Author Archives: Matthew Belter

TVD Live Shots: Black Label Society, Obituary, and Lord Dying at the House of Blues, 2/27

SAN DIEGO, CA | I’ve never been a huge fan of Zakk Wylde or Black Label Society, but that all changed last week in downtown San Diego. The band’s incredible 15-song set flipped the script on what I assumed would be another rock and roll show and instantly converted me to a full-fledged Doom Crew member before the final salvo rang over the Gaslamp district on Thursday night. BLS’s performance was nothing short of brilliant.

Say what you will, I’ve never a die-hard fan of Zakk Wylde. Since his days with Ozzy, Zakk’s always been an incredibly gifted guitarist, but his talent failed to resonate with me on a visceral level. I am not sure why, but I’ve never been overly excited by his extensive catalog of music or live performances I have seen over the years. I was hoping that feeling would change on Thursday night down in San Diego during Black Label Society’s headlining show at the House of Blues.

Opening on Thursday were two bands that didn’t quite seem to fit this bill, Portland’s Lord Dying and the undisputed pioneers of death metal, Obituary. Both bands were unique in their own way with a subset of fans in attendance pushing their way to the barrier for a closer glimpse of their heroes throughout powerful yet abbreviated sets. While Lord Dying was solid, I really enjoyed Obituary’s performance. I would’ve liked to hear a few more than 10 songs, but was thrilled with newer tracks like “Straight to Hell” along with classics jams such as “Slowly We Rot.” Obituary’s set was truly bad ass and they crushed from start to finish.

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Michael Wilton
of Queensrÿche,
The TVD Interview

Michael Wilton is one amazing guitarist as well as a brilliant songwriter. Co-founder of the legendary progressive band Queensrÿche, he has seen it all (and then some) over a near 40-year career in the music industry. No easy feat by any stretch, Wilton continues to reinvent himself in an ever-changing world that’s far different from when he first took hold of the flame back in 1980.

We had a chance to catch up with Wilton prior to Queensrÿche’s recent show in Anaheim, California to discuss their recent release, current tour, and of course all-things vinyl. 

The Verdict is Queensrÿche’s 15th studio release and was one of the most anticipated releases of 2019. It peaked at #16 on the US Billboard 200, amongst rave reviews from the metal community at large. Were you at all surprised at the initial success it had right out of the gate?

Well, when you create an album, you may love it, but you don’t know how the public’s going to perceive it. Obviously, Century Media Records put a lot of thought into this one. It’s one we took a lot of pride in and was a big release. The Verdict has been embraced by numerous countries around the world as well as our fans here in the US.

It’s interesting that the sound and feel of The Verdict seems to take me back to the original roots of Queensrÿche. Was that planned or was it just a re-evolution of sorts for the band?

I guess when you have the DNA blueprint in the band, it’s always going to kind of sound like that. Queensrÿche is its own animal. We’ve always been like that. All our influences fuse together and make the sum of what we are. It’s unique in itself that we can still BE who we nearly 40 years later.

What’s your favorite track on the album?

It seems to change from day to day. Right now, I’m kind of digging “Inner Unrest.” That’s one of the songs that I think we’ll eventually be doing a YouTube lyric video for.

You’ve been touring relentlessly in support of The Verdict since mid-February of last year including opening stints with the Scorpions, headlining sets with Fates Warning, as well as countless festivals all around the world. How has the touring life been treating you?

You know, it’s what bands like Queensrÿche and others like us do. Let’s face it, people don’t buy music anymore. So, for bands to survive, they have to tour. The only exception to that rule might be bands that have rich parents (laughs). Otherwise, it’s something you just have to do. The thing is, we can’t over tour because you want the clubs and promoters to want you.

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TVD Live Shots: 2020
One Love Cali Reggae Fest, Day 1 at Queen
Mary Park, 2/7

LONG BEACH, CA | It’s no surprise that One Love Cali Reggae Fest has become one of the premier reggae festivals in the US. Since their early days at The Observatory OC in Santa Ana, this festival has gotten bigger and better every year since its inception back in 2015 with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Situated gracefully under the watchful eye of The Queen Mary in beautiful Long Beach, One Love continues to attract reggae’s best and brightest and this year’s event was no exception. Legendary bands such as Dirty Heads, Rebelution, and Slightly Stoopid headlined a three-day event for the ages that left die-hard fans wanting more.

Having been to countless festivals over the years, its important to know right out of the gate that One Love Cali Fest is different from most of the large-scale events one might attend. Upon entering the park, you are immediately immersed with a reggae vibe that feels different. Flanked by three stages, guests can leisurely wander back and forth to catch their favorite bands or better yet take in new ones they’ve never heard before.

The atmosphere at One Love is completely chill and absent of the pretentiousness that accompanies many of the cookie-cutter music festivals crisscrossing the US these days. I met more insanely cool people in one afternoon that I had at the last 10 concerts I had covered and I’m probably being generous.

In addition to beautiful weather and an out-of-this-world vibe, Friday’s line up was second to none and the one I circled on my calendar when the festival was first announced back in November. Unfortunately for me, there were 25 insane acts performing that day across three stages (SMKFLWR., Roots & Culture, and the Tiki Stage) and I’d have to choose which ones I’d be watching (as there was no real way to cover them all).

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TVD Live Shots: Howard Jones with Rachael Sage at the El Rey Theater, 2/1

Howard Jones seems to be getting better with age. He’s anything but a one-hit wonder and continues to churn out amazing, new music along with reimagining his classics of yesteryear. If you get a chance to Howard Jones live in support of his 2020 “Transform Tour,” do so—you will not be disappointed.

The early eighties were a magical time for music. The New Wave revolution was just beginning to take off and bands like Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys were just beginning to make a name for themselves here in the States. Fast forward a few years, and a little-known English musician by the name of Howard Jones burst onto scene. His humble beginnings in 1983 quickly morphed into a very distinct style of music that blended his amazing talent as a pianist with true genius storytelling. On a crisp Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles, Howard Jones took the stage at the historic El Rey Theater for an intimate night of music and conversation that captivated a capacity crowd.

Opening the show for Howard Jones was New York singer and songwriter, Rachael Sage. Her brief 30-minute set was jam-packed with beautiful songs like “Spark,” “Trouble,” and my favorite “Haunted by Objects.” Rachael’s ability to connect with the crowd was noticeable, as many in the audience were smiling ear to ear while singing along to songs that were fresh, catchy, and relevant. In addition, Rachael’s voice was simply breathtaking and echoed joyfully throughout the El Rey.  It seemed the perfect place to showcase this amazing talent. I’d be remiss not to mention Rachael’s violinist, Kelly Halloran. She is an out-of-this-world talent and I thoroughly enjoyed her playing throughout the set.

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TVD Live Shots: Queensrÿche, John 5,
and Eve to Adam at the House of Blues, 1/30

I’ve seen Queensrÿche upwards of 40 times and can’t seem to get enough of this ever-evolving band. Their seventeen-song set was chock full of new material, classic tracks, as well as a few from the vault that I haven’t seen performed live in years. Add guitar virtuoso John 5 to the bill and fans were treated to an unbelievable night of rock and roll music that left the capacity crowd screaming for more. It’s the perfect blueprint for what a live music show should be and delivered on all levels Thursday night.

I make no apologies for being a Queensrÿche fan and have been all my life. Watching a virtually unknown band from Seattle on WTBS’s Night Tracks was where it all started, and I have been a die-hard fan ever since.  Their brand of no-frills rock and roll (and lineup) has obviously changed over the years, but they continue to crank out amazingly relevant music that’s fresh, entertaining, and most importantly real.  Where most bands from their generation have fallen by the wayside, Queensrÿche has reinvented themselves and are still doing what they love on their terms. Their story is rare and their evolution even more extraordinary.

Opening Thursday’s show at the Anaheim House of Blues was Eve to Adam, and band hailing from the East coast and one I honestly have never heard of.  However, it was evident from the moment they took the stage that these guys were serious rockers and ones we shouldn’t take lightly. Eve to Adam’s set was short but highlighted the ability of these talented rockers and why Queensrÿche would have added them to this bill.  I gave their recent release Ithaca a spin and its solid and think you’ll feel the same way.

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TVD Live Shots: Metal Allegiance, Exmortus, Weapons of Anew, and Trauma at the House of Blues, 1/16

ANAHEIM, CA | With so many musicians in town for NAMM, there seems to be an over-abundance of jam shows that fans can take part in on any given evening throughout convention week. Although many are solid in their own right, one stands out each year as the quintessential “must-attend” show. This year’s Metal Allegiance performance at the Anaheim House of Blues was nothing short of spectacular and once again demonstrated why it deserves to stand atop the mountain of all-things metal.

NAMM week can be overwhelming.  On any given day, tens of thousands of people flock to the Anaheim Convention Center for what is arguably the largest musical convention of its kind in the world today. Whether you are a musician, vendor or fan, there is something for everyone over the traditional 4-day event, and entertainment options become even greater when the event closes its doors for the evening. On Thursday, the buzz around the convention hall was Metal Allegiance’s sold-out show at the House of Blues that evening, and it was definitely a show I had circled on my calendar earlier in the year as a “must-see” during NAMM week.

Kicking off the evening were three bands that in their own unique way, lit the fuse on the Metal Allegiance powder keg on Thursday night.  First up was Trauma, a legendary bay area thrash metal band hailing from San Francisco.  One might think that an opener is simply filler for the main event, but these guys were legit. The concert erupted into bedlam from note one, and there was no turning back at that point. Next up was Weapons of Anew. I’d never heard of this band prior, but I’m definitely a fan after taking in their ridiculously entertaining set from the pit. Their energy was off the charts and were definitely a sign of things to come later that evening.

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TVD Live Shots: Styx at City National Grove, 1/14

I’ve seen well over a thousand concerts in my lifetime but had never seen Styx live. For me, Tuesday’s show at City National Grove was a performance I won’t soon forget. You’d never know that this band is approaching the big 5-0 by the way they slayed a nearly 3 hour, 21-song set. It was as if all in attendance were magically transported back to the late ’70s during Styx’s Pieces of Eight Tour. If I could give this performance an 11, I would. It was that good.

What more can be said about Styx that has not already been said over an illustrious career that started back in the south-side of Chicago in 1972. Sure, the band has gone through some changes over the years, however the spirit of Styx remains and continues to pump out new music and phenomenal live performances like no other. Tuesday’s show in Anaheim was simply incredible and highlighted why this band remains atop the altar of classic rock and roll.

Styx kicked off their set with “Gone, Gone, Gone” off 2017’s critically acclaimed release, The Mission. It was Styx’s first single off the album and the first featuring Lawrence Gowan on lead vocals. Gowan’s vocals were crisp and combined with an incredible stage presence launched their performance into hyperdrive deep in the heart of Orange County. This show was going to be fun.

Over the next 2+ hours, Styx captivated the near-capacity crowd with classics that spanned their entire catalog and then some. Tommy Shaw took the controls on hits like “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Blue Collar Man” and even teased an acoustic version of Damn Yankees’ “Come Again” prior to launching into 1976 classic “Crystal Ball.” Shaw was on point throughout the entire set with crisp guitar licks and amazing vocals that are second to none.

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TVD Live Shots: King Diamond with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Idle Hands at City National Grove, 12/3

On a cold and dreary Tuesday night in Orange County, King Diamond conjured up the spirit of Abigail in front of a packed house in Anaheim, CA. Fans from all walks of life were in attendance to witness his ghastly sermon and nobody left the venue disappointed. It was a masterful show from one of the all-time legends of black metal and one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. All hail King Diamond!

I can remember hearing “Melissa” for the first time as a teenager and was immediately hooked on Mercyful Fate and their lead singer, King Diamond. Their music was like no other at the time and pushed all conceivable boundaries, mixing dark themes of Satanism and the occult with raw, unadulterated metal. King Diamond’s unmistakable falsetto was one of a kind and still lives on in infamy some 45 years later. Tuesday’s show would definitely be one I would cherish as a lifelong fan.

Opening for King Diamond were two bands that I highly anticipated seeing live, Portland’s own Idle Hands as well as legendary English rockers, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. Each band was unique in their own right and killed their respective sets. I’d definitely be down for seeing them both again the road as their brand of no-frills rock and roll resonated with me as well as others at the City National Grove on Tuesday evening. Definitely a breath of fresh air for sure and one I won’t soon forget.

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TVD Live Shots:
Bauhaus with Azam
Ali at the Hollywood Palladium, 12/01

As the dust settled, I took a moment to soak in what I had just witnessed and walked back to my car speechless. This show was brilliant on so many levels and highlighted the sheer genius of Daniel Ash, Peter Murphy, Kevin Haskins, and David J. For fans in attendance, the performance on Sunday night was magic of a type that won’t be replicated any time soon.

I’m not sure there are many other bands who have been more influential for other bands than Bauhaus. Formed in 1978, Bauhaus were true pioneers of gothic rock and set the stage for all who came afterward. Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Tool (just to name a few) have cited Bauhaus as a significant influence upon their music, and this will come as no surprise to those who have followed the band since its inception. Their style was unlike anything in music then or now, and they continue to push the envelope 40+ years later.

On Sunday night, Bauhaus once again sold out the Hollywood Palladium for what was sure to be a show for the ages. Opening the evening was Azam Ali, and although I had never heard her music prior, I definitely wanted to hear more after her set concluded. Azam’s voice was beautifully haunting and the perfect fit for the evening. Her cover of the Cocteau Twins’ “Shallow Then Hollow” was spectacular and demonstrated that all covers need not sound like covers—Azam made it her own and shined in the process.

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TVD Live Shots: Peter Hook & The Light with Night Dreamer at The Wiltern Theater, 11/9

Peter Hook & The Light’s show on Saturday night at The Wiltern was by all accounts brilliant. His masterful covers of both New Order and Joy Division classics transported fans back in time to what many felt was the true beginning of electronic music as we know it today. It was a throwback show for the ages that reinforced all that’s good in music today and one I won’t soon forget.

If you know anything about me, you’d know that there is a special place in my heart for electronic music. I grew up with artists like Kraftwork, Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan and believe they collectively rewrote musical history with their unique style of post-punk/electronic music. New Order was another such band that blazed unchartered territory in the early 1980s, with incredibly catchy songs that many think of as the soundtrack of their youth.

On a crisp Saturday night in DTLA, Peter Hook & The Light took us all back in time to relive those amazing memories with a stellar set that transcended time. Opening the evening was the debut of Los Angeles based duo, Night Dreamer. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder (of Smashing Pumpkins) and vocalist extraordinaire Mindy Song kicked of the evening with a performance that was completely unexpected for an opener and really, really good. Their on-stage chemistry was amazing, and I could immediately see stars in the making throughout their powerful 30-minute set.

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TVD Live Shots: Loverboy at The
Grove, 10/24

As a teen in the early ’80s, I was fortunate to have someone in my life to help shape my love for vinyl, live music, and all things rock and roll.

I can vividly recall sitting in my uncle’s room in San Antonio listening to classics such as Legs Diamond, The Babys, and of course Van Halen. One band that always stood out during that time was Loverboy. Although I never caught them live, I probably listened to 1981’s Get Lucky nearly a thousand times and could sing along to every song in typical Mike Reno form (headband not included). On Thursday night, I’d finally get my chance to see Loverboy live. I was excited to relive what turned out to be such an influential period in my life.

On a breezy Southern California evening, Loverboy took over The Grove in Anaheim and escorted fans on a magical journey back in time to the early ’80s. Different from most shows I have attended at this venue, Loverboy’s show was stripped down, well-oiled, and filled with classics that entertained and delighted.

There was no opening band on Thursday, just 2 hours of classic Loverboy at its finest. Hits such as “Lucky Ones,” “Hot Girls in Love,” and “Working for the Weekend” were tight and had fans from all over Southern California singing along at a frenzied pace. Approaching 65 years old, Mike Reno’s voice was solid as I have ever heard it.

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TVD Live Shots:
Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime, Mark Daly, Fire Sets Fire, and Jump for Joey at the Canyon
at The Rose, 9/29

Seeing Operation: Mindcrime performed live was just what Doctor X ordered on Sunday night. The venue was packed, the band was tight, and fans were treated to one of Geoff Tate’s best vocal performances in recent memory. It was if we all time-traveled back to 1988 to partake in one of the best rock operas of all time.

If you know anything about me, you’d know that I am a huge Queensrÿche fan and have been since I first watched “Take Hold of The Flame” debut on Night Tracks back in 1984. I’d stay up for hours watching this video on rotation and have been a fan of the band ever since. Who would have thought that almost 35 years later I’d be covering Geoff Tate, one of my childhood idols? As an added bonus, I’d be witnessing a complete performance of arguably one of the most iconic concept albums of all time, Operation: Mindcrime. This was going to be one special night at The Rose, and I was lucky enough to have a front row seat.

Opening the show were a trio of bands hand-picked to warm up the Pasadena crowd and each kicked some major ass. Opening sets by Mark Daly, Fire Sets Fire, and Jump for Joey were all unique in their own way and seemed to energize the near capacity crowd with their own brand of rock and roll madness. My favorite of the three was Irish singer/ songwriter Mark Daly. His thoughtful lyrics and constant engagement with the crowd stood out to me and couldn’t help but compare his amazing voice to that of an early Kurt Cobain. No doubt I’ll be digging into his catalog in the days ahead.

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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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