Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:12 pm

A few days ago I mused that those who decided to ride out the storm were idiots, and that rescuers shouldn’t risk their lives to rescue them. That was before I got out of the box of my own comfortable life far enough to realise that some poor people just didn’t have the resources – a car, the price of a bus or plane ticket – to get out of the city. It wasn’t a dumb choice (in most cases), it was a sad economic reality that kept them there.

And just to confirm that I absolutely had my head u…. erm, that I was deeply deluded, I was horrifed to find I was on the same side as Senator Rick Santorum:

And Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., suggested that the residents of New Orleans who failed to escape the flood should be punished. “I mean, you have people who don’t heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.”

Reality, dude – I tried it, now you have to.

Gigantour Edmonton Review

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:47 am

Dave Mustaine’s travelling noise carnival came to Edmonton last night, and a good time was had by all. Several of the bands on the bill expressed delight that Anthrax joined the tour on this show, and some not so subtlely suggested that they were glad to see the back of Dream Theater, the other headline band who had left the tour (as planned) after the Toronto show.

One of the issues that might have cost Gigantour listeners, and has certainly coloured most of the other reviews I’ve read, is the mixed bag of bands Dave put together. He’s said his intention was to get people with awesome musicianship, and that’s great, but it ended up pretty much splitting the audience down the middle between fans of the more prog(ressive), melodic type bands like Symphony X, Nevermore and Dream Theater and the more extreme thrash and hardcore-influenced ones like Bobaflex, Fear Factory and Anthrax. Megadeth, Mustaine’s own band, can kind of fit in the middle of those camps, but it’s tended to lead to a crowd in which half is disatisfied almost all the time: the prog-kids (of all ages) grimace at the extreme stuff and the headbangers laugh at the twiddly stuff. I enjoy both kinds of music, so I’ll try to do justice to each, but Dave might want to think of tightening the format a little if Gigantour goes again next year…

The show started at 4:00, although it was advertised as 4:30 on the ticket and everywhere else, and Sue was teaching until 4:45 anyway, so we arrived at about 5:00. We may have been too late and missed Dry Kill Logic and Symphony X, or one or the other may have just not played in Edmonton.

Bobaflex were playing when we arrived. I hadn’t expected to enjoy them, just based on descriptions I’d read on the web and other reviews, but was pleasantly surprised. I guess they fit in the numetal category, but they often made me think of Faith No More, and that’s a good thing. They had three vocalists singing various parts, from the screamed and roared to the melodic and the falsetto, lots of energy and lots of dynamics and tempo changes. I suspect if I look up their lyrics they’re not a band whose CDs I’ll buy – the singer announced one song as being “dedicated to those unable to maintain an erection due to too much cocaine” – but they rocked hard and were entertaining, and were a pleasant surprise.

, on the other hand, were a bit of a disappointment. I think this was due to two factors: (1) Recognising that this was more of a headbanging crowd, they confined themselves to their faster/harder songs, and played them as fast as possible, so there was little light and shade, just a continuous undifferentiated roar and (2) They were mixed really badly – the lead guitar and vocals were completely buried beneath the avalanche of lightning double-kick drumming, bass and rhythm guitar. Warrel Dane has a great voice, and they have some great lyrics, and Jeff Loomis and Steve Smyth are total shred-meisters on guitar, but all that was lost in the roar… pity. Oh, and given that they all had pretty much waistlength manes of long hair for synchronized headbanging and ‘helicopters’, Suzie suggested that maybe that’s the criterion they use to audition members…

Life of Agony were another pleasant surprise. With only one guitar, bass, drums and a singer, and a lot more dynamics, and better mixing, their sound just seemed so much more open, rocking and full of air. Maybe it’s just that second-stage bands try harder, but so far in the night they’d been the most impressive. Life of Agony was pretty much just good old straight ahead metal-tinged hard rock, and very good at what they do, with an excellent singer with great range.

Fear Factory
were the highlight of the night for me. For Suzie not so much – Burton C. Bell’s screams, roars, shouts and occassional bursts of melody can tend to give people sore throats just by empathy, and it’s not really her thing… But man, they were intense, they were precise, their sound was huge. Fear Factory used various recorded sounds both as backdrops to songs (clips from movies and so on – Megadeth also did some of that) but also as extra instruments for the 4-piece band – some keyboards or turntables as needed. The switch of Christian Olde Wolbers from bass to guitar when Dino Cazares left the band seems not to have hurt them, although I never got to see them with Dino… (I had actually planned to see them in Perth a few years ago, but Burton’s throat gave out partway through the Australian tour and they had to cancel. Not hard to see why – he certainly gives it a workout.) Burton was amazing at working the crowd – you’d think it would be harder with such intense, aggressive music, but he stood high on a riser and leaned down over the crowd, projecting everything he did, and got lots of call-and-response. Just an intense, loud, hard metal show.

– what can you say when the classic mid-80s line-up of Anthrax is back together and taking the stage by storm? They were Suzie’s favourite – Joey Belladona does it all from Bruce Dickinson-style long screams to melodic singing to yelling, and the band were tight and intense but just looked like they were having a huge amount of fun playing together. A problem I had intermittently all night reared its head here, and it must have been much worse for Suzie all night (she’s a saint for accompanying me and hanging in there!): we didn’t know all the songs all that well. I knew most of the old Anthrax stuff because I used to listen to it in the 80s, but I’ve listened to the John Bush (replacement singer) era stuff much more in the past few years – I don’t even have a CD of the old stuff. And – I guess it makes sense since it was the old band – all they played was the old stuff. No complaints, they played all the hits – Caught In A Mosh, I’m The Man, I Am The Law, Indians, Metal Thrashing Mad, and lots more – it was just that this was the less familiar stuff for me. Probably shoulda bought up a couple of the old albums when we bought the tickets a few months ago.

Charlie Benante is one of the most intense drummers in the business – he’s fast and uses the double-kick, but the sound is just really clear and varied and differentiated. Frank Bello on bass is about the same age as the rest of the guys, but seems 10 years younger (not that the others seem that old), bounding around the stage like a lanky kid, stirring up the crowd and just having fun. Danny Spitz – oops, sorry, apparently it’s ‘Daniel’ now – left the band 12 years ago or so and stopped playing altogether to study watchmaking for 8 years (well, Anthrax did have an album called ‘The Persistence of Time’!) He’s back, and playing as though he’d never left. Doesn’t move around a lot, just shreds, and does it well. And he doesn’t really need to move around that much or the stage would be a collision zone, with Bello and the hyperactive metal-gnome Scott Ian (rhythm guitar) jumping and thrashing and racing around. Joey’s a great singer (some of his crowd-inciting antics with a baseball cap that he kept teasing to throw into the crowd were a little cheesy, but that’s forgivable), and it was a great show.

Well, I know they say ‘If it’s too loud, you’re too old’. I don’t think I’m too old (although I did stay in a seat and out of the mosh pit!), but Megadeth, although they played a great show, definitely verged on being too loud. Not that I don’t like loud, ye ken, but a big part of the appeal of Megadeth is that clarity and articulation: on their albums you can clearly hear every instrument and the way the parts intricately interlock. I’m sure in part it was that my ears were already pretty abused by this time – we arrived at 5:00 and the ‘Deth came on at 9:30 or so, so we’d already had nearly 5 hours of loud metal – but it was also just so loud that it was hard to hear Dave’s vocals and the lead guitars. The show was mixed a lot better than the Nevermore one, but still… Actually, a pair of earplugs would have been perfect1. Suzie actually had some in the car, but we forgot to bring them in. Earplugs just cut the highs and lows and bring out the mids (vocals) a bit more – and they also protect your ears from the support bands to keep them pristine for the headliners! Oh well, next time…

As has been reported in other reviews of this tour, Dave didn’t talk much, just barrelled through a bunch of the hits from the band’s long career at breakneck pace. They were all great, and played with brilliant precision and speed by the band, but a break for a chat or a change of pace would actually have showed off the songs to better advantage – it all started to blur together after a while. The new band (Mustaine is the only constant in the ever-changing Megadeth line-up) were competent but in some ways not very inspiring – I guess Dave himself isn’t that much of a showman, just staying at the mic singing and playing. I dunno – Glenn Drover on guitar is very competent (and that is a high bar with Megadeth’s songs), but doesn’t really move around much or interact with the crowd, and just seems to lack the necessary charisma for a rock star.

It can’t help that he plays all the solos pretty much note-perfect from the albums; so in other words, the new guys are pretty much a cover/tribute band to Megadeth, while being in Megadeth: that has to be kind of bitter-sweet. On the one hand you go from relative obscurity to relative fame, in a band you no doubt listened to all your life. On the other, you have to feel like a hired gun, not creating new stuff but stepping into the shoes of someone else. James McDonough on bass is likewise competent, but hid out of the spotlight at the back of the stage and was pretty much invisible all night, except on the one or two sings with bass intros. Shawn Drover on drums is in a huge, elevated kit, and has his long hair being blown upward by a fan at all times, so he was certainly visible, but still not a lot of charisma.

Over all, the show rocked my socks off (Fear Factory wins!) The tinnitus this morning is letting me know that you only get to do a certain number of these in your life, but I think this one was worth it!

  1. And yes, I am aware of the irony inherent in paying to attend a concert that requires earplugs for proper enjoyment thereof!

Risk Aversion 2

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:12 am

I’ve posted before, here and here, in the wake of the South-east Asian tsunami, about the illusion of perfect safety. Katrina is just another reminder: all the ‘Wars On Terror’1 in the world can’t save you from a hurricane. Anyone selling perfect safety and security is selling an illusion, and we should avoid paying for that illusion with our freedom.

Life is risk: minimise the risk, sure, but don’t forget to live the life as if every day is your last – it might be.

  1. Or, as it’s apparently recently been re-branded, ‘global struggle[s] against violent extremism’.