Two years in the making; Stadium Tour hits Cleveland

The Stadium Tour, having been scrapped each of the past two years due to COVID concerns, finally made its way to Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday. The concert was hosted by First Energy Stadium, which is home of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and welcomed what seemed to be at least 50,000 headbangers for the long-anticipated event.

I was unsure if I was going to make the trek to Cleveland for the show, however, the night before my 15-year-old daughter asked me if I’d take her. As I grow more nostalgic as I age, her asking me that reminded me of the teenage version of myself asking my Dad to take me to see KISS and Aerosmith nearly twenty years ago. He obliged me that evening and I felt compelled to take her and enjoy some time with her, while also being treated to a killer soundtrack throughout the night.

Unfortunately, due to downtown Cleveland’s awful infrastructure for traffic during large events as is, combined with the Tribe having a home game on the same evening; we missed both Classless Act and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts even though we had made it to The 216 in plenty of time. Thankfully, her and I had just recently seen Classless Act during their spring tour supporting Dorothy. My eldest niece and I had seen Joan Jett at the Sonic Temple Music Festival a few years ago with the Foo Fighters. She had put on a great show that night, so it was somewhat disappointing to miss their performance in Cleveland due to gridlock traffic.

Poison came on shortly after we reached our seats. Somehow, some way, we were able to score great 12th row stadium seats on the left side of the stage and had a great view for the entirety of the event. It was cool seeing my kid so awestruck at the size and energy of the crowd. She couldn’t believe how many people were there and seeing a smile on her face throughout the event made it all worth it. A lot of times, Poison gets shit on by the macho guys in the metal and hard rock community. I say, no more! First and foremost, the backing band is solid. C.C. Deville is a criminally underrated guitar player. Say what you want about Bret Michaels and his quest for companionship through reality television, but the dude is a great entertainer and at every live show he convinces you that you’re old buddies. I’ve seen this band probably a half dozen times or so and they’ve never disappointed. They are by far the most down to earth and relatable band for the common man on this tour.

I think they get most of the ridicule due to the absolutely awful look they went with for the “Look What The Cat Dragged In” album cover. In 1986. The year of my birth. But you know what? Concerts are supposed to be fun, first and foremost; and there has never been a time that I left a Poison concert in anything less than a stellar mood. Unfortunately, with such a loaded lineup, the band only had about a 55 minute set. They got to as many of their party anthems as possible and were as good as I’ve ever seen them. There are few bands that I root harder for to be successful than this one.

Poison Set List Cleveland

  1. Look What The Cat Dragged In (1986)
  2. Ride The Wind (1990)
  3. Talk Dirty To Me (1987)
  4. Your Mama Don’t Dance (Loggins & Messina cover) (1988)
  5. C.C. Deville guitar solo (including Eruption by Van Halen)
  6. Fallen Angel (1988)
  7. Rikki Rockett drum solo
  8. Every Rose Has Its Thorn (1988)
  9. Nothin’ But a Good Time (1988)

A half hour after Poison left the stage, the rock brigade Def Leppard stormed out and were the highlight of the night. I maintain that they should be the every night headliner on this tour, but they are alternating nights with Motley Crue and the Cleveland stop was a Motley headline night. While I felt Def Lep should be the headliner, I was admittedly apprehensive about how their performance would be. I’d seen them a few times before and each time left thinking that their opener (Journey, Poison) was the better performer on those evenings. Particularly on the Journey tour, I thought they blew Def Leppard off the stage that night. Lep was playing a bunch of covers on that tour and vocalist Joe Elliott was seeming to struggle with his range, but that was probably at least 15 years ago.

I’m glad to admit that my apprehension was undeserved. This was far and away the best that I’ve heard Def Leppard sound. Even with a new record out, which usually means beer/restroom break for their aging fans, the new songs sounded like classic Def Leppard and were spaced appropriately throughout the set. They came out and plowed through a 17-song performance that highlighted their 40+ year careers to this point. While they didn’t play my two favorites of theirs, “Women” or “Too Late For Love“, they did include their iconic jam “Switch 625” as an extension of “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak“; which was the crown jewel of their performance.

Elliott and the boys came out and performed like headliners. They were professionals up on that stage and the gig felt as if they were a band that belonged in a stadium setting as they churned through 80’s anthem after anthem. Leppard came around in England at a time when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was emerging as well. While they were heavier early in their careers, they simply went a more straight ahead hard rock route while the Iron Maiden’s and Saxon’s of the scene went the metal route. The musicianship of Rick Allen (drums), Rick Savage (bass, and underrated backing vocals), as well as the guitar duo of well-known players Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen shouldn’t be forgotten. Just because there are other bands that should also be in there, this band certainly earned their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which coincidentally sits in the shadows of the stadium that this concert was performed in.

Def Leppard Set List Cleveland

  1. Take What You Want (2022)
  2. Let It Go (1981)
  3. Animal (1987)
  4. Foolin’ (1983)
  5. Armageddon It (1987)
  6. Kick (2022)
  7. Love Bites (1988)
  8. Promises (1999)
  9. This Guitar (2022)
  10. Two Steps Behind (1993)
  11. Rocket (1987)
  12. Bringin’ on the Heartbreak (1981)
  13. Switch 625 (1981)
  14. Hysteria (1987)
  15. Pour Some Sugar On Me (1987)
  16. Rock Of Ages (1983)
  17. Photograph (1983)

Let me preface my review of Motley Crue by stressing that they are fine. I enjoy their music. My issues with them mainly stem from Nikki Sixx taking his band much more seriously than they should be. His past comments, putting Crue on some different level than the other hair bands (namely Poison) that they take on tour each cycle have always rubbed me the wrong way. The people that listen to Motley Crue, also listen to Poison. And Dokken. And RATT. Each of those bands from the same scene as you. Like Def Leppard, Motley Crue was certainly heavier and faster in the early eighties. They don’t play many of those songs live anymore, though, and their big hits are all in that same realm with the bands that he likes to dis. That is all. Motley Crue makes music for strippers. That’s ok. Embrace it. I’d rather the ladies dance to “Looks That Kill” than modern dance music! Just embrace who you are and don’t try to pretend like you are on some elite level of heavy metal. You are who you are. There are fewer bands that I root against, than Motley Crue, because they are who they are.

Now, that that is out of the way. Motley was great Thursday night. Vince Neil’s vocal struggles in recent years is not news, but I thought that after the opening track, his singing got better as the night went on. They played a set that included most of their hits and their latest release that coincided with their recent Netflix biopic. Mick Mars, as a quiet guy, kind of gets lost in the larger-than-life personalities that make up the rest of the band. His guitar work is underrated, and I think it’s fair to say that it gets underappreciated, simply due to the nature of Motley Crue. Sixx had his share of interactions with the crowd and held down the bottom end on his bass. Ignoring Tommy Lee’s personality for just a moment, his drumming has been and really continues to be the driving force of their live performances. Now, non-musically speaking, he also was able to coax women in the crowd to flash the band which is his typical schtick. Neil’s vocal struggles aside, those become less important when you can point the mic to the crowd and 50,000 metal heads are screaming back every lyric at you. For as much negative press as his performances have gotten lately, I felt he exceeded my expectations and was on par with both of the previous times I had seen Motley Crue. Like the two bands that played prior, they were fun. Concerts are supposed to be fun. I had fun. My kid had fun. With the lost years of 2020 and 2021 hopefully behind us forever, I hope that this tour rejuvenates each of these bands and gives them a new lease on their rock & roll lives and carries them through yet another decade of nothin’ but a good time.

Motley Crue Set List Cleveland

  1. Wild Side (1987)
  2. Shout at the Devil (1983)
  3. Too Fast For Love (1981)
  4. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) (1990)
  5. Saints of Los Angeles (2008)
  6. Live Wire (1982)
  7. Looks That Kill (1984)
  8. The Dirt (2019)
  9. Medley of Rock and Roll Part 2 (Gary Glitter)/Smokin’ in the Boys Room (Brownsville Station)/White Punks on Dope (The Tubes)/Helter Skelter (The Beatles)/Anarchy in the UK (Sex Pistols)
  10. Home Sweet Home (1985)
  11. Dr. Feelgood (1989)
  12. Same Ol’ Situation (1990)
  13. Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
  14. Primal Scream (1991)
  15. Kickstart My Heart (1989)

All in all it was a great show with some of the most iconic bands that came about during the eighties pop-metal era. Getting to spend that time with my kid, at a time in her life where your offspring typically want nothing to do with you; made it that much better.

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*

Turning 40: The Number of the Beast

The greatest metal album of all time turns 40 today! That distinction goes to Iron Maiden’s 1982 release; The Number of the Beast. While the band’s two prior releases are special in their own right, TNOTB saw them reach their full potential and kicked off a run of classic albums that would dominate the rest of the 1980’s.

Featuring the genre’s best bass player, founding member Steve Harris, this record saw the band go from supporting act to headliner around the world. It would be the last one with drummer Clive Burr but the first with former Samson singer Bruce Dickinson. The album is Burr’s finest accomplishment on the sticks and Dickinson’s voice transitioned the band from more of a amateur hard rock outfit to something entirely different but meeting Harris’ vision for the group. Soaring vocals that rivaled those of Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford took them to new heights. Childhood friends Dave Murray and Adrian Smith traded off guitar solos on the record and again combined with Harris to form the signature “Maiden gallop” that their songs are still known for to this day.

The frightening album art, along with it’s title, unfortunately led to the record being pigeonholed as some sort of devil worship. Perhaps the creative lyrics went over the heads of many critics of the time, but the stigma was attached to the band for several years. The record led the band to fall victim to folks burning and smashing their albums and protesting their concerts in the United States. Nonetheless, all of the extra attention caught the eye of teenagers looking for something different and was a commercial success. It became Iron Maiden’s first record to reach the Top 40 on the U.S. Billboard Charts. It produced two iconic singles in “The Number of the Beast” and “Run To The Hills” and was certified Platinum in the U.S. and virtually everywhere else in the world. This band has sold over 85 million records and 20 million of those were just this album alone. Its staying power and longevity speak for itself.

I discovered the record as a thirteen year old coming of age moron in roughly 1999, while going through my dad’s old cassette collection. Remember cassettes? I was immediately drawn to the cover art; as any thirteen year old boy probably was back in 1982. Upon placing the cassette in my stereo I was greeted with the heaviest thing I’d probably ever heard to that point. Invaders doesn’t have some melodic, build up intro like the more modern Maiden songs do. From the first note, it is an in your face metal onslaught. Most metal bands in the 80’s were making songs about girls and parties. Not Maiden. Invaders tells the tale of some ancient Saxons being invaded by and falling victim to Norse Vikings. Probably not the type of music that was popular with the chicks but nevertheless the type of music that would inspire future metal titans like Amon Amarth and Sabaton.

The second track is one of the album’s absolute gems and has the aforementioned type of intro that the band would become known for. Children of the Damned starts off with a melodic intro and was inspired by the TV show Village of the Damned. The song starts out nice before transitioning into a heavy metal classic that showcases the band at their peak. Rarely played live, I was able to hear it performed in Detroit on the Book Of Souls World Tour in 2016.

The next track is The Prisoner which was based off of the British TV show of the same name. It’s another song that is rarely played live, but I was fortunate enough to catch it in Indianapolis in 2012 during the Maiden England tour. The song was inspired by a character in the show who is taken hostage in a village that might seem to be too perfect, but in actuality is a prison as there is no free thought or freewill.

22 Acacia Avenue is another underrated masterpiece that is probably due to it’s lyrical content; but as a song it flat out jams. The song is a sequel to an earlier song about the band’s favorite made up (or was she?) lady of the night. First appearing in 1980’s Charlotte The Harlot, this song tells the third person view of her life before the narrator ultimately rescues her from her life of sin. In Charlotte the Harlot, the song is much more upbeat and has a very punk rock vibe to it. However, in 22 Acacia Avenue, the corner she works on and the song warns of the dangers of the lifestyle she has chosen on the streets. I hope that someday I will hear this one performed live.

Then comes the aforementioned, controversial title track. Contrary to popular activist beliefs at the time, the song is not an ode to Lucifer. Rather, the song is the reflection of a nightmare that Steve Harris had after viewing the sequel to The Omen. A quick look or listen to the lyrics could have calmed a lot of the outrage that this song created. Rather than running from it, the band embraced it, and rode the momentum of this moment all the way to the bank and then some. This was the second single released on the record and it has become one of the defining songs in the history of heavy metal. They’ve played this song on every tour I’ve seen them play.

Run To The Hills was the first single from the record and is probably the most popular and well known song from the band, at least here in the States. On the very rare chance that a radio station will play any Maiden music, you have about a 95% chance of it being Run To The Hills. From the catchy intro and piercing vocals the song was an instant hit and is usually in the set list when the band tours. The song is a back and forth tale from the perspectives of both the Native Americans and their conquerors from Europe. It’s an absolute metal classic.

Arguably their most popular song is followed by the “weakest” track on the record. Gangland isn’t necessarily a bad song but it doesn’t seem to fit. Written by drummer Clive Burr and guitarist Adrian Smith, it is from the perspective of life dominated by organized crime. Again, it isn’t a bad song, but when placed next to the song that it replaced on the album you can see why Steve Harris now believes they made the wrong choice. However, now knowing that this would the last album to feature Burr on the drums, I believe he delivers one of his all time best performances in this song. So, while the song isn’t catchy nor all that memorable in the Maiden catalog, it does show Burr going out in his prime with one of his best performances.

Total Eclipse was initially left off of the album and was instead used as the B-Side for the Run To The Hills single. This was the decision that Harris regretted. It’s a much stronger song than Gangland and would have been better served on the record. When the album was remastered and re-released in 1998, it was added as it should have been to begin with as it is a great straight ahead metal jam. I’d love to hear this one live.

The finale, as is common with this band, is the strongest track on the album. I’ll go further. I will opine that this is the greatest heavy metal song ever written. Throughout their career Iron Maiden have been known more so for their massive “epics” than their singles. They’ve released some doozies, like Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Phantom of The Opera, and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The crown jewel of them all, though, is Hallowed Be Thy Name. It is the one that closes most Maiden shows. I assume this is because it is too good to follow with something else. Lyrically, it tells the tale of a man that is awaiting death at the gallows and the reflection of his life during his final moments. The song has everything that a heavy metal song should have. It’s got a build up intro. It has, arguably, Dickinson’s finest vocal performance. It features the classic Maiden gallop and twin guitars trading off masterpiece solos. Burr’s drums and Harris’ bass play are out of this world as well. All metal songs since and in the future should be measured against it and THAT alone is the deciding factor in making this the greatest metal album of all time. It would still be considered an all time classic without Hallowed, but its presence elevates it to the #1 slot in my not so humble opinion.

Cheers and Happy Birthday to The Number of the Beast.

Metal music is alive and well in Louisville

It had been a very long time coming, for me to attend a real, full production concert. Actually, it had been 21 long months since my wife and I saw Korn and Breaking Benjamin in Columbus, before the world came to a screeching halt. As 2021 has progressed, I’ve been able to see some really good tribute bands and a couple weeks ago I was able to catch a small scale concert from 80’s rockers Great White. The lineup for yesterday’s final day of the Louder Than Life Festival in Louisville was too good to pass up and was just what I needed.

The Wife and I had planned to be down to Louisville in time to catch The Hu and Skillet but unfortunately, for us, Cincinnati happened. I’ve been driving for a lot of years. Never in my life has there been a casual drive through Cincinnati. I don’t know what it is about that town, but traffic delays there and between Florence and Kentucky Motor Speedway added considerable time to our voyage, unfortunately putting us there at the end of Skillet’s set.

Having been to many other Danny Wimmer Presents productions in the past, we explored the grounds for a little; making comparisons to Rock on the Range/Sonic Temple Music Festival. Concession prices were quite steep, but the atmosphere was great. More relaxed than some other festivals I’ve been too, we were able to make our way fairly close to one of my favorite bands, Sabaton. As they have each of the other three times I’ve seen them, they were phenomenal. While my wife couldn’t really see much, I’m hopeful that I was able to make a fan out of her. Joakim Broden and the boys from Sweden raced through a ten song set of most of their biggest hits as well as their new single. Virtually between every song, the band would pause long enough to let the deafening “Sabaton!” chants die down. As always, one of the best performances of the event.

Sabaton Set List per setlist.fm

  1. Ghost Division
  2. The Last Stand
  3. Swedish Pagans
  4. The Red Baron
  5. Carolus Rex
  6. Fields of Verdun
  7. The Attack of the Dead Men
  8. Primo Victoria
  9. Steel Commanders
  10. To Hell and Back

From there we went to the main stages area to see the rest of Breaking Benjamin, who had started before Sabaton had finished. As always, BB sounded great and it was fitting that we were able to see some of them in our first big concert, since they also played at the last show we had gone too 21 months ago.

After Breaking Benjamin finished up, it was on to the two main stage headliners for the evening. The festival could not have nailed it much better either. Judas Priest, one of the founding bands of heavy metal, are touring on their 50th anniversary. Sadly, they were only allotted a one hour time slot, which is just way too short for a band of Priest’s stature. Halford and the band were firing on all cylinders; albeit with some curious setlist choices, it did me good to see so many young people witnessing this band probably for the first time. The scream in “Victim of Changes” is still one of, if not the, best screams in heavy metal history.

Judas Priest Set List

  1. One Shot at Glory
  2. Lightning Strike
  3. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
  4. Freewheel Burning
  5. The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) *Fleetwood Mac cover w/ Kirk Hammett
  6. Turbo Lover
  7. Hell Patrol
  8. The Sentinel
  9. Victim of Changes
  10. Hell Bent for Leather
  11. Painkiller

After a short break, the main event of the festival took the stage for the second of their two headlining appearances of the weekend. Saying they had something special planned would be an understatement, as they played their self titled “black” album in its entirety. I’m not one of those people that says that Metallica sold out with that record. I’ve always thought that was a lazy take. Is it my favorite Metallica album? No. That would probably be And Justice For All. But, what the “black album” did for metal music cannot be ignored. It is the defining record that made metal acceptable in the mainstream & it has many songs that flat out jam. Is it thrash? No. Is it heavy metal? Yes.

As the band is celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of that record it was pretty cool to see the album played in its entirety in reverse chronological order. It’s my wife’s favorite record by the band also, so that was a cool moment being able to share that with her; at her first Metallica show. The band sounded fantastic as always. Some people might complain because it’s the edgy take, but DWP will never fail to sell out a festival when they’re able to secure the biggest metal band in history to headline his shows. Period.

Metallica Set List

  1. Hardwired
  2. The Four Horsemen
  3. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  4. The Struggle Within
  5. My Friend of Misery
  6. The God That Failed
  7. Of Wolf and Man
  8. Nothing Else Matters
  9. Through the Never
  10. Don’t Tread on Me
  11. Wherever I May Roam
  12. The Unforgiven
  13. Holier Than Thou
  14. Sad But True
  15. Enter Sandman
  16. Blackened *Encore*
  17. Creeping Death *Encore*

The 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees

After a 2020 that was devastating to music lovers around the world, perhaps it’s time to look forward a little bit. 2020 saw live music come to a screeching halt. We lost rock legends like Neil Peart and Eddie Van Halen. I don’t think anybody knows with any certainty what will happen when it comes to live music; but some gigs are being scheduled and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has released it’s annual list of nominees. These will ultimately be cut down to a group of five or so for induction.

If diversity is what you’re looking for, we’ve got quite the list of nominees to choose from this year. My lack of faith in the powers that be at the R&RHOF is no secret. For crying out loud, Ted Nugent is not in there. Styx is not in there. And I could go on and on. For the sake, however, of this list; let’s assume that “rock & roll” does in fact encompass all genres of popular music and that all genres matter. Who should make the cut? Who should not? Outside of my favorite band, Iron Maiden, finally getting a nomination; this list is not real awe inspiring. It’s also not really a list that is friendly to what can traditionally be defined as rock music for an institution that is supposed to cater to rock music. After having a few weeks to ponder on the nominees; these are my thoughts.

Iron Maiden performing Aces High in Japan

The no-brainer is the aforementioned Iron Maiden. The metal legends have been eligible since 2004 and are just now being nominated for the first time. Getting Metallica and Black Sabbath in as the only metal bands inducted thus far has to help. However, the recent failure of the deserving Judas Priest twice in the past five years also gives reason to not trust the Hall to do the right thing. Iron Maiden is one of the pioneering bands of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” from the early 80’s that helped pave the way for bands like Saxon and were a direct influence on classic metal bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Iced Earth as well as more modern ones like Sabaton and Amon Amarth. Outside of KISS, there is probably no other band that is as marketable as Iron Maiden. Their live shows are a spectacle to behold and the 85 million albums they’ve sold with little to no radio or TV support make them the grassroots heavy metal champions of all time. This band is bigger now than they were in their 80’s heyday. Do the right thing R&RHOF. I know you haven’t been historically kind to including metal bands but this one should not even be up for debate. Although, with their denial of Judas Priest recently, I won’t hold my breath.

Iron Maiden performing Phantom of the Opera in England

Tina Turner comes in next. She’s already in the Hall of Fame for earlier work, while this nomination focuses on her as a solo artist. She has had a hit song in seven different decades. Few artists, past or present, have the stage presence that she does as a performer as well. Her solo music is kind of all over the place, but her roots are in rock & roll, rhythm & blues and at the end of the day she has sold over 100 million records. She once held a record for the largest paying audience for a solo artist at over 180,000 fans. She should join Stevie Nicks as the next woman to be inducted a second time.

Tina Turner covering The Who

The Foo Fighters are an intriguing candidate for induction. Front man Dave Grohl is like the biggest rock nerd in rock history, even bigger than myself. Even with his outspoken politics aside he seems like one of the most down to earth guys as well. A common man’s rock star perhaps. Is his band groundbreaking? Probably not. Can you definitively say they have changed rock music? No, not really. However, over the scope of their careers, they have maintained their status as one of the biggest rock bands in the world. There hasn’t really been a dip in their popularity. They still fill stadiums to this day. Their live performances are phenomenal. The ability to replicate what you are selling live should matter and they absolutely are a better live band than they are a radio band. The album sales are there. The live show is there. The staying power is there. I would include Foo Fighters and Dave gets in for the second time after previously being inducted with Nirvana.

Up next is Fela Kuti. While his music is not rock & roll, per se, he was a pioneer of the Afrobeats genre; blending jazz, funk, psychedelic and traditional Nigerian music to create his sound. His legacy to this music is second to none on this list of nominees. For that alone, he should be on the shortlist to be inducted.

Carole King has written 118 songs that have made the Billboard Charts. But, she is already in the Hall of Fame as a songwriter. Should she get in, this time, as a performer? That’s where the debate comes in. She is considered a soft rock artist and she’s got the career to back it up. It may not be my cup of tea, but you’ll get no argument here if she is inducted.

Dionne Warwick isn’t really a rock singer either, but the woman has charted 56 Hot 100 pop singles on the Billboard Charts.But her very early music contains a lot of the same elements that became rock music later on. She meets that credential as well as her staying power. If being exclusive to rock is not a prerequisite for inclusion, it’d be hard to argue against her.

Rage Against the Machine are another tricky candidate. They are relatively newer for induction. Their blending of metal and elements of rap and hip hop would pave the way for the future genre that became nu-metal and featured bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn. This is the third time they’ve been nominated, but their outspoken politics that carry weight in the music community could finally carry them over the threshold this year. I’m not convinced that the music does that for them. While they made some impact, they were a band for a relatively short period of time and their album sales aren’t overly impressive. I’d be fine with them getting in and completely indifferent if they don’t. Artists like Ted Nugent and even Kid Rock have been much more impactful for a longer stretch of time and won’t be nominated, simply because they have the wrong politics. Bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were bigger than Rage but will likely not ever be nominated either. My beef isn’t really with RATM, it’s with the fact that they are largely only being force fed as a nominee due to their “message”.

Since the precedent has been set with rap artists being inducted into the Hall of Fame with the two kings of rap 2-Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. both recently being inducted, I’m inclined to hear arguments for Jay-Z. While, nowadays, he’s more well known for riding the coattails of his wife and kissing Barack Obama’s butt, Jay-Z was one of the next wave of rappers that ushered in the post-Biggie and Pac era of rap. His album The Life and Times of Shawn Carter: Volume 2 was a huge success and spawned several hit tracks. He has sold nearly 40 million records, which puts him higher than most of the people on this list. I’m a staunch anti-rap in the R&RHOF guy, but since we’re already doing it, this is one that makes sense.

The Go-Go’s were a new wave rock band formed in the late 1970’s. They were the first all-female band to top the Billboard charts. Rare and groundbreaking, check. Outside of a few years of popularity, though, they miss the mark as far as staying power and their album sales aren’t huge. I won’t protest their induction, unless it comes at the expense of Iron Maiden, but they would be a borderline inductee for me.

Todd Rundgren has also been nominated twice before. His biggest influence has been as a music producer. His solo career has been very long and experimental, but not necessarily groundbreaking. Thankfully, he’s not bothered by the Hall of Fame, because I’m not sure that the third time for induction is a charm for him either.

The New York Dolls were an early underground band that were heavily influential on early glam bands like Twisted Sister. One of the first punk bands on the scene, their time was fairly short lived and really achieved no success commercially. Their biggest impact is more likely to have come from the bands that they influenced. I won’t complain if they get in, but also won’t cry if they don’t.

Rapper LL Cool J gets nominated, seemingly, every year. Every year he doesn’t get in. While he was cool when I was a kid, and I actually prefer him as an actor, I don’t think he makes it. I’m still not convinced that rap should be included in this Hall of Fame and if it does he doesn’t quite make my very short list of those who should.

R&B artist Mary J. Blige has been nominated as well. Dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul with her ability to blend rap and R&B, you’d be hard pressed to find another female artist that has been as instrumental to modern day rap music than Blige. Ultimately, I don’t believe she should be inducted into the rock hall of fame, but an R&B one without hesitation.

Akron, Ohio’s Devo were another new wave type rock band that had some radio success but are a fringe candidate for induction. They’ve been around since 1973 but are largely known for one song. I do not anticipate them making the cut.

Oh, Chaka Khan. I feel like she’s been nominated like eight times and never gotten in. While she may be the Queen of Funk, and funk is much more related to rock than some of the other stuff in the Hall of Fame, there aren’t many artists that I could be more indifferent to. She doesn’t move the meter for me. Maybe she’ll get a lifetime achievement award or something.

Pop star Kate Bush rounds out the group of this year’s nominees. She’s a pretty big deal on the other side of the pond in England, her home country, with many charting songs but isn’t necessarily a household name here. That doesn’t disqualify her, necessarily, as it isn’t the American Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With that said, however, I do not anticipate her being inducted. To each their own, but, no.

Sound off in the comments! Let me know what you do or don’t agree with. Who’s too high? Who’s too low?

Iron Maiden performing in Cincinnati, 2019. Photo by Chad J. Hobbs

Remembering Dio

It’s been ten years since the heavy metal world lost one of it’s greatest icons. By all accounts from those who knew him, Ronnie James Dio was one of the “good guys” of rock & roll. When I first began my journey into discovering heavy music, I was well aware of “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver” from my VH1 Classic video binges. And I certainly knew of the kickass “Man On The Silver Mountain” from all of the classic rock radio that I listened to.

It took Ronnie’s passing for me to dig deeper into his career. I knew that at one point he fronted Black Sabbath, but wasn’t familiar with that incarnation of the band at all. The day that Dio died, a friend of mine that was a big fan, had a memorial style bonfire/celebration of music with myself and a couple other friends. It was that night that I heard “Heaven and Hell” for the first time.

In the following weeks I was able to start piecing together the rest of his career and found a lot of amazing music. But more importantly, I began to see how much he meant to so many other bands and the metal community in general. One of my favorite memories of seeing Iron Maiden that summer was when they dedicated “Blood Brothers” to Dio’s memory.

On the Mount Rushmore of heavy metal vocalists, Dio is firmly on there with Dickinson, Halford, and Ozzy. Fully aware, now, of his legacy on heavy music; I present to you my ten favorite tracks in the Dio catalog.

#10. The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath – 1981)

 

#9. Stand Up and Shout (Dio – 1983)

 

#8. Neon Knights (Black Sabbath – 1980)

 

#7. Last In Line (Dio – 1984)

 

#6. Children of the Sea (Black Sabbath – 1980)

 

#5. Stargazer (Rainbow – 1976)

 

#4. We Rock (Dio – 1984)

 

#3. Holy Diver (Dio – 1983)

 

#2. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath – 1980)

 

#1. Man on the Silver Mountain (Rainbow – 1975)

 

And there it is. While it was hard to leave off songs like “I” and “Rainbow in the Dark”; this was ultimately what I narrowed it down to. Share your thoughts in the comments if you agree or disagree. More importantly, add these iconic tracks to your playlist!

Iron Maiden turns 40

Today, April 14, 2020 sees the self titled debut album from metal legends Iron Maiden turn forty years old. We’ll examine the record track by track to see how it measures up.

As a debut goes, the record does its primary job right off the bat. One look at the cover probably did exactly what it was intended to. Circa 1980, one look at Eddie probably either scared you away or piqued your interest. Relatively unknown outside of England at the time, this was their first real chance to make an impression to the rest of the world.

Clocking in at just over 40 minutes, it’s a pretty standard length record for the times, although it’s a much more frantic pace than their recent releases. While I disagree with many assessments that liken early Maiden to punk, their sound on the first two albums with Paul Di’Anno on vocals is much different than the sound they’d become famous for years later.

The opening track is “Prowler” and is a smack to the face. It features elements that will later become their feature sound, albeit with Di’Anno’s more gruff voice. As for being the introductory song for the group, it’s a classic. It’s meant for Di’Anno’s vocals though, so sadly it’s time of being played live is probably over.

“Remember Tomorrow” follows and is quite honestly one of the most underrated songs in Maiden’s illustrious catalog of music. It very well could be Di’Anno’s greatest performance with the band before he was replaced by Bruce Dickinson. Seldom played live, it’s an absolute treat when it is. It is so unique when compared to the rest of their stuff.

The first hit off the record is the third track. “Running Free” is about as essential to their catalog of music as it gets. The single charted at 34 in the UK. The live version from 1985’s “Live After Death” recording is the absolute best with crowd participation. This fun song still gets played regularly when the group is touring.

The fourth track is without question the defining song of the Di’Anno era of the band. “Phantom of the Opera” is in your face from the opening get go and doesn’t let up for over 7 minutes. The musicianship on this one is phenomenal and is the first “epic” in a long line of “epics” that the band would go on to be known for. The entire band is at their absolute best on this one. It still gets played live regularly and for good reason. This one simply captures everything that they do well and is a precursor to where they’d end up fifteen records later. Turn this one up all the way!

All of that concludes the first side of the record. Side 2 opens up with an iconic jam that is entirely an instrumental piece. “Transylvania” is another one that has the vintage Maiden sound, and I’d love for it to be played live. That won’t happen, but the song is just the first of a few great instrumentals that they band would go on to release over the years.

“Strange World” follows and is another underrated Di’Anno gem. The song has a mellow opening, followed by a brief wailing guitar solo, and along with the aforementioned “Remember Tomorrow”, one of Di’Anno’s greatest vocal achievements. The track also foreshadows the progressive rock elements that would later become staple but in the early years were not as common for them. An absolute killer that I’ve yet to see performed live, but would love to.

The second single from the album follows, and as is usually the case with me and this band, it’s not one of my favorites. It’s not that the song is bad by any means. However, the first six tracks are what I’d call definitive Maiden songs. This one doesn’t meet that bar for me. What do I know though? It charted at 29 in the UK as the better performer of the two singles. It jams, but “Sanctuary” falls short for me of the six songs before it.

The next song is also one that I could do without. It has a fun opening and has some good rhythm work. Songs about ladies of the night are a tough sell for me I suppose. “Charlotte the Harlot” is a good play on words and the breakdown midway through is quite enjoyable and has some good vocals. Once again, it just doesn’t measure up to tracks 1-6. However, it would spawn a sequel a couple albums later that is flat out brilliant. So, I’ll give credit where credit is due.

The self titled album ends quite fittingly with the self titled track, “Iron Maiden”. In a sense the song may be a tad overrated. Simply because if you go to an Iron Maiden show you two things are for certain. One of them is that this song will be the closer to their main set. The second is that is when we will get an appearance on stage from the infamous Eddie that adorns each of their record covers. He will either be in classic Eddie form or reimagined to fit whatever “new” album the band is touring on. It is an absolute essential song to the band and as mentioned before is forever locked in to the live set. Watch the crowd reaction to this one!

Overall, this record is an iconic debut for an iconic band. Tracks 7 & 8 are the weakest in my opinion and one of those is the highest rated single from the album. That means it’s in pretty good shape. The overall grade for 1980’s Iron Maiden is a solid A! It is one of the early records that would shape heavy metal for the next four decades and counting.