with Hellyeah and The Damned Things
Hard Rock Live, Orlando, FL • February 23, 2011
Barely 1,000 people gathered in the 3,000 capacity venue to witness what was my first-ever totally 3-D concert experience. That’s 3-D, as in — disappointing, depressing and distasteful.
Despite their all-star pedigree, the opening set from The Damned Things kinda fell flat. Featuring members of Fall Out Boy, Every Time I Die, and Anthrax, the band’s debut record Ironiclast is a snappy offering, filled with hook-laden, hard driving, pop-inspired rock ditties. However, live, the band lacked energy and their songs were lost in a boomy, too-loud, mushy mix. But you wouldn’t have known it by the throngs of fans who mobbed the band at their merch table following the show.
Supporting their sophomore record, Stampede, Hellyeah is another current rock super group, consisting of alumni from such marquee acts as Pantera and Mudvayne. Although the band delivered a set full of groovy and chunky, rapid-fire cock-rock riffs, they fell victim to the same wretched mix as The Damned Things.
To say that Hellyeah frontman Chad Grey maximized the use of the “F” word during his rather long-winded in-between-song dissertations would be an understatement. I mean, this guy truly has a gift for using “fuck” in contexts that not even I had ever heard before — and I’m really old and have been on the rock scene for a very long time! In short, a little less tawkin’ and a little more rawkin’ on Grey’s part would serve his band and fans well.
However, THE most compelling, fascinating, and truly legendary performer of the night was former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul. After all, Paul redefined rock drumming in the 1990s the way Eddie Van Halen redefined rock guitar in the 1970s. And simply put, Paul’s performance was amazing!
Oh yeah, Hellyeah’s huge, hanging Kiss-like logo made for an impressive and mighty backdrop. I’m serious. It was very cool!
In stark contrast to the two opening acts, Buckcherry’s mix was absolutely spot-on. In fact, they sounded better live than a lot of bands do in the studio. And with their chrome onstage ramps and special effects lighting, Buckcherry’s show looked as good as it sounded.
Unfortunately, for me, the fun factor of their well-crafted, high octane music was somewhat compromised by frontman Josh Todd’s over-the-top, lowbrow banter. During the breakdown section of their 1999 hit “Lit Up,” Todd successfully encouraged his flock to join in with him — chanting, “Cocaine! Cocaine! Cocaine! Cocaine! Cocaine!” All right, all right — I get it, dude! I know what the song is about. FYI, sometimes subtle is more effective than overkill. Todd also enlightened fans to his inspirational personal philosophies. In fact, thanks to Todd, I now know that money does NOT in fact make the world go ’round — “fucking” does. Hmm, who knew? And I’m also now familiar with (in graphic detail) how slave owners would instruct their slave girls to use cocaine in order to enhance oral sex experiences. Thanks for the awesome history lesson, Professor Todd! But I guess it comes along with the territory. Ted Nugent used to annoy and bore me with the same type of worthless banter back in ’78. And speaking of worthless banter, how about that Jim Morrison kid? Anyway, Todd is an incredibly riveting and charismatic performer and he could be truly great — with a slightly re-directed message.
On the upside, Buckcherry delivered an absolutely stellar, rock solid, rock star performance which included many of their signature “must play” tunes like “I’m Sorry,” “Lawless and Lulu,” “All Night Long,” “Rescue Me,” and even a number about a girl who (I think) Todd referred to as a “crazy bitch.” And it was extremely cool when Keith Nelson walked out in front of the PA in mid song to reach out and hand one of his guitar picks to an adoring (pre-teen) little girl who was pinned against the barricade.
But the big story regarding this event was that it was blatantly less of a concert and more of a shameless three-hour commercial for Jägermeister. Images of Jäger bottles and its infamous logo flashed across the walls and ceiling of the Hard Rock all night long and each of the three bands devoted significant amounts of their set time to sucking up to “the man.” Be sure I understand that bands don’t sell records anymore and they’ve gotta cover their “nut” somehow these days in order to survive. I also understand that Jäger is the current adult beverage of choice among today’s ultra hip in-crowd and Jäger is the tour’s official corporate sponsor, but c’mon. And for this fans PAID $50 per ticket! Shouldn’t infomercials be free? I saw last year’s Jäger tour with Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax, and you sure as heck didn’t see (or hear) Tom Araya or Dave Mustaine whoring any product other than their own.