Author Archives: Matthew Belter

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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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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