Triple anniversary visit from Uli Jon Roth electrifies The Rock Box

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Triple anniversary visit from Uli Jon Roth electrifies The Rock Box

Although he has made visits to San Antonio every 2-3 years in recent memory, Uli Jon Roth’s latest return was nearly a full year in the making. But the original Scorpions guitarist’s better-late-than-never performance Friday night at the Rock Box remained what it was supposed to be last June — a thrice-as-nice celebration of a heavily influential career.

Celebrating 30 years of his post-Scorpions band Electric Sun, 40 years of the Scorpions’ inaugural recorded live effort Tokyo Tapes and half a century since his first concert in 1968, Roth again amazed guitar aficionados, longtime fans and casual observers alike in a nearly three-hour performance.

Covering Roth never gets old, whether it was on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruises in 2011 and 2017 (latter here), at the Rock Box or now-defunct Korova (interview here) or in concert form, a VIP meet-and-greet setting or at one of his insightful instructional clinics. But Roth’s 2019 return to the Box, after Visa issues derailed his scheduled 2018 tour, showed a rarely played side of the legendary German.

Once again backed by stellar vocalist/guitarist Niklas Turmann, southpaw guitarist David Klosinski and keyboardist Corvin Bahn, Roth was also joined by bassist Nico Deppisch and England native Richard Kirk on drums (see 34-photo slideshow including setlist below). This time, Roth’s two-part set featured Electric Sun material, his post Scorpions ‘80s band that released three albums, and songs that could be classified as “etcetera.” But those tunes should not be considered afterthoughts.

One such track was Roth’s ode to his brother Zeno Roth, who died Feb. 5, 2018, after a lengthy illness. Roth credited his brother’s songwriting ability and gave the audience a taste of it, while Zeno’s face appeared on the video screen, with “Don’t Tell the Wind” (ATM Facebook LIve footage here). Roth also showcased other Electric Sun songs such as “Why,” “Icebreaker” and “I’ll Be There” (ATM footage below).

After a 15-minute break, Roth returned with the anticipation of his yet-to-be-played Scorpions material lingering. But first, Roth took to the stage by his lonesome for a unique request of his own. Prior to playing “Passage to India,” the guitarist asked for silence of the crowd. “I don’t mind if you talk during the heavy stuff,” Roth said, adding that the acoustic tune was on the quieter side and would not go over well if he had to play above noise. Following that soothing piece, Roth offered up a cover of The Shadows’ “Apache” while breaking out a humorous take about the guitar he would use to play it before declaring, “Time to do some Scorpions” as the band launched into “We’ll Burn the Sky” (watch both songs below).

Roth’s hits from the original Tokyo Tapes and his modern-era Tokyo Tapes Revisited kept coming with “Pictured Life” and “Catch Your Train” (ATM Facebook Live footage of both here) plus “In Trance.” Although the tour press release said Roth would offer hits such as “Fly to the Rainbow,” he left that epic song off the menu. His only deviation from the printed setlist, too, was to omit his own vocally led “Dark Lady,” though Roth did sing other tracks on the night.

Roth was the second guitar guru to play the Rock Box/Vibes Event Center in 12 days following the appearance of Swedish maestro Yngwie Malmsteen (coverage here). While some might say Roth’s and Malmsteen’s personalities are like night and day, it’s not very debatable to say they electrify in their own way. For the German Scorpion, the final Texas stop on his triple anniversary tour was one to remember as a trifecta of guitar milestones.

And it left no wonder Roth invented the Sky guitar. Because the sky has always been the limit for a musician blessed to grace the music landscape with five decades worth of guitar wizardry and knowledge.

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Malmsteen the mesmerizer shreds through career with precision of blue lightning

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Malmsteen the mesmerizer shreds through career with precision of blue lightning

The maestro of metal guitar rode into the Alamo City last Sunday night for the first time in five years and owned the stage like few who’ve played the Vibes Event Center. So it’s only fitting Yngwie Malmsteen was touring in support of a work entitled Blue Lightning. The Swedish sultan of the guitar, who unleashes ferocity on the Fender with jaw-dropping skill and ease despite varying degrees of difficulty, demonstrated that his speed and precision can sometimes feel as if they strike like lightning (watch ATM Facebook Live footage of “Far Beyond the Sun”).

Blue Lightning won’t go down as one of Malmsteen’s best albums if for no other reason than it’s mostly a covers album — his interpretations of Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top tunes, to name a few, with a dash of originals he sings tossed in. Not when weighing this offering against Marching Out, Trilogy, Odyssey, Fire and Ice, Facing the Animal, Alchemy, Unleash the Fury, Relentless . . . the list goes on.

Alas, fans don’t come to hear Malmsteen’s voice. So on a night Robin Trower was laying down melodic licks at the Aztec Theater, We Came As Romans and Crown the Empire were catering to the younger crowd at the Paper Tiger and Sacred Star — yes, a local tribute to Malmsteen — were also performing, the Vibes’ general-admission floor was half closed and virtually half full to those who chose the magician. While Malmsteen sang his new title track, it felt as if he was allowed to have his one vocal moment in the sun. But of course, it was his finger work on the Stratocasters that mesmerized as only he can.

New York trio Sunlord provided direct support in the vein of Motorhead. Springfield, Missouri, quartet Paralandra was fronted by the powerful larynx and stylings of singer/guitarist Casandra Carson, and Byfist had the honor of being the lone locals on the bill (see 71-photo slideshow below). They all warmed things up for Malmsteen, who wisely continued to open his show with the only true tune that should begin all of his electric conciertos — “Rising Force.”

This time, however, the man who has dedicated his life to reinventing the art of guitar playing downplayed the use of vocals overall. In addition to “Rising Force,” “Seventh Sign,” “Like an Angel (for April)” and “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget” (ATM footage below) were relegated to one or two verses being sung rather than entirely played. Of course, a Malmsteen show is more a showcase of The Man rather than of a band, which is why Malmsteen perused 95 percent of the stage while vocalist/keyboardist Nick Marino, plus Malmsteen’s bassist and drummer, were relegated to a corner. The bassist may as well have been Ian Hill of Judas Priest given that while he was the only one of the other three capable of moving, he was clamped to one place for the nearly two-hour set. At least Hill chooses to play that way.

Some in the industry would say Malmsteen is all about himself, possessing an ego even higher than his stack of Marshall amps. The fact he was selling “Blue Lightning” tour T-shirts for $45 and a $435 meet-and-greet package — but hey, it included “free T-shirt and signing” — would lend further credence to those who hold that belief. Others might say Malmsteen has earned the right to throw such mountainous cash grabs at his fans after stamping himself as the king of the metal and neoclassical mountain.

So Malmsteen kicked his leg. He hurled his guitars overhead for his tour manager to catch and change out. And on at least one occasion, he motioned to his drummer to keep his eyes on him. Ever the showman, Malmsteen looked twice at his watch while holding the signature note on the first encore, 1984 instrumental “Black Star.” It’s all a part of his schtick almost as much as is Malmsteen’s numerous Ferraris and artistry on the axe. Judge for yourself with ATM’s footage below of a solo that incorporated “Trilogy Suite: Opus 5” and “Blue.”

Paralandra, making its San Antonio debut, provided a pleasant shade of fresh air and no-holds-barred rock. Guitarist Paul Carson, bassist Sawyer Rikard and drummer Nick Gray took the stage simultaneously, jamming for a couple of minutes before Paul’s daughter Casandra and her red high heels raised a few eyebrows and put the audience on notice it was in for an ear-piercing ride.

Casandra Carson tore into the band’s Ascension EP, released last summer, with an inkling of yes, Lzzy Hale’s vocals. Carson also fashioned herself after the Halestorm frontwoman, who has endorsed the band and publicly given Casandra happy birthday wishes, in vocals, wardrobe, and one other key aspect. During a 30-minute performance highlighted by “Never Without Me” and a no fanfare, no-introduction-necessary cover of Queensryche’s “I Don’t Believe In Love,” Carson informed the fans her band is all about believing in itself despite the naysayers or critics one runs into in life while holding true to themselves.

A viable fit for the genre indeed.

Byfist, meanwhile, kicked things off on a stage where it feels at home, even after a 6 1/2-hour soundcheck by Malmsteen forced fans to be let in late and the opening acts to cut into their stage time with soundchecks completed in the blink of an eye by comparison. Leading off with “Universal Metal,” the guitar solo to which by Ernie B. in part hearkens the riff to Dokken’s “Tooth and Nail,” Byfist delivered the local goods in fine fashion along with “Guaranteed Death,” “Scattered Wits” and “In the End.”

The concert options may have been aplenty. But there’s only one Malmsteen. As such, narrowing the choices became simple to those in attendance. Sunlord, Paralandra and Byfist made the rest of the showcase gravy on a night when the menu’s main course spritzed the Vibes Event Center with scintillating guitar licks like wine that only gets better with age.

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Congregation of metalheads heeds gospel of Metal Church & friends

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Congregation of metalheads heeds gospel of Metal Church & friends

It may not have been a Sunday, but church was in session last Friday night at the Rock Box. Metal Church once again preached the gospel of heavy music with the help of Phoenix natives Images of Eden, Atlanta rockers Halcyon Way, local veterans Isolaydead and San Antonio thrashers X.I.L. to a packed Box.

While the “Reverend” David Wayne has passed on as Metal Church’s original vocalist, his 1989 replacement Mike Howe returned to the Rock Box for the second time since undertaking his second stint in 2015 with the band led by guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof. Along with guitarist Rick Van Zandt, bassist Steve Unger and new drummer Stet Howland, Metal Church continues to forge on with Damned If You Do, another collection of heavy yet catchy tunes in the vein of XI, the album that signified Howe’s comeback.

Unilke Metal Church’s previous two visits — when Howe and Vanderhoof spoke with ATM, respectively, here and here — this time elicited a nearly sold out Rock Box. Not only were the Metal Church supporters out in full force, but so were musicians of various local bands such as Las Cruces and Metalriser in support of warmup acts Isolaydead and X.I.L. (see 71-photo slideshow below).

The latter’s lead guitarist, Joseph Aguilar, provided arguably the most metal occurrence of the evening when multiple strings broke during finale cover “The Witching Hour,” shortly after performing “Full Throttle Ass Kicking.” Aguilar persevered with “the show must go on” mentality before tossing his axe aside in disgust at set’s end. Catch them in action with ATM’s Facebook Live footage of “Speed Demons.”

Isolaydead kept the local flavor going after X.I.L. to the tunes of “Indignation,” “Life Feeds On Life” and “Obscene Deviation.” Singer/bassist Rick Vela and his trio also paid homage to Sepultura with “Attitude” before culminating with “Evil Wings,” all the while showing gratitude and appreciation for his peers who came out to support the support.

The national acts followed next with Halcyon Way vocalist Steve Braun doing something small yet very meaningful that most national acts don’t take the time to do. Prior to “Ten Thousand Ways,” Braun gave props to the bill’s local acts (and actually pronounced their names correctly) and encouraged its adopted-for-a-night “nailheads’ to do the same. He then explained how fill-in drummer Luka learned the band’s setlist in two days while undertaking only his fourth show with the group after Aaron Baumoel injured his arm and neck (ATM Facebook Live footage here).

Mohawked and sunglasses-wearing lead guitarist Jon Bodan provided his usual enthusiastic energy and death-metal backup vocals to Braun’s melodic harmonies, as he did when Halcyon Way opened for Sevendust in 2013 in the parking lot next door at the now-defunct Backstage Live/Alamo City Music Hall. The Georgia rockers performed five of their six songs from latest album Bloody But Unbowed, opening with the title track and adding intense offering “Blame” plus “The Church of Me” — told ya church was in session — and ending with the album’s closer “Desolate.”

Arizona natives Images Of Eden were making their San Antonio live debut but had to shorten their seven-song set by a couple of tunes. As the fourth warmup act on the bill and with things slightly behind schedule, Metal Church’s appearance was becoming overdue. But first, Images Of Eden offered up “Harvest Day,” “Godless” and “Shield Me.” Similar in style to their predecessors on stage, Images Of Eden made a more than respectful showing, as evidenced on “Twice Upon a Time.”

Alas, it would not have been fruitful to keep the night’s higher power waiting much longer. Metal Church came out strong with the title track to Damned If You Do, followed up with the only XI tune of the evening “Needle and Suture,” and harkened back to Howe’s debut Blessing In Disguise with MTV hit “Badlands.” Vanderhoof recounted how his 2017 visit resulted in a struggle with the flu but that he was much healthier this go-round. As such, Metal Church went back to The Dark with the likes of “Start the Fire” and “Watch the Children Pray,” the latter meshing with killer new track “The Black Things.” (ATM footage below).

Surprisingly, and a bit unfortunate for those who caught Metal Church’s previous two performances here, the night’s track listing was a virtual carbon copy of the show two years ago save for the new songs. Metal Church missed a golden opportunity to grace the diehards with Wayne favorites “Metal Church,” “Gods of Wrath” and “Ton of Bricks” along with Howe staples “Rest In Pieces (April 15, 1912)” — its ode to The Titanic’s demise — or “The Spell Can’t Be Broken.” At the expense of those, Metal Church unnecessarily repeated the lesser-known and average “Gods of Second Chance” and “No Friend Of Mine,” both from Hanging in the Balance. They did go back to the first album, however, with cult classic “Beyond the Black,” even though a backing track for Howe was evident. And “Start the Fire” satiated the appetite for awhile, leaving some of us wanting more.

Metal Church’s lone deviation from the printed setlist was flipping encores “In Mourning” and “Fake Healer” — which they remade with Queensryche vocalist Todd La Torre — choosing the latter as the finale. Two years ago, both of those songs opened the show.

One major difference for Metal Church this time was the appearance of drummer Stet Howland, who joined the group shortly after the 2017 Rock Box show. Howland not only has his stamp across several W.A.S.P. albums but also took part in Killing Machine with Helstar vocalist James Rivera and his one-time W.A.S.P. bassmate Johnny Rod. As such, Howland enjoyed his return to the Alamo City, happily fist-bumping fans, along with Howe, Vanderhoof, Unger and Van Zandt and meeting with many of them afterwards (see slideshow).

Considering Metal Church’s future looked bleak a decade ago after Vanderhoof announced the band was done, and Howe was practically in solitary confinement from making music, any return of the heavy gospel to San Antonio is a welcome sight and music to many ears. And while it’s a given with Vanderhoof at the helm that the Wayne era and Howe’s early material will always be an impetus for Metal Church’s persevering existence, hopefully they’ll dig deeper into their old stuff and, with the exception of must-haves such as “Watch the Children Pray,” pull out a new batch of classics on their biannual rotation of tour stops. That would certainly answer some prayers meant not just for the children, but those who spent a bulk of their adolescence listening to Metal Church’s wide array of timeless and influential metal.

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Into the Pit: Bobby Jarzombek (Arch/Matheos - Part 2)

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Into the Pit: Bobby Jarzombek (Arch/Matheos - Part 2)

As the most dedicated members of San Antonio’s and South Texas’ metal community are undoubtedly aware, one of their own is the drummer for several acts. Bobby Jarzombek has put his stamp on Fates Warning, the solo bands of former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach and Judas Priest singer Rob Halford and is a former member of Riot and Spastic Ink. Just to name a few.

Mostly splitting time nowadays between Fates Warning and Bach’s group, Jarzombek also more than dabbles in the Fates Warning spinoff side project Arch/Matheos, the duo featuring Fates Warning founder and guitarist Jim Matheos and original vocalist John Arch. Jarzombek played on the project’s entire six-song, 55-minute progressive metal masterpiece Sympathetic Resonance in 2011. While Fates Warning toured behind 2013’s Darkness in a Different Light and just ended another tour in support of 2015’s Theories of Flight, this time opening for Queensryche including a March 22 stop at the Aztec Theatre (coverage here), Arch/Matheos consequently was put on the back burner.

Until now.

Arch/Matheos will release Winter Ethereal on May 10 via Metal Blade Records. This time, Arch and Matheos employed the services of various former and present Fates Warning musicians and a couple of guests, as Arch discussed among several topics with Alamo True Metal on Monday during Part 1 of the Arch/Matheos breakdown (listen here).

Jarzombek, who plays on first single and video “Straight and Narrow” (watch below) and “Wrath of the Universe” on the nine-song offering, again was asked to drum on the entire album. In essence, his answer paved the way to the variety of musicians that appear on it.

“The reason it was done that way, originally — and this is an important fact — what happened was Jim approached me about playing on the whole thing like when we did Symphathetic Resonance,” Jarzombek told ATM moments after the Arch interview. “And I said, ‘Man, I don’t have time to play on the whole thing. I really don’t. You know, learning the songs, tracking, editing and all that stuff myself. And so I said, ‘I don’t have time for it, but I’ll help you look for a drummer.’ I started sending him video clips of guys and recommending guys. He was at the same time sending me videos of guys: ‘what do you think of this guy?’ ”

The splitting of duties allowed each guest drummer, which included Thomas Lang and former Fates Warning backstopper Mark Zonder and bassist — current Fates Warning member Joey Vera, former member Joe DiBiase and current Testament bassist Steve DiGiorgio — to add their own style to the record, giving it a different flavor and feel compared to Sympathetic Resonance.

“And it ended up being that a couple of guys could only do a portion of the record,” Jarzombek said. “And (Matheos) said, “The thing is, that might be kind of cool, get a couple guys to play on different songs. It’s not really a band, it’s a project, and people know it’s a project.” And I said, ‘Well, if you can get some guys to play on a song or two, I’ll play on a song. Then I go, ‘Well, I’ll play on two songs.’ And it turned into this weird sort of a bunch of different guys.” Then Jim was like, ‘Well, since you’re the veteran of this thing, you can pick the songs you want to play on. And I picked ‘Wrath of the Universe,’ and he goes, ‘I got this other one that I haven’t written yet. But I kind of have an intro and this and that, and that ended up being ‘Straight and Narrow.’ That was the last song he wrote. He said, ‘I think that’ll be good for you because it’s heavy and has double bass.’ That song sort of suited me well. That’s how it all came to be.”

The video shoot for “Straight and Narrow,” which Arch also spoke about in Part 1, presented its own challenges for the other members given that Fates Warning was on tour at the time.

“We had a headlining show on the Queensryche tour in Fayetteville, and Jim said, ‘It’s close enough to John, and we’ll do it in the morning and have the crew set up everything early,’ “ Jarzombek said. “We shot it before Fates Warning did our soundcheck. Oh, what a day!”

In addition to Jarzombek, Fates Warning of course has other San Antonio ties given that vocalist Ray Alder, who replaced Arch with the 1988 album No Exit, is from here and continues to have family in the Alamo City though he spent many years living in California and now does so overseas. Jarzombek and Matheos are the only members of Fates Warning and Arch/Matheos who steadily work with both vocalists, giving Jarzombek a unique perspective on both. Not only from his point of view in general but also of his interpretation of the dynamic between both vocalists.

“It’s weird because I sort of grew up with the band as a fan or listener with the John Arch stuff, the first three records, that era,” Jarzombek said. “That’s what I knew what Fates was. But I never got to play with them at that point. When Ray came out with Parallels and all that, obviously that was the most successful time of the band. And then when I joined the band, Ray was in the band obviously, in 2007. And I knew Ray from San Antonio and that whole thing. Me and Ray are good friends, we’re close on the road. I would say Ray is the guy I hang out with more than anyone in the band.”

Jarzombek had not met Arch until it was time to do the Sympathetic Resonance album. But it didn’t take long to draw a parallel, if you will, between the two singers from a drumming perspective.

“Singing wise, I don’t look at it really any different, you know, as far as who the singer is,” Jarzombek said. “I started learning some of the songs without vocals on Sympathetic Resonance. And then when John came in and sang the parts, sections were longer, something else thrown in, a few little bars. Some kind of ascending or descending pattern coming up or down. He kind of changes stuff when he goes in the studio or when he starts writing lyrics in kind of how he wants to fit things in.

“So that sort of was different for me than Ray where sometimes, when Jim sends me a song and there’s no vocals yet, it stays pretty much to the structure of the song. Even songs like ‘Firefly,’ I kind of had something when I worked that out. And it made sense to me. But then when the vocal came out, and the way Ray sang that song, I started changing the dynamics of my playing. Like how open my hi-hat is, whether I’m playing crash right. It changes with Ray more so because with the way he sings, there’s a little bit more emotion or something in it that makes me play a little different hearing his vocal. Which is kind of a cool thing. I think more so with John, I’m sticking a little closer to the parts that I had, but the sections do change. That’s only one example I can think of. Those things stick out to me.”

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Into the Pit: John Arch (Arch/Matheos - Part 1)

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Into the Pit: John Arch (Arch/Matheos - Part 1)

As the original voice of Fates Warning, John Arch’s signature high-pitched style is uniquely synonymous with the progressive metal veterans’ first three albums in the 1980s. But after the most well-known of that trifecta, 1986’s Awaken the Guardian, the vocalist parted ways with the band.

The end of Arch’s tenure became significant in two facets:

  1. He was replaced on 1988’s No Exit by San Antonio native Ray Balderrama, known in metal circles as Ray Alder, who continues to front the band today and most recently visited his hometown when Fates Warning opened for Queensryche on March 22 at the Aztec Theatre (coverage here)

  2. Arch would go on to basically disappear from the music scene for 17 years

After recording a solo EP in 2003 in which he reunited with Fates Warning founder and guitarist Jim Matheos, Arch and Matheos created a side project simply called Arch/Matheos that debuted with 2011’s Sympathetic Resonance that featured San Antonio native and current Fates Warning drummer Bobby Jarzombek behind the kit for each of the album’s six songs that totaled 55 minutes.

At long last, in between Fates Warning’s two most recent albums, Arch/Matheos returns May 10 with Winter Ethereal on Metal Blade Records. Unlike its predecessor eight years ago, Matheos and Arch enlisted various players to perform on the album’s nine songs that include their staple of lengthy lyrical story telling, complicated time changes, and heavy riffs dabbed with the slightest touches of tranquility.

"This stems from both of us trying to step out of our comfort zones a bit, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes being pushed," Matheos said in a press release. "Having worked together so many times, it would be easy to fall into the same way of doing things, and I think we were both interested in exploring some new areas."

This time, Jarzombek plays on two tracks including first single and video “Straight and Narrow” (below). Former Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder and guest drummer Thomas Lang also perform on the record. Bass players include former Fates member Joe DiBiase, current Fates and Armored Saint member Joey Vera and a guest appearance from Testament, Charred Walls of the Damned and Spirits Of Fire bassist Steve DiGiorgio.

Arch graciously went “Into the Pit” with Alamo True Metal on Monday to discuss the making of the new album and video versus the Arch/Matheos debut. He also delves into the dynamic with his Fates Warning replacement Alder plus the reasons touring isn’t made for him as much as recording music in the studio and how that affects any thought of Arch/Matheos eventually supporting Fates Warning on the road.

So kick back, grab a cold one, put on the headphones, and listen to our entire conversation below. Then click here for Part 2 of “Into the Pit” with Arch/Matheos to read Jarzombek’s take on the project.

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Love for Whitesnake no stranger to veteran rockers in Alamo City

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Love for Whitesnake no stranger to veteran rockers in Alamo City

If ever there was a band that rarely strays from the theme of its songs, Whitesnake might be near the top of the list. For nearly four decades, original vocalist David Coverdale has crooned one tune after another about sex, love and . . . well, that pretty much covers it.

No political agendas. No earth-shattering religious messages. No pleas to save the environment. Just good old-fashioned Rock N’ Roll that speaks to various forms of those two main topics — or shall we call them 1A and 1B — while doing so in an entertaining way.

The latest example for the Alamo City came last Wednesday as Whitesnake brought its “Flesh & Blood” tour in support of the forthcoming May 10 album to the Aztec Theatre. While the musicians backing up Coverdale have changed over the years, the current lineup was also on stage during the band’s two previous visits to the Majestic Theatre in 2016 (coverage here) and supporting Coverdale’s remake of classics from his Deep Purple era in 2015 (coverage here).

Veteran guitarists Reb Beach (Winger, Dokken) and Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger) again joined all-world drummer Tommy Aldridge, bassist Michael Devin and keyboardist Michele “The Italian Stallion” Luppi in playing approximately 90 minutes of classics and new material after The Black Moods trio warmed things up with bluesy rockin’ music and bell-bottoms easily influenced by Led Zeppelin (see 46-photo slideshow including setlists below).

Aldridge, the longest-tenured Snake save for Coverdale after joining the band on the 1987 smash self-titled album, continues to amaze with his intense drum solo highlighted by fists of fury that have been his staple dating to his days with Ozzy Osbourne and the late Randy Rhoads. Meanwhile, Coverdale’s voice continues to hold up while he clearly does less talking to the crowd to save it for the songs, except for introducing his bandmates during new track “Get Up” and classic ballad “Is This Love” on the back end of Aldridge’s solo (ATM footage of all below).

Even more surprising than Whitesnake unveiling a whopping five songs from an album that was still more than three weeks away from being released — “Get Up,” “Hey You (You Make Me Rock),” “Gonna Be Alright” and new singles “Trouble Is Your Middle Name” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me” (ATM Facebook Live footage here) — was Coverdale’s complete omission of fan favorite and highly successful 1989 album Slip of the Tongue. While the title track’s duration of high-octane vocals might put a little too much strain on Coverdale’s throat these days, “Judgment Day” and “The Deeper The Love” snuck into the set on recent visits. This time, however, the record was completely and inexplicably ignored with only Flesh & Blood, the self-titled effort and 1984’s Slide It In being represented among Whitesnake’s 13-album arsenal.

Nevertheless, Whitesnake has always been about putting fun into the sex and Rock N’ Roll. From the strains of “Here I Go Again” to “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and “Slow N’ Easy” that left out the sultry introductory portion, the lit-up smiles and dance moves of those especially attractive in the crowd again indicated Coverdale’s powerful hold among the female species.

Consider it straightforward mission accomplished again. In the stylings of the Snake. And in the still of the night.

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Rock veterans of Oyster Bake treat thousands to shell of a fun time

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Rock veterans of Oyster Bake treat thousands to shell of a fun time

For more than a century, the Fiesta Oyster Bake has been bringing musical entertainment of various genres, dizzying carnival rides and games, wine tasting and copious amounts of food to a two-day festival as a scholarship fund-raiser for St. Mary’s University and the official kickoff to the city’s annual 11-day Fiesta extravaganza.

This year, Fiesta morphed into 18 days due to today’s Easter Sunday falling in the middle of the party.

In the past half decade, gradual signs of Oyster Bake traditions trimming down or being cut out entirely have reared their head. Wine tasting went by the wayside on Friday nights. Places where stages once existed are now fenced off. Then there was the unthinkable that occurred last weekend: the disappearance of shelled oysters (thereby relegating the lone presence of oysters at the Oyster Bake coming in the form of shots).

But one thing’s for certain. The rock music will never die at the Bake. And while the heavy bands that perform at the Bake are predominantly in the style of those repeatedly played on 99.5-KISS FM, with a few coming back every other year, the Oyster Bake’s tradition continues to draw thousands from around the country partaking in a festival that many other cities wish they could revel in (see 62-photo slideshow below).

Headlined by Seether and preceded by 10 Years, Red Sun Rising, Dirty Honey and for the first time, local rockers Jessikill, this year’s rock stage again accomplished what it always sets out to do — rock people’s asses off in a family-oriented atmosphere.

Backed by a virtually cloudless day in the mid-70s that saw temperatures quickly drop to a windy 50s prior to the headliners taking the stage, this year’s collection of bands delivered the goods in fine fashion. Puddle Of Mudd, a band often filled with drama causing show cancellations or walk-offs as usually centered around frontman Wes Scantlin, was supposed to play the Bake for the first time since 2010. But alas, a cancellation of a different kind — the band being unable to fly out of snowy Sioux City, Iowa, the night before — altered the set times of the early bands and made for longer intermission periods until Red Sun Rising came on 90 minutes later than scheduled at Puddle Of Mudd’s original time of 5:30 p.m.

With two albums and an EP behind them, Red Sun Rising made its first visit since the 2017 Oyster Bake. They dominated their set, wisely so, with the brilliance of debut album Polyester Zeal on tracks such as opener “Imitation,” “The Otherside,” “Emotionless,” “Amnesia” and “Push.”

If you were to determine the bands that typically play San Antonio more frequently than any others, they’d likely be Saxon, Chevelle and 10 Years. Not necessarily in that order.

Not only did 10 Years return following Oyster Bake visits in 2014 and 2016, they were at the Rock Box two months ago celebrating a decade of Division. This time, a mixed set delighted the crowd that was either there to rock or mingle and drink with friends as thousands explored the grounds that also included Tejano, R&B and country music stages one night after Starship headlined the ‘80s era evening.

10 Years stole the show in terms of enthusiasm and playing to the fans as vocalist Jesse Hasek bodysurfed his way into the throng on three different songs. More than any musician, Hasek put the men in blue — which unlike recent Bakes comprised most of the law enforcement presence rather than county sheriffs that have been known to not take kindly to moshers and body surfers — to work as they quickly approached the barrier each time and ensured everyone’s safety.

“San Antonio, you have something really special here,” Hasek said when he was back to standing upright on stage. “We will gladly do this again and again and again.” Truer words may never have been spoken.

Seether, meanwhile, had the honor of being the featured attraction but the unlucky fate of seeing temperatures rattle many in attendance due to a brisk night wind by the time they hit at 9:15 p.m. Nevertheless, “Stoke the Fire” opened the set and was soon accompanied by fan favorites “Gasoline,” “Rise Above This,” “Broken,” “Fine Again,” “Words as Weapons” and the tune whose video was filmed in nearby Boerne — “Country Song.”

Often alternating between the trio of frontman Shaun Morgan, bassist Dale Stewart — both of South Africa — and drummer and Oklahoma native John Humphrey — and a quartet, Seether recently added Corey Lowery on guitar. Lowery, formerly of Seether touring partners Saint Asonia, is the brother of Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery. Watch my 2015 chat with Lowery and Saint Asonia vocalist Adam Gontier for AXS.com here, plus conversations with Stewart and Humphrey.

Whether the Oyster Bake continues to recycle some of its rock acts or do away with some traditions in the future is secondary compared to the festival existing at all in grand form. While we may not be around for another 103 years to appreciate that many subsequent ones, you can’t beat the enjoyment of roasted corn, burgers, chalupas, chicken on a stick or chocolate-covered strawberries in one hand while holding high your horns with the other as long as you still can.

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Scars embraced, Godsmacked and stitched up while raising rockin' awareness

Comment

Scars embraced, Godsmacked and stitched up while raising rockin' awareness

No matter the music genre, there are concert acts that focus on having nothing but fun. Others emphasize political or religious agendas whether you the paying customer like it or not. But in 2019, the hard rock and metal landscape is trending toward having a rockin’ good time while shedding light on vital components of life.

And that’s not exactly a bad thing.

The latest instance came last Tuesday at Freeman Coliseum when Godsmack played the second night of its U.S. tour with Stitched Up Heart before an estimated 3,500 fans at Freeman Coliseum. For all of Godsmack’s heavy older tunes and its newer tracks that tip the scale toward the commercial hard rock side, it was a piano offering that yielded the most important part of the evening.

Announcing his new Scars Foundation, Godsmack vocalist/guitarist/drum battler/pianist (is there anything he can’t do?) and leader Sully Erna introduced new track “Under Your Scars” by revealing an organization focused on something much more useful than preaching — raising awareness of mental health issues such as depression, suicide prevention, post traumatic stress disorder and bullying (more details here). The song is also arguably the most meaningful one on latest album When Legends Rise, for which Godsmack was making its latest San Antonio visit nearly a year to the day of the record’s release that coincided with serving as the theme song to World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Greatest Royal Rumble” pay-per-view event last April 27 in Saudi Arabia (ATM footage and 50-photo slideshow below).

But the serious tone of Godsmack’s ballad didn’t mean the group had lost its touch on rocking out or Erna forgetting how to be silly. When he wasn’t bragging about his hair gel, Erna was encouraging the guys in the crowd to place their significant others atop their shoulders for 1000hp track “Something Different.” Without losing stride, Erna added to his various forms of talent by declaring “I see boobies” when the more daring females decided to flash him.

During previous area visits such as the 2014 Uproar Festival in Corpus Christi, Godsmack had a frustrating knack for opening with mellow tracks such as “Generation Day” (coverage here). Ironically, while touring in support of its mellowest album, Godsmack got the memo to come out with fists pumping on the title tracks to When Legends Rise and 1000hp. The latter is normally accompanied by bursts of flames when Erna bellows “Turn. That. Shit. Up. Louder.” Alas, unlike its neighboring AT&T Center, the Freeman doesn’t allow for pyrotechnics. Those songs were followed by the Erna-penned tune widely believed to be about Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx in “Cryin’ Like a Bitch.”

While Godsmack’s set was fairly similar to its 2017 River City Rockfest visit save for the new tunes (coverage here), such as including mainstays “Straight Out of Line,” “Voodoo,” “The Enemy” and traditional closer “I Stand Alone” (setlist below), they did shake things up a bit. Longtime fans’ knowledge was tested when the band segeued first-album classic “Keep Away” into an instrumental jam of the last half of the debut album’s opening number “Moon Baby.”

But of course, the favorite part of any Godsmack concert continues to be Erna’s drum battle with Shannon Larkin better known as “Batalla de los Tambores.” With Larkin’s drum kit coming to the forefront of the stage, Erna’s own kit appeared from behind a curtain and perched itself next to Larkin’s as the duo matched one another with various beats and riffs including Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as joined by lead guitarist Tony Rombola and bassist Robbie Merrill (ATM footage below). As is also Godsmack’s tradition, the batalla gave way to a very extended version of “Whatever” as Erna kept up his custom of motivating the fans by telling them if they were loud enough to his liking, he would go to the next city of Beaumont and tell them “they are a bunch of goddamn pussies” compared to San Antonio. Of course, Erna likely said the same thing about the Alamo City during the tour kickoff in Arizona. But who’s keeping score?

Support act Stitched Up Heart wasn’t immune from displaying its importance either. Living the dream by opening for Godsmack, frontwoman Alecia “Mixi” Demner — who used to deliver pizzas before rocking out in arenas — guitarist Merritt Goodwin, bassist Randy Mathias and drummer James Decker mixed tracks from 2016 debut Never Alone with those scheduled to appear on this fall’s sophomore effort (ATM Facebook Live footage here).

The day after the concert, Stitched Up Heart released “Lost” as a new single featuring Erna helping out on vocals (listen here). While it would’ve been a special treat to see the two team up live, that didn’t happen. Nevertheless, the track is Stitched Up Heart’s version of inspiring those who struggle with mental issues.

“ ‘Lost’ is about being trapped inside your mind and struggling against yourself to see the light,” Demner says in a press release. “Sully and I had been trying to work on something together for awhile, and I’m so grateful that we were able to collaborate on this. It turned out even better than I imagined, and I’m so excited to share it as the first taste of our new music.”

With a little bit of luck and plenty of fortitude, perhaps other metal bands will follow Godsmack’s and Stitched Up Heart’s lead by using their platform to let their fans new and old know how they can improve the lives of their own friends, family members and themselves amidst their personal difficulties. Rocking out to a slew of songs for three hours in addition to that would merely be the icing on the cake.

GODSMACK SETLIST: When Legends Rise, 1000hp, Cryin’ Like a Bitch, Say My Name, Straight Out of Line, Awake, Unforgettable, Something Different, Keep Away (segueing into last half of "Moon Baby”), The Enemy, Voodoo, Batalla de los Tambores (drum battle), Whatever, Under Your Scars, Bulletproof, Come Together, I Stand Alone