Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Darkness Reborn Tour: Dimmu Borgir with Enslaved

Putting the nail in the coffin for heavy metal shows at The House of Blues this year, the highly anticipated Darkness Reborn Tour 2010 was announced. Featuring Norwegian metal bands Dimmu Borgir, Enslaved, Blood Red Throne, and Dawn of Ashes, this was sure to be an ear-bleeding, fully charged show. When I first discovered European black metal in the late 1990s, Dimmu Borgir was a quick favorite, and was truly thrilled by the opportunity to see them live.

Arriving as Enslaved took the stage, I was instantly impressed by the intensity of their energetic loud music. Seeming to have a rather large fan base within the crowd, as they grinded out their fast songs, a sea of flying hair headbanged in unison. Within just a few tracks, the crowd was already slamming and getting rowdy, raising the pulse of everyone in the house. Thanking the fans, Enslaved took a bow and humbly cleared the stage.
When the lights came up, Xibir played while the fans cheered, as the blue light revealed a large stage setup. Dimmu Borgir, six members in total, walked to their instruments, all sporting face paint, dressed in sand-blasted armored coats, fitted only for worthy metal gods... it was perfect. The house roared with cheers, fists were thrown, and men rushed to the center of the floor as security futilely tried to stop pits from breaking out. Announcing this was the first time they had been back to Las Vegas in two years, Dimmu only encouraged the audiences’ behavior, “Let me see those horns!”
Dimmu Borgir assaulted the audience not only with their incredibly loud music but also with the strobe lights timed perfectly to the speedy double bass drums. Angelic synth/keys tied the thumping drums, dual guitars, rattling bass, and growled lyrics all together in perfect synchronicity. It was a non-stop metal onslaught for over an hour, and Dimmu pulled it off effortlessly. Setlist included Spellbound (By the Devil), The Chosen Legacy, IndoctriNation, Dimmu Borgir, Gateways, Chess With the Abyss, Born Treacherous, A Jewel Traced Through Coal, The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance, and Vredesbyrd.
Returning on stage to a shouting crowd, lead singer Silenoz yelled, “You guys tired or are you ready to hear more Norwegian black metal hardcore!?" Exhausted fans mustered up a deserving response and were treated to an extended encore, including: The Serpentine Offering, Puritania, Progenies of the Great Apocalypse, Mourning Palace, exiting with Perfection Or Vanity. Each left individually, bowing and graciously thanking the audience and die-hard fans. Dimmu Borgir was solid through and through, giving fans everything they could have wanted. Next time their tour runs through, lace up your black boots and see what you’ve been missing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pretty Lights with Kraddy and GramatiK

The most exciting announcement in electronic shows since DJ Shadow, just a month later the House of Blues welcomed the Pretty Lights with Kraddy and Gramatik. Pretty Lights creator, Derek Vincent Smith has had an amazing year, putting on a noteworthy performance at Coachella in April and releasing three EPs this year: Making Up A Changing Mind, Spilling Over Every Side, and released just Oct. 22, 2010, Glowing In The Darkest Night. I was more than excited to see Pretty Lights in such an intimate venue, reflecting on their intense Coachella show, shared in a tent with thousands of people.

Due to my recent fixation on dubstep and the out of control Bass Gravy dubstep show just three nights earlier, I was eager to close the weekend with some of my favorite electronic artists. I was introduced to Gramatik and Kraddy through Last.fm, Kraddy being my top 6th artist played, only after Pretty Lights in 5th. Gramatik played rather downtempo beats but did a good job of getting the fans down on the floor and dancing.

Kraddy hit the stage to an excited crowd, many of whom seemed familiar fans. He played most of his beats solely through a Macbook, but kept each song on the fly and super tight. Kraddy completed his set with his hard hitting track Android Porn, sending the frenzied audience into a jumping dance pit. Kraddy hit it hard spinning deep bass dubstep, hyping up the audience to a point that each minute we waited for Pretty Lights to come out seemed like an eternity.
As we all itched for Pretty Lights to get us all back into a united groove, the anticipation only continued to swell as we watched the stage crew uncover an incredible setup. Pretty Lights had at least 7 digital LED panels covering the stage, front to back, all of which were synchronized to project fluid images. Pretty Lights was projected on the screens as they entered the stage, and it quickly melted into bright explosions of color. To the right of Derek’s screen lit DJ platform, Adam Deitch played live drums perfectly in time with Derek and kept up the whole night through.

Pretty Lights played a solid and tight set for what seemed like hours. Even though I was being assaulted by some of the most intense visuals I have ever seen, it was hard to stay focused on them for too long as the infectious natural beats flowed through my body and overcame me. The audience grooved as one, entranced by the seamless beats, taken over by the beautiful music that moved as one with the bold visual screens. Deceivingly abrupt, we were surprised when Pretty Lights bowed and ended the show, totally shocked that it was already 1:30 AM.
After mulling around for a few minutes, rather glum that the experience that was Pretty Lights was over, Derek returned to his microphone and announced “They just told me I could play until 3...” The hot and packed House of Blues showed no signs of wear, as fans screamed with absolute enthusiasm looking forward to an all nighter with Pretty Lights.

Pretty Lights continued as if the music never stopped, playing solid through 2:45 AM. (Please note, drummer Adam Deitch played along with Derek continuously through the entire four hour performance!) Right up there with Nine Inch Nails, DJ Shadow, and deadmau5, Pretty Lights brought forth one of the most intense lightshows I have ever seen. Only backing their even more inventive music, I cannot decide if the musical performance or the visual show was better; I am only left to say that the whole experience was intoxicating and nearly indescribable.

If Pretty Lights makes a stop in your city, I recommend picking up tickets and telling your friends; you will not be disappointed. If you are unfamiliar with Pretty Lights, or the genre itself, be sure to check out their website. All l6 of Pretty Lights CDs are available FREE to download from Pretty Lights Music. THANK YOU!

Setlist (included, no order): Finally Moving, Almost Familiar, Hot Like Sauce, More Important Than Michael Jordan, Who Loves Me, Sunday School, The Time Has Come, Keep ‘em Bouncin’.

*Please excuse my poor photography, as the photos do not do the exceptional live visual performance justice. I searched high and low, but everyone was just as I, too distracted dancing along to the music to snap any good pictures. Even more reason for you to check out Pretty Lights on tour.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Label Society

The originally scheduled Black Label Berzekus Tour, with Black Label Society, 2 Cents, and Sister Sin scheduled for September 16th, was canceled within a week of show, with no announcement or explanation from the official website. After the show was promptly rescheduled for November 21, 2010, featuring Clutch and Children of Bodom, I was satisfied and let it go. However, this show too was canceled within a week of the show.

Although there are rumors that Zakk Wylde’s health may be to blame, there was never any mention or reason why the Las Vegas shows were affected. During my research, I found this audacious entry on their website, “The following shows have been cancelled due to Zakk's obligations in the studio recording the new Ozzy Osbourne release...” It must be nice to be such an incredible guitar player that you can double book yourself and have no second thoughts about letting your fans down when you don’t come through.

Well unfortunately Mr. Wylde, The House of Blues and many fans have standards, two strikes and you’re out. Now that Black Label Society has been blacklisted, looks like I won’t be seeing you on tour... This year, or ever.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

3OH!3 with Hellogoodbye

I cannot think of many other better ways to begin a Saturday evening in Las Vegas, than with party rock duo 3OH!3. This show with special guests Hellogoodbye, Down With Webster, and K. Flay was a high demand ticket. By name, I did not know who they were, but after a quick listen, I recognized their infectious songs immediately. I had a feeling that 3OH!3 would blow the roof off The House of Blues.

Hellogoodbye already graced the House of Blues stage earlier this year, opening for New Found Glory in March. After being impressed with their retro rock-pop sound in March, I noticed that this time their music seemed more fine tuned, even streamlined. Despite their clean performance, I found their sound less genuine and interesting. Hellogoodbye played a full set to a great audience, seemingly here just for their show. Certainly a well-deserved contrast to the audience's poor appreciation last time. It looks as though Hellogoodbye is on their way up to bigger and better things; definitely worth checking out.

After a short break fans were accosted by bright flashing lights and air horns, with a 3OH!3 American flag backdrop. Within seconds, the fans were shouting and throwing their 3OH!3 hand symbols in the air. Wasting no time, they started off hard with Starstrukk quickly getting the crowded floor of people in a jumping dance frenzy. Despite already expecting have have a party rockin’ awesome time, I was still astonished by the amount of super-fans and how much fun we had.
3OH!3 kept the beats going nonstop, playing a familiar and infectiously danceable setlist, including many covers. Kiss From a Rose, (Seal) I Believe I Can Fly, (R Kelly) Snow (Hey Oh) (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Deja Vu, We Are Young, Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus). Sean jokingly commented “We are worst cover band you've ever heard in your life!” On the contrary, they sounded great backed by a live band (no DJ), and kept the fans bouncing around throughout their set.

Returning for an encore to a chanting and still fired-up crowd, 3OH!3 exclaimed, “This is the best show we’ve ever played in Vegas!” I might suggest this was an understatement, as everyone in the house was having an all out blast and getting wild. After covering Rock You Like a Hurricane (Scorpions), Sean laughed, “We got at least 10 more covers to go...” wrapping it up with Double Vision, Schools Out (Alice Cooper), and Don’t Trust Me.
After the lights came up, we fanned for air, still pumped with energy, looked at one another wondering, well what now. 3OH!3 brought us up high and it was a rather harsh comedown after their energized performance. Even better than their show was their humble approach to their music and fans. They took several moments to reflect on how far they’ve come, gave respect to opening bands, and promoted donating to or participating in a marathon to fight cancer, like Sean had earlier this year in Chicago. Needless to say, I put 3OH!3 on a must see list for any concert goer or party animal, you and your crew are sure to have a ball!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Twiztid with Blaze Ya Dead Homie

After an abrupt, day of show cancellation of their original March 11th date, Twiztid returned to The House of Blues with Blaze Ya Dead Homie. Being surprised and impressed by ICP’s June performance, I decided to give Twiztid the benefit of the doubt and check it out.
Blaze Ya Dead Homie (BYDH) appeared sporting an over-sized clock hanging from his chain, opening to a moderately sized crowd, full of enthusiasm. Within the first fifteen minutes of his set, I was already questioning if it was all taped. The music sounded pre-recorded, their mouth movement and mic placement did not match up, and tracks faded in and out with no visible DJ. The audience was throwing hands up, cheering, and seemed to be enjoying themselves, I couldn’t stick it through his set.

While the stage was being setup for Twiztid, a DJ came on-stage and mixed, keeping the audience’s energy up. After the second Tech N9ne song was rotated through the mix and received an equal response from the crowd as any BYDH song did, I felt my open-mindedness and credibility go out the door. My last expectation was to see how elaborate of a set they were hiding behind all the draped black sheets.
The lights came up, the sheets dropped, revealing a disappointing setup, and Twiztid came onstage mics in hand, but once again with no visible DJ to make or spin their beats. Granted it did sound like Twiztid was actually freestyling on top of a muddy low beat, their performance was only slightly better than BYDH’s. To my astonishment, the audience continued to give off the same level of response after each song, act, and even to the DJ in between. Forty-five minutes into Twiztid’s mediocre performance, I ran out of reasons to stay.

After I swore them off in March due to lack of respect for their own fans, then tried again and came to their rescheduled show, I left wondering if the whole show was a "Milli Vanilli." Despite the underwhelming performances, I will admit that true fans were happy with the concert, but if you are not part of the “family,” this show was nothing to call home about. As much as I detest even writing this review, I have to place Twiztid as a top contender for the worst performance at The House of Blues I have ever seen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, & Suburban Legends

When I saw the announcement for Reel Big Fish (RBF) with Goldfinger and Suburban Legends, I instantly flashed back to the late nineties at The Huntridge, when these and many other ska/punk bands were at their prime. During these few short years, Las Vegas’ music scene developed and emerged strong, offering all age shows every weekend, featuring multi-band punk/metal/ska line-ups for just a few bucks. Due to the pure nostalgia their music holds in my heart, I was anxious to see how the bands and music had stood up over the last decade.

Suburban Legends came onstage bursting with energy, quickly spreading like wildfire through the crowd. I was caught a bit off guard with their preteen pop laced ska, but after seeing everyone dancing and having a great time, I was feeling it too. Their whimsical music also painted a clear picture of the solid decade generation gap in the audience, those just discovering ska and the original veterans. To even further watch the great divide occur, Suburban Legends wrapped their set with a ska cover of 2010’s internet smash, Bed Intruder.
After Suburban Legends had already got the crowd loosened up for Golfinger, lead singer John Feldmann wasted no time blasting the audience, “This is a punk rock show... I want to everyone step up and give it your all!” Wasting no time at all, Goldfinger blasted off with Chris Cayton, even welcoming the real Chris Cayton, (who the song was written about) joining in the first few songs on guitar. Playing through a great well mixed set, Goldfinger also featured Brett Reed from Rancid on drums for the entirety of their set.

The crowd quickly responded and kept up with John’s high demands, keeping a circle pit and skanking in full effect through the duration of their set and encore. In return, they welcomed many people onstage to dance and sing 1996’s Mabel. Songs ranged from new to old, including most fan favorites, plus covers of Just Like Heaven (The Cure), White Christmas, and 99 Luft Balloons (Nena). Taking a moment to thank The Huntridge and all old-school fans, John announced they have been touring with RBF continuously since 1994, and this was Goldfinger’s 58th stop in Las Vegas. Even after all these years, Goildfinger still had the energy and sound I remembered so well.
Reel Big Fish was on after a short break and were greeted by an enthusiastic audience. Just like Goldfinger, RBF were no sorrier for wear over the years, sounding as great as ever, even sprinkling in some goofy synchronized dance moves in the horn section. Playing through a range of old and new songs, skank circles and clap-sessions erupted continuously song after song. The audience’s momentum never dropped, and I even spotted several bartenders moving and singing along.

RBF made many bold cover song decisions, from Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison) right into Enter Sandman (Metallica), and wrapped up with a quick hardcore song into Take On Me (A-ha). Doing these covers worked in two ways for the bands, kept the fans interested and allowed them to show off their musical diversity and talent to adapt their rhythm with ease. Near the end of the show, I found the number of cover songs was rather disappointing, viewing it almost as a death of ska, a last attempt to keep the music alive and relevant.
Each band’s energy and clean performance throughout made this a fun show for all ages. Even though I felt the music’s age wear on me and it wasn’t the same as the 90s, the bands showed no signs of being out of practice and truly put on great shows. Fan of ska or not, the music is jovial, Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger are the best of the genre, and you really have to fight the urge to dance; what more could one want?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Charlie Murphy

Tonight The House of Blues welcomed Charlie Murphy, back after a last minute cancellation of the original August 12th show date. Although Murphy never stated why the August show was canceled, I happen to know that day he was spotted at the airport catching a plane to Hawaii... Regardless, I was pleased Charlie Murphy rescheduled and was curious to see what his stand-up was all about.

Opening for Murphy was a fellow underground comedian that has traveled with him for many years, Freez Luv. His style was upfront, real, and quickly grabbed the audience by making fun of everyone, but especially himself. Freez Luv's jokes were easy to follow, funny on many levels, had memorable punchlines, that were delivered carefree. "I like a woman who looks like the back of a TV... with that Toshiba belly!" Without a doubt, Freez warmed up the crowd and already had many laughing out of their seats.
Charlie Murphy came onstage to an exuberant audience, as miscellaneous quotes from his skits on Chappelle's Show could be heard through the applause. Either you know Charlie Murphy as Eddie Murphy's older brother or from Chappelle's Show. I was interested to see what else he had to offer, especially in a stand-up setting.

After the cheers died down, it took a few minutes for the crowd to adjust from Freez's slapstick comedy to Charlie's matter of fact and mellow style. His style is not similar to most stand-up comedians in typical A to B followed by punchline C, rather he likes to storytell of real life situations that leave him completely baffled. Murphy joked, “Five days is long enough for kids to start questioning your authority... My kid gets out the dictionary, 'It says right here you’re supposed to be able to fix this,'" in reference to the New Jersey power outage that lasted several days. If you could stick with him for a few minutes, the hook at the end of the story was often clever and well worth it.

I thought Charlie Murphy was solid, complete with new material, absurd stories, and kept up the momentum through the performance. Near the end of the show, it was clear that half the crowd was laughing with him and the other half didn't get what they expected. Unfortunately, I believe those that were not laughing only knew Charlie for his celebrity, not his comedy. This unfair expectation is responsible for the disaster that unfolded the night before at Georgia State University (GSU), at which Charlie told the audience "Fuck you" and walked off stage.

If you like raw, real humor, and don't need a zinger or fart joke to laugh, I would highly suggest Charlie Murphy. The House of Blues Las Vegas is one of his frequent stops, so be sure to check him out, it looks like he will be around for a while. "Performed at House of Blues last night in Las Vegas. Scored an A will keep doing this till it's obvious that GSU Is ignorant!" @cmurphycomedy Sunday, November 07, 2010