Category Archives: Concert Reviews

Phoenix Drive CD Release Party Live Music Review – Hard Rock Café 8/7/12


I was really looking forward to this CD release party as I have seen Phoenix Drive twice before and have been very impressed both times. I have to say I was blown away this time. Phoenix Drive took the stage with an energy that I had not witnessed from them before. I am not sure if the was the excitement of the night or the chemistry with new drummer David Rollins but it was a welcome sight to behold. I am a big fan of high energy and bands that realize that part of their job is entertaining the crowd.

Phoenix Drive in my estimation has always had impeccable vocal harmonies and this night was no exception. The blend of both lead vocalist Jon Scott and Felicity Combs along with bass player and background vocalist Brian Powers are smooth, melodic and always sound just right. Jon and Felicity both have beautiful voices and compliment each other so well and they both share the stage without either one overshadowing the other. Jon Scott has a fresh voice that I feel separates Phoenix Drive from many other acts out there that all sound the same. Scott’s shining moment to me is his live performance of “She Ain’t Coming Home.”  Felicity Combs vocals are sweet and melodic with a rich tone that brings it all the voices together. You can really hear her on my favorite “live” Phoenix Drive song “Trouble Down,” a sexy, swampy slow groove tune where Felicity really shines.

Guitarist Chris Combs is very capable player with an incredible sense of melody and top notch chops. Chris was the most-welcome surprise last night as for the first time I saw him really energized on stage. Watching him rip into the songs was a delight and made me want to pick up my guitar and play, which very rarely happens to me at a live music event unless the player is simply amazing. New drummer David Rollins fits well into his new role and really solidified the night. Rollins is a very tight pocket player that added a nice intensity that really showed through during the performance. Bassist Brian Powers is the “entertainer” and brings the “show” to the stage. Powers is a well rounded bass player who locks up perfectly with drummer Rollins to drive the bus like no other. A solid vocalist in his own right, Powers is a crucial fixture in the band and brings a ton to the live performance.

The thing about a Phoenix Drive performance is you are always in the “moment” with them. Their music is so good that you aren’t distracted by anything else. Their songwriting is very strong, the vocals are amazing and their performances are flawless.

This “CD” Release Party was the best performance I have seen at any CD Release Party and I would give it a 9 out 10 stars with the only knock is it wasn’t long enough. It certainly left me wanting more and I can’t wait for the next Phoenix Drive performance.

Phoenix Drive is a must see band and dare I say, no matter what genre of music you like. You will love this band.

You can find out more about Phoenix Drive here:

http://www.phoenixdrive.net

http://www.facebook.com/phoenixdrive

http://www.twitter.com/phoenix_drive

http://www.reverbnation.com/phoenixdrive

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Delana Stevens and The Beggar Saints – Live at the Rutledge LMV 08/04/12


I had the opportunity to have a day off for once and decided believe it or not to go see live music which I never on my days off. A friend posted on Facebook a fundraising event at the Rutledge LMV and there was a artist on there I had been wanting to see for a few years but never had the chance to so I decided to go. I went early to help support the event but was really only there to see Delana Stevens and The Beggar Saints. I was not disappointed. They were hands and above the best band I saw that night.

Delana brings to the live performance much of what I write in my blogs and am always looking for in a front person and artist. First off let me say she can SING! She is a top-notch singer with a thick voluptuous voice that rocks your face off. Not once did I hear her go out of pitch which here in Nashville I find very rarely especially in the rock scene. She showed up looking like a star unlike many of today’s bands who dress like they are going to K-mart to go shopping instead of being entertainers with a job to do. She brings a ton of energy to the stage working it from side to side and completely owning it. Delana worked the crowd even though it wasn’t huge like this one unfortunately wasn’t. She makes great eye contact, engages the listener and talks to them. In other words, she didn’t treat it like an unimportant gig or act disappointed in the crowd size. Whether it’s 30 people or 3,000 you can tell she treats them all the same. Delana has an easy way about her which helps makes her personable, but when she is up there, she commands the attention and she leaves no doubt that she is a future star.

The Beggar Saints are a very tight and professional straight-ahead rock band. Their performance was crystal clear which is a big plus to me. They leave the spotlight to Delana but are energetic enough to balance out the stage and pick their spots to shine like a band should. The vocal harmonies were tight and clear. The songs were strong and even better live then the recordings in my honest opinion. They lend themselves well to live performance and the hooks are huge. Song after song, the choruses draw you in and you don’t feel like you are listening to the same song over and over again like many bands I have seen. The band performed “Magic Man” by Heart and anyone who is a musician knows how hard it is to cover any song sung by the amazing Ann Wilson but Delana pulled it off powerfully and flawlessly. That alone should tell you how good her voice is enough to draw you out and watch her.

This is one of those scratch your head and wonder why the hell Delana hasn’t been picked up kind of artists. She is certainly of the caliber to be on any stage of any size and can hold her own with anybody else in the business.  I am confident, with proper marketing and more shows, Delana has a great shot a major success.

All in all, they put on the best rock show I have seen in Nashville in a long time. All the pieces were there and if you get the chance, check out Delana Stevens and the Beggar Saints. I promise you will love it. I did.

You can find out more about Delana Stevens and the Beggar Saints here:

www.delanastevens.com

www.facebook.com/delanastevensband?ref=ts

www.twitter.com/delanastevens


Queensryche with Blackwater James at The Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, TN November 2nd, 2011.


By David Lowry

Queensryche recently performed in Nashville, TN for their 30th Anniversary Tour at the Wildhorse Saloon. What impresses me is that after 30 years, Queensryche haven’t lost a step. It can be easy for a band to rest on their laurels after having major success – to just tour to make a living instead of always trying to raise the bar for themselves. In the case of Queensryche, they go out of their way to make sure each show is a flawless performance. Although 30 years into their career, fans can still expect a top notch live show from Queensryche.

Queensryche played a good mix of the new and old songs that defined their progressive metal sound. Geoff Tate, considered by many to be one of rock/metals greatest singers of all time, brought his theatrical showmanship and legendary vocals front and center like a great front man should do. His pitch was excellent as always and his distinctive vocal tone truly separates him from all the other vocalists out there. Geoff is always fresh sounding, inspiring and makes us wish we could all sing like him. He carried the audience through a journey of classics that brought back memories of better times and the days of our youth – cranking “Operation Mindcrime” on our stereos. Drummer Scott Rockenfield continues to impress as he has always been a great showman fueled by creativity, vitality and an uncanny sense of what to play and when to play it. His drumming has always been original and had it’s own voice within the songs. In a day when so many musicians over play and step all over the songs or vocalist, Scott brings a maturity to be admired and appreciated. Eddie Jackson was as solid as ever, bringing up the rhythm section with Scott. His playing is tight, vocal harmonies solid and he was able to interact with the crowd when able to get out from behind the microphone. Guitarist Michael Wilton played perfectly with that great “aunch” tone that Queensryche has always been known for. Watching Michael play those great chord voicings is a reminder to strive to not use power chords every second of a song. It was great to see Michael’s fingers flying around the fret board dialing in those solos we all love to hear. Parker Lundgren is a very under-rated and impressive guitar player. He plays effortlessly with great flair and filled the shoes of those before him very admirably. Parker is a great fit for the band with great harmony vocals; good stage presence and he nailed all the parts perfectly.

The Wildhorse Saloon was filled almost to capacity, which is a major achievement in Nashville for a rock band. It’s another feather in the cap for Queensryche as I have attended many shows where the venues isn’t even half full. The audience proved well versed in the new material as well as the old as they sang along with the words of every song proving that Queensryche fan base is as solid and rabid as ever. As I arrived early for the show, the line was already a block long going in both directions, another rarity in Nashville.

All in all, Queensryche is a band that has earned its reputation for being a completely unique, adventurously innovative and amazing live band. It’s well deserved and the amount of detail in their sets is something up and coming bands should aspire to. Queensryche’s sound is crystal clear, their performance and image are always top notch. The professionalism they project should be the rule for all bands and the level at which they perform should be the benchmark. Rarely will you find a band as well rehearsed as Queensryche nor as serious as bringing you a show you will never forget. They always leave you wanting more, which is a sign of an experienced band who have written a catalogue of songs that never get old.

Opening for Queensryche was the local band Blackwater James. Blackwater James came out on stage unfazed by the fact they were opening for such legends. They brought an energetic show and for the most part won over a crowd that was eager for Queensryche. As Blackwater James played, fists were pumping, heads were bobbing. From my point of view as I walked the room watching the band and the crowd, the audience really liked what they saw and heard in Blackwater James.

Singer Christopher James brings an energy and intensity that is refreshing. The twin pairing of guitar players Christopher James and Deanna Passarella are a lot of fun to watch. Both are capable guitarists with great stage presence.  Bass player Josh Burns helps drive the bus with steady grooves, passion and a great vibe on stage. Drummer Todd Schlosser is an in the pocket drummer with a sense of presence that makes him extremely fun to watch. This band has potential and is getting better every show they do.

At the time of this writing, The Lowry Agency has no affiliation with Queensryche or Blackwater James.


Nashville Dinner Theatre CMA Fest Review


Nashville Dinner Theatre CMA Fest Review

A couple of weeks ago I became the talent buyer for the Nashville Dinner Theatre and I had the “opportunity” to throw together a CMA Fest showcase with about four days to make it happen before the biggest Country Music festival in the world kicked off. Four days full of music from 2 pm to 2 am Thursday through Sunday. It was a whirlwind for sure and I faced just about every adversity you could think of during that time but we came out of it clean and ready to make great things happen.

I want to highlight some of the artists that I got to see at our venue during those four days and maybe talk about a couple disappointments so that maybe some other musicians trying to make it can take something away from it.

The first artist that impressed me the most with the total overall package was Julianne Ankley (www.julianneankley.net.) She just goes by “Julianne” for her stage name. Julianne is chasing her dream and started only a short 5 years ago but is so far ahead of the game compared to most whom have been doing this for much longer. Not only is she talented with a rich voice, but has really good phrasing as well. Her songwriting is strong and her presence on stage is captivating and mature. She is very professional, and has a knack for telling great stories, which helps her relate with the audience and she is attractive. Her image is polished and she marketed herself very well at our venue, much better than anyone else actually. I have left all of her material out to this day so that people will find out about her because her marketing material is top notch.

The band Phoenix Drive (http://www.reverbnation.com/phoenixdrive) was very impressive. They had great harmonies, great talent and a very polished sound.  Working with them was a real pleasure as they were so nice and professional. Overall their tones were great, playing was top shelf and vocals were catchy and interesting.  I wish more bands were this nice and really worked as hard as they did. They were from showcase to showcase with never a complaint of how tired they were. I would have them back anytime.

A new comer with a bright future and a big voice was Brianna Tyson (http://www.reverbnation/brianatyson.) She has an energetic presence about her and a very mature phrasing quality that belies her years. Her ability to mix jazz and soul with her country music is refreshing and she stands out completely from the rest of the same ole same ole here in Nashville. With a year or two of constant gigging she will be a star.

Maybe the biggest surprise for me was Jessica Cayne  (www.jessicacayne.com.) This woman has a huge voice, a great sense of humor and best overall ability to interact with the audience. She wrote great songs and kept me entertained and laughing. If you knew me, you’d know how hard it is to impress and entertain me. Jessica just signed a new publishing deal, which will hopefully get her songs out there more, but it’s her voice and big personality that should send her over the top. Keep you eyes on this one as well.

Another artist that really surprised me with his songs was Clay Evans (www.clayevansmusic.com.) Clay is a little offbeat with his presence, which is also really good in this town of Kenny Chesney clones. His songwriting is very catchy and really takes you somewhere different. It was a real pleasure to listen to Clay twice. I expect if nothing else, hopefully he will have some real songwriting success in his future.

Honorable mentions are Brinn Black (http://www.brinnblackepk.webs.com/), Heath Forbes (http://www.heathforbesepk.webs.com/), Liz Moriondo (http://www.lizmoriondo.com/index.html), Shelly Williams ( www.myspace.com/shellywilliamsmusic), Scarlett (www.allthingsscarlett.com) and Heidi Raye (http://www.ourstage.com/profile/heidiraye) in no particular order. They all are good artists with just a few things to work on that will greatly improve their chances of success.

Only two things really disappointed me this weekend. One being that someone didn’t play at all because we were having power issues. If she had waited, she would have only been 5 minutes behind schedule. The other was a female duo that I was really looking forward to hearing. Granville Automatic (www.granvilleautomatic.com) decided that they didn’t like following a dance review that I threw in to fill up 30 minutes of dead space as they gave up their night on Friday so all these artists could perform.  Granville Automatic did end up playing but for only 20 minutes, which is sad, as truly, they may have had the most beautiful voices and deepest songs of all of them. It is my personal/professional opinion that no matter what, you act professional and perform. It is your job as the entertainer to win over any crowd and if you truly believe in yourself and your music, you probably will. We all went to a lot of trouble to get this event happening and went through absolute hell all weekend, the least you can do is perform your forty-five minutes in appreciation. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to perform in no where near ideal situations but you put on your professional hat and kick butt. Nothing should stop you from doing what you believe in. That being said, talent wise, these girls have it and have it in spades.

Overall I was very happy with how everything turned out and I was impressed with how hard many of the artists worked in the obscene heat and difficult conditions. CMA Fest is a very tough, long week and most of these people did an amazing job keeping their energy up and their attitude in high spirits.

Keep it up!

Side note: Kris Bell (www.krisbellmusic) is not reviewed in here as he is an artist of mine and I didn’t feel it was appropriate.


Stryper Concert Review With Black Water James The Wildhorse Saloon Nashville, TN March 18th, 2011


Stryper Concert Review With Black Water James The Wildhorse Saloon Nashville, TN March 18th, 2011

By David Lowry

I was anticipating a good show on this night, as I have never seen a “bad” Stryper concert, so I was excited to be there from the beginning. What I left the show feeling was a shock even to me. I came as a fan; I left as an even bigger one. Let’s start with the opening act Black Water James.

I have seen Black Water James once previously about six weeks ago, so I knew what I was in for when they came on. I was looking forward to seeing them again as I was hoping to see improvement because they were in a much better venue.

Black Water James has a lot of energy and a lot of potential as a rock band. They were pretty good for about the first four songs but then I noticed that all the songs started to sound the same. Both times I have seen them now, about three quarters of the way through their set, everything does sound a bit the same.

Greater dynamics are needed and catchier hooks to keep the audience in it the whole time. The band brings a decent image and are decent musicians, but the song writing is still a little weak for such a long set. I also question the order of the songs. It seems their best material is all in the front of the set closing it out with weaker, less “hooky” songs.

They attempt dual guitar solos, which is great, but would be better if they were in harmony, not just an octave apart or in unison. Also the guitar solos themselves are a bit weak in stating anything. They aren’t a story within the song. It comes off as mainly pentatonic noodling. Both players are capable and have great potential for doing more with this.

For a band of only 2 1/2 years, they are still one of the top five rock bands in Nashville and do portray a great energy on stage. The drummer is worth watching alone. He’s got great groove, stays in the pocket very well and puts on a great show. This band will do great things if they keep improving and don’t lose focus. They were certainly up to the challenge of opening for Stryper and aren’t afraid to let it all hang out.

When Stryper took the stage, the bar was raised tenfold. Not only do they look great, but also everything looks pristine. The stage is clean and uncluttered, the guitars are polished, the clothes are clean and pressed and they look like they belong in a band together. Their image is always good and their show is impeccable.

The songs were flawlessly played and crystal clear and they burst with energy. The band met the crowd with respect and humor. They really know how to connect with their audience and bring them in. During the whole show, the crowd was singing along word for word with every song. The band threw out many Bibles and picks to the fans who were all to eager to get one.

Michael Sweet’s voice was as amazing as ever. He hasn’t lost a thing vocally and in many ways is probably stronger. His guitar playing is on par with most of the great guitarists we think of. How often do you get to see a performer who is a world class vocalist and guitar player? Oz Fox has always been a top tier guitar player as well and successfully backs up Michael vocally on a few parts, giving Michael the rest his voice needed, showing again how incredibly talented this band truly is. Timothy Gaines, who is an amazing bass player in any style of music, drove the bus with Robert Sweet, keeping the rhythm section tight and thundering. His bass tone was perfect and really filled out the sound. Whether using his finger or a pick, the bass cut through and gave a serious foundation to the heavy guitars. Robert “The Visual Time Keeper” Sweet was as solid as he has ever been and always puts on an amazing drum workshop each concert. Easily one of the most underrated rock drummers of all time and he proves it every time I see him.

The one thing Stryper does better than anyone else I have ever seen is sing in harmony. Their harmonies were awesome! This band should be teaching younger bands what it takes to put on an incredible live show. They are so well rehearsed and professional that they are able to put it all on the line for a show that puts most bands I have ever seen to shame.

Stryper did three cover songs as well as the usual classics. They did “Over The Mountain” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath and “Shout It Out Loud” by Kiss. Their performance was flawless and on par with any of the performances I have seen of the original artists.

On a scale of 1 to 10 this concert gets a 9.5. The only deduction being it wasn’t long enough. The fans are having so much fun singing along at the show, the times flies by and it’s over in an instant. After doing the encore, Michael Sweet closed out in prayer, praying for everyone in the building and in Japan — again showing the heart this band has for its fans and the world.

In a nutshell, Stryper put on a better live show then 95% of any bands I have ever seen and they do it consistently. They are a text book band for younger generations to follow to learn from and understand why practice, talent, songwriting, vocal harmonies, solos, set preparation, stage presence and connecting with their audience are so critically important to the success of their career.

If you are on the fence about seeing Stryper on tour this year or have never seen them, go! Spend the money; it is so well worth it. You’ll get so much more than just a good show or performance. You’ll get a band that cares about its fans, the world and doing something greater than themselves. To find out more about Stryper and their tour dates, check out their website www.stryper.com.

Note: The Lowry Agency has no affiliation with anyone mentioned in this review.

 

 


Concert Review for Damon Johnson on February 24th, 2011 at Juanita’s in Little Rock, AR.


Concert review provided by “Live From Music City” helper Kelly Foshee

 

Damon Johnson proved once again that he still has what it takes as a songwriter, guitar player, vocalist, and entertainer. Is there anything this man can’t do? He was a founding member and front man of the hard rock band Brother Cane, current guitar player for Alice Cooper, writes hit songs, and is finishing a tour in support of his second solo acoustic album “Release.”

Damon’s guitar playing lacked for nothing. Whether he was playing a smooth, slower song like “Pontiac” or rocking it hard on “Got no Shame,” Damon never missed a beat. He is just as great live as he is recorded…maybe even better. The last several songs he played were requests from the audience, mostly songs from his Brother Cane days. After the show Damon hung out, signing autographs, visiting with fans, and having his picture taken. Every fan left with a smile on their face. This is an artist who wants to make his fans happy, and he did just that. – Kelly Foshee