Author Archives: Matthew Belter

TVD Live Shots:
Madness with Berlin and The Untouchables at YouTube Theater, 5/26

On Sunday night in front of a packed house at YouTube Theater, rude boys and rude girls from all over Southern California paid homage to ska legends Madness with hometown heroes Berlin and The Untouchables. The sold-out venue was electric from start to finish, with fans skanking to classic tracks all night long. With perfect acoustics and an incredibly lively fan base, the evening proved to be an unforgettable celebration of music that won’t soon be forgotten. Madness and their long-awaited C’est La Vie Tour was truly one for the ages.

The evening’s festivities kicked off with The Untouchables who immediately set the tone for the night with their unique blend of ska and soul. Their hometown performance was a high-energy spectacle that engaged the audience right from the start. Original vocalist Chuck Askerneese was on fire from the start and had the crowd skanking to hits like “I Spy (For the FBI),” “Mandingo,” and “Be Alright.” All these classics showcased their musical versatility and were incredible to catch live. However, it was “Free Yourself” that truly captivated everyone, with its powerful lyrics and infectious rhythm. The audience responded with enthusiastic dancing and loud cheers, setting an incredibly positive mood for what was to come next.

Following The Untouchables, Berlin took the stage and transported the audience back to the ’80s for a 9-song set of their classics—and it didn’t disappoint. Starting with back-to-back hits like “Masquerade” and No More Words,” the crowd was immediately captivated. Their rendition of “The Metro” (my favorite Berlin song) was a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and the live performance of “Sex (I’m A)” was both provocative and captivating. However, my favorite track of the evening was their cover of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary.” Wow. Berlin’s charismatic stage presence (courtesy of original members Terri Nunn, John Crawford, and David Diamond) was incredible and kept fans fully engaged from start to finish. And a special shout out to Carlton Bost. This guy’s guitar work is second to none and was so amazing to watch on Sunday night.

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TVD Live Shots:
Cruel World Festival
at the Rose Bowl, 5/11

The Cruel World Festival, held at Brookside at the Rose Bowl on May 11th, was a time machine back to the golden era of ’80s goth and new wave, encapsulating the essence of a musical revolution that has remained influential to this very day.

From the moment the gates opened, it was clear that this wasn’t just a festival; it was a pilgrimage for the devotees of a sound that defined a generation. My generation. A crowd estimated at 50,000+ brought with them an infectious energy, creating a festival atmosphere that was nothing short of magical in the shadow of America’s stadium. But at the end of the day, it was Al Jourgensen and his band Ministry that stole the Cruel World spotlight on Saturday. Their performance was one for the ages featuring a rare setlist that most likely won’t be repeated on any stage ever again.

The 2024 lineup was a dream come true for fans, with performances by iconic acts such as Duran Duran, Blondie, Soft Cell, and Interpol. Each band brought their unique flavor to the stage and wowed fans traveling from all parts of the country and beyond. Duran Duran’s electrifying performance had fans dancing to hits that have become anthems, while Blondie’s timeless cool and Interpol’s brooding melodies ensured the festival’s energy never waned. Then sprinkle in a touch of Marc Almond and Soft Cell, creating a Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret at Cruel World and a party not to be missed.

However, the festival’s highlights didn’t stop with the headliners—quite to the contrary. Ministry’s throwback setlist, featuring tracks from With Sympathy and Twitch, was a rare treat for fans as most of these gems had not been played live since the early ’80s. From “Work for Love” to “Effigy (I’m Not An)” to “Revenge,” most were in pure darkwave heaven the entire set. We even got to hear “(Everyday Is) Halloween” which was one of my favorite dance tracks as a teenager (and I song I NEVER thought I’d hear (or photograph) live. Wow. Pound for pound, Uncle Al and Company put on what I believe was the best overall performance of the Cruel World festival, bar none.

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TVD Live Shots:
Bruce Dickinson at the Observatory OC, 4/15

The stars were aligned at the Observatory OC as heavy metal’s iconic frontman, Bruce Dickinson, delivered a performance that will be etched forever into the collective memory of an electrified audience. With a 16-song set that reached back to his early solo years and extended to his latest creative endeavor, The Mandrake Project, the show was a whirlwind of passion and nostalgia. Pound for pound, this was one of the most amazing live metal performances I have seen in years and it’s not even close.

From the opening notes of “Accident of Birth” to the final crescendo of “The Tower,” Bruce Dickinson reigned supreme. It’s not every day you witness a legend redefining the space with an ageless voice that pierces through genre and time. Plowing through a 16-song setlist, fans bore witness to arguably one of the best metal shows performed in Orange County in years.

My favorites from the night included “Chemical Wedding,” “Gods of War,” and “Darkside of Aquarius.” However, the zenith of the night came during a cover of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”—Bruce leaped in front of a stand-up drum kit, adding a raw and primitive beat that transported the crowd to a place where music interfaces with the primal soul. Unbelievable.

The over-capacity crowd was an echo of Bruce’s vigor, matching his energy with raised fists and choral sing-alongs. Every lyric, every riff, reverberated through the hall in a mutual exchange of adoration and performance mastery. Bearing witness to such synchronicity drove home the certainty that we were part of something truly singular. Personal sensations bordered on the surreal—the intimacy of the small concert environment contrasted against the towering onstage presence. With Bruce at the helm, the experience transcended the auditory; it was exhilarating, to spiral momentarily into the realm of living legends.

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TVD Live Shots: Tom Keifer Band with the Michael Olivieri Band at the Coach House, 4/7

PHOTOS: CHRIS LOOMIS | On a chilly April evening at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, a sense of nostalgia enveloped the sold-out crowd as they gathered to witness a rock revival led by the Tom Keifer Band and opening act Michael Olivieri. The clamor and excitement in the legendary venue were palpable from the first riff to the last echo of the encore. It was a night filled with energy, excitement, and most importantly kick ass rock and roll by one of the best bluesman to ever pick up a 6-string.

Opening the night, Michael Olivieri, best known as the founding member of the band Leatherwolf, took the stage with a notably unplugged ambiance accompanied by KK Martin on second guitar. Over a 40-minute set, Olivieri revisited the roots of rock, churning out vocals that intertwined seamlessly with the duo’s acoustic guitar harmonies. The audience, a mix of rock purists and casual fans, responded with zeal to the stripped-down renditions of classics, setting the stage for an evening where the timeless allure of rock took center stage.

Following suit, the Tom Keifer Band exploded into their 90-minute performance, boasting an impressive 16-song set that saw the band dazzling a now full house. The band, led by the resounding voice of former Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer, showed impeccable on-stage chemistry. Anchored by the formidable performances by Savannah Keifer, Tony Higbee, Billy Mercer, Jarred Pope, Kory Myers, and Tanya Davis, the group demonstrated that the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is still alive and thriving in South Orange County.

Tom Keifer’s grasp over the audience throughout the evening was unyielding. Not just content to command the stage, Keifer ventured out into the crowd—twice—melding barrier and performer. His earnest declaration that The Coach House “rocks harder than most GA venues” found favor among devoted followers, cementing a bond well beyond the music.

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TVD Live Shots: Queensrÿche and Armored Saint at the House of Blues, 3/27

At the Anaheim House of Blues on March 27th, the deafening roar of metal fandom echoed as Queensrÿche and Armored Saint delivered a show that could only be described as a commanding call to metal arms. With the “Origins” tour, these two monumental bands proved that their legacy is not etched in history books but is alive, searing through our era with undiminished fervor. Pound for pound, this killer performance was definitely one of my favorites this year and it wasn’t even close.

From the moment Armored Saint took the stage the energy was electric—palpable in every chord strike that ushered us “Over the Edge.” A flawless performance of the timeless “Can U Deliver” had the crowd singing every heart-racing riff, while “Reign of Fire” lived up to its name, engulfing the venue in a spirited blaze of head-banging ecstasy. John Bush’s relentless energy ricocheted off the walls, invigorating the crowd that had forsaken any notion of a quiet weekday evening. This set was special, and highlighted why Armored Saint is so beloved by so many, all around the world.

The seamless transition to Queensrÿche encapsulated the essence of an evening steeped in metal glory. Todd La Torre’s impeccable vocals, ringing out with the gravity of “Queen of the Ryche,” cemented the night’s epic status. It was sonic alchemy when they performed “Take Hold of the Flame,” each note sparking memories yet forging new ones in the crucible of the present. Perhaps the pinnacle for me was “Roads to Madness,” where in that spectacle, time seemed to stand still, the audience and band locked in a tableau of mutual admiration cast in shadow and light.

The rich tapestry of Queensrÿche’s set moved from strength to strength, a fierce reminder of the power of live music. The dark and shadowy lighting played counterpoint to the vibrant throwback visuals, setting a backdrop that was both nostalgic and tantalizingly current, highlighting that the songs off their self-titled EP and The Warning have weathered the ravages of time, defiant in their relevance. This is where it all started for Queensrÿche, and the sounds are just as impressive now as they were when these albums were originally released over 40 years ago.

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TVD Live Shots: KMFDM at the Belasco, 3/24

KMFDM, the pioneers of a genre known as “Ultra Heavy Beat,” recently set the Belasco theater ablaze with an electrifying show that will undoubtedly go down as one of the best in 2024 (and we are just getting started). On Sunday the 24th, a nearly sold-out venue bore witness to the explosive synergy between band and audience as fans swarmed the frontlines early on to secure a vantage point into the electrifying world that would soon be unchained. It ended up being a show for the ages and solidified KMFDM’s status as one of the most influential and resilient bands on the planet today.

The anticipation for KMFDM’s show on Sunday was tangible as dedicated followers, clad in their industrial uniform of black boots and propaganda tees, lined up hours before door time. Once the music finally kicked in, it was clear that neither the band nor the audience were going to hold anything back in the City of Angels. From the opening chords of “All 4 1” to a killer 5-song encore, the crowd was a sea of unbridled enthusiasm, singing along to every lyric, moshing in the pit, and reciprocating the band’s dynamism with unflagging zeal.

Throughout the evening, monumental tracks like “Hyena,” “A Drug Against War,” and “Megalomaniac” became anthems for the KMFDM faithful with the band delivering them with their hallmark ferocity. Sascha Konietzko’s foundational vocals coupled with his electronic wizardry immediately whipped the crowd into an irreversible frenzy that could not be stopped. Then layer in the powerhouse guitar performance of Andee Blacksugar and Andy Selway’s precision on drums, and a conjured force was unleashed that took immediate command of the theater.

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TVD Live Shots: Cali Vibes Boomyard Stage
at Marina Green Park, 2/16–2/18

LONG BEACH, CA | Nestled within the vibrant and sprawling festival grounds of the Cali Vibes festival in Long Beach, the Boomyard stage emerged as a pulsating heart for reggae purists during an incredible 3-day event. While diverse sonic experiences ebbed and flowed across the festival’s expansive stages (The Vibes and The Greens, to be specific), Boomyard upheld the glorious traditions of roots reggae, offering an authentic, undiluted vibe that was both nostalgic and freshly invigorating. For many in attendance, the Boomyard stage’s uniqueness was the highlight of the festival, and the performances solidified it as one of the most incredible parts of Cali Vibes in 2024.

The Boomyard stage played host to a bevy of artists who championed the spirit of reggae, infusing Long Beach with the soul of Kingston. Protoje, with his lyrical prowess, enraptured the audience, invoking a sense of unity and consciousness reflective of reggae’s golden era. Stonebwoy brought an electrifying energy that had the crowd swaying to the rhythm of his beats, while Krossfayah’s set was a masterclass in blending classic reggae soundscapes with contemporary flair.

Close behind these towering performances were the bright sparks of talent that ignited the stage’s truly unique atmosphere. Acts like Eli-Mac, Karbon, and BLVK H3RO infused the venue with their raw, vibrant energy, signaling a promising future for the genre. The young Kailash earned his stripes among the reggae titans with a memorable performance, while Mystic Marley continued her family’s legacy, weaving her unique voice into the tapestry of sounds that her forebears helped popularize globally.

The atmosphere around Boomyard spoke volumes about its distinctiveness within the Cali Vibes Festival. It was where traditional Jamaican reggae fans found their sanctuary; a congregation of people mirroring the consistent rhythm of the music with their unwavering engagement. Euphoric roars harmonized with the beat drop as the audience cherished every note played. This one stage captivated the essence of reggae culture, fostering an infectious energy that was excited, rooted, and incredibly engaged.

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TVD Live Shots: Cali Vibes at Marina Green Park, 2/16–2/18

LONG BEACH, CA | Overlooking the rolling waves of the Pacific, the Cali Vibes festival in Long Beach unfurled its sonic tapestry on President’s Day weekend in what could only be described as a colossal celebration of rhythm and community. With a lineup that read like the who’s who of reggae, hip-hop, and rap, the festival drew crowds of 50k+ per day, creating a pulsating mosaic of sound against the LBC’s serene beachfront. Headliners for the 3-day event included Stick Figure, Slightly Stoopid, and Ice Cube along with a special performance on Saturday night from Gwen Stefani.

The Cali Vibes festival, a veritable celebration of reggae music and culture held in the heart of Long Beach last weekend, was an experience that transcended the ordinary. This event not only showcased an exceptional lineup of artists but also created an atmosphere of unity and positivity that resonated deeply with every attendee. The festival perfectly encapsulated the spirit of California—vibrant, diverse, and undeniably cool. From the pulsating rhythms echoing through the air to the throngs of people swaying in harmony, the Cali Vibes festival was an unforgettable immersion into the soulful world of music and one that attendees would never forget.

Cali Vibes typically brings in a “who’s who” of musical diversity and talent, featuring an array of both renowned and emerging artists. The festival boasted performances from reggae, rock, hip-hop, and afrobeat genres, offering the audience a rich and eclectic musical experience. The crowd was treated to sets from big names like Gwen Stefani, Slightly Stoopid, and Sean Paul. In addition, the soulful melodies of Stick Figure and Iration, as well as the infectious beats of Shaggy and Sublime with Rome, contributed to the vibrant atmosphere. Notably, Ice Cube, The Pharcyde, and The Roots also graced the stage, while Protoje and Kabaka Pyramid’s danceable hits left the Boomyard audience in awe. Here are a few of my favorite performances:

Damien and Stephen Marley: Damien and Stephen returned to The Vibes stage with their reggae roots, infusing the beach air with positive vibrations and profound messages encased in their legendary lyrics. Their embodiment of the spirit of reggae was a poignant reminder of the Marley legacy, lifting up festivalgoers with tracks both old and new. Their amazing set was hands down my favorite performance of the weekend.

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KMFDM’s
Sascha Konietzko,
The TVD Interview

In the enthralling realm of industrial music, few figures loom as large or carry as much influence as Sascha Konietzko. As the visionary founder and frontman of KMFDM, he has sculpted a sonic landscape that defies convention and embraces the avant-garde with unwavering ferocity.

With a career spanning decades, Sascha’s indelible imprint on music reverberates through time, leaving an indomitable mark on the very essence of the genre he has coined “The Ultra Heavy Beat.” From pioneering groundbreaking sounds to fearlessly espousing ideologies through his music, Sascha Konietzko stands as a paragon of artistic innovation.

His latest work, Let Go, continues to captivate and challenge, cementing his status as a true pioneer within the industry. Join us as we delve into the enigmatic world of Sascha Konietzko, exploring the depths of his musical journey, creative philosophies, and the relentless spirit that propels the enigma known as KMFDM.

Sascha, how did you get your start in music?

I never intended to do anything with music, but somehow got lured into doing some sort of performance art installations. From that initial project, I slithered down the slippery slope into music and began fiddling around with synthesizers and drum machines. Next thing I knew, I had a record being released and received an unexpected invitation from Al Jourgensen of Ministry to open for them on a 45 date tour in late 1989. From that point forward, KMFDM became a household name in America and then the rest is basically just history.

Who were your early inspirations as an up and coming musician in the early 1980s?

At the time, I thought the music scene in general was so incredibly boring, and I felt like making music to create a juxtaposition of sorts to the shit that annoyed me, and make music that I enjoyed. And the idea was really to combine danceable elements, like four on the floor and kick drums, with super heavy metal guitar riffs and stuff like that. I wanted to be different, and that sound that we coined “The Ultra Heavy Beat” is what KMFDM has evolved to today.

Your amazing career has now spanned 40 years+ with KMFDM being known for its ever-evolving sound and socio-political themes. How do you balance staying true to your core message while also ensuring your music remains fresh and relevant with each new release?

Honestly, there’s really not much thought going into that. Our music kind of just writes and composes itself organically. I’m not looking so much for inspiration because inspiration is truly everywhere. I’m approaching my work with a sort of discipline. I go into the studio in the morning like people go to work. I go into my studio and I just start working on some idea, maybe just a tiny little sound snippet that I recorded somewhere and I just dedicate some time to it and I play around with it. After an hour or so, if it doesn’t really start ringing a bell, then I’d do something else. Maybe I do my taxes or walk the dog.

But out of a lot of little things, eventually some bigger things kind of start to take on a life of their own. A spark that turns into a small fire, and then I’ll start passing it around to my band mates, to Lucia our vocalist, Andy our drummer, and Andee the Guitarist. At that point, everybody throws whatever they have in mind at it. The drummer doesn’t necessarily do drums right away. Maybe Andy comes up with a baseline, then some crazy ideas just start floating around collectively and then things really start to change. Nothing ever turns out at the end like how they initially started. It undergoes a lot of change through those types of iterations, then again throughout production, etc. In the end, I’m sitting there and I have—I don’t know, 17, 18 tracks—and I’m going like, “okay, the best ones make it on the album,” and that’s it.

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TVD Live Shots: John 5 with Jared James Nichols and The Atomic Punks at the Observatory OC, 1/26

John 5’s recent show at the Observatory OC in Santa Ana was nothing short of a masterclass in guitar wizardry and captivating showmanship. From the very first notes of “Season of the Witch,” it was clear that the NAMM packed audience was in for a night of electrifying music on what turned out to be a beautiful night here in central Orange County. From top to bottom, John 5 put on an amazing show, leaving no doubt why he is considered one of the most talented guitarists on the planet today. His performances are not to be missed, and this one was one of the best I have seen (bar none) in years.

Opening for John 5 on Friday night was none other than The Atomic Punks, a Southern California based tribute to early Van Halen. Considered to be one of the most authentic tributes to David Lee Roth era VH of all-time, these cats put on a headline type show that brought out the inner rocker in everyone attending. Classics like “Panama,” “So This is Love,” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” were all sonic perfection coupled with spot-on stage antics that had the crowd wondering if this was actually Van Halen in its prime. My favorite moment of the night was watching Punks guitarist Frankie Lindia crush EVH’s legendary guitar solo “Eruption” in a way that few have ever been able to capture. His recreation of this classic was truly magical and literally brought tears to my eyes.

Next up was another up and coming guitar heavyweight, Jared James Nichols. Good lord, this guy can play. Known for his “pick-less” guitar playing technique, Jared crushed a 12-song opening set that left little to the imagination for the ever growing crowd here at the Observatory. I’ve seen JJN’s live performances before and can honestly say he took this one to a whole new level. Blues infused hits like “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Skin ‘n Bone” were cooked to perfection and had the crowd screaming for more all night long. But it was Nichols impeccable cover of Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box” that stood out for me. He took an already classic song and placed his own indelible stamp on it in a way I might have felt impossible. Respect.

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TVD Live Shots:
Metal Allegiance with Dieth, Held Hostage,
and Quor at the House
of Blues, 1/25

Metal Allegiance, the star-studded supergroup featuring metal heavyweights such as David Ellefson, Alex Skolnick, Mike Portnoy, and Mark Menghi, delivered a seismic performance at the Anaheim House of Blues on January 25. The band, known for its exceptional fusion of thrash, groove, and traditional heavy metal, crushed a 19-song set that torched a packed house deep in the heart of Orange County. This was by far the best show during the 2024 NAMM week and far exceeded expectations from both new and established fans alike.

The Metal Allegiance project (celebrating its landmark 10th Anniversary) stands as a testament to the enduring impact and influence of an amazing group of legendary musicians. With members hailing from iconic bands such as Megadeth, Testament, Dream Theater, Exodus and more, Metal Allegiance represents a convergence of immense talent, experience, and passion for metal music. This amalgamation of virtuosic musicianship and diverse influences infuses their live shows with an unparalleled dynamism and raw energy.

Thursday’s show kicked off with an electrifying performance by the San Diego-based band Quor. Despite being unfamiliar with their music, I was blown away by their captivating opening set, setting the stage for what was to come. Held Hostage then took the spotlight, delivering a scorching set that ignited the House of Blues. Prior to Metal Allegiance taking the stage for their 10th anniversary show, the supergroup Dieth, featuring vocalist Guilherme Miranda, drummer Michał Łysejko, bassist David Ellefson, and guest guitarist Jadran Gonzalez, delivered an awe-inspiring performance, seamlessly leading into the main event.

As the concert unfolded at the Anaheim House of Blues, Metal Allegiance wasted no time in igniting the stage with their explosive presence. The crowd was immediately engulfed in a sonic maelstrom as the band launched into their setlist with unrelenting force with “The Accuser.” Alex Skolnick and Andreas Kisser’s scorching guitar solos, coupled with Mark Menghi’s thunderous bass lines and Mike Portnoy’s drumming mastery, formed a formidable sonic foundation that reverberated throughout the venue.

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KMFDM’s Lucia Cifarelli, The TVD Interview

We’re ecstatic to unveil a no-holds-barred interview with the radiant Lucia Cifarelli, the voice that powers the legendary industrial rock leviathan, KMFDM. Since her fortuitous induction in 2002, Lucia has enveloped KMFDM with a whirlwind of creative energy, igniting their sound with her distinctive fiery spirit. Lucia Cifarelli’s potent vocals and lyrical prowess have not only left an indelible imprint on the band but also sculpted its genre-defying sound—a fusion of raw industrial rock, electronica’s pulse, and heavy metal’s intensity.

As we converse with Lucia, she generously unravels the rich tapestry of her journey with KMFDM, from her early days with the band to their most recent musical exploits. We dive headfirst into her background, the narratives behind their most celebrated anthems, and the unmasking of Lucia’s creative dynamism and inspiration that fuels their current sonic adventures. 

How did you get your start in music?

Well, I grew up listening to the radio. I had brother and sisters and there was music playing in everyone’s room. And as a result of that repeated and unrelenting exposure, I just fell in love with music in general. I still remember singing along in the bathroom with my hairbrush. I studied violin for a while and played in band in elementary school and I decided, I guess, when I was about 12 or 13 that I was going to be a rock star. I saw MTV and all these bigger than life iconic folks standing out there, and I said, “That’s the life for me.” And that point, I started taking voice lessons and then writing and collaborating with other songwriters in New York City while I was still in high school.

Can you recall the first time you performed on stage?

Yes, and it was terrifying. I’ll never forget it because I had been writing songs with lots of different songwriters in New York and I reached a point where I had to get out on stage. So my first real performance was with a band that I joined called Mercy Sky, and I was petrified. I was shaking so hard. I felt like I had a golf ball in my throat, and I’m pretty surprised that nobody laughed because I was God-awful. And I remained that way for a long time before I got the confidence that I’d like to believe I have now. But honestly, every show is a crapshoot. I’m good at what I do and I’m confident in what I do, but any number of things can go wrong during the course of a show which might throw your equilibrium off and thus throw you off your game. So that was the worst. But, yeah, losing my voice in front of thousands of people sucked pretty bad too.

Growing up, who were your musical inspirations?

I can tell you that I don’t feel as if I sound like any of the artists that influenced me, but I gravitated towards artists like Sinead O’Connor and PJ Harvey. I loved Sisters of Mercy. The first concert I ever saw that changed the whole trajectory of my style was when I was taken to see Diamanda Galás in New York—my sister was very ill at the time—dying of ARC, AIDS-related complex. Somebody invited me to see Diamanda Galás perform Plague Mass. She had written that piece for her brother who had died of AIDS. So it made quite an impact on me.

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TVD Live Shots:
Men Without Hats
with Strangelove
at the House of Blues, 12/22

The House of Blues in Anaheim, CA recently served as a portal to the past, whisking attendees off to the zenith of the synth-pop epoch for an extraordinary evening with Men Without Hats and Strangelove – The Depeche Mode Experience. Their exceptional performance was a much-needed end-of-year revival that underscored the significance of live music (and the ’80s in particular) to fans here in Southern California.

Strangelove – The Depeche Mode Experience, the opener for the evening, set the mood with their faithful renditions of beloved Depeche Mode classics. The tribute band’s attention to detail was impressive, from their meticulous recreation of DM’s signature sound to their spot-on imitations of the iconic band’s stage presence.

Their 15-song set was a nostalgic journey that had the crowd singing along to every word of every song. Standout performances included “Stripped,” “Everything Counts,” and my favorite “Enjoy the Silence.” Each of these classics were all spot on from a sonic perspective. Simply put, Leo, Brent, Julian, James, and Chris are some of the best in the musicians in the business, and this collective might be the best tribute to Depeche Mode on the planet today—bar none.

Following Strangelove’s energy-filled opening act, Men Without Hats took to the stage and instantly captivated the audience with their charismatic presence. The Canadian new wave band wasted no time in launching into their hits, starting with the timeless anthem “The Safety Dance.” The crowd erupted in cheers and immediately began dancing along to the infectious beat. And this was a real treat because in most cases, an iconic song like that would be the very end of the set. Not this time.

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TVD Live Shots: Queens of the Stone Age with Spiritualized at the Kia Forum, 12/16

The atmosphere on Saturday night (12/16) was absolutely electric as fans from all over the southland came together to experience an incredible performance by Queens of the Stone Age at the legendary Kia Forum in Inglewood. Led by Josh Homme and his talented bandmates, they delivered a mesmerizing 20-song set that seamlessly blended newer tracks with beloved classics, creating what many called “a show for the ages.” There final US stop on their 2023 The End is Nero Tour was hailed as their best performance this year, solidifying their status as a once-in-a-generation band and emphasizing their immense importance in the music industry.

Taking the stage before Queens of the Stone Age, the sensational band Spiritualized delivered a performance that left no room for disappointment. As they launched into their opening song “Hey Jane,” the crowd was instantly captivated by their distinctive trademark sound. Led by frontman Jason Pierce, the band mesmerized the audience with an awe-inspiring 8-song opening set. Their ethereal melodies and haunting vocals created a transcendent musical experience that seemed to transport listeners to another dimension (with me being one of them). The spellbound audience was entranced by Spiritualized’s ability to craft sonic landscapes that truly took their fans on a journey beyond imagination.

Now, let’s dive into the much-anticipated performance by Queens of the Stone Age. Although I had never witnessed their live show before, I had heard nothing but rave reviews, so my excitement was palpable as the moment arrived. Following a brief 20-minute break, the stage burst to life as the band finally unleashed their signature energy and intensity. The first chords of “No One Knows” ignited the crowd into a frenzy of exhilaration, and there was no turning back from that point forward. Josh Homme took command of the stage, delivering powerhouse vocals and blistering guitar riffs that sent electrifying waves surging through the Kia Forum. It clear to the 10,000+ in attendance that this was going to be one kick ass show.

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TVD Live Shots: Depeche Mode with Young Fathers at Pechanga Arena, 12/8

Depeche Mode, a legendary force in the ’80s electronic music scene, embarked on their highly anticipated 2023 Memento Mori tour earlier in the year. Their journey brought them to the iconic Pechanga Arena in San Diego on December 8th, marking one of their final stops on this extraordinary world tour. As a lifelong admirer of their music, I was thrilled to witness their performance, surpassing all my expectations and more. The band’s captivating 23-song set took fans on a mesmerizing journey through time, allowing us to relive what many consider the pinnacle of musical greatness. It was truly an unforgettable experience and one of the best concerts I have seen this year.

Looking back to the early ’80s, there are few bands that have had a greater impact on my life than Depeche Mode. It was back in 1984 when I stumbled upon Some Great Reward at Licorice Pizza, and from the very first listen, I was completely captivated by their sound. Over the years, my devotion to the band has only grown stronger. I proudly own every album they’ve released; I’ve had the privilege of attending their electrifying live performances more than 20 times, and I even bear the iconic Violator rose tattooed on my arm as a permanent symbol of my fandom. To say I’m a die-hard fan would be an understatement.

Taking the stage before Depeche Mode on Friday night was a sensational band hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, known as Young Fathers. While I hadn’t yet witnessed their live performance or listened to their music, my pre-show research assured me that their opening set would be worth every penny of the ticket price. And boy, was I spot on. These guys brought an incredible amount of energy to the Pechanga stage, delivering electrifying hits like “Rain or Shine,” “I Saw,” and “Toy.” Observing Young Fathers in action, it crossed my mind that these immensely talented gentlemen could potentially become the next big sensation in the indie music scene. Only time will reveal their destiny, but one thing is certain: Young Fathers were absolutely mind-blowing.

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