Author Archives: Matthew Belter

TVD Live Shots: Backstreet Boys with Baylee Littrell at the Honda Center, 8/5

ANAHEIM, CA | I’m a rocker at heart, but I gotta say that AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell brought out my softer side on Monday night at the Honda Center. A sold-out crowd of 15,000+ joined me for a massive 33 song set that took us all on a wild ride down Backstreet and beyond. These guys haven’t lost a step since they took the world by storm in 1993 and would argue they have only gotten better with age. Backstreet’s definitely back—and in a big way!

Although I enjoyed some of the Backstreet Boys classics back in the day, they really weren’t my cup of tea. When I heard they were headlining at the Honda Center, I honestly didn’t think this band had the cachet to sell out an arena of this size. Legendary artists such as Elton John, Depeche Mode, and U2 have sold-out multiple nights at Honda, and I was skeptical at best that BSB would be able to pull that off.

As I walked up to the arena on Monday night, I was greeted by thousands upon thousands of rabid fans circling the building. Many had been there hours on end, waiting for their chance to rush the barricade and be up close and personal with their childhood heroes. The area surrounding the Honda Center was packed with fans from all walks of life including a few of bible thumpers warning BSB fans they were going to hell for attending the show. I didn’t know Backstreet sold their souls to the devil but guess anything could be possible these days. What I thought would be an average show at best was already shaping up to be something so much more.

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TVD Live: Knotfest Roadshow with Slipknot, Volbeat, Gojira, and Behemoth at the Glen Helen Amphitheater, 7/27

With nearly 40,000 in attendance and temps exceeding 100 degrees at showtime, the 2019 Knotfest Roadshow was everything I wanted going into the show and more. It’s as if they pulled the very best from their previous festival formats and ignited it simultaneously at America’s largest outdoor amphitheater. It will definitely go down as one of the best live metal shows I have ever seen.

I have attended a lot of shows in my lifetime, but Saturday’s Knotfest Roadshow might have been one of my all-time favorites. What was billed as “A Mind-Altering Collision of Music, Art & Culture” ended up being so much more for the tens-of-thousands that braved sweltering heat, parking lot hikes, and extremely long lines on Saturday afternoon at Glen Helen Amphitheater.

Typically, festival-type shows like this bring in 2 or 3 bands to fill space prior to the headliner taking the stage. That was not the case at this year’s Knotfest Roadshow. Slipknot went all-in to bring out the very best money could buy, landing international metal sensations Behemoth (Poland), Gojira (France), and Volbeat (Denmark) to round out the bill. On paper, this one looked too good to be true and I was wondering walking in if it would live up to the hype. We would soon see.

As the sun began to set and heat began to dissipate, black metal legends Behemoth took the stage and kicked off this year’s roadshow with a thundering set that conjured up demons throughout the San Bernardino Valley. Nergal, Inferno, Orion, and Seth challenged the masses with a set so diabolical that it caused many to question their own faith when the dust finally settled. Songs such as “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” and “Chant for Eschaton 2000” whipped the faithful into a frenzy from which there was no going back and signified the start of something special under the stars on Saturday.

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TVD Live Shots:
Rick Springfield with
the Pacific Symphony Orchestra at Pacific Amphitheater, 7/11

Although I’ve never seen Rick Springfield in concert, I have always been intrigued at the possibility of catching one of his rare live performances in Southern California. An acclaimed actor, singer, and songwriter, Springfield has dozens of albums under his belt and a cult-like following like no other in the industry today. Fans from all over Southern California flocked to the Pacific Amphitheater on Thursday night for a special performance under the stars accompanied by the celebrated Pacific Symphony Orchestra. This show had all the ingredients necessary to be special and I was excited to finally get a chance to see Rick Springfield live!

Walking into the Pacific Amphitheater, I was amazed at the number of die-hard fans that Rick Springfield still has. Men and women from all walks of life were pouring into the venue donning shirts emblazoned with slogans like “Jessie’s Girl,” “We’re with Rick,” and my favorite “It’s a Rick Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand.” In addition, long-stem roses seemed to be standard fare for many of the female persuasion, with many leaving bouquets for Rick center stage prior to the show getting underway. I asked a super fan sitting next to me if this was typical of Rick’s shows and she emphatically screamed, “Of course it is, what else would you expect at a Rick Springfield concert?”

The show kicked off promptly at 8:15PM, and the crowd went absolutely nuts as Springfield took center stage directly in front of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. Fans were screaming, roses were flying, and there was a surge to the front of the stage as Rick kicked off his set with 1983 classic (and Night Tracks standard) “Affair of the Heart.” If you didn’t know better, you’d have thought you were at a classic Van Halen show by the way the crowd exploded.  Alas, we were underway and headed for sheer musical madness.

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TVD Live Shots: Seal with Rennie Adams at Pacific Amphitheater, 7/10

As far as singer/songwriters go, Seal is in a category all by himself. His recent show at the Pacific Amphitheater highlighted this once in a lifetime talent, dazzling the thousands in attendance with his incredible vocal range and undeniable stage presence that is truly second to none. And speaking for the thousands in attendance on Wednesday night, Seal’s performance from start to finish was simply unbelievable!

Over the years, I have seen thousands of concerts. Each and every one has added something unique to what I consider the ever-evolving musical tapestry of life. Good singers are a dime a dozen, but true vocalists are few and far between. Artists such as David Bowie, Elton John, and Freddie Mercury have electrified us with their vocal prowess for decades, and left fans of all ages mesmerized at their incredible god-inspired talent. I’d also add Seal into this group of legends as he continues to energize the world with a voice so pure, he seemingly inspires the angels on high.

Wednesday’s Seal show at the Pacific Amphitheater in Orange County was special. After a killer opening set by Rennie Adams (who was mentored by Seal on Australian TV show The Voice), Seal took the stage on what ended up being a breezy California evening and lit the place a blaze with an incredible 15-song set that left fans of all ages wanting more when the dust finally settled.

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TVD Live Shots: Judas Priest with Uriah Heep
at Toyota Arena, 6/28

I love Judas Priest. I have followed them since the release of Screaming for Vengeance back in 1982 and have been a huge fan ever since. It’s amazing for me to look back upon this band’s successes over the years and know they have remained on the throne of all things metal for nearly fifty years.

Think about that—fifty years! In an age where many bands come and go like waves upon a beach, Judas Priest has withstood the test of time and reinvented itself many times over with a simplified sound that became the blueprint for what I consider true heavy metal. Bands like Van Halen, Metallica, and Slipknot were clearly influenced by Judas Priest, and countless others have followed suit over the years. Bottom line, we’d probably have a much different metal landscape without Judas Priest at the helm, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

On June 28th, Judas Priest marched into the Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA and unleashed their Firepower on the thousands in attendance. Opening the show was Uriah Heep, another legendary rock band from England. Similar to Judas Priest, this band has had a myriad of lineup changes the past 50 years, but still holds true to their signature sound to the delight of fans worldwide.

Mick Box is the only one left from the original band and has done an incredible job surrounding himself with an uber-talented group of musicians who deliver on all-cylinders. Vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboardist Phil Lanzon have been in the current lineup since 1986 with drummer Russell Gilbrook added in 2007 and bassist Davey Rimmer rounding out the lineup in 2013. I wasn’t sure if I would dig their set (as Uriah Heep was a bit before my time) but must say that they brought their A-game on Friday night, wowing fans with a crisp sound and unbridled energy that is typically absent in bands from this era.

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TVD Live Shots: Jeff Lynne’s ELO with Dhani Harrison at the Honda Center, 6/20

After nearly 50 years, the magic of Jeff Lynne and ELO lives on. Those in attendance on Thursday night bore witness to an incredible musical spectacle that seemingly transcended time and space—and one of the most incredible rock and roll shows I have seen in the past 20 years.

1970 was undoubtedly an important year in rock and roll history. The Billboard charts were packed with hits from well-established artists such as The Jackson 5, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Beatles while lesser known bands such as Earth, Wind, & Fire, Aerosmith, and Queen were just getting started on their journey to greatness. It was that same year that Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan would unite to form what is surely considered one of the most influential bands of our time, Electric Light Orchestra. As with many bands, Electric Light Orchestra (or ELO for short) has gone through many reincarnations since their inception, and after a near 13-year hiatus, reemerged once again in 2014 as Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

On Thursday June 20th, Jeff Lynne kicked off his highly anticipated tour celebrating nearly 50 years with family and friends at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. For those who have never attended an ELO show, I found it to be a “bucket-list” type of experience that should not be missed. Fans from all over the country traveled thousands of miles to be part of the magic, and Thursday’s sold-out performance delivered. The capacity crowd was one of the most diverse I have ever seen at a live show as well—people from all backgrounds and walks of life converged to celebrate one of the most storied bands on the planet. What was even more special was seeing all of the families with multiple generations of ELO fans attending the show together. Seeing moms and dads rocking out with their children and grandchildren was a truly a highlight for me on Thursday evening.

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TVD Live Shots:
Blue October with
Mona at the House of Blues Anaheim, 6/8

Over the years I have had the distinct privilege of seeing many of my favorite performers live all over the US. As each year passes, I add and delete bands from my concert “bucket-list” and try my best to see acts that I may have missed over the years.

One such band is Houston’s own, Blue October. Although I’ve never been a huge fan, I dig their music and was easily persuaded by my brother Mark to take the plunge and check out one of their live performances. He’s been following the band for over 20 years and considers himself a Blue October superfan, so I figured what the heck and jumped into the show headfirst. Two hours later I was hooked and may have just become a Blue October fan for life.

Opening up for Blue October on Saturday night was Nashville, Tennessee based indie-rockers, Mona. Fronted by founder Nick Brown along with drummer phenom Justin Wilson, these two scorched their 30-minute set and left a near-capacity crowd screaming for more when the flames finally subsided. Most openers just fill space, these guys created it and engaged on levels that highlighted just how special this band actually is. They’re now on my radar and will be a force to be reckoned with in the not so distant future. Incredible set.

Now on to the headliners. It was a sell-out on the Garden walk as fans from all over southern California lined up early for a chance to rush the barricade and be up close and personal with their favorite band, Blue October. Justin Furstenfeld and company came out swinging and reignited what Mona had already set ablaze, launching into their 2013 hit, “Sway.” You could feel the crowd surge forward as Justin reached out to the audience from stage end, mic extended, smiling ear to ear.

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TVD Live Shots: The Specials and L.A. Salami at the House of Blues Anaheim, 6/2

The Specials are by far one of the most influential ska bands of all time. Founded in 1977, their unique brand of music helped to revive a little-known genre originating in Jamaica in the late 1950s. The Specials’ fusion of traditional ska music with a formidable punk rock attitude and danceable rocksteady beats took the world by storm with a sound so unique it created its own genre, Two-Tone.

Who would have thought that four decades and over 20 albums later, this group from Coventry, England would still be around, playing the music they love to packed houses all around the world? Back then, probably not too many. However, The Specials withstood the test of time and are still one of the most dynamic bands to ever hit the stage. Their show at the House of Blues in Anaheim on June 2nd was no exception and thrilled the thousands of loyal fans in attendance.

Before we jump into the review, readers should know that The Specials original date at the House of Blues on May 28th was cancelled moments before hitting the stage. Guitarist Lynval Golding fell ill soon after his performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Live television show with what we now know was a severe bout of dehydration. Although fans were disappointed, The Specials stepped right up and immediately rescheduled the show for Sunday night and dubbed it “A Night with The Specials.” There would be no opener on Sunday, just the Two-Tone favorites playing an extended set in front of some ecstatic fans. Read More »

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TVD Live Shots: Corey Taylor and Friends at
the Garden Grove Amphitheatre, 5/19

Corey Taylor may be one of the most versatile vocalists on the planet today, and he exhibited that once again on rainy Sunday night in Southern California. From The Damned to Prince to Boz Scaggs, Taylor slayed an incredible 18-song set of rock and roll classics that had fans from all walks of life out of their seats and rocking. 

When most think of Corey Taylor, minds immediately race to bands like Slipknot or Stone Sour where for years he has demonstrated an incredible vocal prowess along with a song-writing ability that few (if any) can match. His music is powerful, his vocals are solid, and his following is enormous. Few, however, know that Corey Taylor also tours solo from time to time. These are usually intimate performances where he can branch out into different types of music that helped shape the musician he is today. A Corey Taylor and Friends show typically covers classics across multiple genres and are done so in a way that pays tribute to the very artists he has come to know and love.

Kicking off Sunday’s show were Southern California heart-throbs, the Cherry Bombs. This uber-talented dance troupe are considered the Darlings of Rock & Roll and captivated the near-capacity crowd with a super-sexy performance that I’m sure most in attendance would not have expected. The Cherry Bombs’ show was a combination of Cirque de Soleil, the Seventh Veil, and Home Depot all rolled into one. Whether you were into pole dancing, fire, or hula hoops, this one had it all and then some. It was the perfect way to get Sunday’s party started, and a party it was.

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TVD Live Shots: Yngwie Malmsteen, Sunlord, and Paralandra at the House of Blues, 5/5

Yngwie Malmsteen is arguably one of the most incredible guitarists on the planet today. Inspired by classic composers such as Paganini and Bach, this virtuoso from Stockholm, Sweden has taken the world by storm since going solo in 1984 and has never looked back.

A touring madman, Malmsteen is back at it again in 2019, blazing trails across the US in support of his latest album, Blue Lightning. Over the past 20 years, I have seen Yngwie perform on countless occasions, and each time I am blown away by the sheer magic that pours out in every performance. His distinct sound is like no other guitarist on the scene today—fusing classical music with rock into a melodic masterpiece that transcends time and space.

On May 5th, Yngwie Malmsteen marched back into Southern California (one of 5 local shows) for a night of mind-blowing guitar gymnastics at Orange County’s premier concert venue, the Anaheim House of Blues. Different from most Malmsteen performances, there would be two opening acts prior the Maestro taking center stage.

First up was Missouri quartet, Paralandra. I honestly wasn’t expecting much going into this set and was literally blown out of the photo pit by Cassandra Carson and her incredible vocals. Her on stage persona reminded me a lot of Lzzy Hale with some unique vocal twists that took their set up a notch. Next up was a killer metal trio out New York City called Sunlord. I have never heard of the band before, but really enjoyed their time on stage. Alfonso Ferrazza seemed to channel Lemmy throughout the set, and I will definitely be digging into this band going forward.

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TVD Live Shots: Sammy Hagar & The Circle with S.Ø.S at Harrah’s, 4/26

LAUGHLIN, NV | Fifty years into a remarkable career, Sammy Hagar continues to sell-out venues across the country, and Friday night’s show in Laughlin was no exception. It was standing room only at Harrah’s as Redheads from around the world gathered to pay tribute to one of the most gifted showmen in rock and roll history. And as one might expect, Sammy Hagar & The Circle put on a clinic for the 5,000+ in attendance and showed everyone lucky enough to be there that “There’s Only One Way to Rock!”

As a professional music photographer, I am blessed to be able to see a ton of amazing live music in ridiculously cool locations all across the country. Some of the bands I see are huge, others are just getting their careers started and have little if any following. From the thousand-plus shows I have seen live, there is one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty—there are very few bands out there that have what I consider the “IT” factor—that special mojo that keeps them fresh and relevant on the ever-turbulent musical rollercoaster. Sammy Hagar checks off all those boxes and then some. In tandem with the legendary bassist Michael Anthony, guitar virtuoso Vic Johnson, and drummer extraordinaire Jason Bonham (collectively known as The Circle) you have all of the ingredients necessary to fuel one of the most amazing bands on the planet today.

Kicking off Friday’s show in Laughlin was S.Ø.S, the solo project of California-based singer/songwriter and literal son of The Red Rocker himself, Andrew Hagar. Accompanied by Shredmaster Scott on the electric guitar (a true bad-ass, if you ask me), these two kicked off the party in stellar rock and roll fashion with five killer songs that I would consider Gonzo Garage Folk. Their set was original, energetic, and most importantly real in a world where far too often new music is shallow, unimaginative, and boring.

Andrew captivated the near-capacity crowd with tracks like “Always Winning” and “Dirty Feet,” but my favorite of the night was “Triggerman,” a well-written song about the epidemic of senseless shootings in our society today. I felt this one pushed the masses over the edge and highlighted why the younger Hagar will be a force to be reckoned with in the not so distant future. If you have not heard of Andrew Hagar or S.Ø.S, give their latest EP, “From the Other Side,” a spin.

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TVD Live Shots: Queensrÿche and
Fates Warning at the Observatory, 3/27

As a lifetime fan, I could not have been more pleased with Queensrÿche’s recent performance in San Diego. Where many people wrote them off after Geoff Tate’s departure, I argue that the band is even better with Todd LaTorre at the helm and are now performing at a level not seen since 1990’s Empire. Wednesday’s show—along with their latest release, The Verdict—has signaled the reemergence of one of the most important bands in the history of progressive metal.

The early eighties were a magical time for rock and roll. Bands like Rush, Iron Maiden, and Van Halen were all in their prime and upstart bands like Mötley Crüe and Poison were beginning to take a hold on the Hollywood music scene. The Sunset Strip was flush with new talent, and clubs such as The Whisky and Troubadour were showcasing these acts nightly.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, a little-known band from Seattle named Queensrÿche burst onto the scene. Their unique brand of progressive rock infused with thought-provoking lyrics quickly won over the hearts and minds of fans worldwide. Almost 40 years and 30 million+ albums later, this band is still rocking harder than ever. On Wednesday, March 27th, Michael Wilton (guitar), Eddie Jackson (bass), Todd LaTorre (vocals), Parker Lundgren (guitar), and Casey Grillo (drums) took over the Observatory Northpark in San Diego for what turned out to be an epic night of rock and roll.

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TVD Live Shots: Dream Theater at the Wiltern Theatre, 3/21

If you’re a fan of Dream Theater, it should come as no surprise that the band is still at the top of their game. For others who may be just getting to know these prog legends, there is quite a bit to learn about a band who has touched so many and given so much over a near 35-year career in the music industry.

From their early days when they were known simply as Majesty to the present, Dream Theater has continued to create a distinctive brand of progressive rock that engages the mind and inspires the soul with followers all around the world. Consummate story tellers, Dream Theater has a unique way of enlightening their audience through their incredible passion for music—an art that is very rare (and truly under-appreciated) in music’s modern era.

On March 21st, Dream Theater brought the latest chapter in their evolution to the Wiltern Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Prior to the show getting underway, the band always takes some time to meet their most loyal fans in a special VIP meet and greet session. What is different about these sessions from other commercial VIP events is that the band interacts with each of their fans personally. Some got autographs from their favorite band members, others had their unique Dream Theater memorabilia signed, and most took advantage of the cool photo-op with the band. Fans were never rushed, and the band seemed truly humbled by the outpouring of love and support received throughout the event.

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TVD Live Shots:
Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway at
the Observatory, 3/7

Even though it’s been 10 long years since the initial self-titled album was released, there seems to be no visible break in the sheer genius that Daron Malakian brings to the table. His music is fresh, his lyrics are thought-provoking, and his sound is clearly unmistakable.

So, who is this Daron Malakian character? Most people simply know him as guitarist extraordinaire for one of the biggest metal bands of all-time, System of a Down. Digging a little deeper, one would find that he’s the mad scientist responsible for writing most of the music on their five incredible albums. Daron is an innovator, an instigator, and a provocateur all rolled into one. And when most fans simply gave up on any new music from SOAD (after the band went into hiatus in 2006), Daron pulled a rabbit out of his hat and formed his own amazing band known simply as Scars on Broadway.

That band has evolved over the years and was rebranded in 2018 as Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway with the release of their second album, Dictator. On Thursday evening, before a packed house at The Observatory in Santa Ana, fans from all over Southern California (and around the world) got a rare chance to see Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway perform live. And as we all found out, this would be no ordinary show. Daron surprised fans by opening the show with a new track, “Animal,” and then blazed through both Scars on Broadway releases in their entirety.

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TVD Live Shots:
One Love Cali Reggae Festival, 2/8–2/10

A sold-out crowd of over 25,000+ made their way to beautiful Long Beach, California for one of the largest reggae gatherings in 2019, the 4th annual One Love Cali Reggae Festival. As in years past, the show was presented by The World Famous KROQ and was set up in the massive shadow of the historic Queen Mary.

This year’s festival featured some amazing food, ice cold beer, and killer music featuring some incredibly talented reggae artists. World-class performances by Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, and Sublime with Rome headlined the now three-day event and showcased why the One Love Cali Reggae Festival is quickly becoming the standard for reggae festivals worldwide.

On stage at this year’s festival were over 50 top-shelf acts spanning rock, rap, roots, and of course reggae. Each graced the Koi CBD and SMKFLWR Stages with brilliant music that calmed the mind and inspired the soul for the thousands in attendance. Aside from a few sound issues on day one, a handful of these performances separated themselves from the others in ways that literally blew my mind. Here are a few of my favorite performances from this year’s One Love Festival:

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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