M3 Rock Festival (Part Two of Day Two) Concert Review

Photo by Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography

SECOND HALF OF M3’S DAY TWO PRODUCES MANY SURPRISES

Date: May 5, 2018
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Location: Columbia, Maryland, USA
Event: M3 Rock Festival (Day Two)
Reviewer: Olivier
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography

Going into the second half of the M3 Rock Festival‘s Day Two, Last In Line were firmly entrenched in my mind as the top live act of the last three days. Having seen the next six bands coming up during the second half of Day Two perform live in the past, I really thought that it would be quite difficult for any act to top Last In Line‘s performance.

Stryper:

With Lynch Mob having potentially munched away at some of Stryper‘s set time, you could forgive the Stryper band members for being somewhat miffed going into their set. Nevertheless, the Stryper band members consisting of frontman Michael Sweet, guitarist Oz Fox, drummer Robert Sweet and newcomer / bassist Perry Richardson showed no signs of any ill feelings towards Lynch Mob. Rather, they just played their hearts out and sounded really good. Their stage set up was noteworthy for the very bright yellow back drop. Even newcomer Perry Richardson had apparently adopted the yellow and black colours looking more colourful than frontman Michael Sweet.

Say what you will about Stryper, this is a band that just keeps getting better with time like a fine wine. Lead vocalist Michael Sweet‘s voice is still phenomenal 30 plus years after the group started. The guitar harmonies between Michael Sweet and Oz Fox were impressive to see and hear. Stryper‘s setlist was definitely a good one with some of their heavier and well known tunes like “More Than A Man” and “The Way”, the easy sing along (“Calling On You”), a couple of new tracks (“Sorry” and “God Damn Evil”) and the concert staples (“Soldiers Under Command” and “To Hell With The Devil”). I know that Stryper have recently come under fire most notably from Metal Sludge for using tracks / pre-recorded vocals while playing live but I did not notice this at the M3 Rock Festival and frankly don’t really care as long as it’s done for enhancement purposes. In any case, there is no denying that Michael Sweet remains one of the premier singers of his generation.

Stryper’s setlist:
01. Sorry
02. Calling On You
03. Free
04. More Than A Man
05. Soldiers Under Command
06. All For One
07. God Damn Evil
08. The Way
09. To Hell With The Devil

Stryper performing “Calling On You” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2018:

Stryper Calling on You at M3 Rock Festival 2018

Uploaded by Jennifer Harrell on 2018-05-06.

Slaughter:

I am going to begin my review of Slaughter‘s set by stating that I really respect Slaughter and ex-Vinnie Vincent Invasion frontman Mark Slaughter. Not only is the man putting out solo albums but he’s also respectful to the enigmatic guitarist Vinnie Vincent when the latter keeps putting the former down time after time, and more than 30 years after they last worked together. That being said, seeing Slaughter live has been rather disappointing in the past for me and the group’s performance at M3 Rock Festival‘s 2018 edition did nothing to change my opinion in that regard. I personally hate extended jams on stage during a live performance and Slaughter continuously offend in that department. Not surprisingly, the band members — minus Mark Slaughter — consisting of bassist Dana Strum, guitarist Jeff “Blando” Bland and drummer Zoltan Chaney launched into an extended intro jam to open up their set.

The extended jams or finishes continued throughout Slaughter‘s set. While it definitely made Slaughter stand out from the rest of the groups playing at the M3 Rock Festival, the lost time with all these extended jams shortened Slaughter‘s set to only eight songs, which was a pity. I think that Slaughter could have easily squeezed in an extra two songs had they eliminated the extended and needless jams. In terms of enthusiasm, Slaughter did deliver. Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum seemed to really enjoy themselves. Drummer Zoltan Chaney was a show all by himself. There is no other drummer that can really compare to him. The fact that Zoltan was able to do so many antics from jumping around to standing while drumming almost made me feel that the Slaughter songs were not challenging enough for him, In any case, it was fun watching Zoltan play the drums from fairly close up and he almost stole the show from his bandmates. Mark Slaughter‘s voice sounded pretty good. I was secretly hoping to hear a Vinnie Vincent song in Slaughter‘s set but that wasn’t meant to be.

Slaughter’s setlist:
01. The Wild Life
02. Burning Bridges
03. Spend My Life
04. Mad About You
05. Days Gone By
06. Real Love
07. Fly To The Angels
08. Up All Night

Slaughter performing “The Wild Life” at the M3 Rock Festival In Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2018:

“The Wild Life” Slaughter@M3 Festival Columbia, MD 5/5/18

The Wild Life, Slaughter, M3 Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland; May 5th, 2018; Spring Tour; 1st song of the set

Sebastian Bach:

The biggest surprise of the M3 Rock Festival was definitely the former Skid Row frontman. There is no denying that Sebastian Bach is one of the top frontmen in rock n’ roll / heavy metal. His tall 6’4 frame, outgoing personality and attitude makes him one of the most entertaining and dominating singers presence wise. I have always touted Bach as one of the greats but it wasn’t until M3 Rock Festival‘s 2018 edition that the singer put everything together (at a show that I attended) to come up with the best performance of the festival. It is hard to characterize Bach as moody since I don’t know him but out of the three previous times that I had seen him play live in the last four years, he came across onstage as almost arrogant, angry and jovial. Each time, I enjoyed Bach‘s live performance but it’s always more fun when the entertainer is in a good mood and having fun. This time around, Bach seemed to be in a fantastic mood, very grateful to be there and appreciative of the big M3 crowd that was there to greet him.

Bach and his all-star caliber backing band of drummer Bobby Jarzombek, guitarist Brent Woods and bassist Rob DeLuca opened their set with their sped up version of the Skid Row frontman’s usual opener “Slave To The Grind.” There seemed to be a little extra energy level from Bach as things started out. After Bach and his band finished “Piece Of Me”, the singer advised humorously that he was still in the washroom when he was called onto the stage and he really wanted to talk to the audience but his time was limited. This was in sharp contrast to Robert Mason who indicated that he didn’t want to address the audience during Lynch Mob‘s set. You could feel a sense of excitement from Bach at playing to such a large audience. What I thought that Bach did better than any other performer was cover all parts of the stage. Given his imposing presence, he seemed larger than life and especially when compared to some of the other lead vocalists that were before him on the Merriweather Post Pavilion stage in the last two days.

Bach‘s time slot seemed to be the perfect one for Saturday as there seemed to be a very large M3 audience in attendance and he was able to generate what seemed to be the loudest cheers, best sing alongs and most fists in the air. As usual, Bach relied heavily on material from Skid Row‘s debut album playing seven out of the ten songs but can you really fault him for that when the songs on the album are so good? You may recall that the Skid Row record landed tied for #4 on the Top 12 Albums that have stayed with Sleaze Roxx Readers two years ago behind only Mötley Crüe‘s Shout At The Devil, Guns N’ RosesAppetite For Destruction and Ratt‘s Out Of The Cellar (and tied with Mötley Crüe‘s Dr. Feelgood). So if anything, Bach was giving the M3 crowd exactly what they wanted from him.

By the time that Bach had started his set, I had Last In Line firmly at #1 for the best performance at the M3 Rock Festival‘s 2018 edition but by the time that the former Skid Row frontman launched into a surprise rendition of Mötley Crüe‘s classic “Shout At The Devil”, he had taken over my top spot for best performance at this year’s M3. Seeing the thousands of fists in the air when the chorus portion of “Shout At The Devil” was being screamed was a wonderful thing (the video below does not do that part justice) and brought back memories of when I was an 18 year old kid pumping my fist in the air at a concert. Let’s face it, while it’s fun to attend concerts in my 40s with most people roughly within ten years of my age, a lot of us have gotten older and simply don’t display or exude the same amount of energy while attending a concert. Seeing all those fists in the air was a true flashback to the ’80s glory days, courtesy of Bach and his talented band members. Bach ended his fantastic energy filled set with  his usual set closer “Youth Gone Wild.”

After the singer left the stage, I was literally shocked by how great his performance was. I never would have expected it going into M3 this year but Bach had just delivered the best performance of the festival. It will be interesting to see if Bach can recapture or continue at such a high level in the coming month and a half as I plan to catch one of his shows in the province of Ontario in Canada in late June.

Sebastian Bach’s setlist:
01. Slave To The Grind
02. Piece Of Me
03. 18 And Life
04. The Threat
05. I Remember You
06. Big Guns
07. Sweet Sister Mercy
08. (Love Is) A Bitchslap
09. Rattlesnake Shake
10. American Metalhead
11. Monkey Business
12. Shout At The Devil (Mötley Crüe)
13. Monkey Business (reprise)
14. Youth Gone Wild

Sebastian Bach performing “Monkey Business” with “Shout At The Devil” live at the M3 Rock Festival on May 5, 2018:

Sebastian Bach – Monkey Business w/Shout At The Devil – M3 Rock Festival, Columbia, MD 5/5/2018

Sebastian Bach – Monkey Business w/Shout At The Devil – M3 Rock Festival, Columbia, MD 5/5/2018

Sebastian Bach performing “Youth Gone Wild” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2018:

Sebastian Bach Youth Gone Wild M3 Rock Festival 2018

Uploaded by Ron Murdock on 2018-05-10.

Ace Frehley:

As much as Sebastian Bach was incredibly good, unfortunately Ace Frehley was incredibly disappointing. Being a massive KISS fan, Bach had “warmed up” the crowd by announcing that the Spaceman was coming up next. It was Frehley‘s first time performing at the M3 Rock Festival so having the former KISS guitarist grace the M3 stage should have been one of the special moments of this year’s festival. After all, there were only two bands playing for the first time at M3 this year — Frehley and Last In Line — and the latter had put on an electrifying set. One thing that I knew going into Frehley‘s set is that he’s not really a frontman. It was only by the time that KISS released their sixth studio album Love Gun that the guitarist handled the lead vocals on a song and although Frehley has been mostly a solo performer since 1983 or so, he just never — in my eyes — became the frontman that he needed to be compared to let’s say Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters (and ex-Nirvana drummer). That being said, seeing the “reluctant” frontman Ace Frehley is always special because he is the original former KISS guitarist and the songs that he has to choose from for his live set are outstanding.

Frehley and his very capable backing band of guitarist Richie Scarlet, bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Scot Coogan kicked their set off with “Parasite” and “Rip It Out.” The performance seemed a little flat despite the great songs being played. Coogan then handled lead vocals on “Love Gun” and did a good job in that regard. In fact, every band member got a shot at handling lead vocals as Wyse took the lead for “Strange Ways” while Scarlet handled the lead vocals for “2 Young 2 Die.” Frehley did address the audience but it was mostly his usual song introductions such as what was the first song that he ever sang lead on (“Shock Me”) or the next one is a “drinking” song (“Cold Gin”). At one point, Frehley introduced his latest single “Bronx Boy” but very oddly, the guitarist and his band didn’t bother playing it. Given that Frehley mentioned the new song, it seemed to me that it was his intention to play it but he did not bother when he got a lukewarm reaction from the crowd.

Towards the end of Frehley‘s set, the guitarist seemed to lose his bearings a little bit. First on “Shock Me”, the guitarist started singing away from his mic stand before apparently getting a little push towards the mic from presumably a roadie or guitar tech (see around 1:05 mark of video below). During “Cold Gin”, it got even worse with Frehley missing an entire verse section of the song before Coogan apparently tried to get the guitarist back on track by what appeared to be Coogan mouthing the words “focus” to a seemingly distracted Frehley (see 7:48 mark of other video below). Frehley seemingly looked a little confused at times and was very far from the electrifying performance that I had seen him perform exactly ten years ago at The Guvernment in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I know that Frehley is ten years older as he is now 67 years old but the guitarist seemed to have aged considerably in those ten years. The songs being played were still great ones and I could see many people along with me singing along but Frehley‘s performance was for the most part pretty flat and the aforementioned miscues suggested that something was really off for him on this night.

Of note, about a week later, Frehley advised an audience at the Indianapolis KISS Expo that he was feeling pretty tired due to having bronchitis. Perhaps there lies the reason for Frehley‘s quite disappointing performance at M3 Rock Festival‘s 2018 edition.

Ace Frehley’s setlist:
01. Parasite
02. Rip It Out
03. Love Gun
04. Rock Soldiers
05. Strange Ways
06. New York Groove
07. 2 Young 2 Die
08. Shock Me
09. Cold Gin
10. Detroit Rock City
11. Deuce

Ace Frehley performing “Shock Me” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2018:

“Shock Me” Ace Frehley@M3 Festival Columbia, MD 5/5/18

Shock Me, Ace Frehley, M3 Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland; May 5th, 2018; Spring Tour

Ace Frehley performing guitar solo and “Cold Gin” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2018:

“Guitar Solo & Cold Gin” Ace Frehley@M3 Festival Columbia, MD 5/5/18

Ace Guitar Solo & Cold Gin, Ace Frehley, M3 Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland; May 5th, 2018; Spring Tour

Night Ranger:

I’ve never been much of a Night Ranger fan. I do not own any of their albums. I didn’t even have any of their records taped on cassette back in the ’80s and ’90s. Accordingly, I didn’t really know any of their songs aside from their killer ballad “Sister Christian” and my expectations were quite low for them. During the M3 Rock Festival‘s 2014 edition when I first saw Night Ranger play live, this was my cue to take a much needed break. This time around, and I am not sure why, I decided to focus and actively take in Night Ranger‘s entire set. To my great surprise, Night Ranger were simply fantastic. There was a real energy coming from the band’s frontman Jack Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis and newcomer / guitarist Keri Kelli jumped and moved around quite a bit and seemed really happy to be there. So much so that I couldn’t help but want to see the group’s entire set.

I loved the fact that Night Ranger made an effort to play different songs from their prior M3 appearances as Blades advised the crowd that they would be playing the little played “Night Ranger” track on this night. It just made their M3 performance that much more special. I have to confess that since I was not familiar with most of their songs (aside from the Damn Yankees songs and of course “Sister Christian”) including the set closer “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”, whether Night Ranger played a deep track like “Night Ranger” didn’t really impact me setlist wise but I did appreciate the gesture of trying to change their setlist up. The well traveled Keri Kelli who has also played in Alice Cooper, L.A. Guns, Stephen Pearcy and Pretty Boy Floyd seemed to really fit in well with Night Ranger. It was a bit strange however for me to see him play the “lighter” rock that Night Ranger play given some of the sleazier type bands that he has played with in the past. In any case, Kelli fit in quite nicely with Night Ranger. The M3 crowd seemed to be quite into Night Ranger‘s set and the band was so good live that I thought that it should have closed the M3 Rock Festival.

Night Ranger’s setlist as per setlist.fm):
01. Somehow Someday
02. (You Can Still) Rock In America
03. Sign Me Away
04. Coming Of Age (Damn Yankees song)
05. Sentimental Street
06. Rumours In The Air
07. Night Ranger
08. Come Again / High Enough (Damn Yankees songs)
09. Four In The Morning
10. When You Close Your Eyes
11. Sister Christian
12. Don’t Tell Me You Love Me with Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)

Night Ranger performing “Night Ranger” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2018:

Night Ranger- Night Ranger (M3 Rock Festival 05/05/18)

Uploaded by Marvilus33 on 2018-05-18.

Queensrÿche:

After some strong performances at prior M3 editions, Queensrÿche were getting the chance to close out the festival this time around. While I was happy for Queensrÿche getting that opportunity, it was a bit disappointing to have them close out M3 Rock Festival‘s 10th year anniversary edition since it felt like the festival didn’t come up with something really special for its 10th year anniversary. Rather, the M3 Rock Festival delivered most of the same bands that it usually does and even “promoted” one of the bands that regularly plays the festival to “headliner” status. Don’t get me wrong. Queensrÿche put on a great performance at each of the M3 editions (2014 and 2015) that I had seen in the past but I just didn’t view them as a M3 Rock Festival headliner.

While I definitely was very familiar with many of the songs played by Queensrÿche, it didn’t feel like a headlining set as the group delivered a technically strong set but there wasn’t much interaction between any of the band members and the M3 crowd. The band members seemed rather stationery during their live performance. The songs were well played but there was definitely a lack of synergy between singer Todd LaTorre and the crowd, and certainly when compared to Sebastian Bach, Andrew Freeman (Last In Line), Steve Whiteman (Kix) or even Jack Blades (Night Ranger). I was pleased that Queensrÿche played four songs — “Best I Can,” “Silent Lucidity,” “Empire” and “Jet City Woman” — from their blockbuster album Empire given that it’s my favorite record of theirs. There were a couple of tracks that I thought could have easily been omitted from Queensrÿche‘s set like “Damaged” (from the underwhelming Promised Land album) and “Screaming In Digital” (I never got into the Rage For Order record).

It was disappointing to see Queensrÿche finish about 10 to 15 minutes earlier than the presumed 11:00 pm curfew. I expected that the band would have tried to sneak in a couple more tracks and try to finish just before 11:00 pm rather than simply presumably play their scheduled set and that’s it. Given that this was the M3 Rock Festival and the 10th year anniversary edition, I was hoping for something special from Queensrÿche — and as the headliner to boot — but instead got what seemed to be a live performance that the group could have delivered on any given night.

Queensrÿche’s setlist:
01. Best I Can
02. Damaged
03. The Whisper
04. Breaking The Silence
05. I Don’t Believe in Love
06. Silent Lucidity
07. Guardian
08. Empire
09. Queen Of The Reich
10. Jet City Woman
11. Take Hold Of The Flame
12. Screaming In Digital
13. Eyes Of A Stranger

Queensrÿche performing “Empire” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2018:

“Empire” Queensryche@M3 Festival Columbia, MD 5/5/18

Empire, Queensryche, M3 Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland; May 5th, 2018; Spring Tour