Words By: Gerrod Harris
Photography By: Raven Benwait
On Wednesday, April 23rd, 2015, I had the great pleasure of going to The Phoenix Concert Theater to see Sixx A.M. with their special guests, Apocalyptica. Fans eagerly lined up outside, two hours early, bracing the unseasonably cold weather to get a great spot for the sold out show.
It is one thing to see a band perform, but it is entirely another thing to have the opportunity to meet the band beforehand. I was fortunate enough to be invited into the preshow media meet and greet. Nikki Sixx is one of my musical heroes as a song writer and for his work with Mötley Crüe, getting to meet one of your heroes, no matter how brief, is a surreal matter. At the back of your mind is the nagging wonder of if they will measure up to the standard you hold them to, and if they don’t, would you be able to listen to their music with the same amount of respect and admiration? I can happily say all three members, bassist and leader, Nikki Sixx, guitarist DJ Ashba, and vocalist James Michael are very nice and just a bunch of cool guys. Everyone at the meet and greet got to say hi, shake hands, and get a photo taken with the band. After such a successful meet and greet with the band, even if they had played horribly I still would have left a content fan. However, the performances that followed were an exciting and awesome ending for my evening.
Up until very recently, I had never heard of Apocalyptica and went to the show with an open mind. Before they took the stage, I asked an excited fan what to expect and she replied by telling me they were “very metal”, but unlike most metal bands, they consisted of three cellists and a drummer. After going on about how great they are, she concluded with “cellists are life bruh”. At that moment, my expectations were peaked, and for good reason. Apocalyptica took the stage to a nearly full house and were welcomed by thunderous applause. The mostly instrumental band was joined by their new singer, Franky Perez, who performs on their upcoming release, Shadowmaker. The band played an exciting and unique set for nearly an hour. Perez joined them on their opening song, showcasing both his smooth melodic voice, as well as his vicious screams. Other than the opening song and the last few, Perez was off stage, leaving the band to play a bunch of instrumental numbers. Plugged into a number of effect petals, and amps cranked up to eleven with some thick distortion, Apocalyptica blasted through songs featuring heavy riffs and traditional metal guitar parts and some absolutely crazy solos, transferred onto the cello. Yo-Yo Ma may be one of the undisputedly best cellists, but he has never looked as cool as the guys in Apocalyptica, who not only play guitar parts, but they look, and perform like a guitarists. The highlight of their set was when they played an epic cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” Near the end of their set they performed a heavy rendition of “O’Canada” which resulted in the loudest sing along of the national anthem that I ever heard. Apocalyptica performed greatly, making me a new fan, and giving me a new idea of just how cool the cello can be. We were also fortunately enough to catch their performance at the HMV Underground on April 22nd.
If Sixx A.M. wasn’t such a great band, I would say it would be a challenge to deliver following Apocalyptica, but without a doubt they did. This tour is a major milestone for the band as it marks the first time they have toured together. Although they have been around since their release of The Heroine Diaries Soundtrack in 2007, Sixx A.M. really is a new band in the sense that they have never toured, and have only played a handful of shows in the past. Even though they have three records under their belt spanning the last eight years, the band has not been able to align their schedules as Sixx has been busy with Mötley Crüe and Ashaba’s has been working with Guns N’Roses. Although extremely busy with the Crüe’s farewell tour, Nikki Sixx has carved out the time to tour with Sixx A.M. celebrating both the release of Modern Vintage and their upcoming future. The band promised the audience a new album and subsequent tour with a stop in Toronto sometime in 2016.
Welcomed onto stage with even more excitement from the audience, Sixx A.M. jumped right into a handful of hard hitting songs from Modern Vintage including “Let’s Go”, “Give Me A Love” and “Relief”. Other songs from the album performed include the funky “Miracle”, the pop punk “Gotta Get It Right”, which showcased the talents of their two female backup singers who brought along a gospel flavour to the music. Most noteworthy was the explosive “Stars” which concluded with two large cannons launching thousands of large paper stars across the theater. The band also dug into tracks from their first two albums as well, such as “This is Gonna Hurt”, “Lies Of The Beautiful People” and the soft ballad, led with Michael on piano, “Live Forever”, which was played so well that the man beside me even shed a tear. For an encore, after a break of no longer than a minute or two, the band played through “Skin” which featured an extended solo section for Ashaba to shred. The night ended with their most well know single, the heavy “Life Is Beautiful” which really got the crowd singing along the entire way through. Their music really comes to life in a live setting, often exceeding the album.
All and all Sixx A.M. performed a fantastic career spanning set! One thing I noticed was the sheer amount of ladies panties thrown onstage. What I thought to be an old trend rarely done anymore was very common at this show. At first Ashaba was hanging them off the headstock of his guitar, but it got to the point where they were sliding down the neck and getting in the way of his playing. From that point on he placed them on the drum set and even threw them at Sixx. I guess that means, like myself, many other fans thought the show was top notch. In a music industry which lacks the certain characters of rock from the 60’s to the 90’s, Nikki Sixx stands strong in a new musical outfit as a quintessential rockstar. Not to take away from Ashaba, who is an excellent guitarist, but it is rare to find a bassist who leads the band with his stage presence. Their music goes with their rough and carefree attitude, which fit perfectly in the setting of the Phoenix Concert Theater. More bands should choose to forgo the stadiums and play smaller rock clubs like this. Musically, the band was tight and well-rehearsed, but it is a bond of comradelier which links its members together. All throughout the show, Sixx and Ashaba could be seen trying to playfully push and kick the other, almost as if they wanted each other to mess up. If that isn’t punk rock, then I don’t know what is. As mentioned above, Sixx A.M. will return to Toronto in 2016 to tour for another record. Should everything go according to plan, I would highly recommend attending their concert as it proved to be an excellent evening and a worthwhile display of modern hard rock.