Author Archives: Jason Miller

TVD Live Shots: Pigs
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs at the Electric Ballroom, 12/17

It’s the last show of the year for me, and it was a fucking banger. Newcastle’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs finally got to play their sold-out gigs at the Electric Ballroom after Covid rescheduled several dates, and it was worth the wait. These guys popped on my radar during the lockdown, and I’ve been hooked ever since hearing their stellar 2020 album Viscerals. They remind me of early Clutch crossed with Tomahawk and Jesus Lizard. It’s dark, moody, psychedelic, and heavy as hell.

The UK music scene is absolutely on fire at the moment. While there are tons of new bands alongside old favorites doing reunion tours and celebrating monumental albums of the past, there’s a notable new crop that keeps chugging along. Building an audience is arguably the hardest thing for a band to do, especially during a pandemic, but the ones who can deliver both on vinyl and on stage are going to win. Pigsx7 is one of those bands. Three albums in, and they can do no wrong.

Critics love them, fans are coming in droves, and everything is seemingly falling into place, minus the uncertainty of Covid, of course. This was night two of two sold-out gigs for the band at the legendary venue in Camden. I’ve been to plenty of sold-out shows at the Electric Ballroom, and it’s usually packed to the gills, but this time it was surreal. The Covid variant is keeping people at home as the venue was at less than half capacity. Let that sink in for a moment, sold out show, less than half the people turn up.

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TVD Live Shots: The Charlatans at Brixton Academy, 12/10

Yet another reason I love living in the UK: Brit-pop icons The Charlatans playing a sold-out gig at the legendary Brixton Academy. Wrapping up a rollercoaster of a year, and on the brink of yet another lockdown, I was thrilled that the show would go on despite a raging variant.

Having lived in the States, I first discovered The Charlatans during the ’90s Brit-pop invasion when major labels were frantically signing promising bands with a buzz from the UK to export to the States. While some became household names, others created amazing albums and topped the charts across Europe. Up to Our Hips, the self-titled release, and Tellin’ Stories were staples in my collection at the time, and while The Charlatans did have a taste of success in the US, it was nothing like what they had in the UK.

Most recently, frontman Tim Burgess has been all the rage in the UK with his incredibly creative approach to connecting with fans during lockdown through #Tim’sTwitterListeningParty—another example of creativity thriving within constraints (not ideal, of course, but a silver lining). What started last year with The Charlatans’ 1990 album Some Friendly, live-tweeting the record to help fans through “Lockdown Day” caught fire.

Over 1,000 listening parties later, Liam Gallagher and Paul McCartney made headlines by participating, which seemed to be unbeatable engagement. That was until Bruce (almighty) Dickinson and Co. came along for the appropriately numbered 666th party to celebrate the Iron Maiden classic Powerslave. All this excitement and fun has culminated in the recently released Tim’s Twitter Listening Party Book which is highly recommended. 

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Needle Drop: Travis,
The Invisible Band 20th Anniversary Deluxe
Box Set

Even though it’s technically their third album, we really should consider The Invisible Band from Travis as their sophomore release. They defined their signature sound on The Man Who, which is far superior to their debut, in my opinion, and with the pressure to replicate that success, Travis found themselves facing the much-dreaded sophomore jinx.

Not wanting to fix something that’s not broken, The Invisible Band finds the band doubling down on that magical formula from the previous album—that dreamy, haunting, sunny at times, cloudy at others, but all around hopeful sound that defined the band and set them apart from the sea of others at the time. To be honest, I had forgotten how much I loved this record, and the fact that it took me 20 years to remember it is frightening.

The much-deserved 2oth anniversary deluxe edition could be considered overkill for the casual fan, but for those of us who “got it” the first time around, it’s a brilliant glimpse into the mindset and memories of a band that was at its creative peak. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the last record (2020’s 10 Songs), but I’m also waiting for the band to do the inevitable, back to our roots thing (minus the first album).

Yeah, I’m pretty particular, but the world needs more of that Travis sound from those two records. I welcome the experimentation, for example the banjo hitting in the opening cut “Sing” threw me off for a second, but it works well in context. That’s what I was hoping for in the latter years; pushing the boundaries, but keeping that original luster.

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TVD Live: Amyl and the Sniffers at the Electric Ballroom 11/24

While the rest of the world is just discovering UK punk sensations and critic’s darlings, IDLES, Amyl and the Sniffers are primed to be the next unexpected force to be reckoned with.

The words Aussie and punk aren’t mentioned very often in the same sentence, so one would wonder how in the hell a punk band from Australia gets it so right. They’ve got the look, the attitude, and now the anthems to boot. With the buzz they have across Europe, and especially how they have been embraced in London, you might even think they were locals.

On the second night of two sold-out gigs at the north London institution The Electric Ballroom, Amyl and the Sniffers brought out both old and new punks. Singer Amy Taylor with her signature look, along with the rest of the band—including the resurgence of the mullet—have certainly impacted the minds of the fans and their fashion sense.

From the DIY outfits to several tributes to Amy’s fringe, to the pissed mates’ in the smoking lounge with their glorified mullets, this isn’t just another gig; it’s a movement. A resurgence of the classic punk look and feel marries perfectly to the aggressive sounds and potent lyrics. It’s as much of a statement as it is a reflection of the public’s appetite for a band that stands for something in a world where people need something to align with. It felt like a trip back in time to the late ’70s when punk ruled London.

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TVD Live Shots: Sam Fender at Alexandra Palace, 11/21

The most prominent breakout artist in recent memory is at a pinnacle here in the UK, and his sights are now set on the rest of the world. Sam Fender is the real fucking deal and one of the most talented singer-songwriters of the past decade.

I like to think of him as the Bruce Springsteen for people who hate Bruce Springsteen (or don’t get Born to Run). His songs bring the voice of the working class together with the challenges and struggles of a new generation. His maturity and insight to write songs of this magnitude at such a young age are a sign of an extraordinary musician. It’s like watching an early Bono preparing for his Joshua Tree moment. And that’s precisely where we find the 27-year-old Sam Fender.

He’s clearly beaten the music industry’s much-feared “sophomore jinx” with his latest record Seventeen Going Under. It’s the perfect continuation and evolution from his celebrated and critically acclaimed debut Hypersonic Missiles. But the question remains, will the rest of the world get it?

The US is the most significant opportunity here set against a backdrop of incredible bands from the UK historically finding it difficult to replicate their European success in the States’ over-saturated, disposable pop-fueled scene. This isn’t a case where “you need to see the live show to get it.” It’s more about just hearing the songs for the first time and THEN having the live show seal the deal. That’s precisely what happened in my case.

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TVD Live Shots:
OMD at Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 11/2

With concerts coming back full swing, choices must be made as they begin to pile on top of one another. Nearly two years of concert dates being rescheduled in a short amount of time is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have more choices than ever before from some big names across the UK; on the other, when you have a day job in tech, moonlight as a photographer, and have a family on top of that, you can’t possibly see all the ones that you want to. Trust me; I’ve tried.

Ironically, I had tickets to see Scotland’s finest rock band Biffy Clyro in London at an “intimate venue” but found myself at a tech conference in Edinburgh that evening after that show moving dates more than once. But what was first disappointment turned into an opportunity as I discovered synth-pop icons OMD would be playing that same night at the legendary Usher Hall just next door to said tech conference.

Being a massive Biffy fan and having seen them a few times since moving to London, I slowly shifted my mindset from one genre to another. OMD has always been on my list of shows to see, but sadly the stars never aligned in terms of being in the right place at the right time. What turned out to be a scheduling conflict turned out to be an epic once-in-a-lifetime evening with a legendary band.

Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark returned to Edinburgh for the first time in nearly three decades to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the landmark album Architecture & Morality. Co-founders Andy McCluskey (vocals, bass guitar) and Paul Humphreys (keyboards, vocals) have always enjoyed success. Still, you could argue that they are riding a second wave as they celebrate the early days that solidified their place in music history.

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TVD Live Shots: Rufus Wainwright at the London Palladium, 10/19

He’s one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters in the world, and although Covid wrecked his original tour plans two years ago, three rescheduled year later the stars aligned, and it was worth the wait. Rufus Wainwright continues to be a creative force, pushing boundaries while injecting his passion for the arts into everything he does. He’s got the charisma, the charm, and the songbook backed by rave reviews. He consistently walks the line between ego and confidence—yet this was going to be a different kind of show, one that separates the casual fans from the devoted.

If you were expecting a greatest hits tour, he’s not there yet. This show would be a celebration of his stunning 9th studio album Unfollow the Rules. The entire record was played, along with a few cherry-picked selections from his catalog which fit the mood.

What was that mood? Elegance, art, storytelling, and a stripped-down band that laid a foundation and propped up on a pedestal the very reason everyone was there—that voice. Rufus has one of the most unique voices in the world, and it continues to evolve as he reinvents himself again and again through his love of opera and the fantastic Judy Garland songbook. But he always comes back to where he began, and that’s what Unfollow the Rules is all about.

Conceived initially for a full band, Covid had other plans, so we were treated with an almost full band. All the essentials were there however;  guitar, standup bass, keys, and of course Rufus on guitar and his grand piano. He opened the show with a string of his newest material, including my favorite song from the latest record, “Damsel in Distress” (which is the closest thing to classic Rufus we’ve heard in years, by the way). It was starting to look like the album would be played from start to finish, only to be interrupted by a few cover songs.

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TVD Live Shots:
Sea Girls at Brixton Academy, 10/15

Imagine this. A new band sign a deal with a major record company, records a brilliant debut album, releases it, is praised by critics, then a pandemic hits. The tour is canceled, the record release party is postponed, and the world shuts down. That’s precisely what happened to UK indie-rock darlings Sea Girls. Now, as live music gets back on track across the country, fans who have waited patiently for the tour dates to get rescheduled for a second and third time are ready, and with the pressure on, Sea Girls delivered big time.

The band is playing tour dates initially scheduled for 2020 while their sophomore record waits in the wings with a January 2022 release. These are the types of scenarios that bands have to deal with as the world opens back up—fulfilling previous tour obligations while setting up the release of their new album. One would think that maybe the fans could have lost interest, but it’s had the exact opposite effect. The shows are bigger, and the excitement is peaking, and a sold-out Brixton Academy welcomed Sea Girls back with open arms while singing every song at the top of their lungs.

Due to the unique situation of one tour celebrating two albums, the setlist was a mix of pre-pandemic favorites and a handful of brand new songs. Sea Girls have a bit of an ’80s new wave sound to them while also reminiscent of the early 2000s Britpop movement; songs dripping with emotionally intelligent lyrics. These guys are smart songwriters, and frontman Henry Camamile writes some of the best lyrics of the past decade.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Dead Daisies
at Pop’s, 9/27

SAUGET, IL | The music world needs more bands like The Dead Daisies: pure, simple, back to basics, big riffs, soulful rock ‘n’ roll vocals, and showmanship that over-delivers. This is all brought to you by a rotating group of stellar musicians who help the band create a unique catalog. Former members include John Corabi (Motley Crue, The Scream) Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses, Pale Divine) Jon Stevens (INXS), and Deen Castronovo (Journey, Hardline) just to name a few. I’ve seen three incarnations of the Daisies over the years, and I have to say I think they are at their best right now. 

Glenn Hughes, aka “the voice of rock,” takes the helm and leads the band into arguably their finest hour. Not only is he a monster bass player, but his vocals are easily on par, if not slightly surpassing that of his former bandmate, the great David Coverdale. Go back and watch the 1974 live performances of Burn and watch this guy steal the show. His presence also tightens the band up as he replaces both singer John Corabi and bassist Marco Mendoza making the Daisies a four-piece. Nothing is left on the table as a quartet; the band is tighter and more focused.

Let’s talk about Doug Aldrich for a minute. Jesus, this guy can fucking shred. If you read interviews with him, he’s a pretty modest dude (the exact opposite to his Whitesnake counterpart Reb Beach), but he dazzles when he plays. There aren’t too many guitarists left who can play like this and make it look so very cool. Founder and rhythm guitarist David Lowy is a perfect complement as Aldrich can cut loose. Lowy gets a bit of grief from those who call the band a rich man’s plaything, and yeah, he’s got a ton of money which helps keep the Daisies running, but in the end, who gives a shit? One listen to Holy Ground should shut them up.

The chemistry between Aldrich and Hughes from previous projects is crystal clear. These guys feed off of one another in a way where they can virtually predict what the other will do. It’s one hell of a rare thing to see in a rock band today and an endangered dynamic. Ozzy and Black Sabbath drummer Tommy Clufetos is a welcome addition to the lineup and a complete madman on drums which he demonstrated by making drum solos cool again.

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TVD Live Shots: Judas Priest and Sabaton at St. Louis Music Park, 9/25

The mighty Judas Priest celebrates 50 years of metal across the United States with a massive tour so compelling that I flew in from London for this one. While the US isn’t yet allowing Europeans to visit the States, I’m a citizen, so that didn’t apply to me. The fact that they were playing my hometown and I could stop by on my way to a marketing conference I would be speaking at made it worthwhile. It’s great to see live music back in the big venues, and this show was epic. This is the real heavy metal tour of the year.

One of the reasons I love Priest so much is that they take risks while always staying true to themselves. Bringing Sabaton on tour as the opener was a perfect choice. Sabaton is massive here in Europe. The last time I saw them, they had sold out the legendary Brixton Academy and, after that, Wembley Arena. They are pioneers and leaders of the power metal movement, and while their success hasn’t exactly been replicated in the US, they are gaining droves of new fans with each gig.

And why shouldn’t they? The crowd could not be more perfect for the Swedish metal band who theme their songs around heroes of war, both old and new, and their chant-along choruses tie together a blast of metal that would make anyone proud to sing along.

As the support act they have to tone down their shows, so I did miss the life-size tanks and pyros that make Kiss envious, but the important part is the music, which came shining through and translated perfectly to the American audiences. And of course, several Sabaton fans were sporting their t-shirts and going absolutely bonkers in the first row, which would quickly catch on to the rest of the crowd as each band member riled up the audience pretty much non-stop. There wasn’t a dead moment on stage with these guys.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Sisters of Mercy
and Jesus Jones at the Roundhouse, 9/10

The Sisters of Mercy returned to the Roundhouse to up the ante on their two sold-out shows back in 2017—and add a third. The Sisters are a national treasure here in the UK, and their shows remain bleeding edge with mastermind Andrew Eldritch firmly at the helm. These shows are so fucking cool because they not only breathe new life into genre-defining songs, but they add the sonic upgrade that can only be delivered in a live setting.

Although the Sisters only gave us three studio albums, they each stand on their own today as goth rock classics. Eldritch goes beyond the pigeonhole of goth and calls them a rock ‘n’ roll groove machine which paints a much more vivid picture of what to expect. Clad in black leather jackets and mirrored sunglasses, these guys are the essence of cool, and the look adds to the mystique. The swirling spotlights and smoke bring the feeling of being at a rave in the ’90s, but the sound is big enough to fill an arena. Half dance party, half rock show, half-man, half-beast—all fun and very entertaining.

The setlist pulled heavily from the three studio records while also pulling in a few rarities and new songs. For years, there have been rumors that new music will be recorded and released, but no official dates or reliable expectations have been set. It seems that if you want to hear new music, you have to go to the live show. Pretty ambitious move, but again, it all adds to the mystique, and it works. While Floodland remains the favorite, I particularly loved Vision Thing (that could be based on my love of ’80s hair metal), but “I Was Wrong,” “More, and “Ribbons” were highlights for me, along with the new song and opener “But Genevieve” which fits right into that era’s sound.

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TVD Live Shots: Mew at Royal Festival Hall, 9/4

“Absolutely fucking magical,” is what I heard over and over again as the crowd left the Mew show at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

After being rescheduled several times due to the ongoing pandemic, Mew took to the stage to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the landmark album And the Glass Handed Kites. In an era when albums are quickly becoming irrelevant, and music itself is treated as an “add-on” instead of the centerpiece, it’s more important than ever to recognize and celebrate the ones that “should have been bigger.” While the theater was full that evening, it begs the question, what place does this genre-defining masterpiece hold in the continued evolution of experimental pop?

Anyone present can immediately tell you that the music holds up like it was released yesterday. The fact that there was no opener and that the band played the record straight through nearly without interruption speaks volumes. The music becomes a soundtrack, and the visuals projected take you to another world—a strangely beautiful world that doesn’t make sense outside of the immediate space. Is it art or music? It’s both. Singer and guitarist Jonas Bjerre’s a bit older, a bit grayer, but his voice sounds as perfect as ever.

I’ve listened to this album hundreds of times over the years. It’s tough to get tired of this one as I seem to discover something new with each listen. The layers and complexities of the songs are stunning, and the melodies find a delicate balance between an earworm pop hit and progressive shoegaze. They did what Radiohead failed to do in their later years—push the boundaries but keep the hooks in place.

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TVD Live Shots:
HRH Sleaze, Sheffield 8/28–8/29

Live music has returned to the UK with a mad rush of festivals doing their best to salvage what has been a brutal summer for music lovers.

I had my sights set on something a bit different outside of the masses heading to Leeds and Reading. Taking the train from London a few hours north to Sheffield, I was excited to get back to my roots, the music I grew up on, sleaze metal. And there’s no better way to experience this resurgence than my first Hard Rock Hell festival. Focused on returning this under celebrated metal pastime to the forefront, the fine folks at HRH brought together a stellar lineup for their 2021 return.

While quite a few of the original headliners and bands from outside the UK, unfortunately, had to cancel due to Covid restrictions in one form or another, the lineup ended up surprisingly strong. A mix of new blood nestled in-between some industry staples made for an exciting two days of old favorites and new discoveries. Here are my highlights and picks from the two-day sleaze-fest.

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Needle Drop: Evanescence,
The Bitter Truth

It’s “dark and heavy” said Amy Lee, the creative force behind one of the most successful rock bands of a generation, during an “ask me anything” on Reddit in November of 2019. However Evanescence was about to have their long-awaited comeback plans thrown into chaos. Blindsided by what would turn out to be a seemingly never-ending pandemic that put the entertainment world on hold, it’s finally time for The Bitter Truth to make its debut this Friday (3/26). After one listen, you would think that this record was written and recorded with some knowledge of what was about to happen in the future; a world plunged into uncertainty.

It’s been 18 years since Evanescence took the world by storm with their seven times platinum debut Fallen. Many threw them into the “nu-metal” camp, but the band would quickly outgrow that label and evolve with a more polished industrial gothic sound. Along the way, they’ve delivered a masterclass in staying connected with fans and calling their own shots by not allowing a major record label to dictate their sound or their release schedule.

While this record is not necessarily one that I would have dropped everything to go listen to immediately, lockdown has kept me open to trying new things. So I dropped the needle on this one straight away and listened from start to finish. Right from the beginning, The Bitter Truth brings the listener back to a late ’90s industrial feel where Stabbing Westward, Linkin Park, and Gravity Kills ruled the world of alt-rock. Claiming a return to their roots is a bit cliched for any band at this stage of their career, so I’m not going to go there, but I will say the formula that blasted them into superstardom is alive and well. I think in this case, it’s a band keeping close tabs on their fans and giving them exactly what they want.

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TVD Live Shots: The
Glen Matlock Band at the Electric Ballroom, 9/10

It was the first proper concert in London in more than six months, and likely one of the only live music events held in a proper club across the world. The last time I saw a gig was on March 14th as Wembley Arena. Morrissey had been known to cancel gigs at the last minute, but this one actually went on and was the last night of the tour. London would shut down the following day, and live music would cease to exist for the foreseeable future. The live music scene has been decimated to the point where the government finally stepped in to help. But of course, that’s not enough.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a glimmer of hope with limited socially distanced gigs at outdoor venues and a failed attempt at the Clapham Grand in London. Frank Carter played to a minimal number of the actual capacity. It was a test by the government, and while Carter was great, the prospect of making it worth everyone’s time was not. So I was quite surprised to see the Electric Ballroom announce a special one night only gig with one of my favorite musicians, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols.

I immediately bought two tickets online and was excited to get back to what I love: live music in an actual club. I’ve seen Matlock several times since moving to the UK four years ago, and he never disappoints. His band is always top-notch, and this evening would be no exception. His usual partner in crime, Bowie sideman Earl Slick, was unfortunately stuck in New York, but post-punk legend Neal X stepped in and performed flawlessly, even taking it up a notch among certain songs. (Neal X played with Matlock during the Rich Kids reunion at the Vive Le Rock Awards last year, and it was spectacular.)

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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