Sonic Temple Festival finally returning in 2023

Finally. It will have been over four years since the last Sonic Temple Festival (formerly Rock on the Range), when it will make its long anticipated return during Memorial Day weekend to the Historic Crew Stadium. After a great festival in 2019, that saw an amazing performance by the Foo Fighters close out the event, Sonic Temple had been unable to go on during the following three years. 2020’s lineup had much promise. Initially, they were to have two headlining performances by the biggest band on the planet; Metallica. Unfortunately, 2020 happened and live music as we knew it ceased to exist for far too long. 2021 didn’t start out much better and the festival was cancelled for a second straight year due to there not being enough time to prepare for a festival of this magnitude so shortly after the pandemic was beginning to turn for the better. Why the festival didn’t return in 2022 is still up for debate, but it didn’t; and that left many to wonder if the original of these modern day Danny Wimmer Presents festivals would ever return.

Things began to trend in the right direction when a cryptic video was released this past fall from Historic Crew Stadium’s Main Stage and shortly after that came the official announcement that the festival would return in 2023. However, this will be the first time that the event doesn’t fall during Armed Forces Day weekend and will instead expand to four days and be held during the Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day weekend and rock & roll music in Columbus, OH (thank you QFM 96) have a long history and this event should be one for the ages. Particularly, now that the lineup has been announced, this year’s event will be the place to be over the holiday weekend. Let’s break down the lineup:

Thursday May 25 features one of the most requested headlining acts every year with TOOL. They were at the festival once before, in 2018, which would wind up being the last year that it was called Rock on the Range. The alt-metal band will once again be directly supported by the same band that opened for them last time; Godsmack. The Boston hard rockers have played this event several times, including as the first day headliner in 2010. They’ve always put on a great show, and with this tour supporting what the band is calling it’s last album, I’d expect nothing less this time around either. The rest of Thursday will also be highlighted by Columbus’ own Beartooth with the highest billing they’ve had here, Welsh metalcore giants Bullet For My Valentine, Los Angeles’ Bad Omens, and 80’s crossover thrash/punk pioneers Suicidal Tendencies.

Friday May 26th brings back another festival favorite and one of the most requested acts each year with heavy metal titans and headlining act, Avenged Sevenfold. Avenged has previously played the festival four times including headlining performances in 2011, 2014, and 2018 although this will be their first time performing here since the event switched names. Their direct support will be 90’s rock outfit Queens of the Stone Age. They’ll be making their Crew Stadium debut; and at a festival that has a history of some iconic surprise appearances and special guests, I have to imagine there could be a special guest appearing during their performance. I believe that Friday, overall, will also be the strongest day of the festival. The undercard features some really great live bands including: hard rocking three piece Chevelle, thought provoking Badflower, the current queen of rock music Dorothy and her outstanding live band (read my 2022 review of her here), and modern Southern rock heavyweights Black Stone Cherry.

Saturday May 27th keeps the party going with one of the most iconic bands of all time coming to make their Crew Stadium debut. This band will probably be making their final appearance in Columbus as the Saturday headliner, as they are on their extended final tour. Of course, the band I’m talking about is the one and only, often imitated but never duplicated, “hottest band in the world!”; KISS! The best iterations of this festival have been the ones that have included some of the true icons of rock and heavy metal (ZZ Top, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Metallica, Judas Priest, Saxon, Cheap Trick and Megadeth have all graced this festival) and this is just another legendary band for them to be able to add to that list. KISS will absolutely be the show of the weekend! Would there be anybody else that would be a finer direct support for them than Rob Zombie? I don’t think so. Zombie is another band that has graced this event multiple times, including headlining performances in 2012 and 2016. This pairing of shock-rock legends will be a great way to cap off an evening that will include earlier performances by the rising Vegas outfit Falling In Reverse, TOOL’s Maynard Keenan’s third band Puscifer, the always popular Trivium from Orlando, Cincinnati’s Black Veil Brides, classic rock revivalists Rival Sons, and Swedish metal act Avatar.

Sunday May 28th will see the Sonic Temple Festival come to a close with the same band that headlined its inaugural event under the Sonic Temple name. That band is the Foo Fighters. In what will surely be an emotional performance, as the band will now be trying to carry on without their long time drummer Taylor Hawkins, who sadly passed away last year. You know, though, that any time that Dave Grohl takes the stage that you are going to get a great performance. Both Rock on the Range and Sonic Temple have had their moments with emotional performances and this one will be no different. They’ll be supported by the alt metal quintet; Deftones. Other bands that are sure to highlight the day are Sublime with Rome, Taylor Momsen’s The Pretty Reckless, and Cleveland’s own Filter.

Tickets for Sonic Temple Art and Music Festival are already on sale and can be purchased here! You can also listen to “Ohio’s Best RockQFM 96 and “YOUR Rock Station99.7 The Blitz for ticket giveaways and promotions as well as news and updates for the festival. Who are you most excited to see perform at Sonic Temple in 2023?

Armored Saint/W.A.S.P. tour marches through Columbus

One of the most anticipated heavy metal tours in years made its way through Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday night. The tour package pairs up two of Los Angeles’ best metal bands to come out of the city during the 1980’s. In fact, both bands are celebrating their 40th years of existence on this trek. The Columbus gig, performed at The King of Clubs, on the city’s north side was the venues fastest sell out to date. The event sold out in just eight days, way back in January. For anyone claiming that the 80’s metal scene no longer has a demand, they’re sorely mistaken.

The evening started out with the usual controversy that has been following this tour from city to city. Headlining act, W.A.S.P. and their larger than life front man Blackie Lawless, were severely late to their “meet and greet” event prior to the show. An hour before doors were supposed to open, they got pushed back a half hour to 7:00. The only problem was they didn’t actually open until almost 7:40 p.m. I’m not sure if Lawless considered the fact that the fans were left to wait outside in sub freezing temperatures for nearly two hours, but surely he should recognize that the weather in Columbus, Ohio is not the same as in Los Angeles, California. While the delay did cause for some restlessness and frustration by those waiting in the long lines outside, all in all the crowd remained pretty upbeat in anticipation for the show.

Opening the event were one of the most underrated bands from that era; Armored Saint. Led out front by John Bush, one of the most respected vocalists in the metal genre, the band raced through their ten song set. As one should when they are celebrating four decades of music, ‘Saint played songs throughout the entirety of their career; including a trio of songs from their 1984 debut (March of the Saint) album to close the show as well as a couple of tracks from their most recent output (2020’s Punching the Sky). According to setlist.fm, last night’s show was the first in Ohio’s capital city for Armored Saint since 1987 on the Hell On Wheels Tour and only the third time they’ve ever played Columbus.

The combination of Bush’s soaring vocals over top of Phil Sandoval’s guitar solos worked the crowd into a frenzy and beckoning for “One more song!” well after the show ended. From my perfect vantage point, directly next to the sound guy, the band were in peak form. While they have been doing this for forty years, the energy on the stage and from the capacity crowd were reflective of the never ending passion between metal heads and the groups they follow. The fact that the venue was filled to capacity prior to the opening act, speaks to the quality of this bill and the loyalty to great metal music. Fans of metal music might not be taken seriously in the media, but you’ll be hard pressed to find fans more dedicated than them in any other genre.

Armored Saint set list 11/30/2022

  1. Reign of Fire (1991)
  2. End of the Attention Span (2020)
  3. Nervous Man (1985)
  4. Last Train Home (1991)
  5. Chemical Euphoria (1987)
  6. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2020)
  7. Win Hands Down (2015)
  8. Can U Deliver (1984)
  9. March of the Saint (1984)
  10. Mad House (1984)

After a short break, the headlining act for the tour took the stage, and while W.A.S.P. has a little more history playing Columbus than Armored Saint; it was their first visit since 2010 at the famed yet no longer open, Al Rosa Villa. The aforementioned Blackie Lawless and his cast of LA headbangers dominated the stage as well. W.A.S.P. sounded great and certainly lived up to the hype that this tour has been generating from city to city. Unfortunately, their ten song set seemed all too brief, for a headlining act. They stuck to their early era material and biggest hits this time around with a lot of focus on their 1984 self titled debut album and 1992’s The Crimson Idol. Prior to the encore, they made their feelings known on censorship and the ole PMRC that made the lives of metal musicians pretty stressful in the 1980’s. For those of you that might not know, it was Mr. Blackie Lawless and his band W.A.S.P. that led records to be stamped with a Parental Advisory label when the content was deemed to be too mature or vulgar. Thankfully, free speech won back then and the bands actually flourished due to the extra attention that wives in Washington D.C. were giving to these bands at no cost.

As Lawless made sure to point out near the conclusion of the show, the concerts with Armored Saint have been selling out at venues across the country. With that kind of demand, hopefully these tours will become a little more frequent for these two giants of the early Southern California metal movement!

W.A.S.P. set list 11/30/22

  1. On Your Knees (1984) / The Flame (1984) / The Torture Never Stops (1984) / Inside the Electric Circus (1986) *Medley*
  2. L.O.V.E. Machine (1984)
  3. Wild Child (1985)
  4. The Idol (1992)
  5. The Great Misconceptions of Me (1992)
  6. Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue) (1992)
  7. Blind in Texas (1985)
  8. Animal (**** Like a Beast) (1984) *Encore*
  9. The Real Me (The Who cover) (1989) *Encore*
  10. I Wanna Be Somebody (1984) *Encore*

Iron Maiden defying the sands of time on current tour

August 2, 2005. That is where this story, and my Iron Maiden journey, begin. That date would be the first time that I’d see the band live. It was also the last time that they played Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is the closest big city to my rural home. In the subsequent tours since that one, I’ve traveled to Detroit, Cuyahoga Falls, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati to see the band; hoping that they’d someday return to Columbus.

As fate (and my luck) would have it, the mighty Iron Maiden announced a Columbus date for their 2022 World Tour, so I immediately bought tickets for myself and my normal crew to be able to attend. In a sick twist of irony, the Columbus date would be on a Friday in October. I’m a high school football coach and my favorite band would be returning to my city on a Friday night in October. You can’t make it up.

As Friday October 7th was approaching, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to miss the gig, I decided to gift a pair of my tickets to my metalhead cousin and his son and the other pair to one of my buddies from high school who hadn’t had the chance to see the band live before. They had a blast and enjoyed the show. That made not being there in person a slightly less bitter pill to swallow. Luckily, for myself, the story wouldn’t end there.

The above photo was taken in 2012 before some of my usual Maiden crew made the road trip to Indianapolis to see Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper on their Maiden England tour. The young lady that is circled in the picture is my daughter. She had no choice but to grow up with Iron Maiden in her life, because while she was a child, it was I who controlled the radio. As a toddler she would sing “Run To The Hills” word for word. I don’t know what kind of father that makes me, but it is the truth. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that she doesn’t listen to Taylor Swift and the atrocity that is Nicki Minaj. She does. She’s a fifteen year old girl. However, in recent months, those playlists have started to pick up steam in the right direction. Lately, I’ve been more likely to hear Def Leppard or Metallica coming from her room, than I am to hear Megan’s Stallion or whatever passes off as music these days. I’ll take that as a win!

She was pretty upset with me in 2019 when I took my brother-in-law to the Cincinnati show instead of her, and she was bummed that the Columbus date landed on a day that I had coaching responsibilities and her cheerleading. On Saturday, the next day, she suggested we go to Detroit the following day and see the tour there. I obliged and on Sunday afternoon, after my Buffalo Bills kicked Pittsburgh’s ass, we headed up U.S. 23 and voyaged up to the Motor City.

My two prior Detroit trips to see this band were at the Palace at Auburn Hills; a massive basketball arena that was seemingly an hour north of the city. This year the band was playing downtown in the city’s recently built Little Caesar’s Arena, home of the Detroit Redwings hockey club. This venue would prove to be far superior as a venue and a much easier drive than trekking all the way to Auburn Hills.

DONINGTON ON BAIN, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 15: Sharon den Adel and Robert Westerholt of Within Temptation perform at Day 3 of Download Festival on June 15, 2008 in Castle Donington, England. (Photo by Chiaki Nozu/FilmMagic)

Opening the night were the Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation. Fronted by Sharon den Adel, this band is one that I have wanted to check out for a long time. There are a lot of bands from this genre that I’ve been exposed to by listening to bands like Sabaton and Amon Amarth; but simply haven’t been able to see due to them not touring the States very often. I’ve seen other opening bands receive lukewarm to even poor receptions (cough, Bullet For My Valentine) by the tough Iron Maiden crowd. Within Temptation, however, were received well and put on a great set to warm up the event. I’d certainly like to see them again, perhaps in a smaller venue and a longer performance.

Within Temptation Set List 10/9/2022 Detroit

  1. The Reckoning
  2. Paradise (What About Us)
  3. Faster
  4. In The Middle Of The Night
  5. Stand My Ground
  6. Supernova
  7. Don’t Pray For Me
  8. Raise Your Banner
  9. Mother Earth

After their spirited effort, the wait began for the main event. To this point, my kid had only heard me talk about what a Maiden concert experience was like, but now she was about to go through it for herself. Normally, I’m one of the head-banging masses that’s playing air guitar for two hours and belting out every lyric to every song. For this first time gig with my daughter, I took a more subdued approach and really embraced the show and the atmosphere. In all honesty, it is becoming more rare that the kid wants to hang out with her parents. In a story as old as time itself, she’s obviously becoming more independent and has her own friends, a boyfriend, cheerleading and FFA to occupy her time. So, when she does actually want to go to a concert with her Dad, I kind of turn into a softy and just relish the experience.

I’ve seen enough concerts throughout the years to be able to sit back and just enjoy it from time to time. This was one of those times. After a short wait, the familiar opening of U.F.O.’s “Doctor Doctor” blared over the P.A. and the mad dash began for four generations of Maiden fans back to their seats or the pit area for the long anticipated event. I’ve said this about a few bands that I’ve seen this year, and I’ll say it again, I think that perhaps the “layoff” for touring bands over the past few years may have been beneficial. Not that Maiden were struggling by any stretch. The Cincinnati show in 2019 remains the greatest overall concert I’ve ever seen; but there has been an urgency since live music has returned that has really been noticeable. They had three years of pent up aggression needing to be released and as always, Iron Maiden absolutely delivered.

This tour is a continuation of the 2019 “Legacy of the Beast” tour, however during the “down time” they put out a new album; the fantastic Senjutsu. For this 2022 trek, they changed up the set list a bit, so as to be able to include a few tracks from the new album. In fact, they opened the show with the first three songs on the record. When the album was first released, I recall lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson opining that the opening title track would someday make a great opener for a live concert. While I love the album, I didn’t share his sentiments when listening to that song. However, I was wrong. The thundering title track opened the show flawlessly and the band has never sounded better. I don’t know how they’re doing it but not only are they on the top of their game audibly, the visual aspects of the show continue to be a spectacle to be seen. I soaked in the opportunity of my child witnessing a Samurai version of Eddie (the band’s mascot) take the stage on the opening set, let alone the iconic Trooper Eddie, the giant Icarus inflatable, flame throwers, a replica WWII Spitfire bomber “flying” over top of the band performing below, and plenty of pyro. Things that up until then that she’d only heard me describe, she’s now seen on her own. It was a good night, even though she didn’t hold up her end of the bargain of staying awake on the ride home to help me combat the boring drive home. She didn’t even make it an hour into the trip home and was asleep before we’d even reached Toledo. Even though we didn’t make it back home until 2 a.m. and that made for an unfortunate 6 a.m. wake up call the next day, it was a trip that was well worth it. The experience was one that I hope will have a sequel on a future tour….

Iron Maiden Set List 10/9/2022 Detroit

  1. Senjutsu (2021)
  2. Stratego (2021)
  3. The Writing on the Wall (2021)
  4. Revelations (1983)
  5. Blood Brothers (2000)
  6. Sign of the Cross (1995)
  7. Flight of Icarus (1983)
  8. Fear of the Dark (1992)
  9. Hallowed Be Thy Name (1982)
  10. The Number of the Beast (1982)
  11. Iron Maiden (1980)
  12. The Trooper (1983) *Encore*
  13. The Clansman (1998) *Encore*
  14. Run To The Hills (1982) *Encore*
  15. Aces High (1984) *Encore*

Brit Floyd welcomes Columbus to the machine

2022 has been a good year for live music so far. Virtually everybody is touring and I’ve been able to catch a great deal of the shows that I’ve wanted to attend. There have been some outstanding shows this year and although they are playing covers; last night’s was the best so far. Brit Floyd, the all-star cast that relentlessly tours, keeps the timeless music of Pink Floyd alive in concert form. As they seemingly do each summer, they visited Kemba Live in Columbus last night, and played another concert for the ages. The authenticity of their sound and image is second to none.

As per usual in their performances, the concert was split into two acts. Heavy rains hit the city prior to the first set beginning, but the crowd packed in anyway and by the time the show started the skies had cleared. The instrumental “Cluster One“, the opening track off of 1994’s The Division Bell opened the evening. The band always does a great job of including as many of the hits as well as the obscure Floyd classics in their set as possible. That’s no small task, and with a catalog like Floyd’s, inevitably someone will always take issue with which songs are performed. I, for one, am baffled that not a single track from Animals was played last night. The set list was stellar and I won’t critique it, but ignoring such a monumental album blew my mind.
With all of that said, the songs were phenomenal. They dug deep into the Pink Floyd catalog and made sure to include all eras of the Pink Floyd sound. Led out front by guitarist/vocalist Damian Darlington and bassist/vocalist Ian Cattell, they’ve surrounded themselves with a cast of musicians that make sure that not even the smallest detail is missed when it comes to recreating this music. Even the outstanding backing vocalist trio, highlighted by Eva Avila’s performance of “Great Gig in the Sky“, make this the closest thing to seeing Pink Floyd live that we are going to get. I’ll be seeing Roger Waters live for the first time in a couple weeks, and I’m not convinced that his performance of his songs will beat their performance of his songs.

Getting to catch live versions of some of the greatest music ever created is always a blast. I was thankfully able to coordinate with one of my longest friends to go with me and take in the show. Pink Floyd’s music never ceases to hit me with a new message, whenever I go through one of my several Floyd binges each year. The tunes never seem to sound dated, although with each passing year it becomes more and more apparent that I can relate to them differently. In particular, the following from this Dark Side of the Moon classic.

“Time”

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire

Far away, across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees

To hear the softly spoken magic spell

Brit Floyd Set List Columbus, Ohio 7/27/2022

  1. Cluster One (1994)
  2. Learning To Fly (1987)
  3. High Hopes (1994)
  4. Welcome To The Machine (1975)
  5. A New Machine, Part 1 (1987)
  6. Terminal Frost (1987)
  7. Time (Breathe reprise) (1973)
  8. The Great Gig In The Sky (1973)
  9. Poles Apart (1994)
  10. Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) (1979)
  11. One Of These Days (1971)
  12. Echoes (1971)
  13. The Final Cut (1983)
  14. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (1967)
  15. Money (1973)
  16. Wish You Were Here (1975)
  17. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX) (1975)
  18. Comfortably Numb (1979)
  19. One Slip (1987) *Encore*
  20. Run Like Hell (1979) *Encore*

Tom Keifer, L.A. Guns on solid ground in Akron

Ohio’s Rubber City faithful were treated to another fantastic performance by the Tom Kiefer Band last night as well as an outstanding effort by opener L.A. Guns. Kiefer, who last played the classy Goodyear Theater in fall of 2019, had his band firing on all cylinders to the packed house.

The evening was started off by the hard rockers; Enuff Z’Nuff, but I unfortunately missed their set while travelling up to Akron. Shortly after finding my 11th row seats; it was the well known, Tracii Guns led, L.A. Guns that took the stage. To say that I was pleasantly surprised with their performance would be a major understatement.

For whatever reason, I’d never really checked out the band prior to last night. I’ve seen almost every band from the 80’s metal scene multiple times but had never had the opportunity to see L.A. Guns before; and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t familiar with them either. Guns is a well-known and well-respected guitar player in the metal community, but outside of being aware of him, my knowledge of the band was minimal. They have now forced my hand and my L.A. Guns phase will start in earnest after the performance that they gave as the support act.

I’d have never expected that they’d be so heavy. They were borderline too loud but got the place pumped up, as most of the spectators were standing during their set. Highlights included a Guns guitar solo with what appeared to be a violin bow, “Over the Edge”; “Never Enough”; and of course, their 1989 power ballad “The Ballad of Jayne”.

If an opening acts job is to get the crowd riled up for the headliner, L.A. Guns did that and then some. In between acts, the place was popping with plenty of buzz and the merch tables were packed. As usual, Chip Z’Nuff was at his band’s merch table taking photos and signing memorabilia for the Enuff Z’Nuff faithful in the crowd.

After a brief hiatus, the Tom Kiefer Band took the stage and ran through the Cinderella classics as well as a pair of songs each from their 2013 debut “The Way Life Goes” and 2019’s sophomore effort “Rise”. The newer tunes sounded good, as always, but it was the Cinderella anthems that kept the crowd on their feet, toe-tapping and fist pumping throughout the 14-song set.

Few performers are more obviously leaving everything they have on the stage than Keifer, which was apparent throughout the show, as his scream during “Nobody’s Fool” literally brought him to the floor. I believe that Keifer has found the sound that the Cinderella band was meant to have. During their hey-day Cinderella was often lumped with rest of the “hair” bands; criminally, I might add. They were always a great hard rock band and when you see his band perform now, there is no mistaking that this music was always more rooted in the blues than it was big hair.

Tom Keifer band performing in Akron, Ohio. Photo credit Amber Hobbs.

All the things that you’d expect from a band of that nature are present. There are piano pieces and steel guitar. The women that provide the backing vocals compliment the thumping rhythm section and a pair of guitars; combining to make a much fuller sound than you get on the Cinderella records. I’d absolutely love for the current Tom Keifer Band to do a live release because they do true justice to the Cinderella catalog as well as their own music.

An underrated element to their live sound, is that the band appears to be having the time of their lives up on stage. Nobody wants to pay hard earned money to see a band phoning it in just to collect a paycheck. Both bands that I was able to see last night, were doing it for the right reasons and the crowd can feel that energy; and feeds off it. With Led Zeppelin nonexistent, and things quiet on the AC/DC front; I’m willing to say that the Keifer Band is the group that is best flying the flag for bluesy hard rock these days.

You’re in luck, too, Ohio; if you couldn’t make the Akron gig, they’ll be back July 16th in the Columbus suburb of Pickerington headlining the Picktown Palooza Festival with Faster Pussycat and L.A. Guns supporting. The concerts are included with a paid admission of only $5 and can be purchased here.

Tom Keifer Band Setlist 6/29/2022 Akron, Ohio

  1. Touching the Divine
  2. Night Songs (Cinderella cover)
  3. Coming Home (Cinderella cover)
  4. It’s Not Enough
  5. Somebody Save Me (Cinderella cover)
  6. Rise
  7. Nobody’s Fool (Cinderella cover)
  8. Solid Ground
  9. Fallin’ Apart at the Seams (Cinderella cover)
  10. The Last Mile (Cinderella cover)
  11. Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone) (Cinderella cover)
  12. Shake Me (Cinderella cover)
  13. Shelter Me (Cinderella cover)
  14. Gypsy Road (Cinderella cover) *Encore*

Styx, REO Speedwagon light up Cincinnati

Surely one of the hottest touring packages of the summer, the Styx/REO Speedwagon co-headlining tour is well into zig zagging its way to and from large amphitheaters across the country. Last night they made a stop at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. An announced crowd of over 16,000 packed the venue that’s nestled along the banks of the Ohio River, just east of the city.

Loverboy kicked off the evening with an abbreviated 8 song set to warm up the crowd. It was nice to see that the place was already packed. There weren’t many people still coming in when the opening act took the stage. That speaks to the strength of the bill for this tour. The fans, largely were there to see all three bands; and after two years of either no concerts or restricted ones, they made their presence known all evening long.

Loverboy Setlist

  1. Notorious
  2. Lucky Ones
  3. Queen of the Broken Hearts
  4. The Kid is Hot Tonite
  5. Lovin’ Every Minute of It
  6. Hot Girls in Love
  7. Turn Me Loose
  8. Working for the Weekend

I’m not sure who was in charge of the schedule but that person deserves a raise. I’ve been to many big tour packages like this one where there is a half hour to forty five minutes between bands, killing the crowd’s fervor along the way. This was not the case last night. Fifteen minutes after Loverboy finished, REO Speedwagon was on the stage playing their first song.

REO will always hold a special place in my heart. They were one of the first live rock bands that I saw as a teenager, and they were the very first ones to give me reviewer credentials as an adult for a Columbus gig circa 2011. I’ve seen them many times all over the Buckeye State and they’ve always been a great live band. Last night was no exception. In fact, it may have been the best that I’ve heard them in a live setting. I don’t know if it was due to a couple years off of the road and the rest, or perhaps something else, but Kevin Cronin was certainly at his best on lead vocals. Their rhythm section of bassist Bruce Hall and drummer Brian Hitt are always the glue holding it together, and per usual really get to strut their stuff towards the back end of the set on songs like “Back on the Road Again” and “Riding The Storm Out”. Lead guitarist Dave Amato played through solo after solo with ease and the band’s ace in the hole; Neal Doughty on the organ and keys puts the polish on the classic REO sound.

I’ve got to say, though, that it was Cronin on this night that really brought REO to the top of their game. His voice and demeanor seemed rejuvenated and refreshed after the layoff and his absolute joy at being able to play live again was apparent throughout the entirety of the set. With him and Doughty both now in their seventies, and the rest of the band close behind; they played with an urgency and passion that could be felt among the enormous crowd and that further enhanced their performance. For a band that would typically be slowing down by this point, they’re still performing at the top of their game and certainly put Styx in a difficult position to close the night.

REO Speedwagon Set List

  1. Music Man
  2. Take It on the Run
  3. Keep Pushin’
  4. Live Every Moment
  5. Tough Guys
  6. Can’t Fight This Feeling
  7. Like You Do
  8. Don’t Let Him Go
  9. Time For Me to Fly
  10. Back on the Road Again
  11. Ridin’ The Storm Out
  12. Keep On Lovin’ You
  13. Roll With the Changes

As was the case before, Styx was on stage and playing roughly fifteen minutes after REO concluded. Perfect!

If there is any band that I’ve seen more than REO or Ted Nugent, then it is definitely Styx. I’ve been fortunate to review this band at least half a dozen times and I probably saw them half a dozen more before that. In fact, this is probably the fifth or sixth tour that I’ve seen them on with REO Speedwagon, as the two Illinois based groups are no stranger to playing together.

Like always, they raced through a set full of hits with pomp, but also were able to play some new tunes as well as one from 2017’s The Mission. As the years have gone by, Styx has continued to push forward with new music, which I believe keeps the band energized and invested in their performances. Their current release, Crash of the Crown, was represented three times and has been a commercial success already and the tracks were well received live as well.

While there has always been a vocal minority pushing for a reunion of sorts with original vocalist Dennis DeYoung, it is apparent that this is Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young’s band these days. They’ve made the right decision for the band to stick with Lawrence Gowan. Gowan’s showmanship alone is rivaled by very few and his performances of both his and DeYoung’s tracks over the years truly drown out any calls for change. There is no disrespect intended, but simply, Styx’ epic performances of the past twenty plus years are due to the addition of their current, bombastic front man. It may be Tommy and JY’s band; but make no mistake Gowan often steals the show.

With Shaw and Young on guitars and vocals, they’ve managed to keep the Styx legacy alive, while also forging into new territory and remaining a relevant rock band fifty years later. Todd Sucherman’s chops on the drums are well known and Ricky Phillips has been holding down the bottom end on the bass for almost twenty years himself. As usual, original bass player Chuck Panozzo was able to join the band for a few songs as well and the band has added a third guitar player for the band. Will Evankovich, who produced the current album, apparently got on so well with the band that they’ve added him to the group, providing another layer to their wall of sound.

Styx shows, with Gowan and Shaw out front most of the evening, are a celebration of their back catalog and last night continued that long tradition. From new songs to classics, an iconic cover and a playful rendition of “Happy Birthday“, and deep tracks in between; the Styx machine shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 16,000 strong in the Queen City were thankful for that last night.

Styx Set List

  1. The Fight of Our Lives
  2. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
  3. The Grand Illusion
  4. Lady
  5. Crash of the Crown
  6. Light Up
  7. Sound the Alarm
  8. Paradise Theater
  9. Happy Birthday to You
  10. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
  11. Too Much Time on My Hands
  12. Khedive
  13. Rocket Man (Elton John cover)
  14. Come Sail Away

Encore

15. Mr. Roboto

16. Renegade

Dorothy brings the wild West to Columbus

As a huge fan of bands like KISS, I’m no stranger to huge concerts that require a massive production to pull off. Sometimes, though, it’s refreshing to experience rock & roll, rhythm & blues in its rawest form in a sweaty concert hall where the onstage talent is truly working (and truly sweating!) to gain their still growing fanbase.

I’ve been on the Dorothy hype train since I first saw her music video for “After Midnight” (that’s still my favorite song of hers) several years ago and watching their performance on the tiny Jagermeister stage at Rock on The Range back in 2015. I have a mad respect for true, old school rock bands that grind to earn their way to the top. I saw that from this band the first time I saw them. I saw them a second time at the same festival on a bigger stage in 2017. There ascension had kind of been slow to that point, and they had every excuse to phone it in for that gig. They played early, on a chilly and rainy day; hardly ideal conditions to be excited to play to a hungover festival crowd. They absolutely brought it though and won me over again with a haunting rendition of “I Put A Spell On You” that was one of the highlights of the festival. I’m absolutely convinced that if/when that event returns to Columbus post-COVID, that this band will be gracing the main stage whenever they make their third appearance. So, that’s the backstory for my fandom with this band.

The LA based group returned to Columbus last night with a pair of hard rocking up and coming bands to a venue that I had not previously been to. The Bluestone turned out to be a perfect setting for the rock revival that took place last night. The concert hall is actually in an old cathedral and provided both amazing acoustics and an atmosphere that was just right for the evenings event. Afterall, Dorothy’s new record is inspired by a revival of their own sorts; both literally and spiritually.

All three bands were on fire. Outstanding musicianship was on full display and all three bands feature they type of virtuoso front man/woman that gives me hope for the future of the genre. These vocalists have the type of stage presence that demands the crowd’s attention. Both opening acts’ lead vocalists feature fellas with soaring vocals reminiscent of the heavyweights of the 70’s and 80’s; and Ms. Dorothy Martin’s vocal talent is as good as any live performer I’ve ever seen. It’s cliche these days to claim that “Rock is dead.” I would counter that with real rock & roll is alive and well if you know where to look.

The evening started with a quintet from California (minus one from Texas) called Classless Act. I wasn’t familiar with them before last night but they absolutely will not be a “warm up” band for long. They give me so much hope for what can be with hard rock. With a sound and performance that reminded me of what I imagine it must have been like to see bands like Guns N’ Roses before they became a radio band, they quickly won over the crowd during their abbreviated set. They even played a blistering cover of GNR’s “Civil War” that really brought the crowd to a frenzy. My fourteen year old daughter and I were towards the back of the concert hall, near the merch booth, and it was cool to see these guys mingle and sign autographs and take pictures with fans for the rest of the evening; when they weren’t going out into the pit and enjoying the other two bands that is. I’ll definitely be pulling for these guys moving forward and their debut album will be coming out on June 24th. If you weren’t able to catch them this time around, they’ll be back in Ohio for two stops as opening support for Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts on their summer Stadium Tour.

The next act is one that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. Orange County, California’s Joyous Wolf have long eluded me. I had arrangements to see them and review them at Rock on the Range one year and for reasons that I don’t remember, I missed their set. In all honesty, my group was probably having breakfast beers in the parking lot, and I may have forgot. My bad. Subsequently on their visits to Columbus I haven’t been able to get there. This quartet took the energy up even another level, led by the stage command of lead vocalist Nick Reese. My introduction to this group was when I was reading up on the bands that I wasn’t familiar with coming to that festival and I was immediately drawn to their bluesy rock sound and the antics of Reese. They lived up to the hype last night with a wall of sound and their front man doing flips on stage, diving into the crowd, and even doing the splits. Compared to their early live videos of six or seven years ago, we’re witnessing a band that is now really coming into their own as seasoned vets in the world of rock & roll with multiple records under their belts. Highlights from the set were “Fearless” and a mandatory crowd participatory version of “Mother Rebel“. They also could be graciously seen for autographs and photo ops at the merch booth after their set and well after the evening’s event concluded.

After a short while, the evening’s headlining act took the stage. I’ve long considered the Dorothy band to be the best kept secret in modern rock music as they’ve stayed largely underground to the “mainstream” rock & roll powers that be. Whatever that means and for whatever that’s worth. That best kept secret, however, is making its way out as the band continues to put out high quality jams and at this point are refusing to be ignored. Their current album, just released last week (I picked up my vinyl copy at the show last night), has them on the verge of exploding. Titled “Gifts From the Holy Ghost“, the record had been gaining steam before it’s release with the lead single “Rest In Peace“. The album, the group’s third, was featured less than I imagined it would be in the setlist from the night, but the songs that were played were very well received.

The motivations for this album have been well documented, and the songs have shown a maturity that only life experiences can create. She and her band are in a different place than they were on past records lyrically but continue to excel at their craft musically as a raw, bluesy hard rock band. While her stage presence and vocal talent demand the most attention; Martin also shows off the talented musicians in the group with numerous extended jams and a terrific drum solo towards the end of the set. I’ve long thought that they should be the next big thing, and now I believe that time has arrived. While her debut album may have been titled “RockIsDead” they’re certainly too good and at the forefront of a modern rock revival for that to be true.