Red/Highline Ballroom/October 24, 2016
Vocalist Michael Barnes and two twin brothers, guitarist Anthony Armstrong, and bassist Randy Armstrong, grew up together in a small one-gas-station town in Pennsylvania. They wanted to form a hard rock band of national stature, so they relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. There, they formed Red (also stylized R3D or RED), a band that gained traction first in Christian rock circles before developing a wider audience. To date the band has won six GMA Dove Awards. Red’s fifth album, Of Beauty and Rage, was released in 2015.
With no new album to promote, Red toured as a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the release of its debut album, End of Silence. The band’s core trio was joined by touring musician Dan Johnson. Playing that album and the best songs from the band’s other albums, Red found the rare balance of metal and melody. Whether the musicians leaned towards hard-hitting alternative metal or post-grunge, Barnes’ vocals were clear and hearty, a fiery centerpiece piercing the band’s thick wall of sound. Between songs, he occasionally introduced the songs by describing the pain or the victory that inspired the lyrics. As a result, the songs were strikingly framed with both emotional vulnerability and unabashed passion, two engaging elements often missing in metal. If there was any weakness at all, it was not in the music but in the production; the blinding, flashing light system, perhaps designed for larger venues, grew quickly annoying within the confines of such a small room.
Temples/Rose Bar/October 25, 2016
Vocalist/guitarist James Edward Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Edward James Walmsley played together as well as in rival bands in their hometown of Kettering, England. They started Temples as a home studio project in 2012, uploading four self-produced tracks on the internet. In order to play live, they recruited keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Adam Thomas Smith and drummer Samuel Toms. Temples’ second album, Volcano, will be released on March 3, 2017.
A day before headlining at the Bowery Ballroom, Temples performed an invitation-only seven-song mini-set at the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Hotel. As on the rest of the tour, Temples opened with “Colours to Life” and “A Question Isn’t Answered,” before introducing a new song, “Roman God-Like Man.” In all, the set consisted of five songs from the band’s 2014 debut and two new songs, including the album opener, “Certainty.” The musicians are young, but they mastered an old psychedelic rock sound. Skipping in and out of a wash of shoegaze effects, Temples cascaded noodly guitar leads behind fading vocals. The arrangements had a penchant for hypnotic trance, but did not dwell too long on any stoner groove for the listener to get lost in it. Temples gave a remarkably fresh facelift to a vintage sound.
The Damned/Gramercy Theatre/October 29, 2016
Born in Hemel Hempstead, England, David Lett changed his name to Dave Vanian in early life after working as a gravedigger—Vanian being a play on “Transylvanian.” Vanian wore dark and otherworldly clothing both on stage and off. He and Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns) were members of the short-lived London-based band Masters Of The Backside, which also included future Pretenders front woman Chrissie Hynde. Vanian and Sensible went on to form The Damned in 1975, one of the first punk rock bands and a proto-gothic band. The band split and reunited in various configurations many times, with Vanian the sole consistent member, but since 2004 The Damned has consisted of Vanian on vocals, Sensible on guitar, Monty Oxymoron on keyboards, Andy (Pinch) Pinching on drums and Stu West on bass. The Damned’s 10th and most recent album is 2008’s So, Who’s Paranoid?.
New York area fans count on The Damned coming around every year around Halloween. This time, however, the band was celebrating its 40th anniversary with a two and a half hour set. For this tour, Vanian toned down his vampire-like appearance onstage, going on stage without chalk-white makeup and wearing a less formal suit and seeming no lacquer in his combed-back hair. The Damned moved through several genres over the decades, but tonight the band was clearly a speedy rock and roll band, far more polished than its early garage punk days. The current sound fell somewhere between Billy Idol and The Cult, with Vanian putting on his best Jim Morrison. Generally speaking, the set seemed to begin with some of the band’s later, calmer songs and ended with furious songs from its earliest days. While the concert was 40 years removed from its days opening for the Sex Pistols, The Damned demonstrated that a pioneer band can move forward and still be connected to its past.
The Dickies/Berlin/October 31, 2016
Stan Lee saw The Damned on the British band’s first American tour in early 1977. Collaborating with other area musicians, this concert inspired him to form a new band. The Dickies debuted in September of the same year, and was among the first punk rock bands to emerge from Los Angeles, California. The ever-changing band members were the clown princes of L.A. punk, gaining a reputation for their humorous Ramones-like songs and zany shows, which featured goofy costumes, hand puppets, and a midget roadie. The Dickies recorded seven albums, the most recent being 2001’s All This and Puppet Stew. The band presently consists of original members Leonard Graves Phillips on vocals and Stan Lee on guitar, along with Ben Seelig on guitar, Edward Tatar on bass and Adam Gomez on drums.
The Dickies headlined two sold-out shows at The Bowery Electric over the pre-Halloween weekend, where the longstanding veterans performed their first two albums, one each night. The Dickies then performed an unadvertised show at Berlin on Halloween, where the band played a little of everything. At Berlin, The Dickies opened with the theme music for the low-budget sci-fi/horror comedy Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The Dickies fit 23 songs into the set because the songs were short, tight and to the point, with about half of the set dedicated to the first two albums. The stage was so small that the musicians could hardly move, but nevertheless the show included its usual array of props (masks, an inflatable love doll, several hand puppets) and racing, hardcore-interpreted cover tunes (The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Stain,” The Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina,” a babbling version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” The Who’s “See Me, Feel Me,” The Isley Brothers’ “Nobody But Me,” and the theme songs to the cartoons Gigantor and Banana Splits). In essence, it was another greatest hits show, and The Dickies engaged the New York fans-in-the-know with a third campy Halloween trick or treat.