THE DEAD LOVE
THE DROP BEARS
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED SHANE HENDERSON
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED SHANE HENDERSON
Evanescence returns to Australia after a few years’ hiatus with a new sound that I can only describe as one electric orchestra machine. The latest album and tour, Synthesis combines a selection of records revisited along with a couple new entries into the catalog. It focuses on a new sound setting it somewhat apart from what had become their traditional goth metal niche.
Brisbane is the first stop on the Synthesis Live World Tour outside of the USA. The venue itself, the Great Hall at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre is one that allows for a large audience with a great sense of intimacy for performers. This connection showed and worked well in Evanescence’s favour. All seating and no mosh pit set the precedent that this was no average rock gig, more befitting of its concerto style.
Reflecting the orchestral and classical influences on this new direction, is the addition of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. On each tour stop, Evanescence is accompanied by the local orchestra. QSO also take the place of support act, performing a few classical renditions starting with Moonlight Sonata. As if to symbolize the rosy Queensland sunset we had on the way there, the backdrop was lit with a distinct dusty pink, theatrical smoke ebbing from the sides of stage. After performing Lacrimosa, QSO sink their teeth into the world of Nightmare Before Christmas with Sally’s Song. This holds particular significance, as Amy Lee (Evanescence lead singer/writer/co-founder) had covered this number on the Nightmare Revisited album for Disney. Alas as this was a support act segment, Lee didn’t perform this song alongside the orchestra and was thus instrumental but whimsical all the same.
Enter cellist, Dave Eggar, who decides to rock the house with the orchestra by performing the most unique and amazing cover of AC/DC’s Back in Black. He was outstanding and I will not think of Back in Black in quite the same terms ever again. Any other cover will never stand quite up. The audience kept shouting for more. The Evanescence band members were equally mesmerized, watching on from the side of stage at the sound desk. He even did a solid solo Jaws Theme for fun. Then after one final bow out, house lights on for an intermission before Evanescence takes the stage.
After the intermission, QSO return on stage with Amy Lee walking on from one side and Evanescence band members from the other. She strides her way to the piano on her side straight under spotlight and to the delight of fans, starting with Overture as any classical concerto or theatrical production would. The band are seated in their spots as opposed to standing like you would expect. This would suggest a more relaxed vibe for them. Amy Lee is every bit as theatrical as the music, dressed in trademark flowy black, throwing her long dark mane from front to back, side to side. Audience sang along to the next number, Never Go Back with much gusto.
Whenever Amy Lee took opportunity to speak, she consistently professed her love for her fans and for the audience. Few taking the opportunity to scream back with their devotion and love. The musical arrangement and set list sequence would occasionally bounce from orchestra to band, both and back again. That musical arrangement was really the heart of the Synthesis album and tour. It gave new life to fan favorites like End of the Dream and Lithium.
The real test of such an idea really lied in their breakout hit Bring Me To Life alongside other Fallen songs. There is still phenomenal passion for these songs from the fans, audience belting out the lyrics with Lee. Lee is the ultimate vocal powerhouse, which has not changed since that breakout hit. She matches and even tops her studio record voice herself live.
Evanescence then mixes it up with the first of the two new songs, Hi-Lo in between the aforementioned Fallen and The Open Door entries. It is a good fit to the theatrical style of Evanescence and takes cues from previous works, whilst having some newer electronica sounds.
Then of course, there is that other monster hit My Immortal, of which Amy Lee confesses, that she hated originally. However, as time has gone on, she had grown to accept it as it is part of her journey and decided for that reason, it needed to be revisited for the album and tour. There were hands swaying and again, much singing along albeit gentler by the audience to fit the tone. Many phones were pulled out for the moment, clearly it’s a number that resonates with a lot of people.
The set ends with the second of the two new additions, Imperfection with a focus more heavily on orchestral sound than the band. Evanescence leaving the stage but with house lights still down, await the inevitable encore, of which they perform a further three numbers. Again though, these numbers are more orchestral focused than band, whom returns to stage less immediately for these reasons. The encore starts with Amy Lee’s soloist song, Speak To Me and QSO further accompanies with Good Enough. The band finally joins in fully with Swimming Home, ending the night with a standing ovation.
Evanescence continues their Synthesis tour with two Sydney concerts and one in Melbourne on February 13th, 14th and 16th respectively before starting their Europe leg in March.
Review Contributed by Sarah Minazzo
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED JOHN CHARLES
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Legendary Rock n’ Roll God Gene Simmons last month announced he will be returning to Australia with his band to treat the Australian KISS Army to a special run of concerts in February 2018.
Gene Simmons can’t wait to return to Australia, saying today, “Doing these smaller concert halls, which hold a thousand to three thousand people, means they get filled up by real diehard fans. They don’t want to hear the same-old, same-old. They want to hear nuggets, as they say. It’s a hoot for me because I’ve never really had a chance to do this stuff live. It’s been a lot of fun.”
With an ever-changing set list from night to night, die-hard fans are in for an absolute treat of unexpected Gene Simmons & KISS gems, the classic hit songs we all know and love & possibly even an influential cover or two for good measure. Focusing heavily on the music and stripping away the stage show for a rare performance, fans have the opportunity to gain a new appreciation for Gene’s song-writing, personality and outstanding performance characteristics whilst hearing songs that have only ever been heard on record.
Gene’s tour dates will kick off in Adelaide on 1st February at the Entertainment Centre Theatre, followed by Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on 2nd February, Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on 3rd February and winding up in Brisbane at Tivoli Centre on 6th February.
GENE SIMMONS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES:
ON SALE NOW
Thursday, 1st February 2018 Entertainment Centre Theatre, Adelaide
Friday, 2nd February 2018 The Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Saturday, 3rd February 2018 Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Not since Metallica’s ‘And Justice For All’ tour had I ventured into the Hordern Pavillion in Sydney, and prior to that it was only to purchase showbags at the Royal Easter Show as a young kid, back in the 70’s and long before the show moved to Homebush.
So, here I was at that historic venue to see both Alice Cooper and Ace Frehley for the first time, along with able support Strangers who originally hailed from Sydney, however now base themselves in Melbourne.
So it was rock outfit Strangers that kicked off proceedings which, given that it was only a very short set really only served as a warm up, although this band clearly are beginning to emerge as a force and well worth the effort to see them live when you can. Ben Britton’s vocals are very distinctive and a perfect blend with the other band members, particularly the always energetic guitarist Mark Barnes.
For mine it was the right amount of energy to begin the night. The band captured the attention of the already assembled crowd, and delivered a nice entrée to the main acts with their almost indie style of punchy and hard hitting rock, with plenty of very thought provoking lyrical content – be sure to catch them live, along with checking out their new album Mirrorland.
A relatively short break before Ace Frehley and band took to the stage – The Spaceman!
If you thought that the Strangers set was a warm up for the main acts, then Ace Frehley and band were clearly intent on really taking it up a notch and setting the tone for the rest of the entire show, because right from the first few songs it was evident that this was gonna be a kind of nostalgic run through the early KISS catalog, and you know that a lot of hand raising and singing from the crowd would ensue, and why not?!
Ace, both vocally and physically is in good shape, throw that in along with his guitar techniques and you have a performer that knows the business, and knows how to deliver the goods in big shows, and the crowd lapped it up.
Throughout the fifty or so minutes Ace and band tore through many KISS classics such as Hard Times, 2000 Man, Love Gun, Shock Me, and Detroit Rock City featuring that magnificent dual guitar harmony which gave me goosebumps, also thrown in were some of Ace’s most memorable solo songs such as New York Groove and Rip It Out.
To be honest there was not a lot of banter with the crowd, however it was seemingly not required as Ace and band instead chose to keep the momentum of the set pumping with one catchy and memorable groove after another – a real trip down memory lane of sorts, and I am super grateful to have been able to witness it – Ace Frehley still has what it takes, and he does not appear to be slowing down at all!
So here we are, the finale, the incomparable Alice Cooper!
There I was, in the photo pit along with many other photographers, in line with the center of the stage and staring up at the huge curtain adoring the Alice Cooper graphics with spiders and evil eye detailing, on the other side of that curtain was a show ready to loom larger than life!
The curtain falls and out strides Alice, cane in hand and heading for the platform centre stage, upon stepping onto the platform Alice extends his arms and is showered by sparks raining down from above – luckily we were pre-warned.
I am here to tell you that the noise coming from behind me was deafening, Alice Cooper was here, and this crowd was here to rock and be entertained as only Alice Cooper can!
Man, right from the start Alice was conducting his band with relative authority and clearly there was harmony and a flow and transition from one move and riff to another, perfectly in sync and capable of delivering real effect. The show was basically a large selection of old classics, with one track from the new album Paranormal being Paranoiac Personality, however the man has a huge catalog of material and you can’t have Alice Cooper shows without many of the classics.
And how about this damn band that Alice has assembled – three guitarists being Ryan Roxie, the raunchy Nita Strauss and Sydney native Tommy Henriksen, along with Chuck Garric on bass and Glen Sobel on drums – superb, these people can play!
We didn’t have to wait too long for classics such as Billion Dollar Babies, where Alice preceded to flick note currency into crowd from his cane, typical of an Alice Cooper show, you don’t just play that song – you throw currency into the crowd, unreal!
Department Of Youth was another classic, as well as Woman Of Destruction which featured some stunning guitar work by Nita Strauss, which led so beautifully into the opening riff of Poison – they worked that transition majestically and the crowd went berserk! I don’t know about you but that opening riff to Poison destroys me, it somehow gives me a chill every time I hear it, even better during a live show though eh?
You want more detail regarding the theatrical stuff? Well how about the transition from Alice being thrust into a machine which ultimately has a large electrical current exploding through it, to re-appearing as a, I’m gonna say six metre tall monster during Feed My Frankenstein which preceded to storm around the stage between performers – oh, and also the beheading of Alice by a guillotine during The Ballad Of Dwight Fry which was for me the standout song and theatrical performance of the night – the energy from both the band and crowd in those instances was breathtaking, simply bloody breathtaking!
Consistently throughout the show Alice would conduct the performers, often actually conducting the guitarists with his cane, as if he were some type of puppet master, because in many ways that is exactly what he is!
On and on the classics came, one after another, each accompanied by magnificently choreographed and performed theatrics and random guitar moves and grooves that helps to make Alice Cooper shows a rock/metal extravaganza filled with heavy riffs, interplay on stage and a real and honest salute to the old vaudeville era – I freakin’ love this stuff!
Other notables (the whole show was notable but you get the idea) were Cold Ethel where Alice dragged around a large doll on stage, and also I Love The Dead with those haunting verses, as well as I’m Eighteen and School’s Out which are both anthemic and obviously pumped the crowd, especially the latter with that magnificent trademark riff!
You know when you exit a music gig or even a movie theatre and you have been totally blown away by the performance, whether it was expected or not? Well that happened to me last night, and judging by the crowd’s reaction during the show, and also post show where I overheard several discussions about the way people felt about the performance, it would appear as though all were thoroughly entertained and gasping for breath, figuratively speaking.
Thank you Alice, thank you Ace and thank you Strangers for giving the punters a real experience – very real!
|Tue 24 Oct – Newcastle Entertainment Centre, NSW|
|Wed 25 Oct – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, QLD|
Review Contributed by Roger Brooks
GALLERY CONTRIBUTED BY ROGER BROOKS
The clothing is black…check, the t-shirt from a prior Vegas show is donned…check. Shortness of breath, thumping of heart and a little bit of wee coming out…check check CHECK. (Sorry about the last one but we wanted horror, right?) Ready to spend the night with Alice Cooper. Really Sheryl? Was he compelled to seek special permission to use that tour title?
Visual reminders adorned by crowd members remind that a good percentage of this vast horde are loyal Ace Frehley fans, here to watch the space man take flight. With significantly less regalia and fanfare than a headline gig, Ace and the band provide a solid performance more akin to casual mid tour sideline show than a stadium. This was entirely appropriate and afforded their performance a tremendously enjoyable and distinctly grass roots rock n roll atmosphere.
But then who wouldn’t sit wherever to enjoy the talents of performers like Chris Wyse, whose vocal ability needs no selling to fans of Owl, but to watch a man who has played with the likes of The Cult, Ozzy, Mick Jagger, and see the percussive prowess that earned those gigs is of special significance.
As is the opportunity to watch Scot Coogan, who has been a personal favourite kit killer of mine since 2004 when he took to the stool for Brides Of Destruction and, besides having played with a myriad of performers, is certainly well established with Ace, having first joined his band 10 years ago. To watch his skill tonight was very special to me personally, reminding me of previous shows in the on US soil and I sincerely hope he was appreciated by all present.
Richie Scarlet is extremely well known to Ace Frehley fans the world over and that tremendous lifetime of experience in providing the Ace show rhythm guitar, shone brightly tonight. The Emperor of Rock n Roll in Richie, not only rocked with Mountain for the better part of sixteen years, but was also part of the original Ace Frehley post Kiss plan, having been present for inception before Frehley’s Comet even had a name. Now as a partial glimpse at his vast experience and considering his contributions, its little wonder his string caresses prompt guitar to sing so very sweetly and if that sort of skill doesn’t thrill, I don’t know what will. Beautiful stuff Richie.
And so to Ace himself, and what really can be said that you would not already know or reasonably presume from this seasoned rock legend. As skillful as ever and in casual mode as appropriate to the show, but lacking not one ounce of those sensational skills. Fan favourites like Love Gun and Talk To Me pleased the eager crowd and New York Groove had the entire stadium bouncing to the beat. Strange Ways was a particular favourite of mine tonight and watching Ace perform Detroit Rock City will always bring chills for yours truly. The smoking guitar is surely appreciated as a band member in its own right and, as so deserves special mention to appease its demanding nature, lest it breathe its fury in my direction.
This tour is a tremendous opportunity to enjoy these musicians in the aforementioned style. The Ace Frehley section of the show was an absolute treat and I hope Australian audiences avail themselves of the opportunity to attend the remaining shows and watch in awe of the skill, experience and heritage before them this entire group of rock giants.
While the crowd refresh drinks either exhausted by consumption or spilled in neighborly benevolence over others (and no doubt relieve bursting bladders) the fantastic road crew skilfully manage a brilliantly executed stage renovation. Only the finest stage operators will do for Alice Cooper because, in exactly the same surgical precision as every other Alice Cooper show I have ever witnessed, the band commence proceedings at exactly the planned start time. I mean to the second. What professionals and yes, I do extract a personal thrill for myself by staring at my watch at the beginning Alice gigs. I’m certain its boring and bordering on OCD in the eyes of others but I find it a hoot to appreciate how refined, professional and precise this entire entourage are.
The band lurch forth from the contemporary stage of horror which is adorned with trinkets and revulsion’s to appall and disgust in brilliant Alice style. Clowns straight from your nightmarish imaginings, huge deformed babies bursting with malevolent intent and other assorted horrors, sufficient refined, so as to be fresh fanfare without altering the Alice Cooper show atmosphere.
After one last warning with a “well, well, well, what have we here…” and a brief reflection that there may yet be a chance of escape from the nightmare, we are informed that it is indeed “too late now” and we are destined to be his broken toys…forever. The man of the moment, every malevolent moment, cloaked and magnificent, walks into view amid a shower of sparks and air of evil intent. Some of the young amid the crowd realise that mummy’s reassurance that monsters are not real, reach the horrifying realisation that mummy was lying. He is here and he is real. The horrifying legend, near half a century in the making, become an unforgettable reality. All commanding and all powerful, more powerful than ever before…ALICE COOPER. He gazes out, scanning left and right and appears appeased that sufficient souls are assembled for the begging of our end.
With a shedding of the cloak, and a spinning of the cane Alice signals his musical minions to join in with the tormenting, as Melbourne falls helpless into the web of his nightmare.
I first clap eyes on the unmistakable and slightly sinister figure of Chuck Garrick emerging from the shadows, as though he is manifesting into our reality from a demonic dimension.
This prompts the most brilliant feeling of tremendous excitement because this is the first time we will see Chuck on an Australian stage since, along Tim Husung, Jan LeGrow, Chris Latham, and Calico Cooper they released their soaring and sensational sophomore album as Beasto Blanco. What a thrill is about to be bestowed upon us as this beast, who is the epitome of everything heavy rock and brilliant guy to boot, becomes larger than life from the sinister veil of the shadows. Seldom do you see a percussive protagonist grasp and command a crowd like Chuck, so much so that he is the envy of performers all over the world. Only a lucky and select group have had the privilege of shared the stage with this sensational behemoth of the bass. Cheap Trick, Billy Bob Thornton, the late, great Ronnie James Dio, L.A. Guns, Ted Nugent are but a few of the famous who have watched their music rhythmically launched beyond their imaginations and their stage shows enhanced immeasurably by his skill and very presence. Hell, this is the man (term used as descriptive only and does not allege that he is mere mortal) who took over bass duties from Karl Cochran, joined on stage with the brilliant John Corabi, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer together as the Eric Singer Project, providing a hefty helping of oomph to their live work. And here he appears, live before our very eyes.
Flanking the opposite side of our host of horrors is the utterly sensational Hurricane Nita Strauss and the realisation again strikes me, like a Godzilla to the face courtesy of Nita’s signature guitar sling, that its really her… live on stage.
Nita has performed her unique style as part of The Iron Maidens and Femme Fatale, but took over guitar duties with Alice Cooper from Orianthi Panagaris in 2014. Since that time she has been the darling of Alice Cooper show fans all over the world, but it is her sensational guitar work and theatrical engagement that is on show for us tonight. And what a show she provides. Skillful, engaging and somehow enchanting in a rock and roll manner. All the young who would aspire to the ultimate contemporary ‘rock chick’ archetype need look no further for inspiration and aspirations. But with that moniker cast aside, Nita is a wailing sensation in my top picks of theatrically thrilling rock guitarists of all time and I don’t have gender categories.
How many performers would have the skill and intestinal fortitude to be suffering pain and persevere with performing so brilliantly regardless. I don’t think anyone else noticed Nita but all hats off to you anyway. Magnificent.
To the left of Nita is the one and only Tommy Henriksen. No matter whether you’re a fan of War and Peace, Warlock, Big Trouble, POL, Boink (with Glen Sobel) Hollywood Vampires, or any others from the distinguished list, DiS ViciOuS one is THE man. In fact, anything great in contemporary rock, anywhere in the world, ever, probably had Tommy’s masterful contribution at some critical point. The list of his accomplishments and contributions is too long for a review, too long for an article and too important to make up anything other than a Henriksen Historica reference book Volume One. All one can do is sit back in awe of his unbelievable skill.
At the kit we enjoy the drum dominance of Glen Sobel. The man who Alice Cooper describes as the best drummer in the world, and who is going to argue with Alice, right? Watching his skills during his solo’s, you know Alice Cooper is on the money with his assessment. The secret weapon in Glen Sobel’s quiver of skills is diversity. Picking up the sticks at eleven years old, Glen obviously possessed a wisdom that belied his youth, because he worked, studied and developed until he became recognised as a master drummer in any genre of music and in any environment. Glen is so accomplished, and celebrated by others accomplished that he is sought after all over the globe for his percussive prowess. From Kesha to Weird Al and everything in between (and everything outside those to be honest) the mastery of Glen would be on many fan favourite tracks, without many of those present even being aware that he was at the kit. Its arguably one of the enjoyable aspects of any Alice Cooper show that he selects such distinguished people to make up his ensemble. You could attend twenty Alice Cooper shows over an equal number of nights, and enjoy them all equally by concentrating your attention on one of these sensational musicians, their history, their dominance and their skills all culminating into one show. Perhaps I’m biased, but one Alice show is never enough for me to thoroughly appreciate who is performing and the standard they display each show.
But let’s not forget Chuck’s stage right wing man in the charismatic Ryan Roxie, who burst onto the Alice Cooper scene in 1996. Yet again, vastly accomplished in his own right and my personal favourite performances form the veritable plethora of tunes that make up his musical curriculum vitae, would have to be his contribution to Inhale by James Michael and Ain’t Life Grand from Slash’s Snakepit. But it is in the live performance that Ryan oozes charisma and sensational performance appeal. Yet again, it is a huge privilege to watch a musician who has performed so much with so many, to be classed and a legend and he alone on stage would thrill a crowd to the point of exhaustion.
With all elements and protagonists briefly represented above, I hope to have been successful in portraying the rock and roll reverence owed to each before us in this spectacle, and the sheer magnitude of the magnificent display they together impart.
And as for Alice, this is Forty years since on since the very first Australian headline shows of 1977 and Alice Cooper has never been more engaging, thrilling, commanding and thoroughly brilliant. With each decade performing (yes, decade) he has become increasingly compelling and talented and I don’t make this claim lightly because he was incredible to start with in the band named Alice Cooper in 1968. But, it is said that practice makes perfect and Alice Cooper has set the standard of perfect against which others are measured, and for such a long time. What is most remarkable is that he knows exactly where he fits in the grand scheme of his existence among us mere mortals. In person he is a thorough gentleman who is genuinely interested in each, and everyone he meets. A true megastar with the gift of longevity, and the nature that one feels fortunate to have occupied the same space, at the same time and enjoyed a conversation.
As for this particular Melbourne show, a new experience for all to enjoy, because there is nothing else on this earth that is akin to the particular excitement of an Alice Cooper performance. As the set-list unveils, I watch my young son visibly bursting with the excitement I felt the very first time I met Alice. The same experience I have somewhere in the memory banks when I first heard his tracks performed live, and an odd pride encapsulates me as I watch him singing No More Mr Nice Guy word for word. With fans younger than he in attendance and in equal celebration of Alice Cooper, the unique nature of he and his concerts becomes clear. The memories he has, and continues to provide. The memories his music prompts, having been lifelong and loyal companions in providing the soundtrack to our existence. The rock and roll majesty and relevance that he now conveys to the next generation, but still at the fore performing as strongly as ever.
As would be expected, Poison delights the crowd sending them into a frenzy before Ryan and Nita’s guitars decide that it is time for a brief and amorous interlude atop the fold-backs. A guess when a guitar decides its naughty time, there’s no getting in the way and they don’t care who’s watching. Ten points each for the dismount, by the way. Awesome.
Rather than replicating the entire set-list here, I chose to concentrate of the individual performers who are likely just feeling at work, doing their thing, but to us, they are thrilling us with the show of a lifetime. If they ever have an off night, their commitment to the crowd is of paramount importance, and it would still be a lifelong benchmark for the audience. From Chuck Garrick stalking the stage like a demon, permissively luring potential prey, to Glen’s incredible theatrical skills at every, EVERY beat, culminating in a solo duel between the pair that pounds against your chest throughout, this is rock ‘n’ roll at its finest. Nurse Sheryl integrates into the show in superb fashion, killing off her number one man, yet again, but with the promise of his return after his alter ego has its stage time allotment. My wife is so jealous.
The guillotine takes the head of Alice, yet again but it feels like it’s for the first time. Everything in this contemporary show fits as brilliantly as ever before and, somehow, never gets old. Just as an encore of Schools Out could never be replaced as the show finale, and its appeal is just as fresh as in 1972.
Melbourne is dismissed, but we long for detention as the realisation takes hold that the show is at an end. One of the few shows of all time where you wish would just start again. The show that you want to go back the next night and enjoy it all over again. The one that has me considering that Alice will always be, but will we? I can’t wait for his next return. Where’s my car keys? Because I have to head north for more of this Australian Tour.
|Mon 23 Oct – AIS Arena, Canberra, ACT|
|Tue 24 Oct – Newcastle Entertainment Centre, NSW|
|Wed 25 Oct – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, QLD|
Review Contributed by Casper