strike on stage, it never equally struck the charts.

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TVD Live Shots: Slo Burn at The Garage, 6/14

When legendary stoner rock band Kyuss split up in 1996 after releasing 4 genre-defining albums, their future was unwritten. Guitarist Josh Homme went on to form Queens of the Stone Age while frontman John Garcia would experiment with several musical projects. Arguably the best was a short-lived band called Slo Burn. Even though they technically only released a 4 song EP more than 20 years ago, the legacy and appetite for the band lives on—big time. (There is an album recorded for Red Ant Records in 2001 that is incredibly difficult to find.)

Fast forward to last week at the Garage in London. It was hotter than hell in 600 capacity venue and it was jam-packed. I managed to squeeze my way into the photo pit about 30 seconds before the band hit the stage. I think I saw Kyuss once on the Sky Valley tour and I remember seeing Unida in NYC years ago, but Slo Burn was sort of a mythical band that no one thought would resurface.

From that point on it was a heavy-duty, high-voltage riff-a-palooza for 90 minutes straight. Even though I didn’t recognize every song, it all sounded familiar. The first thing that you notice is that this band is incredibly fucking tight, the second is that Garcia’s voice is one in a million. Furthermore, his knack for melody is unmatched. This guy can write and sing over the top of pretty much any riff in the world and make it his own, and that’s something that very few singer-songwriters can achieve at scale. When you hear Garcia, you know it’s Garcia—period.

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TVD Live Shots: KISS
and The Dives at the O2 Arena, 5/31

This is the sixth time I’ve seen the self-proclaimed “hottest band in the land,” and for me it really does get better with each show. I would go see these guys every night of the week if it were possible, and what better place to host such an epic event than London’s legendary O2 Arena. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer took to the stage in front of a capacity crowd to display exactly why they are the kings of the nighttime world.

Opening up the evening with a blistering version of “Deuce,” the entire 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 have the energy of a rock ‘n’ roller half their age.

Midway into the set, Paul Stanley asked the crowd “How many of you are seeing KISS for the first time?” I was astonished to see more than half the crowd raise their hands and begin screaming, to which Stanley replied, “This is a night you will never forget.” A bold statement—but one that would ring true by the evening’s end.

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TVD Live Shots: Living Colour at the Metro Sydney, 5/13

Two-time Grammy award winning fusion, funk, and rock ‘n’ roll icons Living Colour made a triumphant return to Sydney last weekend. The New York natives were eagerly welcomed by a sold out crowd inside of the jam-packed Metro in downtown.

I haven’t seen these guys since the groundbreaking Stain album back in 1993, so when I found myself traveling to Sydney from London the same week they were in town, I opted to get off my 26 hour flight and head straight to the gig on zero sleep, and I’m glad that I did. Here’s a band that seemed to sort of go away quietly after their peak in popularity but now have come roaring back to center stage based on the strength of their impressive legacy and rabid fan base.

Living Colour’s impact on the cultural landscape cannot be understated. The band that broke new ground in so many ways continues to push their message forward. “Tom Morello once told me that he had been thinking about forming a band when ‘Cult Of Personality’ came out—it prompted him to do so,” said guitarist Vernon Reid in a recent interview. He continues, “We were part of a genuine cultural change.”

That cultural change and outspoken commentary continued last year when Living Colour released their take on the Notorious B.I.G. track “Who Shot Ya?” which was recorded to protest the ongoing gun violence across the US. This has set up the release of the band’s seventh studio album, Shade, due to be released on September 8 on Megaforce Records.

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TVD Live Shots: Iron Maiden at the 3Arena in Dublin, 5/6

If I never see another metal show in my life I’d probably be ok after last Saturday night. Iron Maiden made a triumphant return to Dublin, their first appearance in seven years. Touring in support of the band’s 16th album—their first double album—Maiden treated the sold out 3Arena to a juggernaut of a show. It was everything a Dungeons and Dragons loving metal fan could love—and more. Theatrics, ghoulishly epic stage props, Mayan ruins, and a larger than life Eddie getting his heart ripped open set the stage for the undisputed kings of metal.

Three songs in and the band is firing on all cylinders, blasting through the Maiden classic “Powerslave.” One can only wonder, how the hell have these guys been doing this for 40 plus years? They have the energy of a band a third of their age and they never miss a beat. They’ve got the chops, riffs, gallops, fills, stage leaps, and soaring vocals all delivered via brilliant storylines that still make my parents think that I worship satan.

Maiden is one of the handful of metal groups of which I still know every band member by name. How many bands can you say that about in today’s scene? Probably zero. It’s because I grew up knowing these guys as superheros; KISS with the makeup before KISS took off the makeup. Their superpowers were their ability to master their instruments while writing songs that connected with a fantasy world through storytelling and powerful imagery. These guys epitomized everything a rebellious, ostracized, confused teenager needed to escape a world in which they didn’t seem to fit. It was therapy in a sense, and for me this band got me through some very tough times.

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TVD Live Shots: You Me at Six, Tonight Alive,
and Black Foxxes at the Alexandra Palace, 4/15

English rockers You Me at Six are one of those bands that has been on my radar for several years, but I’ve somehow managed to miss them every time they toured the States (back when I lived there). So when I saw that the band was playing at London’s famed Alexandra Palace and the buzz seemed to be at an all-time high, it was the perfect storm for me to grab my gear and check this one out. Throw in the opening band Black Foxxes who’ve just released one of my favorite records of the year so far and things could get very interesting.

To say that You Me at Six are huge in the UK is an understatement—numerous Kerrang awards and several gold records all-leading up to a new album called Night People that just debuted at number 3 on the UK charts. Having lived in London for less than a year as an expat from San Francisco, it continues to blow my mind how different the levels of popularity there are between bands in the US versus the UK. You Me at Six have a respectable fan base in the US, but in the UK they are bona fide superstars.

With a sound falling somewhere between Taking Back Sunday and Royal Blood, these guys continue to make solid records. It’s a step above the cookie cutter bands of the current movement and these guys have the songs in place on the new record to break them worldwide. It will be interesting to see how the States embrace the upcoming tour along with radio and all the other essential elements to break a band these days. I’d say they have the UK conquered at the moment.

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TVD Live Shots: My Vitriol at Scala, 4/12

Photographed by Jason Miller-2

The doors are opening at London’s famed Scala for one of the most anticipated shows of the year, but it’s a show that almost didn’t happen.

My Vitriol has launched into full backup mode due to an unforeseen issue that has left the band’s touring van in Wales from the previous show. Frontman Som Wardner is racing to program the lights for tonight’s sold out show and he’s finished just as the doors open. As if all of this wasn’t enough pressure, the band is one lady down as Tatia Starkey is still away on maternity leave. She’s disappointed to be missing out on all the shows, but family comes first and the band couldn’t postpone touring any longer. She gave them her blessing to carry on without her.

To say that I was excited is an understatement. Finelines is one of my favorite records of all time and to be honest, I never thought that I would have the chance to see the band again live, especially in their hometown. Having never been to Scala before this was a new adventure for me as both a photographer and a fan. The venue is sort of a choose your own adventure for watching a show. Several different levels accompany several different stairwells in which some lead to what seem to be secret bar locations.

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TVD Live Shots: Sting at the Eventim Apollo, 4/10

Sting is a living legend. He’s got nothing left to prove to the world of rock ‘n’ roll as he’s seemingly done it all. He’s in the Rock an Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Police, he was nominated again for induction as a solo artist in 2015, he’s ventured into acting, and even Broadway. Add to this having sold more than 40 million records worldwide and numerous top lists from Rolling Stone to VH-1—and one wonders what’s next? How about going back to his roots and releasing his first rock album in 13 years?

That record is 57th and 9th which has laid the foundation for a full-blown tour.  The album’s title is a reference to the New York intersection Sting crossed every day to get to Avatar Studios in Hell’s Kitchen where much of the album was recorded. The record is a return to form for Sting and it’s really interesting to see the band of musicians he’s put together for the record and the tour.

Photographed by Jason Miller-3

Sting’s backing band is a your sort of alt-country act from San Antonio called the Last Bandoleros. They sounded a bit like the soundtrack to From Dusk Til Dawn crossed with Crosby Stills and Nash with a touch of Wilco. And holy shit can these guys sing—I’m talking four part harmonies for days here.

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TVD Live Shots: Ghost
at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, 3/26

Photographed by Jason Miller-4

Swedish metal lords Ghost are at the top of their satanic doom and gloom game in 2017. Lead singer and founder Tobias Forge—who performs as Papa Emeritus and is the driving force behind the band—continues to evolve the group’s sound and lineup. Rumor has it that the evil priest did some demon cleaning earlier this year by firing and replacing the entire band. While no one really seems to know the truth as the “nameless ghouls” go to great lengths to hide their identities, what I saw was apparently the third show with the new lineup and these ghouls didn’t miss a beat.

This was my first time seeing Ghost live and I have to say that this is a very special band. If you see a photo of Ghost before you hear their music, their image alone would make you think that they are burn the priest style, hard core death metal. But they are not, actually nothing of the sort. They are more of an early Black Sabbath or Pentagram from the ’70s, but with a much bigger sound. Think Phil Spector producing Sabbath with a hint of Type O Negative and Clutch. It’s a truly unique sound—and that’s the best I can do to convey this in words.

I love a band that has the balls to open up their set with their current “hit” in the form of the brilliant “Square Hammer.” There’s a sense of confidence in that they needn’t save this one for the encore like countless other bands do just to ensure that the crowd sticks around for the entire show. That’s not the case with a Ghost show as they have several stellar records to choose from which fill a nearly two-hour set. Highlights included the Grammy Award winning “Cirice” which has one of the greatest riffs in doom metal history, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” and the hauntingly gorgeous “He Is.”

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TVD Live Shots: LA Guns at the O2 Islington, 3/25

When it comes to Sunset Strip metal in the ’80s, Appetite For Destruction is always hailed as the crown jewel of the genre. While that record was, of course, a brilliant piece of work that was ahead of its time, there was another—the self-titled debut masterpiece from LA Guns.

Released in January of ’88 and clocking in a just over 30 minutes it was the “Never Mind the Bullocks” of hair metal. It had a sound that was distinct given the killer vocals of Phil Lewis, and monster riff after riff from arguably one of the best guitarists on the planet, Tracii Guns. Rough around the edges, every song led perfectly into the next, giving birth to instant classics in the form of  “Sex Action,” “Electric Gypsy,” and “No Mercy.”

LA Guns Photographed by Jason Miller-13

LA Guns took it up a notch on their second record with Cocked and Loaded and continued successfully until Nirvana arrived and single handily murdered the genre. It was a shame that LA Guns got looped into that mess of hair metal at the time because they had the substance that many of the others lacked. Either way, many years later the band would later dissolve into two versions, one led by Phil Lewis and the other by Tracii Guns. 2016 found the two back together again and I absolutely had to see this for myself.

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TVD Live Shots: The Devin Townsend Project with TesseracT at the Eventim Apollo, 3/17

Photographed by Jason Miller_

The first time I saw Devin Townsend perform live was when he was hand selected by Steve Vai as the vocalist for Vai’s landmark album Sex and Religion and the tour that would follow.

That was back in 1993 at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis. I remember the show being epic as one would expect from a Vai show, but the bigger question was who in the hell was this insane singer that looked like a superhero and sang like a prog-rock version of Mike Patton? This guy’s voice went from gorgeous soaring highs to razor-sharp screams in a split second. It was the perfect complement to Vai’s eclectic, mind-bending soundscapes, but that wouldn’t last long.

Photographed by Jason Miller_

A year or so later I got a copy of Townsend’s new band Strapping Young Lad in the mail at the record store I worked at. I think it was part of the Concrete Corner program. I put this thing on inside the store and scared the shit out of every person who was shopping at the time. This was by far the heaviest thing I had ever heard in my life, and it had a huge wall of sound layered harmonies. It was as if Queen had been crossed with Pantera but then stuck to the front of a Mack truck and driven through a brick wall at an insanely high speed. In other words, it was awesome.

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