IDLES Gives Incredible Performance in Nashville on First US Tour

Having experienced this show, I would now comfortably say that IDLES is the best band in rock music today.

     Jack White once said of rock stars, “they get the freedom to have the highest of each emotions.” On September 28th in Nashville, IDLES brought that description to life in a fascinating way.

   The openers, a post-punk outfit called Bambara, gave quite a performance to kick off the night. The group’s lead singer lurked to and fro across the front of the stage with an almost Morrison-esque energy as the lead guitarist brutally beat his instrument off of speakers, pillars, and the ground, creating very unique tones that fit shockingly well with the band’s atmosphere. The set ran about an hour long, and was consistently loud, driving, and exciting, which is all one can ask of an opener.

IMG_1383   After a quick turnover, IDLES took the stage, though most of them her already there helping their crew put finishing touches on their stage set. They chose “Colossus” as an opener, an excellent choice as the driving rhythm and low timbre made for an ominous start. I was standing in the front row of the nice, but rather cramped High Watt in Nashville, and it was during the explosive final seconds of this song that this fact became relevant as I was rocked and shoved all about by the fantastic crowd.

   The bulk of the set was taken from the their recent project, Joy as an Act of Resistance, my favorite album of 2018 so far, with a few notable exceptions. The first of these was “Mother,” which was brutal, loud, and singable all at once, as were later call backs to 2017’s Brutalism, “Heel/Heal,” “1049 Gotho,” and the best of all “Well Done,” which fell near the end. While Joy is certainly the better album and it’s topics are so prescient, there is something so quintessentially punk about those older tracks which makes them musts for any set the band plays.

   While most of the show was raucous and loud, the group did slow it down to some extent, especially with “Love Song,” which even elicited a few chuckles with it’s funnier lines while delivering its message of the dangers of masculinity in relationships quite well.

IMG_1379   Aside from song selection, there was much to be appreciated in the group’s performance, and particularly their disregard for traditional concert etiquette. This, of course, began with the decision help the crew with set up and start the show without an official walk out and ended with the lack of an encore, which was replaced with a long track in which the group pulled crowd members on stage and allowed them to play the instruments. In the following and final song, each band member walked off the stage one by one leaving a ringing distortion behind.

   Between these examples, lead guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kierman very nearly stole the show from their frontman as the former bounced across the stage mimicking Flamenco dances and kick lines throughout and the latter consistently climbed into the crowd and played much of the show from the center of the moshpit. Near the end of the show, both guitarists left the stage and stood on bars on either side of the venue, dancing and playing as the crowd’s attention was divided between them and the rest of the group on stage.

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   Above all, however, vocalist Joe Talbot’s work at the front of this group can only be described as powerful. His voice was gritty, her screams were brutal, and he moved explosively across the stage all night. He would often toss the microphone behind his back, tugging the XLR cable across his neck like a noose, followed by hugging his bandmates as they played, reaching into the rabid crowd, and even punching himself in the face during a few songs. His performance is evocative of a Johnny Rotten or Kurt Cobain and it served as the perfect centerpiece to a fantastic show.

  Joy as an Act of Resistance is easily one of the most important albums of the year, and I was very fortunate for the opportunity to see this band on this tour. Having experienced this show, I would now comfortably say that IDLES is the best band in rock music today.

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Jason Isbell Rocks the Stifel Theatre

Jason Isbell is, easily one of the most talented artists of our generation and though that comes through in spades on his studio work, an entirely new dimension is gained when he performs.

     Jason Isbell needs little introduction, especially to longtime Brendon’s Beats readers, so I’ll try my best to keep it brief. Country outlaw, guitar shredder, ex Drive-By Trucker, and songwriting extraordinaire, Jason Isbell once again rocked the Stifel Theatre on Monday night. This is the second time Isbell and The 400 Unit have visited to Stifel Theatre, though it was known as the Peabody Opera House the first time, on their Nashville Sound tour.

   Communist Daughter was stood in as an opening act, and gave a respectable effort. The Minnesota natives played for roughly an hour, and while some of the tracks seemed to bleed together, the set was a rather enjoyable experience, especially driven by excellent harmonies between lead singers Johnny Solomon and Molly More. The mix was very impressive and the lighting added quite a bit to the groups atmospheric instrumentals and the closing track was quite impressive.

   They quickly faded from memory, however, when Jason and the band took the stage. I’ll start by speaking to shortcomings, what few there are. There were a few technical issues, which mostly seemed to be monitor related. This manifested itself a few times on tracks like “24 Frames,” and “Hope the High Road,” which fell very early in the set and suffered from a few timing issues because of these issues. Regardless, the band was extremely tight, and solved these issues quickly. Amanda Shires was unable to make it to the show thanks to her own, very successful tour and while her absence was felt, guitarist Sadler Vaden picked up the slack on the harmony vocals. Now, to the highlights.

   This was easily one of the best live shows I’ve seen in quite awhile, and the better of the two times I’ve seen the group on this tour. The group opened with “Go It Alone,” an interesting choice, but it set the tone quite well before being immediately eclipsed by an excellent performance of “Molotov,” a track which has done nothing but grow on me since The Nashville Sound’s release.

   Following the slight technical issues, they slowed down a bit with “Relatively Easy,” and a very moving performance of “Speed Trap Town.” This track was interrupted by Jason when he noticed a fan in the front few rows recording him, but after a playful “hey Siri, stop recording,” the rest of the song went off without a hitch.

   The band sped back up for “Super 8,” and “White Man’s World,” each of which was well performed, though a bit underwhelming.

   After this, however, the even stronger second half of the set got underway with what may have been the highlight of the night, “Goddamn Lonely Love.” This is a song which was debuted a decade and a half ago with the Drive-By Truckers, and the many years showed as Jason took many liberties with the vocal melodies and taking a break in the bridge for a fantastic guitar solo, reminding the audience that, in addition to his powerful vocal and once in a lifetime lyrical abilities, he’s also an amazing guitarist.

   “Elephant,” followed, which was worked as a simplistic, acoustic ballad, and quickly quieted the room before bringing the mood up a bit with “Last of My Kind.” The latter ended with an interesting fade out, something not often done live.

   “Cumberland Gap,” turned the tempo up after this, and was followed by “Tupelo,” a personal favorite which was done to perfection. Vaden’s ear for lead guitar was especially appreciated here, accenting every open space with short, well placed melodies.

   “Cover Me Up,” was incredible, as expected, though the first verse was interrupted by Isbell noticing, once again, that a fan in the front row was recording his performance. This was met by a less playful response, which ended with “if you just want to watch me on your phone, you can do that from home, it’s a lot cheaper. I’ll just start over.” He then restarted the song to loud applause. Even more intriguing, the song was ended with a loud, jamming outro which was quite a satisfying finish to the performance, which Isbell dedicated to his wife.

   “Stockholm,” and “Flying Over Water,” were, as usual, very well performed and expected on the set list, though everyone was surprised when “Children of Children,” got the nod as the closer for the first set. This is one of the few Isbell songs which isn’t nearly done justice by it’s studio version, but it is quite the live track. The sepia lighting was an excellent choice by the production team, the miniature guitar battle between Jason and Vader was fantastic, and the crashing finish left the crowd begging for more.

   The encore was rather short. It opened with another highlight of the night, a loud and energetic performance of “Never Gonna Change,” another longtime hit from his Truckers days. The final piece of the night was “If We Were Vampires,” which is an obvious choice as his most commercially successful song to date, but not the perfect closer.

   Overall, this show was fantastic. Jason’s years with the Drive-By Truckers, an infamously incredible touring act, and subsequent long career has made him a workhorse in the studio and on the road, and with the very tight and talented 400 Unit behind him, he delivers an experience which is nearly unparalleled, even by his outlaw country contemporaries.

   Jason Isbell is, easily one of the most talented artists of our generation and though that comes through in spades on his studio work, an entirely new dimension is gained when he performs.

SETLIST: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/jason-isbell-and-the-400-unit/2018/stifel-theatre-st-louis-mo-3be99c68.html

My Top 5 Shows From Rock on the Range 2018

5. Pray For SleepSunday

PFS   Skipping graduation to play your fourth show ever at the biggest rock festival in America is, to put it lightly, badass. On top of that, Pray for Sleep killed this set. Musically PFS was tight and heavy, yet often melodic, but the real highlight was the performance itself. The group was noticeably  ecstatic about the opportunity and made the most of it with one powerful song after another. Front man, Cameron Dickinson gave an especially energetic performance, and I couldn’t help but enjoy the pure excitement from the crowd, a few of whom were wearing their graduation robes.

4. Breaking BenjaminFriday

breaking_benjamin   Headed into this set, I was slightly wary of the “cock-rock” style, and what it may mean for a live performance, but Breaking Benjamin knew exactly what they were doing and how to work a massive crowd. The inescapability of their music actually played to their favor in this case, as every single member of the audience, including people like me, who have never cared for their work, new every word.They didn’t take themselves overly seriously and allowed everyone to have a good time singing along to one guilty pleasure hit after another.

3. Code OrangeSunday

 Code-Orange  This show opened with pure, distorted noise, bassist Joe Goldman climbing into the crowd and screaming in my face-I was in the front row, and drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan screaming “We are f**king Code Orange and this f**king place is mine!” This is all before they’ve played a single actual note. The group went on to give one of the heaviest performances I’ve ever heard, utilizing tight, slugging guitar riffs and near constant tempo changes to electrify a previously dull crowd and very nearly starting a full fledged riot in the mosh pit. When they finally ended their set with their best known hit, “Forever,” the crowd lost their minds, having seen, by far, the heaviest set of the festival. I would be shocked if Code Orange didn’t make the MainStage next year, where they just might be able to start an actual riot.

2. Greta Van FleetFriday

Greta   The surprise hit of the weekend, Greta came onto the MainStage with a strong enough word of mouth buzz to fill the main arena to almost headliner capacity at half-past-three, but without a single recognizable hit or well versed fan among the massive crowd. When young rockers took the stage, they seemed a bit shaken by the size of their audience, but from the first strum of the guitar, they held the massive crowd in the palm of their hand with a rockstar performance, catchy, Zeppelin-esque music, and Josh Kiszka’s other worldly voice. The band set a precedent early on in the week which wouldn’t be matched by anyone, including headliners. That is, until Sunday night.

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Stone Temple PilotsSunday

Three Days GraceSaturday

Stone SourSaturday

A Perfect CircleFriday

Asking AlexandriaSaturday

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1. ToolSunday

   With a set that mostly consisted of older hits and featured almost nothing newer than Ǽnima, one of the best rock bands of all time blew away a sold out crowd at the biggest rock festival in America. Tool opted not to allow ROTR to video them, so you likely won’t be able to find much of it online, but they also kept their own faces off of the larger screens, using them instead to show clips from their music videos cut in with newer videos which were presumably made for this show.Tool

   Musically, what is their to say? Maynard’s voice was fantastic, showing no signs of ware from his previous set with A Perfect Circle, Adam Jones wielded, by far, the loudest guitar I’ve ever heard with pure skill, Justin Chancellor’s bass work was excellent, and a bit more melodic than usual, and Danny Carey, one of the best drummers to ever live, was his usual self. The hits sounded as excellent as they always have, and the long instrumental passages seemed to be constantly evolving and left no downtime, as one would expect from a band who’s been writing together off and on for the last twelve years.

   I spent this whole weekend seeing fantastic bands play amazing sets, and each time the bar was raised, I thought to myself, “Wow, and Tool is going to be even better than that.” They, of course, didn’t disappoint.