Realistic scenarios to bring rock music back to Super Bowl Sunday

It wasn’t until Super Bowl XXV, which brings deep, deep pain for other reasons than the halftime performer, that the Super Bowl really started to bring in pop-icons to perform at the event. For most of the game’s existence until that point, the halftime show was performed by college marching bands. Super Bowl XXV, which featured the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants, brought in pop sensations New Kids on the Block for the halftime entertainment. Talk about yawn. At least that game lived up to the hype, albeit in heartbreaking fashion for yours truly.

While some true pop icons (Michael Jackson, Prince) have graced the stage, for far too many Super Bowls, the performers have been inadequate with music that plainly doesn’t resonate with the average football fan. Guys that play football don’t listen to Gloria Estefan or Jessica Simpson. Guys that played football grow up to be a large base of the people that watch football. Yeah, yeah, this isn’t true in every case. But for simplicity’s sake, a large portion of football’s most loyal base, grew up with rock music in their locker rooms. Not all, but a lot. A lot of that music can never be played at a family-friendly event like the Super Bowl, so sorry fellas we will probably never see a Limp Bizkit or Korn performance at the game. Likewise for those who listened to mostly rap in the locker room. But, what if there were rock bands that would make sense and would be tame enough for the whole family to enjoy? With the next three Super Bowl locations set, this is what the halftime entertainment committee or whoever they are should do to appease their loyal fans that listen to rock music. While the bands have to be interested as well and all of that jazz (who’s going to turn down the Super Bowl though), these are scenarios that make sense for the next three Super Bowls.

Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta has hosted two recent Super Bowls; the second of back to back blowouts of the Buffalo Bills by the Dallas Cowboys and the epic game played between the St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans that came down to the last play of the game. While the Bills/Cowboys game featured an all-star lineup of country musicians at the time, it was largely a forgettable performance, because you likely have no recollection of a halftime show featuring Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt and The Judds. The Rams/Titans game was a better game and a more pop-friendly event featuring Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Toni Braxton. Atlanta and America, you deserve better. So for next year’s Super Bowl in your city, imagine having Metallica!

Why Metallica? Why not? That’s a better question. This is quite possibly the absolute most overdue selection to play the Super Bowl. This band probably has more “all-time” locker room play time than any other. They are currently the biggest rock band in the world and have been since AC/DC started to slow down. With AC/DC’s future uncertain as well with Brian Johnson being out of the band and Malcolm Young’s recent passing, Metallica is the pick. Unless Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd were to reunite, Metallica is at the very top of the mountain until they decide to call it quits. They are still making new and relevant music and every single person that has played football in the last 30 years has likely heard their music in the locker room or during pregame at some point. They are likely the only heavy metal band that could pull this off. While their hardcore fans would want a halftime set-list of thrash gold, a more realistic and media appeasing set-list would be more palatable for those that are scared of heavy metal music. Imagine all of the fire and lasers of a full Metallica show condensed into this four-song set for the Super Bowl:

1. Whiskey in the Jar

2. Enter Sandman

3. Moth Into Flame

4. Seek and Destroy

 

Super Bowl 54 in Miami, Florida.

Miami has also hosted numerous modern-day Super Bowls. Let’s see, during the San Francisco 49ers’ blowout of the San Diego Chargers, they gave us Patti Labelle and Tony Bennett. No kidding. Then while the Denver Broncos were blowing out the Atlanta Falcons, we were treated to Gloria Estefan (again) and Stevie Wonder, which was probably decent but how much Gloria Estefan can they expect us to take? While Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts were taking it to the Chicago Bears, Miami gave us a pretty cool set from Prince. Their most recent Super Bowl was their best, however. In 2010, the New Orleans Saints were pulling away from the Indianapolis Colts for their first Super Bowl victory, and we were treated to a fantastic show from The Who. Now THAT is an iconic rock band if there ever was one. So, in two years when Miami gets to host again, who should they pencil in for the event? Why not stadium rock icons Journey?

Even with millennials, Journey remains one of the most popular bands in the world. They are still touring today and still sound great live, albeit with a “new” singer, Arnel Pineda. With Journey just recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, wouldn’t the Super Bowl Halftime Show be the perfect moment for them to reunite for the night with the vocalist of their heyday, Steve Perry? He and Arnel could trade off vocals and the band could finally move forward without fans having to wonder “what if” anymore. This is a win-win. You find someone that is in a bad mood while listening to Journey and what you’ve really found is a liar. Imagine this halftime set:

1. Anyway You Want It

2. Wheel In The Sky

3. Faithfully

4. Don’t Stop Believin’

 

Super Bowl 55 in Inglewood, California. (Los Angeles)

The Los Angeles area hasn’t hosted a Super Bowl since 1987. It featured George Burns, Mickey Rooney, and the Grambling State and USC marching bands. That act must have put the Denver Broncos to sleep because they were outscored in the third quarter 17-0 by the New York Giants who wound up turning a halftime deficit into a blow out win. Considering that it’s been so long since LA hosted the Super Bowl and it will be in a brand new venue, they’ll need a marquee act for sure. This one is such a no-brainer, though, that failure to book this act would be a travesty! Los Angeles last had the Super Bowl in 1987, the same year that Guns N’ Roses exploded onto the scene with their debut album Appetite for Destruction. 

It has to be GNR, right? There is no other band that came out of the Los Angeles hard rock movement that better epitomizes that city than Guns N’ Roses. They were the definition of living in excess. They had infighting and turmoil. They broke up. They said never again on numerous occasions. They reunited anyway after more than a decade apart and they’re now selling out football stadiums around the country and headlining some of the biggest festivals in the world. Coupled with the fact that guitarist Slash has appeared at multiple Super Bowls now as a guest musician and they absolutely need to play the halftime show to their hometown crowd. This is a no-brainer, as long as somebody remembers to set Axl Rose’s alarm clock. Imagine this:

1. Welcome to the Jungle

2. Paradise City

3. Patience

4. Sweet Child O’ Mine

Then in a move that only they could pull off, they just keep playing. They also get through “November Rain” and “You Could Be Mine” before being forcibly removed halfway through “I Used to Love Her”. Once the field is finally cleared, the Buffalo Bills will continue on to their third consecutive Super Bowl victory fresh off of three consecutive rockin’ halftime performances. Right?

 

Ted Nugent rocks Columbus

Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman himself, made a return visit to Columbus, OH last night. As usual, the smelly hippies and keyboard warriors that threatened to shut the show down, were nowhere to be seen. Not that they were really a threat anyway.

In an absolute shock, The Nuge opened the show with his greatest achievement. The self-proclaimed #1 guitar lick in the history of the world, a claim that I can’t argue, “Stranglehold” was a very odd choice to open the set. With that said, the song is so good that I suppose it doesn’t matter where it is in the set. Uncle Ted just threw us all for a surprise as the song has been the main set closer for years. Well played.

Nugent, in his 71st year on Earth, still plays with a fervor and intensity that bands in their 20’s and 30’s can’t match. He credits his ability to still perform at such a high level to clean and sober living; which includes no large women! Or something like that. There is something to be said though for his lifetime of living off the land and no dependency on substance. Many a rockstar have died in a cloud of drug and drink while Nugent has continued on a lifelong cycle of tour/hunt/tour/hunt/new record/hunt/tour/hunt with great success. Throw on top of that an absolute killer drummer in Jason Hartless and long time bad-ass bassist Greg Smith and you’ve got the recipe for a pretty successful unit.

Picking the Nugent set list is no small feat. The man has been releasing music since the 1960’s and over the course of that time has been out front on some of rock music’s biggest and essential hits. Consider that live staples like “Dog Eat Dog“; “Snakeskin Cowboys“; “Stormtroopin’“; and “Just What The Doctor Ordereddid not make the cut this year!

This, however, gave the crowd the chance to hear some lesser played classics. Of course he also brought out the big boys. Tongue-in-cheek love songs like “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” as well as one of the most underrated live songs, “Free-For-All” were crowd favorites. Of course closing out the main set with the iconic hunting song “Fred Bear” and “Cat Scratch Fever” had the rowdy crowd begging for an encore.

Nugent didn’t disappoint. He encored with his usual choice of “The Great White Buffalo” and our national anthem.

“Along came the democrats, with their thick and empty heads…”

Using the “Great White Buffalo” as a metaphor for America, a metaphor for our current POTUS, and a metaphor for basically anyone in the asset column of life is always the appropriate way to close a Nugent show. The Great White Buffalo. A mythical beast that has to come and save the day and undo the failures of mankind. In a crowd that was full of military heroes, farmers, hunters and fishermen (real conservation advocates); the great white buffalo is still here, well and alive, making this country great again every single day.

Ted Nugent Set List “The Music Made Me Do It Again! 2019 U.S. Tour

  1. Stranglehold
  2. Gonzo
  3. Motor City Madhouse
  4. Paralyzed
  5. Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
  6. A Thousand Knives
  7. Queen of the Forest
  8. Free-For-All
  9. Hey Baby
  10. Need You Bad
  11. Good Friends and a Bottle of Wine
  12. Fred Bear
  13. Cat Scratch Fever
  14. The Great White Buffalo
  15. The Star-Spangled Banner

 

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Iron Maiden make triumphant return to Cincinnati

Twenty three years. Twenty three years had passed since the last time that Iron Maiden played in Cincinnati, Ohio. A lot has changed since 1996. Bill Clinton was president. Jeff Blake was playing quarterback for the Bengals. I was a ten year old boy that had not yet discovered Iron Maiden. That was a long time ago.

Like a lot of their classic metal brethren, the mid nineties were not kind to Maiden. Lead singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith had long left the band to focus on other projects, certainly fatigued by the demands of being in Iron Maiden in the 1980’s had put on them. The version of the band without Dickinson or Smith played in a small club in Cincinnati. My, oh my, how times have changed since then.

A couple years later, the classic Maiden members would rejoin the band, write a modern metal masterpiece in Brave New World, and reclaim their throne at the top of the heavy metal mountain. The rest is history as the band has released several more fantastic albums and embarked on absolutely legendary world tours.

As we fast forward to Thursday night in the Queen City, the buzz surrounding the Legacy of the Beast World Tour has been the talk of the rock and metal community. The reviews have been phenomenal. Coming from publications and radio stations that have never paid any mind to this band and sound like fools as they are just now discovering the band that has absolutely set the standard for live metal music for the past four decades. This point has not been lost on Dickinson, who made sure to have some fun at Rolling Stone’s expense.

Over 15,000 Ohio metalheads descended onto Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati to celebrate the Legacy of the Beast with Eddie and the boys. As is custom, UFO’s “Doctor, Doctor” blared over the PA system, alerting all in attendance to get back to their seats in earnest. When the lights dimmed and the familiar sound of Churchill’s Speech began, there was no doubt that “Aces High” would be the song to get the show going. That wasn’t a big shocker, as the band uses the song to open fairly frequently on non-album tours. However, while the song choice wasn’t surprising, the airplane that ascended over the stage during the song about warfare from the skies would be only the first awe-striking moment of the performance.

For the next two hours, the band would take the massive crowd on a journey through war, good and evil, and a whole lot of pyro. All of the big “hits” were present which is fun for the fans. The set list chosen for this tour featured plenty of rarely played gold as well for the true diehards. The first of those rarer songs was the second song of the night. “Where Eagles Dare” is perhaps Maiden’s greatest percussion piece that they’ve created and even as he creeps towards 70 years of age, Nicko McBrain absolutely owned the stage during the song behind his drum kit.

 

Everything about the show was Maiden at it’s absolute best. And while Dickinson assured the crowd that they’d be back soon with new music, I honestly have no clue how the six piece band will ever be able to top this tour. The band sounded even better than they did on any of the previous six times I’ve seen them perform. Dickinson in particular seems to have found new life on his legendary voice. The Air Raid Siren is back and better than ever.

Of course Eddie made his two expected appearances, but it was the backdrops and other effects that make this the absolute must see tour of the year. During “Flight of Icarus”, which they notoriously haven’t played live since the 80’s, the stage was enhanced with a giant Icarus while Dickinson ran around with flame throwers. The stained-glass themed back drop during the religion portion of the show is the greatest imagery I’ve ever seen at a concert. There was lots of pyro. There were fireworks. Dickinson had countless costume changes. This was a vintage Iron Maiden concert times ten. I’ve seen them with a tank on stage during the A Matter of Life and Death Tour. I’ve seen the ship during “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I’ve seen the epic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son themed “big” Eddie. Those were all great and a spectacle to behold. THIS BLEW EVERYONE OF THOSE AWAY.

None of that would matter though if the music sucked. Thankfully, it didn’t. From the chug, chug-a-chug of “Icarus” to the long Maiden epics and everything in between, this band has always been about the music first. That’s how a band with no airplay has been able to build the empire that it has. The connection that the band has with its fans is second to none. All three guitar players (Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers) traded off flawless solos all night. Bass player Steve Harris’ right hand seemingly never was any slower than 100 mph and Dickinson beckoned the crowd to “Scream for me Cincinn-at-iiiiiiii!” no fewer than twenty times. It was glorious. As expected.

What wasn’t expected was songs like “Sign of the Cross”; “The Clansman”; and “For the Greater Good of God”. Absolute epics that mandate crowd participation took this setlist to a whole new level. Then you throw in gems like “Where Eagles Dare” and “Revelations”? Unbelievable. Of course, the greatest metal song ever written (“Hallowed Be Thy Name” duh…) being back in the set always helps as well.

Now that Cincinnati has been treated, let’s hope Columbus will get a visit for the first time in 15 years in 2020?

Iron Maiden Setlist Cincinnati, OH 8/15/2019

  1. Churchill’s Speech/Aces High
  2. Where Eagles Dare
  3. 2 Minutes 2 Midnight
  4. The Clansman
  5. The Trooper
  6. Revelations
  7. For the Greater Good of God
  8. The Wicker Man
  9. The Sign of the Cross
  10. Flight of Icarus
  11. Fear of the Dark
  12. The Number of the Beast
  13. Iron Maiden

        *Encore*

    14. The Evil That Men Do

    15. Hallowed Be Thy Name

    16. Run to the Hills

Foghat, Bad Company visit Fraze Pavilion

Saturday evening in Dayton began as a beautiful, breezy summer night in Ohio’s Gem City. In the nearby suburban town of Kettering lies an absolute jewel of a music venue. Fraze Pavilion is an absolute must see amphitheater for Ohio concert goers. Before tragedy would strike the city hours later, the venue hosted an epic rock pairing of seventies hard rock bands; Foghat and Bad Company.

Late into the night, Dayton would experience the worst of humanity on a large scale. Earlier, though, it saw some of its best. Few things bond people from different backgrounds better than music. The 4,300 seat venue appeared to be full, even before opening act Foghat took the stage. Folks from all walks of life were there as fans of the music. There were hippies in tie-dyed Roger Waters and Grateful Dead attire. There were others clad in MAGA hats, Ted Nugent shirts, and Lynyrd Skynyrd rebel flag gear. Bikers. Businessmen. Young and old. Black and white. All bonded over the greatest era of rock music ever known. Our society and politicians would do well to follow the lead of the graying legions of old school rock fans and their ability to bond with complete strangers over a common interest. While our differences may be sharp, there’s far more that should unite us.

As previously mentioned, the boys from Foghat took the stage first, and the supporting act they did their jobs. They whipped the crowd into a frenzy, particularly during the three songs that closed the set and of course with several well placed “O-H?” calls throughout their performance. As they often do, they kicked things off with 1976’s “Drivin’ Wheel” and “Stone Blue” from two years later. Keeping the foot stomping, head banging set going, they followed with “Chateau Lafitte ’59” before slowing things down on “Third Time Lucky“.

Out front on lead vocals and guitar was the always energetic Charlie Huhn and he was on point. Taking lead guitar responsibilities is Bryan Bassett. Between the two of them, the Foghat guitar sound is as good as ever. And in this band you just know that the rhythm is right… Bass player Rodney O’Quinn has taken over for the large shoes left behind by Craig Macgregor’s passing. He held it down with original Foghat drummer Roger Earl, and while the band sounded tight, their set was highlighted by one of those good pieces of humanity that I mentioned before.

During the Foghat set there was a young man enjoying the show from the side of the stage. I’m not sure what his ailment was, but the kid was in a wheelchair. Needless to say, he was absolutely enjoying the show. His night was likely made even better when Roger Earl walked over to him and handed him a pair of his drum sticks. The kid air-drummed the rest of the gig right along with the band!

Few bands can close a show with the classic rock firepower that the group did on Saturday night. “Fool For The City” and “I Just Want To Make Love To You” were first before making way for the 70’s anthem “Slow Ride“.

After a very short recess, literally barely enough time to grab a beer and check out the merch tent, the evening’s headliners took the stage. Bad Company boast one of the greatest back catalogs of classic rock radio hits in the game and most of them made the cut. They kicked it off with “Can’t Get Enough“, which got the crowd on their feet from the onset. Front man Paul Rodgers didn’t really allow fans to sit back down as he wove his group through a set of songs that featured some relics as well as hits like “Feel Like Makin’ Love“; “Movin’ On“; and “Seagull“.

While the largest crowd reaction came during their crown jewels; “Shooting Star” and their self titled track, there were some surprises. Those included four cover songs and not surprisingly Free’s “All Right Now” and their take on Mott The Hoople’s “Ready For Love” made the cut. A little more unexpected were the inclusion of their cover of “Young Blood” by The Coasters and an absolutely ripping version of the Jimi Hendrix’ take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower“. When Bad Company were beckoned for their encore, they concluded the night with the classic “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy“.