Monday, November 21, 2016

Saturday night, Sacramento: two shows, and guess who is, and who is not, welcome back to town?

Craig Mabbitt, vocals, Escape The Fate
Craig Mabbitt, Escape The Fate, at the Boardwalk
Saturday evening, the week before Thanksgiving, and there's a huge show planned at Sacramento's new Golden One Center: Kanye West is in town. People have spent a fortune on tickets; more than $100 for a lower-level seat, and if you have several family members together, that's a lot of hard-earned money. It's a really big event for the new downtown arena: a big-name star, appearing right in the heart of the rejuvenation of downtown! No doubt the show was impeccably staged, well produced, and beautifully lit--exactly what you'd expect from a major tour. However.

Elias Soriano, vocals, Nonpoint
Elias Soriano, Nonpoint, The Boardwalk
Across town, at a vintage, homely roadhouse, Orangevale's Boardwalk, an equally-excited crowd packs the venue. Whether they're waiting for teen-emo-metal-idols Escape The Fate, or mature, hardworking, dreadlocked rockers Nonpoint, they are all thrilled to be at the show. They are packing the venue to the doors, from 6 pm on, and guess what? They paid around $20 for the opportunity to see five bands, all of whom played their hearts out. The stage is tiny, the lighting almost non-existant, but the music was good and very entertaining, and lasted all evening long, beginning well before 7 pm and stretching towards midnight, with barely enough time to move equipment between each set.

Nonpoint, The Boardwalk, Orangevale
Nonpoint, The Boardwalk
It's the fourth time I've photographed Escape The Fate in as many years. On Saturday, they seemed really happy, enjoying the time on stage, and really having fun with the fans. (They are being helped out by drummer Trixx--Robert Ortiz is back home looking after family, new twins I think I heard!)

Escape The Fate
Escape The Fate, The Boardwalk
For sure, you all know what happened by now in downtown Sacramento. Kanye played two, or was it three, songs, had a long, meandering rant, and then walked offstage... after only about 30 minutes before his Sacramento-area fans. (Happily, tickets are being refunded. Sadly, he's cancelled the rest of the tour. No news on why. Maybe his fans, if any remain after this, deserve to understand why. Breaking news reports say the Kanye has been hospitalized. I hope he is getting the help he needs.)

BC Kochmit, guitars, Nonpoint
BC Kochmit, Nonpoint
The crowd who went to The Boardwalk, instead? They'll be happy to see Escape the Fate and Nonpoint back in town, any time they care to visit. Let's make it soon!!! (The moral of this story... it's not always the expensive shows that are the most enjoyable... and you don't have to spend a fortune to have a good night out, with excellent live music.)

The show was really tricky to photograph. Not quite as impossible as Echo and the Bunnymen, but close. Escape The Fate's set was bathed in pale, red light (hence most of the photos in the gallery being rendered in black-and-white). Nonpoint's set was lit by... just take a look at the gallery. It was not easy to capture in the camera, not at all, but hopefully the atmosphere comes across.

Nonpoint, The Boardwalk, Orangevale
Nonpoint, The Boardwalk
The Hate Poison tour continues: see here or here for dates around the USA. And check out Escape The Fate's new album, Hate Me, and Nonpoint's latest album, The Poison Red... yep, that's why this is the Hate Poison tour!!! (And note that Nonpoint will be joining Alter Bridge on tour in January... looks like a date in San Francisco in February... these guys never stop!)

Photo galleries:

- Nonpoint at the Boardwalk, Orangevale
- Escape The Fate at the Boardwalk, Orangevale
- other bands to be added here so come back!

P.S. The Boardwalk will be closing for a while in the New Year for renovation work. It will reopen as an 18+ venue.

Trixx, on drums with Escape The Fate
Trixx, on drums with Escape The Fate this week

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Photo gallery: John Wesley, Marillion North America tour 2016

John Wesley, Boston
Joh Wesley, on tour with Marillion, Boston, USA
Guitarist and singer John Wesley (Porcupine Tree, Sound of Contact) supported Marillion throughout the North America F.E.A.R. tour, and is also supporting them in upcoming European dates. This is a photogallery from the shows in San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.

Check out the new album, a way you'll never be on John Wesley's website, and see the full photogallery here!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Marillion North America tour 2016: photos, review, an election, New Kings... and a few thoughts

Marillion tour 2016, Philadelphia
Marillion, The New Kings, Philadelphia USA
Late October-early November 2016, and I saw the opening show, and the final four shows, of Marillion's 2016 North America tour. It began at the Regency in San Francisco, and concluded on election night at Playstation Theater in New York's Times Square (more about that later), after Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. They've also been to Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec. Some members of the audience had been to each and every one of the shows, touring the two countries in parallel to the band; familiar faces in the front row, along with people just discovering the band for the very first time. Others of the audience had been to four or five shows, or just the one closest to home. (You can find all the Marillion North America 2016 tour photos by Alison Toon Photographer here, and you can obtain recordings of several of the shows right here.)

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth, The Invisible Man, Marillion, New York 2016
Each of the venues, unique; Washington's was the 9:30 club, a venue that reminded me of Sacramento's Ace of Spades; Philadelphia, a dowager aunt of a genteel theatre, soft seats and no standing room; Boston, a beautiful venue that transformed not into a pumpkin, but a nightclub, at midnight; Playstation Theater, go-to venue for rock bands visiting the big apple. The size of the stage, the lighting rig, different in each. The videos playing behind the band, deepening the experience, flowing with the music, at each show of the tour.

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Steve Rothery, Marillion, in New York, 2016
Touring with Marillion's latest album, F.E.A.R., (F*** Everyone And Run) which has received perhaps the best reviews of the bands 18-studio-album career, and the new music resonates in the live setting--and current world events. It's a protest album, but it's not Bob-Dylan-protest; it's progressive rock at its finest. Steve Hogarth is perhaps the most expressive vocalist you'll ever have the chance to see ("Man of a thousand faces"); Steve Rothery's soaring, serene guitar solos are a thing of tangible beauty; Pete Trewavas' bass, Mark Kelly's keys (wait, just wait for that solo in That Strange Engine), Ian Mosley on drums... this lineup has been together for closing in on thirty years, and it works so very, very well.

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion in New York, 2016
It's also clear: Marillion fans are a little special. Not only do they follow a tour around a country or two, they travel around the world to see the band. I sat on the train from Philly to Manhattan talking to a guy and his wife who were over from England to catch the east coast Marillion shows, and it turns out we grew up and went to school in English villages, a couple of miles apart. Small world, when you listen to Marillion. Big family, when you listen to Marillion. This band does that.

Ian Mosley, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosley, Marillion, in Boston, 2016
The new songs: the state of the world, the banks, the very rich (The New Kings); refugees, money, living in fear. The message is sad, but the message is enpowering, inspirational, beautiful. Take a listen. Listen again. Hear these words; feel the soul.

Final date of the tour: in New York, in Manhattan, in Times Square: November 8th, 2016. I will never forget that date, not ever. November 8th, 2016: they day America elected Donald Trump to the presidency. I spent all day walking the streets of Manhattan, up to Central Park, then down as far as Houston, along Bleeker Street, back up 6th Avenue and Broadway. Listening to music, watching the tourists and the residents and the street artists and performers; eating corn and cheese from a street vendor; hopeful for the election. Early evening, leaving my hotel for the venue, on foot, crossing 57th St., and a calvacade of black limos went by, a helicopter overhead, and I'd just seen these same cars on CNN: Hillary's crew heading for midtown. People on the street stopped, pointed, waved, smiled. And then the unforgettable show at the Playstation Theater: beautiful venue, hidden way underground, with areas for standing and comfortable, raked seats too, all with a good view, and a good lighting setup.

Fans watching Marillion, 2016, New York
Standing ovation: Marillion at the Playstation Theater, New York, 2016
Marillion opened the show with the charismatic, theatrical, emotional, Invisible Man. If you've never seen this live, find a recording. You will start to understand why Marillion's following is so very dedicated to the band, dedicated enough to have created crowdfunding to bring the band to the USA, way back, before it became a viable way for all bands to cover costs.  And then the heavy, ecstatic Power (from the previous album, Sounds that Can't be Made)... then the first new song of the night, Living in Fear, from F.E.A.R.  (Full set list here where you can obtain a download of the NY show, or here for other shows from the tour.) And so it went on... two hours or more. Beautiful. Moving. Inspiring. Happy, but the songs from F.E.A.R. especially poignant, telling, as we were starting to hear whispers of what was happening in the country upstairs and outside.

We are the new Kings 
We had the keys to Old Russia's locked doors 
We are the new Kings 
Here on the corporation's top floor

Mark Kelly, keys, Marillion
Mark Kelly, Marillion, in Philadelphia
November 8th, New York, Times Square. I had expected election night to be noisy, excited, rowdy, bustling, almost like New Year's, waiting for the ball to drop.

It wasn't.

Instead, Times Square was filled with people, all staring, wide-eyed, staring up, up at the news tickers; sombre, silent, stunned, like a spontaneous, unnatural, mannequin challenge. Even the cops, not moving, just looking up at the voting results scrolling across the face of a skyscraper, at one bleak result after another. New York, the most multicultural of multicultural cities: all those languages, all those people, all that diversity, and all that Trump in his top-floor citadel, wearing his New King crown.

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
 Steve Hogarth, Marillion, New York, 2016
It was unnerving. It was bizarre. And quite honestly, scary. We, the people of the USA, all listened to the same election propaganda and speeches and presentations and proposals and announcements, and yet half of us heard change and a return to glory, and half of us (along with the rest of the world) heard hatred, racism, misogyny, bullying and wondered what was so glorious about an often-bankrupt, orange, reality TV personality. It's not about politics: this election was never about politics or policies and plans and taxes. It was about humanity, and how you see your fellow humans.

Well do you remember a time when you thought you belonged to something more than you? 
A country that cared for you 
A national anthem you could sing without feeling used or ashamed 
You poor sods have only yourselves to blame 
On your knees, peasant 
You're living for the New King

Marillion tour 2016, Philadelphia
Marillion, F.E.A.R., Philadelphia 2016
So... it was a wonderful Marillion tour, with a very memorable ending.

I'm so very happy to have been there to photograph the shows, and to experience, once again, Marillion show after show.  And I'll finish this with another quote from F.E.A.R., because I'm questioning my desire to be part of the society that this election portends (and because, in the words of the song, I'm a Leaver, too... you'll just have to listen to F.E.A.R. : you know me, you'll understand.):

And the hurt in your eyes, I know you know that I pray 
For the phone-call that takes me away

Photo galleries with many, many more photos:

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Marillion, New York, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Photogallery: Marillion at the Royale, Boston, USA

Marillion tour 2016, Boston
Marillion tour 2016, Boston
Here's the photo gallery from the Boston stop of Marillion's 2016 North America tour. Tonight--USA Election Day--Marillion play New York city, at Playstation Theater in Times Square. Did you get your ticket???

Today... before the show, during the election stress... listen to F.E.A.R. It resonates.

Click on the image above to see all the photos, or click here on this link.

Galleries coming soon for the stops in Washington, Philadelphia, and today's show! (And here's a set from the opening night in San Francisco.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Aftershock: review and photos, Disturbed!!!

David Draiman, vocals, Disturbed
David Draiman, Disturbed, Aftershock festival
And Disturbed, at Aftershock in Sacramento, and ... so very very good. Always. (More photos here.)

John Moyer, bass, Disturbed
John Moyer, bass, Disturbed
Second chance to see them, and photograph them, this year. First was at Chicago Open Air, where they headlined the Saturday of the three-day festival, and brought heat and flames and pyro. And then again in late October at Aftershock in Sacramento, on the Sunday, just as night was falling: the backdrop gossamer-light squares of chainmail, the crowd enormous, reaching way, way back into the treeline at Discovery Park. Tens and tens of thousands of people.

David Draiman strides across the stage, from side to side, long black coat trailing in his wake, throughout the show. The set includes songs from throughout their career, and yes, it does include "that song": the one that so many people heard this year, and asked: "Is that really Disturbed???" (Yes, it is.)

David Draiman and Dan Donegan, Disturbed
Disturbed, Aftershock, Sacramento
There's definitely been an expansion of Disturbed's longstanding fan base since this summer's album, Immortalized, and it's stunning... yes, truly... cover of Simon And Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence.  If you want to know more about the choice and recording of this song, check out this interview on San Francisco's 107.7 The Bone radio station.
Dan Donegan, guitar, Disturbed
Dan Donegan, Disturbed
Mike Wengren, drums, Disturbed
Dan Wengren, Disturbed

David Draiman, vocals, Disturbed
David Draiman, Disturbed, Aftershock festival
If you are looking for other quieter, less-metal-more-melodic Disturbed songs, because before now, you thought that all they did was Down With The Sickness, then check out Darkness from Believe, Overburdened from Ten Thousand Fists, or their cover of Metallica's Fade To Black... David Draiman has one heck of a voice, whether it's rhythmic-staccato or whether it's powering to a crescendo of a Simon and Garfunkel classic. Genesis fans??? Check out Disturbed's cover of Land of Confusion. And then when you've checked all that, to listen to the rest of Disturbed's catalog... and add them to your collection.

On August 15th, Disturbed recorded a live concert at Colorado's stunning Red Rocks Amphitheater. The audio album is set for release on November 18th, and you can pre-order it here or at your usual online outlet--find out more on Disturbed's website.

Disturbed have a load of tour dates planned for Europe over the next few months: check the schedule here.

Many more photos from Disturbed's show at Aftershock are here in the photo gallery... and if you missed those from Chicago Open Air, click here!

Aftershock: photo gallery, The Pretty Reckless

Taylor Momsen, vocals, The Pretty Reckless
Taylor Momsen, The Pretty Reckless, at Aftershock
The Pretty Reckless, fronted by Taylor Momsen of Gossip Girl and The Grinch Stole Christmas fame from early in her career, this rock band from New York are seeing some heavy radio play for the song, Take Me Down--and had a huge, appreciative crowd at Aftershock Festival in Sacramento. Strong, radio-friendly rock, with a pretty twist.

The Pretty Reckless are Taylor Momsen, Jamie Perkins, Ben Phillips and Mark Damon. Their album, Who You Selling For, is out now and available from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, and through the band's merch store for vinyl/merch.

Click here for all the photos!  The Pretty Reckless photo gallery

Taylor Momsen, vocals, The Pretty Reckless
The Pretty Reckless, Aftershock, Sacramento