Rocklahoma 2018 – Reviews & Interviews

I took my annual trip to Pryor, OK for the Rocklahoma festival over Memorial Day Weekend. This year I was granted a media pass and had the opportunity to do a few interviews, which you’ll find below the reviews of the bands I wanted to watch this year. I want to express my gratitude to Ashton-Magnuson Media for giving me the opportunity to do these interviews. Of all the trips I’ve made to this festival, 2018 has by far been my favorite.

THE REVIEWS

FRIDAY

The Cult – Having never gotten to see this band before (only being a casual Cult fan) I was kind of excited. Much as I expected, they performed the three radio hits I knew but the other songs were foreign to me. Overall, the band was really good. There were times that Ian Astbury seemed to struggle with the vocals but I attribute some of that to the heat. This was on my “live bands bucket list” and I’m glad I finally got to see them.

Stone Temple Pilots – Another of my bucket list bands, STP stole the show (IMO) and as far as I’m concerned, should have headlined the whole damn event. While I’m sad that Scott Weiland is no longer with us, I think Jeff Gutt is the perfect person to fill those (big) shoes. Jeff did a fantastic job of doing the old songs the justice they deserved and seemed to channel not only Scott, but also a little Billy Idol too. I was impressed that the band played two songs off their new album since they were playing a shorter than usual set.

City of the Weak – This was the first band I had a chance to interview. I very much enjoyed their set. They’re young and hungry and can’t really be pinned down to one specific genre. If you get a chance to catch them live, take it.

SATURDAY

Godsmack – I’ve never really been a fan BUT everyone has always talked about what a great show they put on so I checked them out. I’m glad I did. Sully is one enthusiastic frontman and the band is tight. Even though I’ve never been a big fan, they had enough songs that I recognized so there was plenty of singing along from my seat. The only negative thing I have to say about this show is that I couldn’t care less about drum solos so the 10-15 minutes that Sully and the drummer traded licks bored me even though musically, the drum performances were perfect. Otherwise, I’m glad I can say I saw them.

Ghost – This is another band that I’m not a fan of but I give them the respect they deserve because they are on point musically. (I can’t begin to imagine how hot everyone in that band was in those masks, especially Tobias.) With the exception of Dance Macabre, I didn’t know any of their songs. Nothing really caught my attention to change my mind about being a fan. I’m still glad I saw them though. On a side note, does anyone know why Tobias wanted to tickle everyone’s taint?

Vince Neil – I’ve seen Motley Crue a couple time but never got the chance to catch a Vince solo so this was another bucket list act. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Vince held up in the heat. I was pleased that he performed my favorite Motley songs and I was disappointed that he didn’t perform a single solo song as I was most looking forward to his solo material. One thing I noticed was that Slaughter band members Dana Strum was his bassist and Zoltan Chaney was his drummer. That was pretty cool.

Clutch – Tim Sult was my second interview and I must admit, this was one of the highlights of the Rocklahoma interviews and performances for me. These guys brought it. They were another bucket list band for me. If you haven’t caught these guys live yet, make it a point to do so, you won’t be disappointed.

Diamond Head – Yet another bucket list band (even though I’m only a casual fan thanks to Metallica), I’m glad these guys made it this year since they got rained out in 2017. It was totally worth the wait. I think their set got cut by a couple songs because the Vince Neil show ran later than it should have because of sound check. They started with Helpless and ended with Am I Evil?, which any Metallica fan will immediately recognize. These guys kicked ass and did a great job working the crowd.

Wayland – Nigel Dupree was my third interview of the day. I’ve only recently become aware of this band thanks to my old USAF buddy, Eric Z. I’m glad he introduced them to me because they’re fantastic, both in the studio and live. Take a moment to check out their music.

SUNDAY

Poison – What can I say about these guys? They bring the hits you know you want to hear, even if you won’t admit to being a fan. From the moment they hit the stage until they finished their encore, the energy was there. I have to admit that I was caught off guard by the song they chose for their encore because it was a cover. I thought they’d close with either Talk Dirty To Me or Nothing But A Good Time.

Cheap Trick – This was my second time seeing Cheap Trick at Rocklahoma. I enjoyed their 2018 performance much more than when I last saw them here. Only being a casual fan, I prefer to hear their hits and they played more of them this time. The highlight of their set was getting members of many of the bands that had performed earlier in the day onstage to help them do Surrender.

Halestorm – Joe & Josh were one of my top interview scores for Rocklahoma. Lzzy F’kn Hale. LZZY F’KN HALE. Holy shit, why is this band NOT getting higher on the bill than they are? Lzzy puts everything she has into her show. She’s probably one of the best singers that “brings the emotion” that I have ever seen. From start to finish, this band was on fire. Her energy as they performed their new single Uncomfortable was off the charts. Side note, a tip of the hat to Rick Neilsen for letting Lzzy play one of his guitars during a song in their set.

Tom Keifer – I was concerned that Tom was going to have vocal issues because it was hot and humid but overall, Tom did a great job. Tom brought out all the Cinderella songs that I expected he would. The highlight of his set for me was when Lzzy Hale came onstage and performed Nobody’s Fool with him. People, I don’t usually get emotional at a concert but this performance was the exception. Her performance gave me goosebumps and I got a little teary eyed. I truly want to see Halestorm record and release this song and add it to their setlist.

Candlebox – I never got to see these guys when they were at their peak so, you guessed it, they were another bucket list band for me. The band was tight and they played their big hits along with some great selections from their catalog. I’m happy that none of my interviews conflicted with their set.

Lynch Mob – This was the final bucket list band for me. They were on point and played their big hits along with a Dokken tune that I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately, I don’t recall which Dokken song it was.

The Interviews


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Kansas – Leftoverture: Live and Beyond (Review)

On November 3rd, 2017, Kansas released their first live album in eight years and in my opinion their best since Two For The Show back in 1978. The album was culled from a dozen U.S. shows in early 2017, on the second leg of the expanded Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour. The tour also comes on the heels of the 2016 release of The Prelude Implicit, their first studio release since Somewhere To Elsewhere in 2000. Although only two original members (Phil Ehart and Rich Williams) remain, you can tell right away the new members bring a fresh energy to the band.

The four 180 gram vinyl or double CD starts out with Icarus II, the only track from the 1978- 2016 era followed by Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel), a heavy rocker from 1975’s Masque. The first CD continues to focus on the bands most influential period of 1974 through 1978 with hits and deep cuts such as Paradox, Lamplight Symphony, and the ever popular Dust In The Wind. New singer Ronnie Platt does an amazing job on the iconic ballad. Keyboard player David Manion, an Evansville native, is highlighted on Journey To Mariabronn and David Ragsdale’s violin segments are played to perfection throughout.

The first CD finishes with three tracks off The Prelude Implicit. Rhythm In The Spirit, The Voyage Of Eight Eighteen, and Section 60, a moving instrumental dedicated to the members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. The soldiers are buried in section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.

The Second CD is a live, start to finish, performance of the 5x platinum 1976 album Leftoverture. This album is one of the truly great Progressive-Rock albums of all time. This takes you back to a day before 99 cent singles and digital downloads when an album stood as a thoughtfully arranged collection of songs and an idea the artist wanted to convey to you as a fan. You put on your headphones, dropped the needle in the groove, and let the music take you on a forty-five minute journey.

From the opening fifteen second vocal harmonies of Carry On Wayward Son, we were off. It was here that I had my first disappointment with the CD. Ronnie Platt felt the need to put his own subtle stamp on the classic song and I realized just how underrated vocalist Steve Walsh really was.

As the CD progressed, it fell back into line with what I was expecting and I had to remind myself the five out of the seven musicians on stage were not present when this album was created and recorded. Once I had accepted that, I relaxed and enjoyed the performance for what it was, a fresh look at a classic piece of art. I especially enjoyed Miracles Out Of Nowhere, Cheyenne Anthem, and the ten minute-six part, masterpiece known as Magnum Opus closed the show.

But wait, we also got an encore of Portrait (He Knew) from Point Of No Return reminding us that in October of 2017 we passed the 40th Anniversary of that landmark release, so maybe next year we can do this all again. We can only hope.

As a closing note, for those lucky enough to attend this tour, they opened every show with a five song acoustic set that wasn’t included on this recording for some reason. That would have been the cherry on the sundae, but I still give this album 4 out of 5 stars. My highlights include Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel), Section 60, and of course Magnum Opus.

Put on your headphones, drop the needle in the groove, and enjoy.

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