Kiss/Def Leppard Conquer Camden

Synopsis [Show Date: 8/3/14]

Rounding out my 3 concerts in 3 days run was this unbelievable show.  This would be my first time seeing Def Leppard and my third time seeing Kiss.  Seeing these two bands truly provided what looked like a near-capacity crowd with hours of hit after hit.

Opening Act

The Dead Daisies opened the show with a phenomenal set.  A supergroup comprised of past and current members of Guns N Roses, Whitesnake, and Foreigner (among others), they truly were not to disappoint.  Though I was not able to catch their entire set, what I did hear was enough to make me buy their album and EP, both of which are great and I implore everyone to check out.  There is kick-ass version of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” on the “Face I Love” EP.  Also really cool, the guys all came out after the set to mingle with fans and sign things.  This showed how all of these guys are class acts.  I finally got drummer Brian Tichy to sign the drumstick that I caught when he was playing with Foreigner 5 years ago!  This is actually the fifth band I have seen Brian play with (Foreigner, Whitesnake, Geoff Tate’s Queensryche, S.U.N., and The Dead Daisies – what a guy!).

Def Leppard

As the sounds of The Who’s “Won’t Get Filled Again” filled the Susquehanna Bank Center, on the screens appeared a countdown clock to Def Leppard’s set.  Opening up with the classic “Let it Go,” Def Leppard showed from the start why they are considered one of the best bands of their era.  It is still amazing to see Rick Allen play knowing that he only has one arm – how does he get all of those great sounds?!  An honorable mention also goes out to Vivian Campbell who was up onstage after just receiving the news that his cancer was in remission.  He may no longer have the long locks that used to be his distinctive look, but the bald head kind of gives him a new tougher look.  I hope Vivian continues to stay healthy and bring us all this great music!  After a large sampling of Def Leppard’s gigantic ’80s hits, they came to one of my personal favorites, “Let’s Get Rocked.”  It was great to hear the probably 15,000 people in the audience chanting the chorus together.

Next up was a short acoustic section comprised of “Two Steps Behind” and “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak.”  While I enjoyed this nice section, I certainly felt that the audience was itching to get back to the electric guitars, a craving satisfied near the end of “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak.”  Afterwards, the band broke into the classics “Hysteria” and “Rocket.”  Def Leppard songs are without a doubt best known for the huge choruses, and the audience proved this by singing the choruses at the top of their lungs for both of these songs.  Closing out the main set were two more mega-hits, “Armageddon It” and the biggest one of them all, “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”  The energy of the crowd during the latter was unbelievable.  It just seems to be one of those songs that everyone knows.  After an encore performance of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph,” the audience went wild and could not wait for the excitement of the night to continue with the almighty Kiss.

Kiss

After the obligatory, “You wanted the best, you got the best” intro, Kiss kicked off what was to be a thrilling show with “Psycho Circus.”  It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 20 years since that album kicked off the reunion tour.  Today’s band really is talented though, despite all the criticism that it deals with from legions of fans.  While this is understandable, I would like to point out in particular that while Tommy Thayer seems to be a really nice guy, I met Ace Frehley the other day, and he seemed like a jerk.  Next up was the Gene-sung staple “Deuce,” followed by “Shout It Out Loud.”  I love that Paul and Gene trade of vocals on this number; it certainly adds a cool element to the song.  On that note, neither Paul nor Gene can sing anywhere near as well as they could in their prime, but the energy of the show nearly made up for this.  During “Hotter Than Hell,” one of my favorite numbers of the entire night, Gene breathed fire, leading to enormous cheers from the audience, many of whom have certainly seen this little act before.  “Lick it Up” was another great number, though it was easy to hear Paul Stanley struggling through the singing of this song.  During the number, Kiss played the bridge to “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the second time this song embellished the night.

During the Bass Solo, Gene spit blood, a feat that a Kiss show would certainly be incomplete without.  This act led nicely into “God of Thunder,” which unfortunately did not feature Gene flying up to the rafters.  In a tweet after the show, Gene explained that the rig was not safe enough for him to fly up to.  Strange really.  Up next was the lesser-known “Hide Your Heart,” which received less of a crowd reaction.  I personally enjoy the song, but I can think of many Kiss songs that I would put in the setlist before this one.  “Calling Dr. Love” was followed by “Love Gun,” where Paul did his usual flight into the audience.  This is always a highlight of the set, though it was easy once again to hear Paul’s voice struggling to hit the high notes.  “Black Diamond” was next, with Eric Singer doing a great job channeling the vocals of Peter Criss.  As the opening notes of “Detroit Rock City” were played, the audience went wild – what an amazing song!  Definitely a highlight of the night.  Paul Stanley announced that Kiss was not going to be cliché and exit the stage before the encore, and they simply ripped into “Rock and Roll All Nite,” which saw the entire crowd rushing the stage.  Kiss released more confetti during this song than I have ever seen at any other show.  The confetti was literally piled up past my ankles!  No one was happy to see Kiss go!

Conclusion

I have to say that although Def Leppard was phenomenal, Kiss stole the night with their show.  There is just nothing like a Kiss stage show!  All the pyro, fireworks, and lights are just phenomenal.  I would definitely recommend seeing either of these acts if they come to your town.  On another note, I must once again mention that I had an terrible experience with security at the Susquehanna Bank Center.  One particular guard nearly ruined my experience at the show, and I am currently in talks with the head of security at the venue in regards to my issue.

Billy Joel Hits a Homerun in Philly

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Synopsis [Show Date: 8/2/14]

Billy Joel hasn’t been around Philly since his 2009 face-to-face tour with fellow piano man Elton John.  Packing a stadium certainly is not easy, but Joel makes it look like a piece of cake.  With a show that sold out almost immediately after going on sale, no one in that audience should have left disappointed.  Billy Joel awarded the City of Brotherly Love with an astounding show filled with countless hits.

The Show

The lights went down on the 50,000 people seated in Citizens Bank Park, and the anticipation was palpable.  Everyone was on their feet immediately, and it was hard to believe that the man about to take the stage was not some 21st century hit-maker.  Despite not releasing an album since 1993 (something about which Billy Joel joked), the songs sounded as fresh as ever.  Playing rhythm guitar, something very nice to see as it gives Joel more of a chance to interact with the crowd, the show opened up to “A Matter of Trust.”  It was easy to tell from the first notes that the crowd in Philly was a dedicated one.  While a Miley Cyrus concert was taking place across the street at the Wells Fargo Center, Joel epitomized longevity.  The crowd sang along, even to the deep cuts, nothing like the audiences for most of the hit-makers today.  Joking about not being in Philly since his 2009 show with Elton John, Joel referred to him as the “other guy” and proceeded to play a snippet of the beautiful “Your Song,” halting at the lyric, “Don’t have much money, but…” to exclaim that he does, in fact, have plenty of money.  He certainly seemed to have a great sense of humor.

A bit later, Joel did something pretty interesting in letting the audience choose what song he was to play next.  Gauging what song got a louder cheer between “Summer, Highland Falls” and “Vienna,” the latter was the clear winner.  What a great song that Joel delivered with an impassioned performance.  He really has lost very little as far as his voice goes.  I saw Elton John back in November, and I honestly believe that Joel’s voice blows his away these days.  Next up was an awesome version of “Zanzibar” preceded by the mandatory “Theme from Rocky.”  Very few numbers get a Philly audience so filled with pride for their wonderful city.  Always one to have a few surprises up his sleeve, Joel introduced Philly-based act Boyz II Men, leading into a performance of the rarely played “The Longest Time.”  The harmonies of Boyz II Men sounded great blended with Joel’s vocals.

Back to back hits filled the stadium next, with amazing renditions of “New York State of Mind” and the infectious groove of “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).”  The latter sounded even greater fleshed out with the whole backing band.  It must be noted that the band Joel brought with him was fantastic and really helped add to the great feel of the night.  Up next was a moving rendition of “Goodnight Saigon” with American veterans.  The crowd could not stop cheering for the brave heroes up on stage, and I believe that it is a true testament to Joel’s great character that he brought them up on stage with him.  Hit after hit continued to fill the night, with a particularly beautiful version of “She’s Always a Woman.”  Billy Joel’s voice truly has remained remarkably intact through the years.  Introducing guitar tech Rick, Joel picked up his guitar once again as Rick belted out the AC/DC classic “Highway to Hell.”  The audience was thrilled by this song choice (especially the drunk guy a few rows behind me playing air guitar like nothing I have ever seen)!

“Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” was another amazing performance; the story that Joel tells through the lyrics is just amazing.  They just don’t write songs like this anymore!  Everyone in the crowd was brought back to Brenda and Eddie’s affair in the summer of ’75.  The main set was closed out with the classic “Piano Man,” which had 50,000 people singing along at the top of their lungs.

Joel continued with a whopping five song encore, starting off with the hit “Uptown Girl,” which certainly made many in the audience think back to the wonderful video with the gorgeous Christie Brinkley.  Joel looked so young in that video!  “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and “Big Shot” were up next, to roaring receptions from the greatly enthusiastic crowd.  “Big Shot” has always been a personal favorite of mine, and Joel certainly did it justice.  A great performance of “You May Be Right” was next, with the show being rounded off with the amazing “Only the Good Die Young,”  Going to a Billy Joel show leaves a concertgoer astounded by the sheer amount of hits that Joel has had throughout his career.  The one song I admit that I would love to have heard would have been “The Stranger,” but I really can’t complain about such a phenomenal show.

Conclusion

Billy Joel does not play too many shows these days, seemingly preferring to stick with his “residency” up at Madison Square Garden.  Bearing this in mind, it really was an honor to see such a great talent perform, and I truly hope that I get the opportunity to experience it again.  If Billy Joel comes to your area, I implore you to go see him – you certainly will not regret it!

On another note, I got the chance to meet Tony Luke Jr. of cheesesteak fame at the show; he was an extremely nice guy!

Sammy Hagar Speeds Through Atlantic City

Synopsis

This had to be the most short notice concert that I have ever been to.  A friend and I had wanted to go to the show but were unable to get tickets (we decided the night before).  Miraculously, my uncle happened to text me the day of the show saying that his friend received two comp tickets from the Borgata Casino for the show that night and asked if I wanted to go.  Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Atlantic City!  What great luck we had, as this was not a show to miss.  Sammy Hagar has lost nearly nothing in regards to his voice, and the set was out of this world.  Additionally, the Borgata Event Center is a beautiful venue with fantastic acoustics.

The Show

Sammy Hagar took to the stage around 8:15 to the blistering “There’s Only One Way to Rock.”  Surrounding Hagar was a true band of all-stars.  It is amazing to think about how much talent he has played with through the years, from Montrose, to Van Halen, to Chickenfoot, and everything in between.  Up there on this night was original Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony (who still belongs in Van Halen – sorry Wolfgang), son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, Jason Bonham, and guitarist for Sammy Hagar and the Wabos, Vic Johnson.  With this fantastic lineup, the crowd was treated to songs from many different bands.  After the opening number, there was a 1-2-3 punch of Montrose’s “Rock Candy,” Led Zeppelins “Good Times Bad Times,” and Van Halen’s “Poundcake.” Very few shows provide such a diverse array of brilliant music.  And this here was arguably the greatest aspect of the show, you never knew what was coming up next!  That opening beat to “Good Times Bad Times” sounds just as fresh today as it did in 1969.

The recognizable opening riff of “I Can’t Drive 55” was up next, leading to a great audience sing-a-long.  2500 people screaming out 55 is just an amazing sound.  There’s nothing like the energy of a crowd singing together.  After a bass solo from Michael Anthony, the audience was treated to another sing-a-long for the Van Halen classic “When It’s Love.”  Diamond Dave may be the most recognizable singer for the mighty Van Halen, but the music Sammy did in the band was simply brilliant as well.  Up next was probably my favorite number of the night, “Whole Lotta Love!”  It was pretty surreal seeing Jason Bonham up there playing this number, and Sammy’s pipes allowed him to execute it perfectly.  “Waayyyy down inside…WOMAN…youuuuu need…LOOOOVE!”  What a great verse, executed perfectly.

A bit later, Jason Bonham was left alone on the stage to pay tribute to his father with Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.”  On the screens behind him was his father, pounding away at his own drum set.  What a cool thing to watch, father and son going at it.  Can’t say I ever imagined having the chance to see this solo live.  As the solo finished up, everyone returned to the stage to conquer the Van Halen hit “Why Can’t This Be Love.”  Once again the audience was treated to a wonderful display of Sammy’s pipes.  Next up was “Finish What Ya Started” which led nicely into “Heavy Metal,” another great audience sing-a-long.  Another classic song that was definitely one of the highlights of the night.  For some reason, hearing this song made me think back to James Durbin performing it with Zakk Wylde on American Idol.  Vic Johnson’s guitar solo leading into “Best of Both Worlds” was next.  He is a very underrated guitar player, flawlessly executing all of Ronnie Montrose’s, Eddie Van Halen’s, and Jimmy Page’s riffs and licks.  I enjoyed his solo very much as well as his playing throughout the whole night.  Walking off the stage before the encore, Jason Bonham proclaimed, “The louder you are, the longer we play!”

Returning to the stage the band broke into “Right Now,” my friend’s (who came to the show with me) favorite song from Van Hagar.  The screen portrayed a kind of “spin-off” of the music video (which I think is brilliant) by saying things like “Right now people are starving in Atlantic City – and including a number to a local food bank.”  I thought it was really nice that the guys did that.  Next up was the Zeppelin number “Rock and Roll,” which was executed perfectly with the entire audience singing along to the “lonely, lonely, lonely time!”  The show was finished off with an acoustic version of my personal favorite Hagar era Van Halen song, “Dreams.”  I am pretty sure that Sammy himself has said that this is his favorite song he did with Van Halen as well.  I personally prefer the electric version, but this was a nice way to round off what was a fun-filled, two hour show.  That is pretty notable as well; usually at the casinos acts tend to play shorter sets.

Conclusion

I am so happy that I was able to get the opportunity to attend this show.  It kicked off my three concerts in three days lineup (next up Billy Joel, then Kiss/Def Leppard).  I would also love to point out how classy of a guy Sammy Hagar is.  Every single hat, poster, etc. that he could grab from the crowd he would sign, often wearing people’s hats as well.  Very few acts do this, and I think it was really awesome that he is in that exclusive group.  It makes me respect him even more than I already did.  I also cannot stress enough how great his voice still is, he was screaming the entire night and did not miss a beat!  Michael Anthony also has an amazing voice still, often trading off verses with Hagar.  Jason Bonham’s playing would certainly make his father proud, his grooves really helped set the mood for the whole night.  Finally, I must say again that Vic Johnson is an outstanding guitar player that did all of the night’s songs justice.  I would definitely recommend checking out the Journey Through the History of Rock Tour; you will be treated to some of rock’s greatest songs, executed flawlessly.