Taste Of Chaos

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Taste Of Chaos

Taste Of Chaos, Manchester Central, Manchester (UK) - 12th of December 2010.

Though the Taste Of Chaos tour has been something of a regular feature during the last few years this is my first 'taste'. Previous line-ups have left me a little cold but as soon as I saw the 4 acts making up this years bill I was sold. The prospect of 3 guaranteed crowd-pleasers (having seen them all before) plus one other band with an excellent live reputation made this a 'must see', especially at such a reasonable price. My only concern was the venue. Manchester Central (formerly GMEX) was originally a railway station and my only previous visit, back in the early 90s to see David Lee Roth, was something of a let down due to the poor sound. I decided that alcohol would quell any trepidation, as well as suppressing the icy temperatures. Buckcherry, Papa Roach and Disturbed all have new products to promote whilst Halestorm are still riding the crest of the debut album wave. I guess with the current financial climate it makes good business sense to bring together as many bands as possible to attract the crowd. With this in mind, though the building is quite large, I was a little surprised more people hadn't braved the bitter cold to take in the show. With a 6.30 start time and 10.45 curfew running times would be tight and turnarounds would have to be tighter and it is to the organisers credit that everything seemed to go smoothly. 

I have been championing the Halestorm cause since my review of the album back in issue no.38* and having witnessed them steal the show from Theory Of A Deadman earlier in the year I can honestly say that I have never looked forward to a 'support' act so much during my (almost) 40 years of concert going. Though caught out by the start time there was no doubting who was performing on our approach to the arena. 'What Were You Expecting' could be heard from a distance and once more I was floored by Lzzy Hale's voice. Containing the power of a super hero but blessed with such amazing melody & control it is hard to believe that someone of her age and stature should be graced with so much ability. The hairs on the back of my neck were well and truly erect and it had nothing to do with the sub-zero readings on the thermostat! As if Lzzy's stage presence wasn't enough to hold the attention we were treated to what was easily the most entertaining drummer I have ever seen. Arejay Hale, Lzzy's brother, truly was a show in his own right. I'm reluctant to relate how his performance progressed as I feel it would be unfair to anyone who has never seen the band but I could have filled my review with his antics. There are so many drummers out there with technical superiority I grant you but NONE (that I have seen anyway) who can keep you spellbound during solos and songs without missing a beat. This guy could play the IKEA kitchenware department and make it sound like a symphony. 

I feel slightly sorry for guitarist Joe Hottiger and bass player Josh Smith in some respects but they are simply the foundations on which Lzzy & Arejay can build the Halestorm songs. 'Familiar Taste Of Poison's atmospheric intro is simply mesmeric and when it kicks in proper the crowd go nuts. A brooding semi-ballad with another unbelievable Lzzy vocal, it's the mid-set highlight (hell it's one long highlight), a brilliant track. 'Dirty Work' raises the temperature even more and when 'I Get Off' finally heralds an unwanted conclusion to proceedings I feel as though I've literally done that and already had my money's worth! Buckcherry are due up next and they are pretty much on a hiding to nothing. I urge everyone to catch the Lzzy & Arejay show soon because when album number 2 arrives and there is even more material to draw on it may be too late to get close enough.

I have never seen Buckcherry but do love the '15' and 'Black Butterfly' CDs and had managed to listen to the 'All Night Long' disc several times after receiving it a few days before the gig. How could that sort of music and those songs fail to be anything but a blast in the live environment. Like an AC/DC / Aerosmith / Rolling Stones hybrid, with attitude to burn, I was expecting great things but still had reservations following the quality of the Halestorm set. Unfortunately my reservations were justified but not entirely due to Buckcherry's shortcomings. Halestorm had made such an impression in just 30 minutes and Buckcherry only had slightly longer to do the same. If the Californian boys had been the opening act then they would have made an ideal start to the show but (and now I'm starting to sound like a broken record) Halestorm were that good ANYONE was going to struggle to follow them. 

Concentrating on the new CD was a bold move and with such a short time-slot I think the inclusion of 4 'All Night Long' tracks was a gamble that failed to pay off. The band's energy levels were undeniable but the performance and songs came across as one dimensional with little variation in pacing and substance. Josh Todd's strut and swagger coupled with his gravel throated vocals suit the songs perfectly and I still believe his mother slept with both Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler........on the same night! The acoustics were really good and the twin guitars of Keith Nelson and Stevie D gave the sound a great depth. The riffs are catchier than an STD in a European Prime Minister's bedroom, driving the songs with a pleasing arrogance and unquestionable likability and one can't help but sing along. Yet despite the quality of 'Lit Up', 'All Night Long', 'It's A Party', 'Recovery' and 'Dead' by the time the set closes with 'Crazy Bitch' it's evident that the crowd reaction isn't as intense as it was 45 minutes earlier. The inclusion of 'Sorry' or 'These Things' would have made things a little less workmanlike and so much more interesting despite the fact it was still good to watch and enjoyable. Rock n Roll for sure but on reflection maybe the wrong type of band for this kind of show.

Papa Roach are pretty much a non-stop road act and it seems they only take a break when recording a new album. They've toured the UK several times during the last few years, never failing to sell out venues the size of Manchester Academy (where I had seen them supporting the 'Metamorphosis' album a little more than 12 months earlier). Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix was born for the stage and within the first few bars of 'Kicked In The Teeth' he had every single person eating out of the palm of his hand. Like a psychotic ringmaster with tourettes, acting as an energy transmitting conduit between audience and band, there's no denying his frontman attributes despite some vocal limitations. The mosh pits were well and truly open and only for the fact I didn't want to spill my cider I would have been down the front with them (are you kidding!!??) From then on the room didn't stop bouncing! The set list was perfect, every song imbued with a snot nosed passion and enthusiasm, delivered with an energy synonymous with the band.

For almost an hour it was impossible to stop smiling and singing. Shaddix covered as much of the stage as he dared, even disappearing part way through to join the crowd. Hard to believe that P Roach are a fourpiece as they generate a sound akin to a freight train. Jerry Horton cranks out the riffs and spits out the solos while Tobin Esperance and Tony Palermo hold down the fort from the back. The atmosphere was electric and the crowd worked up into a condition bordering on frenzy. 'Lifeline' and 'Hollywood Whore' make the studio versions pale in comparison whilst 'Getting Away With Murder' and '......To Be Loved' could make even the Mona Lisa smile! In my recent review of the 'Time For Annihilation' CD I commented that all 5 new tracks would go down a storm live and 4 of them make an appearance tonight. As well as 'Kicked In The Teeth' we are also treated to 'Burn', 'One Track Mind' and 'The Enemy', each one eclipsing the studio version, raising the adrenalin levels dangerously high. 'Between Angels & Insects' and 'Last Resort' tip their hat at the bands nu-metal roots but sadly bring an end to proceedings and I've never known an hour pass so quickly. The momentum lost during the Buckcherry set is well and truly restored and I'm not sure whether Papa Roach or the crowd need the break more.

A sense of euphoria has a mental battle with a sense of anticipation as the time approaches for the 'headline' act. Papa Roach simply raised the roof so how could anyone follow them? I've seen Disturbed twice before and what they lacked in stage presence on both occasions they certainly made up for musically. They have an ability to instill an air of menace, due in the main to David Draiman's vocals and his less than uplifting lyrical indulgences, yet have melodic sensibilities imbuing accessibility to even the most die-hard AOR anoraks (if only they would give the band a chance). A wealth of Disturbed t-shirts would seem to indicate a highly partisan crowd so obviously everyone knows what we're in for. The lights dim and the 'Remnants' intro signals the opening title track from the latest 'Asylum' album. Now up to Draiman's first words everything was going fine but then my initial show reservations decided to finally come to fruition. The sound was dominated totally by the vocals. The guitars, bass and drums were simply too low in the mix resulting in a sparse effect that echoed round the huge room. No fault of the band, to be sure, but it did seem to detract somewhat from the actual performance. Dan Donegan's guitar is essential to the songs and despite his best efforts it made things a little disappointing. Draiman prowled the stage in his customary manor but his presence is minimised by a lack of between song interaction with the crowd, something both Jacoby Shaddix and Lzzy Hale could not be accused of earlier.

With a large split-screen backdrop projecting images and accompanying promo videos throughout the show it was an impressive spectacle and there is no denying the quality of the material, yet it all came across as flat and uninspiring. The whole back catalogue was plundered, with older songs such as 'Stupify' and 'Stricken' sitting nicely alongside the likes of 'Inside The Fire' and 'Another Way To Die'. I still can't handle the cover of 'Land Of Confusion' (I don't even like the Genesis original) so had a little wander in hope that things sounded better from a different viewpoint.....unfortunately they didn't. Having to leave in order to catch the last train home meant we were unable to see the end of the set (I'm guessing they finished with 'Down With The Sickness'?) but 'Ten Thousand Fists' actually had the best acoustics from outside the building!

The cold night air was a sobering reminder of how good the day had been and in a perfect world Papa Roach and Halestorm would both be playing close to home again a week later. Just wait till I get hold of that wishbone at Christmas!!

Dave Bott

(* of Fireworks Magazine)

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