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Metallica’s Reputation Vindicated By Their Live Show

Metallica

Metallica

LIVE: Metallica
October 26, 2009
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario

It’s been 13 years since the haircuts and the “alternative” Load album, nine years since Lars Ulrich versus Napster and five since the group therapy of the Some Kind Of Monster documentary.

That’s a long time for the biggest and baddest band in the heavy metal world to be lost in the wilderness, but if Monday night’s show at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre is any indication, Metallica have once again found their way.

It probably helped that Metallica brought Lamb Of God as openers to keep them honest. The youngsters (at least comparatively) nipping at their heels were a double-kick drum, extreme metal hit for all the under-25 shaved-headed bros in the sold out ACC. To these older school ears, there wasn’t enough “song” to match the band’s relentless metal-ness, but anyone in the frothing circle pit that formed at the one end of the arena floor no doubt thought otherwise.

Metallica started their set in almost complete darkness with a new song from the Death Magnetic album, “That Was Just Your Life,” content to let a slashing laser show cutting across the band’s massive blue line-to-blue line stage setup be the main draw.

“The End Of The Line,” another new song, was next. Singer/guitarist James Hetfield would bound from one corner of the massive stage to the next, making each successive pocket of fans he faced go crazy. However, it wasn’t until the third song, “Ride The Lightning,” when the thrash legends’ return to form truly showed itself in the 36,000 thousand raised fists pumping furiously along.

Ulrich may get maligned as bourgeois whiner who’s lost touch with his common fanbase, but you’d never know it by the brave soul in the front row who held up their handmade “LARS” sign through every mosh or jostle. Or the multi-dozen air drummers that could be seen hammering away in each and every section of the building during any given song.

Likewise, when a mere flick of his hand in their direction would send the crowd roaring, it was pretty certain that nobody cared about guitarist Kirk Hammett’s emo breakdown about there not being enough solos in latter Metallica songs.

For his part, bassist Robert Trujillo, couldn’t do much wrong. He’ll probably always get a free pass from me for being in Suicidal Tendencies, but whenever he crossed paths with Hetfield and the two would fist-bump (known around here as the “swine flu handshake”), or when he stomped across the stage during a pounding “Sad But True,” he gave every impression of utter badassery.

Hetfield still has all the menacing posing down pat, but what was probably most interesting from him were the two separate between-song speeches stressing the importance of the “live” Metallica experience and how if you attend a Metallica show you’ve joined “the family.”

The subtext screamed “we’ve given up on worrying about the internet and album sales,” but when a spontaneous hugfest broke out amongst a 100-or-so pit thrashers at the end of “Master Of Puppets” it would be impossible to deny that at that very second the family tree made up of brothers-from-other-mothers in the ACC was virtually unravelable.

Some of the older material could have been played better: “One” was a touch pandering in its crowd singalong-ness and the ACC crowd weren’t quite able to keep up with a sped up “Enter Sandman.” At least a punky “Fight Fire With Fire” made up for its imperfect delivery with spirit.

“Nothing Else Matters,” meanwhile, may have turned into something of a signature song — at least for Hetfield. He started the track perched on a stool and by the end of it was on his knees rolling around the stage. It’s not like he’s a passionless performer, but there was a certain newfound vulnerability in the delivery that made it something greater.

Metallica took a short pause before launching into their encore set with the Queen cover “Stone Cold Crazy.” Hetfield’s voice isn’t well suited to cribbing Freddie Mercury’s, so it made for an awkward couple minutes. Far better were the blistering renditions of Kill ‘Em All classics “Whiplash” and an all-in, house lights-up burn through “Seek & Destroy” that featured dozens of black beach balls released from the rafters.

The new songs occasionally failed (“Cyanide,” “All Nightmare Long”) and turning their bigger hits into pop singalongs was vaguely annoying, but when it came down to it, Metallica delivered a solidly heavy show, which is the only thing metal fans have wanted from them in the first place. Now that they’re delivering, we can all be a happy Metallica family once again.

Here’s Metallica’s set list:

“That Was Just Your Life”
“The End Of The Line”
“Ride The Lightning”
“The Memory Remains”
“Fade To Black”
“Broken, Beat And Scarred”
“Cyanide”
“Sad But True”
“One”
“All Nightmare Long”
“The Day That Never Comes”
“Master Of Puppets”
“Fight Fire With Fire”
“Nothing Else Matters”
“Enter Sandman”

Encore:
“Stone Cold Crazy” (Queen cover)
“Whiplash”
“Seek & Destroy”

This review was originally published October 27, 2009 via Chart Communications.

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Samaritan News 10 Pack: Rush, Metallica, Neil Young, More

Rush

Rush

I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff  over at the music-ish charity ‘n’ good news website Samaritan Mag.

Here’s a batch of news pieces in November and December:

Rush Donate $40k To Gord Downie Cancer Fund

Neil Young Calls on President Obama in Standing Rock Support Letter

What Is Giving Tuesday?

Heavy Metal Bowling Event In Ronnie James Dio’s Memory Raises Nearly $50K

Year-End: MusiCounts Donated $525K Worth of Instruments and Gear to 33 Community Groups

Metallica Doing Club Show in Toronto to Support Daily Bread Food Bank

Andy Kim Christmas with Nelly Furtado, Ron Sexsmith, Sloan and More, on Way to a Sell-Out

Russell Brand Advocates For Political Change, Optimism In New Video

Monster Truck Are ‘For The People’ With New Throwback Animated Video

World Diabetes Day Is Today, Frederick Banting’s Birthday

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Manifesto Supports Toronto’s Hip-Hop Culture

Manifesto

Manifesto

One of the marquee hip-hop events on the Toronto event calendar that isn’t 100 per cent OVO/Drake-ified is the announce fall concert/event series Manifesto.

Manifesto caps each fest with a free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square that matches up-and-coming locals with huge international stars.

I interviewed Manifesto chair Che Kothari in the lead up to this year’s event for Samaritan Mag.

To find out what his vision for Manifesto’s future is, click here.

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Van Halen Up To Their Old Theatrical Tricks

Van Halen

Van Halen

LIVE: Van Halen
October 7, 2007
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario

Before Van Halen hit the stage, the hallways of the sold-out Air Canada Centre were ringing with an endless series of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” chants. And, sure enough, his guitar theatrics would go on to melt many minds that night. But the real story of the night was two other Van Halen members — returning singer David Lee Roth and newly installed 16-year-old bassist Wolfgang Van Halen.

It’s taken 23 years of fits and miss-starts, but there was DLR waving a giant red flag when the curtain came down and Eddie ripped into the opening of their Kinks cover, “You Really Got Me.”

There was no discernible sign of the years of feuding and acrimony between Roth and Eddie that led to Diamond Dave’s two decade-long exile. Indeed, the two hugged and made multiple, pointed displays of bro-manship throughout the evening.

Roth dug deep into his bag of showy tricks all night. There were the obligatory staff twirling and spin kick exhibitions, a session of mic stand phantom baseball playing, bedazzley sequined jackets, top hats, harmonicas and a Razhel-worthy imitation of a motorcycle engine revving. In pretty much any other band, antics like this would quickly be considered irritating. But Roth’s role in Van Halen is still clear after all these years. He’s the trickster, the joker and the party maker, and it works to conceptual perfection against Eddie’s potent riffing and an endless series of songs about chicks ‘n’ rockin’ ‘n’ gettin’ unchained.

Eddie’s son Wolfgang joining the band is an entirely different and intriguing new element to Van Halen. VH traditionalists are bent out of shape by Eddie’s ousting of longtime bassist Michael Anthony in favour of his son. But, let’s face it, Halen are a family business.

So if anyone was going to replace Anthony, the fact that it’s an actual blood relation softens the blow. And besides, Eddie seems to really, really dig playing on stage with his son.

They bumped into each other, played from their knees together and ran around in a way that arguably very few fathers and teenage sons will ever have a chance to relate to in any type of scenario, let alone on a stage in front of thousands.

Better, though, was that Wolfgang seemed smart enough to know his place. VH2007 are definitely the Ed and Dave show, so, save for a run around a circular catwalk that extended into the crowd from the stage during “Atomic Punk” and a grandstanding platform moment to intro “Runnin’ With The Devil,” he stayed mostly in the background.

Sure, it’s fun to joke that if Wolfgang was still a virgin before the tour, he certainly wouldn’t be by the end of it. Or to suggest that when he turned 16, Eddie told him he’d have to start paying rent and get a real job, so he did. But the truth of it was that Wolfgang’s presence was entirely accepted by the audience — the drunken, wildly manic audience.
That audience had a lot to “yearrgghh!” and fist-pump about. Halen pretty much stuck to the hits all night, delivering a set list of familiar anthems.

“Everybody Wants Some” had a fun twist, with Roth segueing into The Who’s “Magic Bus” during the breakdown. Likewise, a shirtless Eddie looked remarkably limber and healthy (even though he’s still smoking cigarettes, apparently), and he riffed on Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” in the midst of some guitar theatrics. These moments and excellent takes on “Jamie’s Crying,” “Little Dreamer” and “Unchained” had people literally stumbling over themselves in the aisles.

It was, however, the mega-hits that sealed the deal. A home stretch run of “Hot For Teacher,” “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” both showcased Eddie’s relentless guitar playing and Roth’s perfectly shameless frontwork. By the time the band hurled into “Jump,” their final song and biggest hit, Eddie hammered at a phantom keyboard with a free hand between playing, Roth ran around with a giant inflatable microphone and wore a captain’s hat, confetti rained from the ceiling, and wobbled fists were hoisted throughout the arena.

After just six dates on the tour, it’s impossible to predict if Roth and Eddie are going to keep it together, but there was no indication this night that Van Halen would be back-stepping any time soon. It’s safe to say the party is definitely on.

This review was originally published October 9, 2007 via Chart Communications.

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Nine Inch Nails Rule At Wave Goodbye Festival Appearance

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor made like Clint Eastwood on Sunday, riding into Toronto to save Virgin Festival Ontario and then presumably to vanish and possibly never be heard from again.

Although Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails posse didn’t exactly paint the Molson Amphitheatre red and change its name to Hell like Eastwood did in High Plains Drifter, they certainly salvaged the festival in their own special way.

The two day festival had been much-maligned for its last minute move from the camping destination of Burl’s Creek near Orillia, Ont. to downtown Toronto and its uneven and lightly attended first day headlined by Ben Harper & Relentless7.

The crowds were also sparse most of the day on Sunday until they swelled remarkably to about 80 per cent capacity by the start of Nine Inch Nails‘ set.

Those that made it to the show were treated to an amazing trip deep into NIN’s back catalogue. “Somewhat Damaged,” a pounding “Terrible Lie” and searing “Discipline” started the set. Somewhere in there, Reznor destroyed a guitar and prompted a roadie into a lengthy on stage cameo to repair collateral damage to a keyboard.

If this was to be the “Wave Goodbye” tour that Reznor had been suggesting, it was clear the band were going to go out all guns blazing.

“March Of The Pigs,” “Closer” and “Gave Up” were all delivered with ruthless intensity and all the spit and bile that has made Reznor the angst icon he is.

It wasn’t until the tempo changed between some atmospheric pieces from The Downward Spiral that Reznor dropped the hate machine veil, saying “Thank you so much for the support over the years. It means so much to us.”

Reznor would say little else all night. He stopped to apologize after “Wish” to explain that he was sick and was losing his voice, but concluded his confession with a “fuck it” before barreling into “Suck” and signature Joy Division cover “Dead Souls.”

“Hurt” felt a little on the obligatory side, but the closing one-two of “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like A Hole” were a furious way to go out. There was no encore, just a short “thank you” and Reznor walking off stage into the night and that was perhaps the best way it could have ended.

For those who actually showed up before Nine Inch Nails played the VFest lineup yielded many musical rewards.

Pet Shop Boys‘ classic electro disco was fascinating. Their brightly coloured extravaganza was definitely the biggest multimedia event of the fest. It would be tough to accurately describe the swirling, dancing and flashing that went on, but it might be close to say it’s what would happen if Tron collided with a gigantic gay rainbow.

Many of PSB’s long-time classics like “Suburbia,” “Always On My Mind” and “Domino Dancing” were reworked perhaps to their detriment, but a cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” — complete with Neil Tennant in a kingly robe — exceeded the original and their top hit “West End Girls” positively boomed to close out their set.

The Boardwalk “Stage,” which was essentially a merch tent with some speakers and gear set up in it and a giant lamp post obstructing the view, showcased some solid artistry all day.

Silver Starling, a group of brilliant resumed (Arcade Fire, Young Galaxy) Montrealers gave it a good shot, though their swoony rock was probably better suited to bedroom headphones than restless NIN fans.

The D’Urbervilles would fare better with their bristling dance/punk/hardcore/whateverthekidsarecallingit. Their attack was relentless and frontman John O’Regan — who looks like androgynous singer Phranc — was a positively magnetic presence.

The Von Bondies would play next and they ripped. Their set was all loud and fast and it was a perfect shot of adrenaline. It was also the first time VFesters started to shake at that hated lamp post in their way. I was hoping for them to topple it in a fit of collective vandalism, but it never happened.

Back when Jack White was beating on Jason Stollsteimer, it became kinda gauche to like the The VBs mostly because King Jack said so. But as they fired through song after song of wicked garagey punk rock ‘n’ roll, it dawned on me that the Bondies shouldn’t be discounted so easily.

The way I see it, they’re pretty much staying true to their vision. Meanwhile, White is hopping around every which way trying to find himself, all the while fighting a mini-war against consumers via his “authentic” record label. Twenty years from now one of these acts is going to end up like Eric Clapton and the other like The Ramones… and I know which’ll be cooler.

By the time Plants And Animals played, they had solved the obstructed view dilemma. They simply set up in the middle of the crowd — a huge leap out of the box for a festival of this nature. Their Parc Avenue tracks seemed more rocked up for the fest crowd, which showed another nod towards adaptability as well. I was amongst those restlessly waiting for NIN at this point, too, but they deserved high marks for innovation.

Some of the acts on the Virgin Mobile main stage didn’t fare so well. We joke about it, but play “Superman’s Dead” in front of thousands of Canadians and that “why-ee-I-ee-I-I” makes complete and total sense. Still, as familiar as Our Lady Peace‘s many singles were, their slower moments were sending the audience scurrying to the beer vendors.

N.E.R.D. were interesting. Hands up if you knew they were a funk metal band? That was kinda weird. Same with the all shirtless surfer dude stage invasions. That was more weird.

And Sean Kingston? We felt bad for the guy, getting shuttered off to the wilderness of the Virgin Radio Stage, but he drew as many people as anyone on the Boardwalk Stage. And I’d prop him up any day if I had to choose between his charming pop singles and a return of Diddy.

In the end, though, it was all about Reznor. Everyone knew it, everyone was waiting for it and it was Nine Inch Nails who would end up making Virgin Festival Ontario.

This review was originally published August 31, 2009 via Chart Communications.

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12 Things We Learned At Psycho Fest Las Vegas

Things got intergalactic when Oresund Space Collective performed.

Things got intergalactic when Oresund Space Collective performed.

Last week Team Risky Fuel went on an adventure to Las Vegas to attend the mindbending stoner rock festival Psycho Fest, being held at the Hard Rock Casino.

We watched four days of doom-y and psych-y rock, executed a few Vegas lifehacks and took in the following bands:

Thursday, August 25
Mothership @ Paradise Pool
Mac Sabbath @ Paradise Pool
Mudhoney @ Paradise Pool

Friday, August 26
Black Heart Procession @ The Joint
Yob @ The Joint
Wovenhand @ The Joint
Down @ The Joint
Beelzefuzz @ Vinyl
Drive Like Jehu @ The Joint
Brian Posehn @ The Joint
The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown @ The Joint

Saturday, August 27
Has A Shadow @ Vinyl
The Budos Band @ The Joint
A Place To Bury Strangers @ The Joint
Beezlebong @ Vinyl
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats @ The Joint
Blue Oyster Cult @ The Joint

Sunday, August 28
Oresund Space Collective @ Vinyl
Truth And Janey @ The Joint
Danava @ The Joint
Hornss @ Vinyl
Fu Manchu @ The Joint
Candlemass @ The Joint
Fireball Ministry @ Paradise Pool
Tales Of Murder & Dust @ Paradise Pool
Alice Cooper @ The Joint

I wrote about our travels for AUX TV. To read about all the best and/or weirdest bits (Mac Sabbath, the Black Sabbath McDonald’s-themed parody band!) in handy itemized list form, click here.

Arthur Brown performs “Fire”

#ArthurBrown #fire #burn

A post shared by Aaron Brophy (@broph666) on

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The Tragically Hip On Roadside Attraction: “We’ll Do It Again”

The Tragically Hip

The Tragically Hip

In anticipation of the release of the new Tragically Hip album, In Between Evolution, and the Hip’s big Canada Day Concert at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre, ChartAttack is declaring June 25 – 30 “Tragically Hip Week.”

For the next four news days, we’ll be posting stories culled from a recent interview with Hip singer Gord Downie. Here’s the first installment:

The last nail may have been hammered into Lollapalooza’s coffin with the recent announcement of its tour cancellation, but The Tragically Hip’s leadman Gord Downie says Another Roadside Attraction, their personal travelling festival/caravan, will some day get revived.

“We’ll do it again,” he says. “We’ll do something like that for sure.”

The band have convened the Attraction twice in the last 10 years. The ’97 edition of the Roadside tour spanned eight dates (seven Canadian, one American) and showcased Sheryl Crow, Los Lobos, Ashley MacIsaac, Wilco, Change Of Heart, The Mutton Birds, Ron Sexsmith and Van Allen Belt. In ’95, the tour featured Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Matthew Sweet, Blues Traveller, Spirit Of The West, The Inbreds, Eric’s Trip and The Rheostatics.

Considering that Crow and Wilco are now super-duper stars and that Ron Sexsmith is an internationally-touted singer-songwriter of the highest order, the ’97 class turned out mighty fine. The Inbreds and Eric’s Trip disappearing and Blues Traveller still existing puts a bummer spin on the ’95 event, but still, a new Attraction would be something to dig regardless.

Of course, when you slap your name on top of a fancy festival, you’re the ones finding the bands, making sure their schedules all jive, finding the venues and making sure they’re all available and generally have to be the dudes responsible for making sure everyone has a good ol’ time. Downie figures the intense organizing that something like Roadside requires is the main reason they haven’t done one in awhile.

“It sort of hasn’t been in our plans the last few years,” he says. “I think we know how to do it. It’s not without its drawbacks. It’s sort of like planning about 10 weddings or something — all that happening in a row over two weeks, cuz it’s big. But we sure had a great time, met great people doing that. Saw some greaaaat music over the years.”

Of course, Hip fans yearning for that communal festive vibe will still get an opportunity to revel in some hot blues-rock action. The band have rather strategically set up a July 1 Canada Day concert at Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto.

Says Downie: “I’m sure it’ll sell out and be a good ol’ time… I think it’ll be good.”

This story was originally published June 25, 2004 via Chart Communications.

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