Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 - The Best Bits. One show, a Couch Convention, and some other nuggets

Markus Vanhala, guitar, Insomnium
Markus Vanhala, Insomnium

 18th January, 2020, at the Waterfront in Norwich, UK. Starting the photographic year with an evening of Finnish metal; loved the show and you can find the review here. Little did I know that it would be the one and only concert that I would photograph this year. Apart from the odd phone snap of a video stream on the TV... and that's where all our live music was, on screens. At least once people began to realise that the pandemic wouldn't just disappear within a few weeks.

Two online events that were wonderful: first, Marillion's Couch Convention in September, a three-day event with not only streamed concerts but support acts, interactive sessions, merch... and confetti: I kid you not, I'm still digging bits of confetti out from under the rug and behind the TV.  Sheer genius... it really helps that the worldwide fans are like one huge family and it was a chance to catch up with people that, in a normal year, we might have bumped into at a show. But 2020 was never going to be normal - the Couch Convention showed just how some planning and ingenuity and some wonderful music can make so many people happy. (Through this, and other things like this prize draw, the band has been raising funds to help all the road and stage crew that have been badly affected by the halt in performances and touring.)


The second of my favouite online events: Steve H's wonderful H Natural live stream from St John's in Oxford. Just beautiful. (To find out more, and to listen to his podcasts, go here: http://www.stevehogarth.com/.)

My favourite new album of the year? This... Mother from In This Moment. I've listened to it - a lot - throughout the year. 


Just a few best bits... next year will have more. Happy new year to you all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Lost Year, and the Found Photos

Eric Vanlerberghe, vocals, I Prevail
Eric Vanlerberghe, vocals, I Prevail

 Not been writing much: who wants to read about lockdowns and misery and lack of live music? Instead, we keep busy (or not) with other things; tending the garden, walking for miles, working at jobs - those of us lucky-enough to have work that we can do from home, or essential jobs (thank you, all of you) - finding other creative outlets (I spent much time stripping wallpaper and organizing a full refurb of a Victorian property in a seaside town, much less time than usual listening to my usual escape, music, because the lyrics were playing again and again in my head at 3am rather like too-much Tetris, though that seems to have passed, thank you Universe).

Chris
Chris "Motionless" Cerulli, Motionless In White

We may look back on 2020 and reminisce, how many concerts did you miss? How many tickets bought, yet still held for next year, or the year after? How many books did you read or TV shows did you binge? How much weight did you drop, or gain? 

DED-Aftershock-11Oct2019-3232
Joe Cotela, DED

How many people did you lose? (That's going to be the hardest. As a world, a country, a community, a family, as a human being and a humanity.)

Chevelle
Chevelle

No, I didn't want to write about 2020. So I took a look through the photo archive, and found a few that I had missed editing at the back end of 2019. A little editing burnout; a lot of work to catch up on; some close-to-the-pandemic business trips and heck, just plain forgetfulness. So now here they are; a reminder of festivals past (they are from Aftershock 2019 - this year's festivals were, of course, postponed to 2021).

Joe Duplantier, vocals and guitar, Gojira
Joe Duplantier, Gojira

Here's to the new year; may it bring hope, health, happiness, and music. I hope to see you in the crowd and in the photo pit many more times yet!

Blink-182
Blink-182

Photo galleries:

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Lamb of God - Memento Mori (Official Music Video) out now!

Lamb Of God
Lamb of God, Aftershock 2019
New single from Lamb of God, taken from their upcoming new album. Lamb Of God, planned for release May 9th via Epic Records and available for pre-order now. Memento Mori has a gentle start... but take a listen... watch... wait for it....



“There is a vast amount of indisputably real and depressingly negative occurrences happening across the globe,” vocalist D. Randall Blythe explains. “Currently, at the forefront of everyone’s mind is the global COVID-19 pandemic. This is a very real concern, and proper precautions need to be taken by EVERYONE in order to protect those most at risk - the elderly, infirm, and immunocompromised. It is indeed a scary time, but in this hyper-connected age with its 24/7 never-ending news cycle of atrocity, outrage and lurid click-bait headlines (not to mention ill-informed lunatics running amok and spreading misinformation and panic on social media), it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that life is still carrying on, and good things do in fact still happen.”

Lamb of God are D. Randall Blythe (vocals), Mark Morton (guitar), Willie Adler (guitar), John Campbell (bass) and Art Cruz (drums).

Lamb Of God
Lamb of God, Aftershock 2019
Assuming the world returns to some sort of normal, Lamb of God have a vast North America tour planned for later this year. Not to be missed!

Also take a listen to guitarist Mark Morton's recently released solo album, Anaesthetic: it's a keeper!

Review and photos from Lamb of God at Aftershock festival in Sacramento, California: https://www.camerasandcargos.com/2019/10/aftershock-2019-lamb-of-god.html
Photo gallery: http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music/lamb-of-god/lamb-of-god-at-aftershock-2019

Randy Blythe, vocals, Lamb Of God
D. Randall Blythe, Lamb of God

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Five Finger Death Punch, Megadeth and Bad Wolves: Cardiff, Wales, UK

Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, Wales, 2020
Five Finger Death Punch, touring Europe and supported by both Bad Wolves and Megadeth - yes, that Megadeth - zoomed into the UK to play two dates, mid-tour: Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena and London's Wembley SSE Arena. Cardiff was a bit more of an adventure - hadn't been there since many, many years - and a little more personal, with a capacity of 5,000 versus the SSE's 12,500. I'm used to seeing them in front of tens of thousands at USA festivals so the smaller venue would be cool; Cardiff is reachable by train, road, bus, and plane, accomodation is more affordable than London... and there are dragons... who can resist dragons! So for this tour, Cardiff was my choice, though I'm sure Wembley was stunning and those who were able to experience both shows must have been ecstatic and there was a teeny, weeny bit of green monster wriggling in my thoughts after the Cardiff show - and a question: why didn't I plan on going to both? (Must not be greedy. Must not be greedy. Must not be greedy. Let everyone have their turn.)

Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, Wales, 2020
With show-openers Bad Wolves (so much more than their excellent cover of Zombie), and mega-metal-stars Megadeth playing too (with Dave Mustaine now happily cancer-free), this was a not-to-miss tour.

Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, Wales, 2020
Five Finger Death Punch opened with Lift Me Up and the crowd erupted. A full, high-energy, more-up-than-down FFDP setlist including an acoustic Wrong Side of Heaven and ending with The Bleeding. Accompanying the music; visuals including a giant skull and crossed bats, lasers, blasts of pyro that heated the entire arena; two, yes two, explosions of wonderful confetti; Jason Hook rising way, way up into the sky on the  pointy end of a vertig-inducing, tiny platform; dreadlock swirling from Chris Kael's beard and Zoltan Bathory's hair; epic drumming from the new boy, Charlie Engen; and in front of it all, Ivan Moody. Love the hat, Ivan. Love the hat.

Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Jason Hook, guitar, Five Finger Death Punch
Five Finger Death Punch have a way of involving every person in the audience; whether it's shining flashlights for a birthday song, celebrating sobriety, or simply singing along to the songs. This, together with knowing just how much they do for military veterans and other causes, make the show is a moving experience; if you haven't seen them yet, a) why not and b) it's about time.

The tour continues in Europe throughout February with dates in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Catch them if you can.

Five Finger Death Punch have a new album, F8, set for release on 28th February and available for pre-order now.

Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Confetti... Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Sometimes I'm at a show with an official photo pass and pro cameras; sometimes I'm there to embrace the fan experience. This was definitely the latter - the photos are all phone pics taken from the crowd. Atmospheric maybe - zoomable, poster-size quality, definitely not! You'll find a more photos here. I'm very happy to have shared the experience with one daughter who travelled in from France, two best friends from the East Midlands, and a whole slew of fans from all around the UK and further. Music tourism is great - we should have added on a day, and tickets to the Wales-Italy rugby match too (I'm sure some FFDP fans did just that!)

Photos from previous Five Finger Death Punch shows at Aftershock Festival, Louder Than Life, Chicago Open Air, and Reno Nevada: http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music/five-finger-death-punch. Previous show and release reviews are scattered throughout this publication.

Here's a preview from the new album: Inside Out, available now:

Just a couple of nothing-to-do-with-the-performance-or-the-band niggles:

  • Timing: people were at the venue early, patiently waiting for 6.30 pm: snaking around the building for what felt like miles. Security clearance was rapid and efficient, and yet so many folks missed part, if not all, of Bad Wolves set - including those who were there specifically to see them. Maybe Motorpoint Arena should have opened the doors thirty minutes or an hour sooner. Someone must have known how long it would take to bring a capacity crowd into the venue - it's not rocket science.
  • Beer: I have been to many, many concerts over many, many years, in many countries and venues, and never have I seen so much spilled beer - and dumped plastic cups - all over the floor, in my hair, and over other people and left in puddles at the end of the show. Back in the day, you wanted to drink (and talk loudly), you stayed in the bar and consumed from oft-reused glass mugs; the venue floor was for the music and the music alone. Would I be a party-pooper to say I preferred that? 
  • Merch prices: the sticker-shock was palpable. I don't know who set the prices for the UK merch (way higher than USA prices) - it might have been the concession at the venue rather than band management - but if they had thought about the average UK salary they'd have known just how far out-of reach many of the items were. If you're someone who resisted a purchase because of the cost, perhaps consider ordering a release bundle for the new album - music and a hoodie together make a much more reasonable offering! (Scroll down to the bottom!) Or at the official UK merch store via the website or on EMP for licensed merchandise. More affordable if you didn't bring home a treasure from the show!

Five Finger Death Punch, Cardiff, 2020
Happy fans, FFDP, Cardiff Motionpoint Arena, 2020

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Insomnium: at the Waterfront, Norwich, England

Niilo Sevänen, vocals, Insomnium
Insomnium at The Waterfront, Norwich, during the Tour Like A Grave tour
All the way from Finland to Norwich's Waterfront venue, by way of about a million European cities - and with a North America tour beginning in March - Insomnium. With several UK dates still to go - including London tonight. Their eighth studio album, Heart Like A Grave, released in November last year, this tour is aptly named Tour Like A Grave - but the music is very, very much alive, and the band are clearly enjoying themselves.

Markus Vanhala, guitar, Insomnium
Insomnium, Norwich, England UK
Vocalist Niilo Sevänen's growls flow like warm honey over a bed of rusty nails, entwined with the melodic riffs of guitarists Markus Vanhala and Jani Liimatainen (Ville Friman is not touring), and the throbbing, drubbing heart of drums driven by Markus Hirvonen. And headbanging is a must, a must.

Jani Liimatainen, guitar, Insomnium
Insomnium, The Waterfront, Norwich, January 2020
Heart Like A Grave is at the same time melancholic and beautiful; the hour-long album is one to be listened to many times to hear all the nuances, the layers, the depth... and to explore Finnish poetry and folklore. Here's a taster, the title song, in case you haven't heard them yet:


If you have seen the "Scandinavian death metal" categorization of Insomnium, (I so detest genre labels), don't let that label define they for you nor dictate whether-or-not to listen. Check out the band's influences and a picture will form... whether you like your metal progressive, or your prog more metal, or your hard rock melodic, or your folk heavy-as-hell: Insomnium should fit well with your collection. (And note: the artbook version of the CD is a sombre collection of bleak, gorgeous photos and the lyrics to all the songs. It's a keeper.)

Insomnium
Insomnium and fans, Norwich, UK
Keep up to date with Insomnium on their Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

More tour dates here: http://www.insomnium.net/news/42/68/EURO-TOUR-BEGINS-UK-Ireland-and-NORTH-AMERICA-will-follow

More photos from last night's show in Norwich, UK: http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music/insomnium/insomnium-norwich-2020

Niilo Sevänen, vocals, Insomnium
Insomnium

Friday, January 17, 2020

Band to look out for: Those Damn Crows: preorder Point of No Return now!


Hailing from Bridgend, South Wales, Those Damn Crows not only have an intriguing, listen-to-me-now name, evocative of a horde of persistent, characterful creatures who once you've noticed them are ever-present, no matter where you look... they have a distinctive sound with songs well worth a listen.  Hard rock but very melodic - with wonderful vocals.

While they've been making their presence known here in the UK, with appearances at Download last year and other festivals, they'll no doubt appeal to a worldwide audience - are they on a Sirius XM Octane playlist yet?

Their debut album, Murder and the Motive, was released in October 2018 and the new album, Point of No Return, drops on February 7th. Available for pre-order now and with a subset of songs already available for listening on Spotify. Check out the latest, Set in Stone:



Those Damn Crows are Shane Greenhall (vocals), Ronnie Huxford (drums), Ian 'Shiner' Thomas and David Winchurch (guitars) and LLoyd Wood (bass). Find out more on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also - several interviews with the band on YouTube, including this one with Total Rock Radio.

Take a listen!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Alter Bridge, Shinedown and The Raven Age at Nottingham's Motionpoint Arena

Shinedown
Shinedown with Alter Bridge's Walk The Sky tour, Nottingham UK
With the original lineup for Alter Bridge's Walk The Sky tour of the UK and Europe being Alter Bridge, Shinedown, and Sevendust, this was not going to be a tour that I would miss; three bands that can easily headline their own tours in the USA, all on the same bill! Sadly, Sevendust had to cancel their participation - drummer Morgan Rose having been taken ill. (Good news is that he is recovering.)

The Raven Age, Nottingham



The Raven Age, British melodic metalcore with a smidgeon of Iron Maiden-esqe vocals stepped in to open the show and it was wonderful to see an opening act given the benefit of lights appropriate for the arena setting. That doesn't always happen.

Shinedown
Fan's light show for Shinedown: Nottingham, UK
Shinedown put on a huge show: animated, interactive, emotional, exciting and full of bounce. Attention, Attention! Shinedown are in town! Playing all the rabble-rousers including Monsters, Get Up, and Cut The Cord, they also included their memorable cover of Lynard Skynard's Simple Man. The crowd let Brent Smith and co know that they could have gone on all evening. Shinedown definitely have enough of a UK following these days to have earned their own headline tour one of these days; playing to a capacity crowd in Motionpoint Arena just took them one huge step closer.

The were so very cool. I enjoy Shinedown more and more every time I see them. Even Brent's monologues make me smile these days.

Alter Bridge
Alter Bridge, Walk The Sky tour, Nottingham, UK
But then... Alter Bridge. Their latest album, Walk The Sky, was released just a few weeks ago on October 18th. I have been lucky enough to see and photograph them several times previously in the USA - in festival environments in Chicago and Houston - but never before in a major indoor venue with the incredible light show that was part of Saturday night's experience in Nottingham, UK. The whole show was a stunning experience; being way up in the gods with a view over the crowd to the band, it was Alter Bridge's haunting and inspirational rock through visual fireworks that only added to a very, very memorable evening.

Alter Bridge
Alter Bridge, Nottingham UK, 2019
The Alter Bridge setlist was seventeen songs long and included Burn It Down with Mark Tremonti taking the vocal lead as a twist... but Myles Kennedy's range is always stunning, clear and haunting. You can't fault Alter Bridge; vocals, Tremonti and Kennedy's guitars always different yet complementing each other; Brian Marshall's deep-diving bass, and all underpinned by "Flip" Philips' drums... what a show. What a show!!!

And they gave us Blackbird. Yes, they did. I love that song and it has such a very, very special place in so many people's hearts. Thank you for that.

The Walk The Sky tour continues: tonight in Birmingham, UK, then Friday night at Motorpoint Area in Cardiff, Wales and Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. One of those tours where you wish you could go to each and every venue and experience it all, over and over again.

Alter Bridge
Alter Bridge, Walk The Sky tour, Nottingham UK
(I was at the show for the music - not as a photographer this time. All photos are taken from the crowd on a Xiaomi Mi 8 phone: they work on a small screen, but don't think of trying to zoom in. How I wish I had been able to cover these performances with proper cameras and the type of access that Marillion allows me... I never, ever take that type of access for granted.)

More photos here:
- Alter Bridge, Nottingham, 2019
- Shinedown, Nottingham, 2019

See also:
- Photos from other Alter Bridge shows
- Myles Kennedy, Year of the Tiger

Alter Bridge
Alter Bridge, Nottingham Motionpoint Arena, 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

It's (the Cromer Pier) Christmas (Show)!!!!!!

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Christmas is in full swing at the end of Cromer Pier - the extra-special, family-fun, super-entertaining, dancing-singing-magical Christmas Show! Starting with Santa and taking a journey through places as diverse as the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (Laurel and Hardy) and south-east London (Only Fools and Horses), with dance styles from classical ballet to tap and a heck of a lot of acrobatic high kicks and jumps, and card tricks and illusion and fun and a whole load of laughter, the show is a magical machine that transports you, for a couple of hours, out of the mundane day-to-day world into a special place that exists only at the end of the pier, in Cromer's Pavilion theatre.

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Saturday night, and the 500-seater theatre was full: second show of the day for the talented crew. Compere and local funny man Olly Day knows this venue well - back for the eleventh time! The Modern Magician  Mark James returns too and has some great tricks up his sleeve (or in his pocket, or even inside an egg, which he then makes into an omlette): vocalists Harvey James and Fiona Jessica Wilson (who also plays a mean electric cello - beautiful sound); young dancers from Cromer's Marlene's School of Dancing, and the wonderful Cromer Pier Show dancers who make the stage feel as big as a ballroom. Light and sound are just perfect for the venue and the whole show flows through rapid scenery and costume changes from beginning to end.

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Harvey James and Fiona Jessica Wilson, Cromer Pier Christmas Show

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Mark James, Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
The Twelve Days of Christmas are novel... and hilarious!

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Cromer Pier Christmas Show Dancers
I love the ballet; I want to photograph more ballet. Pretty please.

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Mark James and Olly Day, Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
The Cromer Pier Christmas Show is pure entertainment - you won't find anything like it at the end of a pier anywhere else in the world. Grab the opportunity and a ticket for the family: the show runs until the end of December, and you can book tickets here or at the box office on the pier.


More photos from this year's Christmas Show here!
And photos from earlier Cromer Pier Shows are here, too.

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019
Cromer Pier Christmas Show 2019

Friday, November 1, 2019

Marillion with Friends from the Orchestra Tour: first night tonight!

Marillion, Leicester
Marillion with friends, 2017, Leicester
Marillion's tour opens tonight with a sold-out show at the Royal Philharmonic in Liverpool... continues on Sunday in Nottingham at the Royal Concert Hall and then around the UK, finishing up with two dates at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Find all the tour dates here - there might be one or two tickets available somewhere but you're going to have to search for them as dates are already sold out or have limited availability (and that's because it's going to be an amazing set of concerts: here's the link to the accompanying album, on sale now from Racket Records).

See you somewhere on the tour!!!

Marillion photo galleries: http://www.alisontoon.com/-/galleries/music/marillion

Aftershock 2019: Highly Suspect (and MCID, out now!)

Johnny Stevens, vocals and guitar, Highly Suspect
Johnny Stevens, Highly Suspect, Aftershock 2019
Highly Suspect were the first band at Aftershock 2019 to walk on stage with a dog. Don't worry, the pup didn't stay once the music started... but it was lovely to see the band accompanied on tour by their fur friends.

Highly Suspect
Highly Suspect, Aftershock 2019
I was introduced to this band several years ago, 2015, probably through SiriusXM Octane... (yes, I'm still upset that Octane is not available in the UK) we were driving down to Santa Cruz from Sacramento for a weekend by the sea, and this voice... this voice, this sound, came through the airwaves to us somewhere on that long drive, there and back, and that was it: hooked.

Ryan Meyer, drums, Highly Suspect
Ryan Meyer, Highly Suspect, Aftershock 2019
Whether they are playing to a huge festival crowd or a tiny venue (the Boardwalk in Orangevale, CA, comes to mind) they give their all; dates for European shows sold out seemingly in minutes (they have added more UK and European dates recently for early next year).

Rich Meyer, bass, Highly Suspect
Rich Meyer, Highly Suspect, Aftershock 2019
Highly Suspect's latest album, MCID, was released today, November 1st. Take a listen: well worth adding to your collection.

Matt Kofos, guitar, Highly Suspect
Matt Kofos, Highly Suspect, Aftershock 2019
Setlist from Highly Suspect's Aftershock 2019 performance, click here.

Johnny Stevens, vocals and guitar, Highly Suspect
Johnny Stevens, Highly Suspect, Aftershock 2019, Sacramento California
More photos from Highly Suspect's performance at this year's Aftershock in the photo gallery.

For earlier photo galleries, click here.

Previous reviews: Serotonia, Aftershock 2015, Orangevale 2016, Aftershock 2017

Johnny Stevens, vocals and guitar, Highly Suspect
Highly Suspect, Aftershock 2019

Monday, October 28, 2019

Aftershock 2019: Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson, Aftershock 2019, Sacramento California
When you go to see, and especially when you photograph, Marilyn Manson, people always ask: did he show his naked (body part)? Did he do (something shocking)? Did he burn (something flammable and offensive-to-some-when-burned). And what did he throw at you this time?

Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson, Aftershock 2019
The answers from Aftershock 2019 are: Yes, Possibly, Probably, and No.

Yes, because Marilyn Manson did show part of himself naked (and appeared to be fumbling with other bits), but not during the first song so I have no photographic proof though I swear it is true; Possibly, because other than the answer to question one, nothing that I personally witnessed; Probably, because I was told that he did over and over again by a woman who was screeching at the big screen in the VIP area telling us all that Manson is Satan - he Burns the Bible (though I have no primary research to prove that satan actually does that); and surprisingly, Nothing, because this time he threw nothing at all at the folks in the pit! This time there were no missiles, he faced the audience for the entire first song, and - nice surprise - even smiled.

Dressed in black with makeup reminiscent of Joker on a bad day, shrouded in smoke, as always a wonderful challenge to photograph and capture the person, the band, the atmosphere.

Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson, Aftershock 2019
I think Marilyn was really enjoying himself -- and anyone who worries about the "shocking" or "offensive" stuff - as if anyone still does - should really remember that he's much more a performer than an incarnation of the devil. (At least, that's what I choose to believe!)

Paul Wiley, guitar, Marilyn Manson
Paul Wiley, Marilyn Manson, Aftershock 2019
Setlist for Marilyn Mansons' performance at Aftershock 2019 can be see here.

Marilyn Manson is currently on tour with a few more dates left - including Hallowe'en in Las Vegas!

Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson at Aftershock 2019
Photo gallery with many more photos from Aftershock 2019 in Sacramento, California: click here.

Previous show photo galleries: click here!