All posts in concerts

16Sep

Nothing More at Baltimore Soundstage

Life on the road is tough. It’s infinitely tougher when you’re a band being told you can’t play your music. 

That’s where Nothing More found themselves when members of In This Moment fell ill and had to back out of a series of shows during their “Blood 1983” tour. While In This Moment was unable to perform, they same could not be said of Nothing More, who immediately let it be known that they were willing and able to play every show on their calendar — with or without the headliner. 

Unfortunately, the band was told that wasn’t possible, thanks to difficulties involving promoters and Ticketmaster. Determined to find a way to play, the San Antonio-based quartet called an audible and quickly scheduled an impromptu show in Baltimore. Rather than playing an abbreviated 45-minute set supporting another band, Nothing More performed a full 90-minute spectacle that spanned their entire catalog and blew the doors off of the Baltimore Soundstage. 

Lead singer Jonny Hawkins, guitarist Mark Vollelunga, bass guitarist Daniel Oliver and drummer Ben Anderson clearly picked a healthy way to work through whatever pent-up frustrations the band came into the evening with, after being initially told they couldn’t play for fans who had purchased tickets to see them in concert. They worked each and every inch of the stage during the evening and, when that wasn’t enough, used a 14-foot-tall contraption made of scrap metal and auto parts, affectionately known as “Scorpion’s Tail,” to elevate Hawkins above the stage.

Nothing More will drop its sixth studio album, Spirits, Oct. 14. Several songs, including “Tired of Winning” and “Turn It Up Like (Stand in the Fire),” have already been released and were very well received by the sellout crowd while fan favorites “Go to War” and “Jenny,” which is about Hawkins’ sister, received the loudest ovations during the evening. 

15Sep

Sleep Token at Baltimore Soundstage

If you’re unfamiliar with Sleep Token, don’t feel bad. Not much is known about the British rock collective.

Sleep Token are a masked, anonymous collective of musicians united by their worship of an ancient deity crudely dubbed “Sleep,” since no modern tongue can properly express its name. In case you were wondering, “Sleep” appeared to the band’s lead singer, “Vessel,” in a dream. And the rest is history, apparently.

Their second album This Place Will Become Your Tomb was elected by Loudwire as one of the best rock/metal album of 2021. For the uninitiated, “Alkaline,” “Mine” and “The Offering” are solid starting points to get a feel for what the band is all about. At a surprise show on a random Wednesday night in Baltimore, Sleep Token enthralled and captivated an audience that seemed unsure at the start, but was all in by the time the collective finished their set.

31Jul

The Weeknd at FedEx Field

It’s Abel Tesfaye’s world; the rest of us are just living in it.

And judging from the massive and elaborate set for his current “After Hours Til Dawn” stadium tour, that world is very much of a post-apocalyptic variety … not that anyone appears to mind. That was evident as a boisterous sellout crowd eagerly awaited the arrival of one of the biggest names in pop music today.

By the time The Weeknd took to the stage in a plastic mask and hit the first note of his opening track, “Alone Again,” it was absolute pandemonium in Landover, Maryland. If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s safe to say The Weeknd knows how to capture the attention of his ever-growing audience. Whether he’s performing during halftime of the Super Bowl, boycotting the Grammys or releasing smash hit after smash hit, people seemingly cannot get enough of the Toronto native.

Although COVID-19 concerns delayed the tour for nearly two years and opening act Doja Cat was forced to withdraw due to issues with her tonsils that required a second surgery, none of that mattered on a warm summer night down the road from our nation’s capital. For nearly two hours, The Weeknd delivered a highly-energetic and captivating set that spanned his entire catalog, including “Can’t Feel My Face,” “Starboy,” “The Hills,” “Blinding Lights” and so much more.

Since his last tour, The Weeknd has shifted from arenas to stadiums. In such a massive venue, a lesser artist runs the risk of alienating concert goers who might feel acres away from the stage. But the sheer size of it all — the set, the stage, the catwalk that ran the entire length of the football field, the army of dancers who appeared to be on loan from The Handmaid’s Tale — made it virtually impossible to not feel immersed in the pure spectacle of it all.

30Jul

A Day To Remember at MECU Pavilion

For nearly two decades, A Day To Remember has provided the soundtrack to whatever I’m doing wherever I’m doing it. Inexplicably, I had never managed to see them live though, so when they announced their massive North American tour for 2022 I knew I needed to rectify the situation.

As luck would have it, the Ocala, Florida, based band kicked off their “Just Some Shows” tour in Baltimore, along with Beartooth and Bad Omens. And if opening night was any indication, this is going to be one helluva tour. My only question is how on earth lead singer Jeremy McKinnon, lead guitarist Kevin Skaff, rhythm guitarist Neil Westfall and drummer Alex Shelnutt are going to go this hard for this long if they’re playing essentially every night from now until the end of October?

Baltimore was treated to a high-energy, 20-song set that included the live debut of their new single “Miracle,” which was released one week earlier, and seemingly every other fan favorite from their extensive catalog — including “The Downfall Of Us All,” “Mindreader,” “Resentment” and so much more.

“Miracle” represents ADTR’s first new music since the band released You’re Welcome, their seventh studio album which dropped in March of 2021. Judging by how many people in the crowd sang along with McKinnon, it’s safe to say it’s yet another smash hit from a band showing absolute zero signs of slowing down anytime soon.

29Jul

Beartooth at MECU Pavilion

Since forming Beartooth a decade ago, frontman Caleb Shomo has made a name for himself as one of the go-to voices of hard rock today. The anger, the rage and, most noticeably, the piercing vocals have elevated the Columbus, Ohio, native and his band to the top of the genre.

With a string of hits — including “Devastation,” “The Past Is Dead” and “Skin” — off of their last album, Below, and a brand-new single titled “Riptide,” Beartooth set out on tour with A Day To Remember and Bad Omens. As luck would have it, I was able to catch their first stop on the tour bassist Oshie Bichar, lead guitarist Zach Huston, rhythm guitarist Will Deely, drummer Connor Denis and Shomo lit up the stage in Baltimore.

With some bands, seeing them in concert ruins the aura as you quickly discover that their sound is heavily manufactured in a recording studio and that, in reality, the live product fails to live up to the songs you know and love from their album. Beartooth fans need not worry, Shomo’s trademark screams clearly do not require any assistance and, in fact, the entire band brought their ‘A game” for Charm City. In fact, Shomo and friends went so hard, it’s tough to imagine they’re going to be able to maintain this level of excellence for an entire tour.

28Jul

Bad Omens at MECU Pavilion

It’s completely fitting that the first band I’ve had the pleasure of covering twice this year is Bad Omens. Not only did they absolutely kill it when I covered their show with Underoath and Spiritbox back in March, but THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND is undoubtedly my favorite album of 2022.

The Richmond, Virginia-based band dropped its third studio album a day before my birthday and it’s been in constant rotation ever since. The opportunity to hear Noah Sebastian’s piercing vocals tear into “ARTIFICIAL SUICIDE” contrasted by the melodic flow of a track like “The Grey” was simply too good to pass up.

While it was slightly jarring to see them perform in broad daylight compared to the dark and brooding mood of their previous set, Bad Omens’ intensity and sound works in any setting. And my complements to the chef … or whoever is responsible for pairing Bad Omens with A Day To Remember and Beartooth. They’re very clearly three of the best bands in hard rock today, and catching them all on the opening night of their new tour was a blast.

29Jun

Memphis May Fire at Union Transfer

In conjunction with the release of their seventh studio album, Memphis May Fire embarked on a 30-show, cross country tour with the help of some notable friends. Along with From Ashes to New, Rain City Drive and Wolves at the Gate, the Texas-based quartet hit the road for the SiriusXM Octane Presents The Remade In Misery Tour.

In the main event of the evening, Memphis May Fire wasted no time diving into their hourlong performance, starting with “Blood & Water,” the opening track on their seventh studio album, Remade in Misery, which dropped on June 3. Matty Mullins, Kellen McGregor, Cory Elder and Jake Garland clearly put a ton of time and energy into their latest record, which is littered with numerous singles that’ll be featured on hard rock charts in the coming weeks and months.

While Memphis May Fire will always be known for their hard rock/metalcore sound, the coolest moment of their performance was when they paused to dedicate one of their slower tracks, “Miles Away,” to the men and women who willingly serve in the military and, in Mullins’ words, truly understand what it means to pack up, leave your family behind and follow orders.

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