TWO show reviews in a month’s time? Is this my second childhood or something?
While that’d be fun — if I had the energy for it anyway — in reality it’s more simply good fortune that the stars have aligned for me to enjoy another quality lineup so close to the last one. I’m sure not going to complain about it. Especially not when the headliner features a Paragon of Virtue and Role Model.
First up for the evening, Atlanta scene veterans Halcyon Way. Despite 16 years since their formation and around nine years since the release of their debut album this was the first time I’d actually seen the band in person. I figured I had a reasonable idea of what to expect, since they’d cracked my regular playlist (“Home”, “Web of Lies” ) a couple of times in the past few years. Alas, sometimes I figure wrong.
In a recent interview the band noted how, over time, they’d moved into a heavier and more aggressive style since their more prog-metal beginnings. I believe that was in evidence here, particularly with the use of death/unclean vocals. It’s a matter of degrees perhaps, but what had been somewhat subdued in some of their recorded work now feels very out front, and that simply didn’t work for me. Their strongest points, in my view, are their musicianship and their downright striking vocal harmony. The harder/louder/more prominent growls & death vocals simply aren’t what I’m looking for generally, and definitely not from a band that has more than enough ability to do other things not only well but also to do virtually everything else better. Not even their energy and stage presence, both of which are obvious and plentiful, was enough to get me past the (too) frequent bursts of rawr.
HW recently returned from a run in Russia with Sabaton, the latest segment in a long history of touring Europe, and a new album in the works. I’m sure they’ll be just fine regardless of my take on them, at this point they simply aren’t my thing but your mileage may certainly vary.
Next up, the mighty Kyng. It’s hard for me to believe that nearly six years have passed since I saw the L.A. area power trio for the first time, as part of what became one of the more memorable shows of my life. That’s a lot of time and a lot of miles between shows, not to mention three full albums that had released in the interim. What they proved on this night is that, sometimes, change can be good.
In a set that felt too short* (more on that later) I saw a band that has certainly evolved and matured since they broke onto the national scene with “California Heavy” sound. Yet, despite the evolution, they still feel completely like … Kyng. The impressions I had six years ago — “solid musicians that … have a good idea of who they are & what they want to do” — are still prominent in 2017. They’ve expanded the boundaries of their classic rock influences over those years, reshaped their range not only between the debut album and the sophomore release Burn The Serum but expanded it again between that effort and the latest release Breathe In The Water. And it just works.
They’re particularly good at keeping the audience in the moment, waiting to see what Eddie Veliz will do next, either vocally or instrumentally. Tony Castaneda shares the front of the stage on bass while Pepe Clarke (not so) quietly keeps time behind them, combining into a great example of how a strong three-piece band can feel a LOT bigger than their numbers. Even when they weave between one musical influence to the next, they have such a grasp on what they’re doing that they’re able to maintain a consistent hold on the audience, and that’s a gift.
Their performance took me back to something else I said six years ago:
“I don’t see Kyng as a band that’ll be defined by any one song or even a particular album. They’re going to be about their body of work”
That’s a broader statement that narrows down pretty well how I feel about their live set this weekend. It’s not about one song (no matter how much I still enjoy “Falling Down”) with these guys, it’s the sum of the entire set. Their biography mentions how Kyng finds “grandiosity in simplicity” which is pretty spot on. They bring it, and should not be missed.
And then, hailing from parts well known, that brings us to Fozzy.
It’s been a long journey for the headliner, from the Mongoose McQueen era to the (satirical) decades spent in Japan, through two albums of mostly cover tunes. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum … what seemed to begin as some guys having a little fun on the side got more serious musically, transforming Fozzy from an amusing (though entertaining) side note into a very legitimate musical entity, starting with the 2005 release of their third album All That Remains and its lead single “Enemy”. That’s about the time I realized “well, damn … they ain’t playing around”.
Three more albums have followed, with another now on the verge of release, building them from a novelty curtain-jerker to a full-fledged main event band in terms of my anticipation.
From the opening notes of the brand-new single “Judas” — which found a surprising number of the crowd singing along despite having been out for less than a week — to the final bow after “Enemy” , the band rocked fans from pillar to post, drawing songs from throughout their catalog to create a full on experience.
The set was briskly paced despite being sixteen songs in length, there were no prolonged rest holds in sight. Jericho noted that this was the band’s first headlining set in something like sixteen months yet it was quite evident that they’re more than able to sustain a headline set without any problem whatsoever.
For all the charisma that the frontman brings, there’s more to Fozzy than his charisma or stage presence. A lot more. The energy of recently returned bassist Paul Di Leo, the relentless pounding of drummer Frank Fontsere, the stinkin’ genius that is The Duke of Metal, Rich Ward, and the standout work of guitarist Billy Grey, there’s no weak link to be found, every member stands out individually as well as working within the whole. it’s all there for fans to drink innnnnn (man).
And yes, the cheesy wrestling references really ARE just too obvious for me to avoid entirely. If you know who Chris Jericho is — at least arguably the best mic worker of the modern era of wrestling, as well as a versatile in-ring performer — then it’s nearly impossible to not have some of that knowledge creep in somewhere. He does a great job of keeping the two world (mostly) separate, avoiding what has to be the temptation to cash in some obvious opportunities to get a cheap pop from a crowd that definitely knows about his other line of work. The (in)famous light-up jacket makes an appearance, he very briefly teased (but didn’t use) his recent catchphrase just before the end of the show, but for the vast majority of the night he’s a just a singer in a rock n’ roll band, not the widely decorated future WWE Hall of Famer. How he manages that strong separation, mentally, I’m not sure I could even begin to try to explain … but he does it, downright judiciously.
You can catch the crossover at times, in little things. He knows how to work a crowd as well as anyone, there are little mannerisms and things that blur the line for just a second. All in all, I think it really boils down to one Chris Irvine being a guy that was both born to be AND worked very hard to be an entertainer. If he hadn’t been a pro wrestler and he hadn’t gotten the chance to be a musician, he’d have probably been the most entertaining salesman at the car dealership or the funniest guy at open-mic night. There’s just too much of that “it factor” inside him to have remained hidden, and I get a sense that he genuinely enjoys letting it out to play for our benefit.
They came, we saw … and Fozzy kicked our ass.
As pretty much always, I’ll leave you with a few stray bits of The Good, The Bad, and (luckily not really much of) The Ugly …
The Revival, as a regular venue, is still in “soft-open” status. It’s hard to grade it fairly aside from Incomplete. Cash-only, limited bar, only one external food vendor, all those things seem like negatives and yet I think they worked very well within those constraints, so my net takeway is an optimistic one … I mentioned that the Kyng set seemed a little short on time, I’m not sure what was up with that exactly. I’m not privvy to the timetables/ schedules for each of the bands obviously, but with a four-band bill that got shortened to three a couple of days before the event IF time could have been rearranged to give a more-than-deserving band a chance to play a couple more songs I feel like that should have happened. Being/staying on time was mentioned briefly at both at the beginning of their set and again just before the end so it felt like there was definitely some sort of issue afoot … Health issues for a band member forced the planned 4th band, Die Once, to miss the show. I wish them all well going forward, and want to give a tip of the cap to the other members of the group for showing up to support the other bands … As is too frequently the case when I go out & about, I’m a little concerned/disappointed about the eventual turnout. I’m as guilty as they come of not making it to shows but when other venues around the country are selling out shows and the Atlanta-area only manages 150-200 for a bill of this caliber, it makes it tough to keep getting dates on tours. Atlanta simply isn’t a very good town for actual rock any more I’m afraid, similar to the reputation for not being a good pro sports town. The former continues to concern me a lot more than the latter.