LIVE CONCERTS - The Year In Review (Part 3)
Written by: Mark McQueen
The Year in Review
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. You can peruse our guidelines and disclaimers in part one of this series.
Without further delay, we present part three of this series, The top sets of 2022, numbers #22-12 from “The Beard
#22 Khemmis from April 28th at the Riviera in Chicago 90.6/100
This doom/stoner band from Denver may have only been around for the last ten years, but they have made the most of their time, rising rapidly through the ranks and playing on some major tours. Their opening set this year in Chicago was as strong or stronger than many headliners. Khemmis know what they are doing, and they do it well year after year and album after album.
#21 Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats from March 30th at Thalia Hall, Chicago 90.8/100
Possessing one of the coolest names in metal/stoner/psychedelic music, these English rockers blew me away a few years ago in Las Vegas and I was looking forward to seeing them for the third time this year. Sonically they did not disappoint. Kevin Starr has a very unique sounding voice, and the music is almost hypnotic in its vocal delivery. I really have always found it entrancing. Uncle Acid lost points (and thus finished #21), largely because of their odd choices visually. Thalia Hall lends itself to both great sound and lights and these guys missed the boat on the second part of that equation. In my opinion, they simply kept themselves too much in the dark throughout their set. Visuals are as important to the live experience as sound, (otherwise we could just turn the CD up really really loud.) Uncle Acid had a great set, and great sound, but just failed this time around on delivering a great look to complete the deal.
#20 Samael from August 20th at Psychofest Vegas 92.0/100
Conversely, this Swiss black metal band featuring founding members and brothers Vorphalack & Xytraguptor scored highly on their “visual” concept providing what was probably the best “looking” black metal set of the year. Echoing visual shades of Behemoth, Samael blasted definite black metal sounds, but definitively fused with both symphonic and industrial aspects. As I have previously stated, I often enjoy when a band creates some genre-bending in their music, and Samael brought us that. Add in their great use of lights as enhancement and you make the top 20 of the year.
#19 Def Leppard from July 17th at Miller Park Stadium 92.5/100
Playing baseball stadiums is a very different level of performance. You are essentially giving a show to a guy whose seat is a quarter mile away from the stage. There needs to be a VERY over-the-top type of show given to accomplish this feat, and Def Leppard knows how to do that as well as anyone. In the first place, no crowd is too big for Joe Elliot, and the rest of the guys have been world touring for at least 30-40 years, so performing for 35,000 fans is almost a run of the mill evening for them. Although I have labeled Def Leppard “The Hall of Presidents” version of a rock band, and I’ve also said that other than possibly Gene Simmons, no one makes a buck off their name and likeness more than Def Leppard, I obviously have to give respect where it’s due and their place on this years top twenty sets is deserved. Hail to The Lep.
#18 Early Moods from August 19th at Psychofest Las Vegas 92.8/100
When The Beard was set to go to Vegas for the mighty Psychofest 120 band mega event, he asked his editor and chief if there were any of the smaller bands they especially wanted looked at. Early Moods was the first name mentioned. As it turned out, they were possibly one of the best new acts the Beard got to see this year. (Note: they were originally formed in 2015, but didn’t release an EP until 2020 so technically still a new act). Sounding like the rebirth and modernization of the Candlesmass sound, singer Alberto Alcaraz doesn’t just sound like the iconic Messiah Marcolin, he actually wears his hair in a similar fashion and that’s a BOLD move. Outside maybe Buzz Osborn from the Melvins, the Messiah had some of the most “serious” hair in Metal. Alcaraz’s is right up there in that group. So, they had the look, they had the sound, and if they can keep moving up the echelons into more headlining slots, they will undoubtedly have the show to go with it. Really nice set.
#17 Realm from April 8th at Blades of Steel Festival, Milwaukee 93/100
Realm is a lesser-known thrash metal act that had its day between 1985-1992. During that period, I never saw them, never really even heard of them, but that is the absolute beauty of the RK Metal Promotions group run by owner operator Randy “No Fun” Kastner. He finds gems like this and resurrects them from obscurity at his festivals. These guys hit the stage after almost 30 years and by their second number, I was writing glowing praises to their sound. Still tight, still heavy as a concrete encased anvil, and still able to find that Rob Halford range of vocal heights not just once or twice, but often throughout their set. Realm took me through the stargate and back into the realm of mid 1980’s thrash metal when Milwaukee Metalfest was the big dog in the nation and long hair and head banging was a way of life for the Beard. Any band that can take me back in time like that deserves to have their set lauded and here it is in the number 17 slot for tops of the entire year. Well done.
#16 King Buffalo from March 30th at Thalia Hall, Chicago 93.4/100
Admittedly, the Beard has occasionally been confused on bands with very similar names. I have seen, King Bison, Lord Buffalo, and now add King Buffalo to the mix. Each is a unique take on the stoner genre. King Buffalo is like Pink Floyd if they wrote stoner/psyche music. (Okay, they kind of did (lol), but King Buffalo are heavier). Point is, like Floyd, King Buffalo are as much about the visuals as the sound. With songs often going past 10-minute lengths and long stretches of only instrumental sound, the Buffalo takes viewers on a psychedelic peyote trip of tasting colors and seeing sounds. They are definitely worth a viewing in or out of your current state of mind.
#15 Exodus from October 4th at The Eagles Club Milwaukee
The Eagle’s Club is an iconic location for thrash from the 1980’s. Home of the early Milwaukee Metalfests. In those days the dark, dank and wooden venue lended itself well to thrashing, moshing and headbanging of all types. 40-year veterans of exactly that style music, (Exodus) tore through an hour of old and new songs that brought this crowd to the precipice of utter chaos….and then shoved them right over the edge. I watched guys my age slam themselves into other guys my age with a force that almost had to result in a couple dislocated hips. Then they picked themselves up, high fived and did it again. In the first place, The Beard freely admits he has long underestimated how damn good Exodus is. In the second, he is proud to declare how damn good Exodus STILL is. Quite the set and show.
#14 Alice Cooper from September 22nd at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond Indiana 94/100
There is no act that The Beard has seen as often (and in so many incarnations) that NEVER disappoints him. Alice Cooper is the Keith Richards of metal. He’s been doing this schtick for over a half century and he is STILL so damn entertaining at it. In the first place, Alice never half-asses anything. He performs like this is his favorite night of the tour each and every night. His band members may change through the years, but they are all competent and familiar with the songs. They get their solo time, but they also know when to step back and let the Howard Stern of music just do what he does as well as anyone. The Beard is not going to debate Mr. Coopers actual singing qualities vs a Halford, Dickenson, Dio, or Diamond, but other than perhaps Ozzy or Lemmy, can you think of a more iconic frontman over your metal lifetime? The Alice Cooper experience is a guaranteed good time whether it’s your first viewing or your twenty first viewing. Alice Cooper rocks!
#13 Mizmor from August 19th at Psychofest Las Vegas, 94.2/100
Mizmor is a band The Beard had neither seen, nor heard about before actually seeing them. These guys sat under blood red lights for almost an hour and presented black metal-meets-doom metal in the veins of Wolves in the Throne Room. I must admit, the Beard was mesmerized by this set and when you can command ALL my attention during your time on stage, you have created something memorable. This was in the top 6% of all acts I got to see this year, and its placement is well deserved.
#12 The Scorpions from September 1st at The All State Arena in Chicago, 94.5/100
The Scorpions may well have brought the BIGGEST show of the year in terms of sheer lights and effects. Their drummer's lighting alone was more than most non-world touring acts will get for their entire show. The stage sets and effects were in league with bands like Metallica or AC/DC in their primes. Behind all this pomp and flash and pizzaz, is the fact that most of the Scorpions are also old enough to collect social security checks and certainly Medicare. Yet, despite their age, they still rock the house for almost 90 minutes an average of five nights a week while traveling around the world to do so. At a certain point, you just have to turn, bend the knee, and acknowledge this is one great and truly long-lasting iconic rock band.
Okay, that does it for the Beards Part III portion, read on to hear what Little Johnny has to say about his bands 22-12 and be sure to tune in next week (right here at The Mighty Decibel), to see part IV the best of the best from 2022.
Top Sets of 2022
Sweet Jesus does that old man like to talk. Well folks, as usual, I WILL be a lot shorter with my list. So, let’s get to it.
#22 Nunslaughter from April 9th at Blades of Steel Festival Milwaukee Wisconsin
Hailing from before my birth way back in 1987 and supported by their label Hell’s Headbangers, I had heard these guys brought the evil. I know the stuff on their merchandise table was really gory, so I was looking forward to doing some full out banging. So, yep, by song two they were already starting a "$#&* Jesus" chant with the crowd. Every song was about some pretty vile stuff. I don’t really listen to the words so much though. I just let the music throw me around and these guys sure did that.
#21 Death Angel from October 4th at The Eagles Club in Milwaukee Wisconsin
There are a lot of bands from before my time that were freaking awesome. These guys were great. Usually, the openers can’t really get that full-on pit thing going, but these guys had us surfing right away. Beard says they sound like a lot of everyone else and not really like their own identity or some #$%@. I don’t really care. They sounded great. They played fast, and it was a blast listening to them.
#20 Nuclear Assault from August 20th at Psychofest Las Vegas.
Another great night in the pool. Man, Beard needs to attend more summer festivals that have pool stages. It is a whole other thing to mosh in water. Once this metal band hit the stage it was super fun chaos. I was cannonballing like crazy. Security kept trying to harsh our fun, but we just ran out of their reach and jumped back in the water. It’s a Metal show dudes, just go with it. These guys were great late night beer drinking pool splashing head banging fun.
#19 Church of The Cosmic Skull from August 5th at Reggie’s in Chicago.
Man, this was a last-minute kind of show. Beard just said, “Hey Decibel got us some passes for this gig. Let’s go see what it’s all about. So, of course I hear bands, and beer and figure $%*@ yeah man let’s do it!
There were like four other bands that ranged all over the place, but I knew people were there to hear these guys. A lot of em were even dressed in robes and hoods and stuff. So, like I started talking to them and pretty soon they took me to see this bearded dude in a hat that was the singer and head dude. He just looked at me for like forever man and then said, “In the brightness of your shadow will be exposed the darkness of your flame.” I just thought woah that’s some deep #$%^. Their band was big too, like seven people of something and they sang like it was a church service, but not like any I’ve been to before. All white outfits and talking about the new philosophy. It was pretty intense man. Very memorable.
#18. DRI from April 9th at Blades of Steel Festival Milwaukee Wisconsin.
These guys were like militant punks, but also kind of old. I guess it’s another band from back in Beard's day, but their songs were short and punchy and filled with serious yelling about stuff. I loved it and the pits were nice and intense. I got clocked pretty good in this one. Had a black eye for a few days. Beard said I looked like that dog next to a phonograph, whatever the #$^% a phonograph is. Anyway, they rocked it intensely and I loved that set.
#17 Exhumed from November 18th at Club Garibaldis in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
This was one of my most recent shows, but talk about intense! First off, they had tv’s in the back of the stage showing like autopsies and surgeries and just like bodies being cut up the whole set. Then there was a guy with a chainsaw guitar on stage with like sparks and $##% blowing out of it. The whole set was that death metal voice and intense crazy stuff under a huge bank of fog. We even had a legitimate fight in the pit between two huge dudes and security had to get involved. Finally, there was this one guy in the pit running around with a chainsaw and like fake blood and stuff. I mean at least I think it was fake. Like I said, that was an intense set. I think Beard was hiding under a table somewhere.
#16 Immolation from March 12th at Reggie’s in Chicago
Crazy black and death metal guys. They were crazy fast and loud, but like also almost refined too. I don’t have Beard's gift for the right words, but it was like they were professional craziness. Everything about their songs was that great intense #$%^ I love moshing to, but it was also like it was controlled. Organized even. I know it stood out to me and that’s why they are so high up the list.
#15 Vixen from June 17th at The Arcada in Saint. Charles Illinois
So, these chicks were like an all-girl metal band. Now for the most part they were totally hot, although they were kind of old for my tastes. Probably perfect for Beard though. Just the same, the guitar player was really good man. She was playing her ass off. The drummer was the only original member I think or at least the closest to an original member from back in the 1980’s according to Beard. I just know I had a good time rocking out with their songs and watching that guitar player jam.
#14 Motley Crue from July 17th at Miller Park Field Milwaukee Wisconsin.
These guys were great!! They did songs about cars, and drinking, and chicks and everything that’s fun about metal. They even had a bunch of girls on stage that were like from strip clubs and stuff. Nobody took nothing off really, but it was awesome seeing them dance anyway. Now the guys from the band looked like they were like really really old, especially the guitarist, but don’t get me wrong, he could still play good and stuff. There was this one song, called "Home Sweet Home". Man, there must have been like 20,000 cell phones lighting up during that one. I gotta say I aint never seen something like that before. Really fun day of music.
#13 Destruction from May 6th at Reggie’s in Chicago
Pit of the year man!!! I had never heard of these dudes, but when Beard got as close to the wall as he could squeeze himself, I KNEW this was gonna rock! Holy #*!% man. It wasn’t like a PIT formed in the middle like usually happens, it was like the floor exploded!! People were flying everywhere! Even I was having trouble holding my own. That band brought tornados in the club with them. Harsh jams and I say, “when you go home feeling like you got your ass kicked a little, you were just at a killer show.” That…was a killer show!
#12 Rotting Christ from August 21st at Psychofest Las Vegas
Okay, pretty much everything I just said for Destruction, same thing only at the Pool Stage in Vegas (so that made it just a little bit better). Crazy mad pits on the ground and in the water. I gotta admit I was pretty gassed by then after so many bands (editor’s note. And beers) all day that I didn’t go as crazy as I’d like to have for them. Mostly I just hung on to the railing and shook my head a lot. Great Greek black metal act tearing it up.
Okay, so this ends Part III of our year end ode to the best live sets of 2022. Tune in next week for everybody’s top 11. The best of the best, and remember to check out Mighty Decibel for the best reviews, articles, and podcasts in Metal.
Until next week, this is The Beard & Little Johnny saying ...