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(Live Review) TOP 40 LIVE ACTS OF 2023 (The Beard) - Part 2 (#30-#20)


The Beard

Greetings fans, I hope your Holiday season is going great. Today we will continue the countdown of the Beard's favorite live sets of 2023 with bands #30-21. If you are interested in how I came to my final numbers, look back on part One of this series (right here at the Mighty Decibel) where I explain it. For those interested in my partner's take on the year, check out Little Johnny’s own top 40 list, (also right here atThe Mighty Decibel.) So here we go with part two.

#30: Ross The Boss (3-24-23 Hells Hero’s Festival Day #2 Houston Texas)

The Beard readily admits to being a mark for the power metal band Manowar in the 1980’s. I know they sort of turned into a caricature of themselves as time went by. I guess that’s what happens when you live your on-stage schtick. Anyway, their main guitarist during their early albums was playing an all Manowar set at this festival. This was a chance to hear the big tunes I loved as a teenager. Their singer wasn’t quite as powerful as Manowar's Eric Adams, but he was good enough and I enjoyed the trip back in time.

#29:Shield of Wings (6-03-23 Legions of Metal Day #2 Chicago, Illinois)

I am lucky enough to know, and am friendly with, a handful of festival promoters. (Writing about their events can often help with that). One guy I have gotten to know a touch better is Chicago promoter Bob Burns whose big event is always the two-day Legions of Metal festival. Bob puts a lot of different styles on the stage which makes it a must-see fest since you can hear, thrash, death, power, black, and traditional metal bands all in the same Festival. Bob also keeps it affordable (which is always appreciated.) Finally, Bob doesn’t look at you like he wants to smash you in the face like Randy Kastner does, Bob looks at you more like he wants you to buy him lunch.

Anyway, the opening band of day two was this symphonic metal band that played much better than their slot. Vocalist Lara Mordian was a majestic figure in her red gown and soaring operatic voice. This band had everything people like about Nightwish (without the million-dollar stage set-up and hundred-dollar ticket price). Sterling act.

#28: April Wine (4-29-23 Saint Charles, Illinois)

This classic rock band from the 1970’s reminded me why I started enjoying non-pop music as I was growing up. Although April Wine was very much the music of its era, hearing songs like “Roller”, “Sign of The Gypsy Queen”, and “Just between You and Me” was like being in an episode of That 70’s Show.

Little Johnny might not understand, but that was MY time and these guys helped me remember it for an evening. Very glad to have seen them. (Ed: R.I.P. Myles Goodwin.)

#27: Metal Church (6-03-23 Legions of Metal Day #2 Chicago, Illinois)

The second mention of Bob Byrnes' festival brings us an act that has been plugging along since the mid 1980’s. I think this may be Metal Church’s fourth singer, but finally they got a guy that sounds like David Wayne (who was on their first two releases.) Those were my absolute favorites and once I realized this would be a set heavy with those songs, it became my second favorite of the five times I have seen this band and for the first-time elevated Metal Church to my year-end list.

#26: Riot V (9-28-23 Blades of Steel Day #1 Madison Wisconsin)

This act was one of two bands formed out of the 1970’s metal band Riot. Riot V was Riot guitarist Mark Reale’s band and after he passed away in 2012, bassist Don Van Staven took over and reformed the band again in 2013. These guys had forty plus years of music to draw from and even with their more traditional metal sound, still won over a festival crowd that generally favored a bit heavier fare.

#25: Strange Highways (6-25-23 Maryland Doomfest Day #4 Frederick Maryland)

This three-piece psychedelic stoner/blues act, featuring the Newsomme brothers Marco & Daniel, was The Beard's hit of Doomfest 2023. From the opening notes of their first song, the energy was off the charts. Sometimes Johnny will talk about “catching a wave of sound”, this band was doing that all set. Each number was like musical surfing on the groove they were laying down. Thoroughly enjoyed them.

#24: Vio-lence (3-23-23 at Hells Hero’s Houston Texas & 9-29-23 at Blades of Steel Madison Wisconsin)

The Beard is going to focus on the first time in 2023 I saw Vio-lence, because that was the better set. Each time they did a great job, but the Houston venue was just larger and had more lights, effects, and a larger crowd that therefore produced more energy during their set.

Vio-lence is kind of thrash & hardcore at the same time. Although the vocals of Sean Killian are not as enjoyable to me as those of other Bay Area thrash acts like Exodus or Testament, Killian cuts an impressive figure on the stage and the band’s natural charisma and crowd interaction are infectious.

#23: Exciter (3-24-23 at Hells Hero’s Houston Texas & 9-30-23 at Blades of Steel Madison Wisconsin)

Another great band the Beard got to check out twice, and ironically at the same two fests as the previous entry. This time though I am giving the nod for better set to my second time seeing them (the one in Madison) because for that festival they were the headliner as opposed to the Houston fest where they were not.

Either set was fantastic and for my first and second time seeing this Canadian staple of thrash metal, I am both sorry I missed them back in the day and thrilled that in my fifties I could discover them.

#22: Yngwie Malmsteen (8-26-23 in Saint Charles, Illinois)

The Beard has long been a fan (but never a fanatic) of the Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen. Although his shows are generally a grandiose homage to his own self-awarded greatness, there is little doubt that Malmsteen has stood the test of time and continues to astound with his remarkable gift of resilient fingers often playing notes faster than the clock ticks away seconds.

#21: Midnight (5-18-23 in Chicago, Illinois & 9-28-23 in Madison Wisconsin)

Wrapping up part two of our countdown are the punk/thrash trio known as Midnight. Always in black and always with full masks covering their faces, I have now seen this band six times and they have never disappointed me. From start to finish they are high-energy non-stop movement. If you coked up three cats and let them loose in a mouse filled cheese factory you could not get more pure chaos than watching Midnight play a set of music. Truly one of the most consistently exciting bands to watch live year after year.

So, there you are twenty bands down and the top twenty still to come. Make sure to follow this countdown as we move into part three #20-11 next week on your home for metal music The Mighty Decibel and remember to check out live video footage of all the bands on this list by tapping into our TIKTOK page. Just search thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny.

Until next time:

Stay Heavy


Horns Up!!


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