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LIVE CONCERTS - The Year In Review (Part 1)

Written by: Mark McQueen

A look at the best live sets of 2022

Through the eyes of

The Beard


Little Johnny

In 2022 the concert circuit really came back full scale. There were shows aplenty and metal (of all types) to be seen and listened to. Your author Mark McQueen aka “The Beard”, along with his sidekick, the irrepressible, “Little Johnny” , got to see and review 49 shows and 218 live sets of music this year. Over the next four weeks, we will share with you our top 20% of all these live sets.

Some disclaimers and guidelines:

· This is an opinion piece. My list and viewpoint, (as The Beard) will NOT look like Little Johnny’s. Nor his like mine. That’s the beauty of opinions, everybody has them. Although we will attempt to justify our choices, we ultimately like what we like, and we understand not everyone will agree with our rankings. It’s hoped that our lists will remind you of great shows you may have seen with us or lure you to see other great bands the next time they come around your area.

· This review grades the set, NOT the band as a whole. Great bands can have tough nights and still be great bands. New acts can blow you away the first time you see them, but then not sustain the hype after that. These rankings are based ONLY on how this particular set went.

· Slotting matters. Many reviews were multi day festivals where we watched several bands in one day. It does affect the grade if your bands set just followed a corker (someone who blew the roof off), or if you followed someone who ultimately didn’t deliver the goods. This may not be ideal, but we’re all human and it ultimately does taint the grade sometimes.

· Technical foibles, while often times NOT the bands’ fault, can lower the ranking. We are judging “the set”, (the sound, the lights, the effects, the crowd reaction), all these are being evaluated, and sometimes various items can raise or lower the grade.

· ICON rule is in effect. If you are a major touring band, there are higher expectations than if you are relying on the house soundman and lights. The shittiest Judas Priest set may be better than the best set performed at a 300-seat club, but there is a sliding scale. To quote The Rock “DID…YOU…BRING...IT!!!”

· Lastly, music is fun. We all go to have a good time. If out of 218 bands, you are one of the 174 that “didn’t” make the list, it doesn’t mean we didn’t have a good time. Well…. sometimes it DOES mean that, but mostly it just means you were good and just not amazing on the night we saw you. Don’t get worked up. Reviewers and critics suck anyway. Just enjoy the read.

And now, let us present part one of this series, The top sets of 2022, numbers #44-34 from “The Beard"!!!

#44 Imperial Triumph from April 7th at Reggie’s in Chicago 87.05/100

Imperial Triumph is a Black Metal Band that incorporates discordant jazz into their act. The players dress in masks reminiscent of Game of Thrones-type warriors. There may be a Norse connection here as well. This was my first time seeing this act and their clever and novel take on the black metal genre initially won me over. Admittedly upon a second viewing (at another tour later in the year) the act didn’t hold up as well, but for this set on this day, they get the spot.

#43 MGLA from August 17th at Psychofest Las Vegas 87.08/100

This year Psychofest Vegas delivered the black metal European acts in plenty. This act from Krakow Poland does not tour the USA, so this was definitely the first and possibly the only time I will get to have seen them. Although, like some other black metal acts, MGLA have been accused of antisemitic associations, I don’t know that to be a fact, and this isn’t about politics just the musical set I watched. Low lit and without much effect or fanfare, MGLA gave us the aura of COLD and DARK in their set. A unique first time look at this 20-year act.

#42 Motley Crue from July 17th at Brewers Stadium in Milwaukee Wisconsin 87.10/100

Without a doubt the largest show I attended all year. The Crue tour packed in just over 36,000 fans that day. Originally purchased as a gift for my wife in 2019, (she passed away from cancer in 2021 and unfortunately never got to see The Crue that one last time), I have never been all that much of a Motley Crue fan and my review, (available here in the Mighty Decibel archives) was, I believe, sufficiently tough, but fair. As I said though, it is about the set itself and since her memory was strong with me that night yes, I am placing it on the list.

#41 Destruction from May 6th at Reggie’s in Chicago 87.15/100

This was my first-time seeing Destruction and their thrash metal chaos in a live setting. I have been to a LOT of Metal shows in my life, but this had to be a top 10 lifetime PIT experience. Reggie’s is general admission, and that floor was moving during Destruction's songs. At my current age, I am smart enough to remain outside the PIT area when seeing such bands, but that night there was no “outside the PIT” area. The entire club was the PIT. I actually think I witnessed bartenders ducking bodies moshing atop the bar. Quite the memorable moment and worthy of inclusion on this year’s list.

#40 Molder from April 8th Blades of Steel Festival in Milwaukee Wisconsin 87.20/100

Molder are a group of somewhat local death metal’ers hailing from the Joliet/Shorewood area of Illinois. (About 50 miles south of the Beard). Although I certainly saw a LOT of death metal this year, these guys also infused thrash and first wave black metal into their songs, creating a new sound out of old parts. I got to see Molder twice this year and they stood up to the test both times, easily being one of the top bands at both festivals they were a part of. This was a case of just plain liking the look, the sound, and the energy of their sets.

#39 Narcotic Wasteland from October 14th at The Arcada in St. Charles, Illinois 87.25

As my sponsor site MightyDecibel scored me some all-access passes for this show, I was able to very briefly meet and speak to Dallas-Toler-Wade (former guitarist for NILE and current leader of this band). Those few minutes though allowed me an insight into what I was about to witness being performed and in turn THAT made the show memorable. This wasn’t just another death metal act. In understanding comes appreciation and it was that lucky opportunity that made this set a member of the 2022 best of list. What I can say about Narcotic Wasteland is to both “listen to them on CD” and “go see them live.”

#38 Rotting Christ from August 21 Psychofest, Las Vegas 87.3/100

The final act of Psychofest 2022, this Greek black metal act was once again an opportunity to see live a longstanding powerhouse in the blackened world that just doesn’t get to the USA much. Unlike many in the sub-genre, Rotting Christ interacts with the audience and makes THEM a part of the show. Pits and craziness abounded, but despite their inclusion on the year end list, I may STILL have sold them a bit short as after four days and over 40 bands that weekend, I WAS running on empty by the time they hit the stage. Still, an outstanding set.

#37 Lacuna Coil from September 23rd at The Forge in Joliet Illinois 87.4/100

Although it had been almost 20-years since I had seen this Italian act that is part gothic, part progressive and part alternative metal, they still impressed. Giving up some of their soaring operatic range numbers for a dirtier growling take on the same music, the set featured a lot of revamped songs from the Comalies release that took them from lost in the shuffle to one of the icons of their genre back in 2002. Singer Christina Scabbia can still sing quite well and at the time I remarked that perhaps Coils 2022 set accurately reflected the way times themselves have soured this world over the last two decades. Lacuna Coil allowed me a metaphor to think on after the show, and THAT helped them make this year’s top sets list.

#36 Accept from October 14th at the Arcada Theater in Saint Charles Illinois, 87.50/100

Hailing from the same night as our recent #39 entry, this was a great night of metal in a smaller venue. Although Accept has been plying their German AC/DC-type act for over 40 years now, the group showed little signs of slowing down (at least that night) and power-housed their way through a collection of both old and new Accept numbers. Showing some great stage choreography and the smoothness of a well-worn world touring act, Accept took me back in time to the 80’s while still giving me new and current numbers to enjoy. This was a great night for metal music.

#35 GWAR From June 7th at The Forge in Joliet Illinois 87.55/100

GWAR is one of those bands that EVERYONE needs to see at least once in their lifetime. The over-the-top blood and gore spectacle that has the stranded space monsters killing and fucking everything in sight is a blood and semen-soaked romp. Sparing no names from their debauchery, over the decades I’ve seen GWAR symbolically executing Presidents, Premiers, Popes, and Pop Stars with equal aplomb. We’re all just meat to GWAR and every so often that’s just the dose of equality we all need.

#34 Frozen Soul from August 21st at Psychofest Vegas 87.6/100

Wrapping up part one for the Beard were these death metal’ers from Texas. Coming from such a hot climate, these guys merged death metal with the iciness of second wave black metal. The combination was both chilling AND pit generating. Like an ice zombie rumble. I definitely didn’t expect to like these guys on paper, but THAT is why you go to the shows. Sometimes there’s quite a surprise about to hit the stage. This was one of those bands for me. Memorable and fitting to wrap up part one of my best of sets odyssey.

Read on to see Little Johnny’s list and remember to check out Mighty Decibel each week to catch the rest of the countdown.

The Beard

Little Johnny’s Part one list

Best sets of 2022

So, I ain’t gonna say much. You already probably want to hang yourself from reading all that stuff Beard wrote. He’s a cool dude and all, but it’s not like we get paid by the word here.

Beard takes this stuff so seriously. It’s metal man and getting out there on the floor with fellow bangers, knocking heads, surfing the crowd, stage diving when possible…that’s my jam. Have a good time, drink a few IPAs, and rock the mother@%#*ing house, right?

So, I usually dig a heavier act than Beard does, but sometimes slower is cool too. Life is short. Today is just here today man, so have a good time.

Anyway, here my list #44-34. I ain’t putting no numbers. They all rocked.

#44 Speed Pussy 5/27 Magoos in Bridgeport

Cool act. They let me drink out of a guitar beer-bong.

#43 Old Blood 3/20 Reggie’s in Chicago

Rocking psychedelic act. Chick singer named Lynx (I guess like the cat or something). Guitar player came off the stage and jammed in the crowd. That was cool!

#42 Deathchant 8/20 Psychofest Vegas

First day at the pool stage. I moshed like a mother#%$@er to these guys. I think I fell asleep after though. IPA’s hit harder when its almost 100 degrees out.

#41 UADA 4/19 the Forge in Joliet

Dudes all came out in total black outfits, masks, hoods. It was some evil $%@# man. They jammed it though. Awesome stuff!

#40 Cancer Christ 8/20 Psychofest Vegas

Woah dude! These crazy guys were dressed like creatures out of a Mad Max movie, except the singer was this preacher guy and there were like Nuns and stuff roaming around the crowd with signs like "God hates cops" and stuff. That show was just freaky man. Lot of crazy #$&! happened at that one.

#39 Squid Hammer 4/8 Blades of Steel Fest Milwaukee

So, like it’s the opening band and I wasn’t expecting much cause it was you know the opener and they had just this ordinary chick up there singing, and then she starts getting all like that little girl in that horror movie, man. You know where her head spins around and she’s like always swearing and stuff with that voice. Yeah, so anyway this chick starts singing like that and it was awesome, man. One of the best opening bands of the year.

#38. Midnight 8/20 Psychofest Las Vegas

Man, that was a day! Three bands from that day on my first list. So, this was another of those bands that come out in the all black, except these guys were less evil and more like thrash type stuff. Still, they tore that stage up. I think they were like the night one headliner or something. At least I think Beard said that. Anyway, they rocked.

#37 Goatwhore 6/7 at The Forge in Joliet

I love these dudes! That singer is so tall and evil and #%@$. They play fast, sing fast, and tear it up from first to last number. I always love it when Goatwhore are on the bill.

#36 Ghost 2/18 All State Arena Chicago

So, here’s the thing…these guys look all evil. I mean the singer's like this Satanic Pope and stuff and the players are all masked up and they sing all these evil songs about Satan, except they are almost like pop songs. I mean they’re catchy and sing-along kind of songs. It was a weird adjustment, but by the end I was really digging them.

#35 Whiplash 4/8 Blades of Steel Milwaukee

So, Beard says these dudes are like from the 80’s or something. I don’t know cause like I wasn’t born then. He was probably right cause the singer was grey and stuff like Beard is, but man, they sure didn’t sing or play old. These dudes lit up that stage. Thrash songs I never heard before, but really cool the way he could sing all low AND high and the guitar player was blazing man. A really cool act I never heard of before.

#34 Shadow Witch 6/20 Doomfest Maryland

This dude was wild! He wears like this preacher’s cloak, but not a fancy one or nothing. Just like something they wore in like Bible times. He looks like a wild-eyed prophet or hippie or something, and he dances around the stage barefoot, man. I don’t know how he doesn’t cut his feet up doing that, but, man, I was into his set. We talked afterwards and he told me some intense #@&$ man. We did smoke some funny cigarettes though, so maybe that’s why it sounded so weird to me, and I think I gave him my shoes.

Anyways, that’s my list for this week. I guess I’ll be back with Beard next week for part two.

Mosh on man…oh yeah…

Horns Up Brother.

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