Author Archives: Matthew Belter

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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Andrew Hagar,
The TVD Interview

Andrew Hagar, the son of legendary musician Sammy Hagar, is anything but typical. From an early age he decided to forge his own path that included diversions one might find contrary to the rock and roll lifestyle that many might expect growing up as a “rockstar’s son.” Andrew’s passions have led him from martial arts and combat sports, working with “at-risk” kids, theoretical physics, and then full-circle back to music. His journey was not easy nor expected, but one that was necessary to fully actualize his true self.

With the recent release of his latest band’s first single “Triggerman,” we sat down with Hagar explore his unique path, his love for vinyl, and his ultimate desire to give back to underprivileged children in need.

Let’s get rolling—how did you get started in music?

I got started in music kind of by accident. I originally ran away screaming from music because everybody else in my family was going toward it. From a young age I started doing other things. I started studying martial arts when I was five and then got into Ninja Turtles, and that stuff led me down that path. Then when I was about 24 or 25, a girl I was dating at the time bought me an acoustic guitar because I had been playing a lot of Guitar Heroes with my buddy, and it was one of those silly things where I got good at the game and all my friends were like, “Why the hell are you playing this game? You should just get a real guitar,” I got a real guitar and then it just kind of started from there.

When did you begin to take music seriously?

I didn’t start taking it seriously until about four years ago when I was staying with the Kristoffersons. [Kris Kristofferson]. They had a tour coming up in Scotland and asked me if I wanted to help them carry bags and stuff because I was dating their daughter Kelly at the time. Then one day we were just all just messing around singing some duets and they were like, “Dude, you should open for us.” It was crazy. I never, ever would have guessed in my wildest dreams that would have happened.

Tell me, what was it like performing on stage for the very first time?

I remember we were at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland and couldn’t believe that I was there. Everything just kind of hit me all at once. I wasn’t worried about what other people were going to think necessarily, I just wanted to go out there and do my best. Frankly, I just really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t awful.

And how did that show turn out?

I went out there and after about a song and a half I could see people in the crowd were actually into it. I felt like we were doing a really good job and had this epiphany moment where I was like, “Jesus, this is awesome.” We only had maybe 15 minutes up there, but I remember when it was over, I was like, “Man, I just want to do this all night.”

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TVD Live Shots: Disturbed and Three Days Grace at Pechanga Arena, 1/9

Kicking off their long-awaited 2019 Evolution Tour, Disturbed electrified fans from all over the world with an incredible performance in San Diego on a chilly Wednesday evening. Their 16-song set took “Disturbed Ones” on an incredible journey into the heart and soul of one of the world’s most beloved metal bands and left little doubt why they still reign supreme on the altar of all things metal. 

Let’s be frank, there are literally hundreds of bands touring the globe right now spanning all genres of music. From punk to pop (and everything in between), one can easily find a live show to drop their hard-earned money on. More difficult is finding a band that is worthy of your investment. How many times have you walked out of a gig shaking your head wondering why you came in the first place? Seems to happen to me all the time, but not Wednesday night as Disturbed kicked off their highly anticipated 2019 Evolution Tour in San Diego. This show had it all and then some.

Opening the evening’s festivities were Canadian rockers Three Days Grace. From the first notes of their latest single “The Mountain” to the final crescendo of 2006’s classic “Riot,” this band fired on all-cylinders with what could have been a “headlining set.” Matt Walst’s vocals were dialed in all evening and the musicianship of brother Brad Walst (bass), Barry Stock (guitars), and Neil Sanderson (drums) were second to none. If you have not checked out their 2018 release, Outsider, do yourself a favor and give it a spin at your earliest. It’s an instant classic.

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TVD Live Shots:
Save Ferris, Mest, The Untouchables, and Hoist the Colors at House of Blues Anaheim, 12/1

Save Ferris is considered by many to be one of the most important ska bands of our generation. Fronted by the uber-talented Monique Powell, this band fuses traditional ska beats with an edgy punk rock attitude that has withstood the test of time and continues to sell out shows all over the country. Their performance on Saturday night in Anaheim was no exception as superfans lined up early for their chance to rush the barricade and get up close and personal with one of Orange County’s finest.

After incredible opening sets by Mest, The Untouchables, and Hoist the Colors (all who could have individually headlined shows of their own), Save Ferris took the stage and opened with an amazing cover of The Waitresses 1981 smash, “Christmas Wrapping.” This holiday classic was just what the doctor ordered to get the anxious crowd off their feet and skanking to the beat—officially kicking off the holiday season in typical Save Ferris style. For those in attendance, this show was already was shaping up to be an instant classic.

For the next few hours, the 2000+ fans who packed the Anaheim House of Blues were captivated by Save Ferris and their holiday infused setlist—standards that included hits “Goodbye,” “Mistaken,” and “Your Friend” off 1999’s Modified. The night ended with a brilliant encore including two fan favorites, “She Has a Girlfriend Now” and a cover of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ smash, “Come on Eileen.” What an incredible way to wrap up an amazing set and a perfect way to kick off the 2018 Holiday Season here in Southern California.

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