Everything was Roses when they Held on to the Guns: Guns n’ Roses Not in this Lifetime

I’ve been lucky enough to attend some pretty impressive concerts.

I got to see U2 live in a relatively small stadium, Journey from just a few feet away, and Ozzy’s last Ozzfest with the Black Sabbath lineup.  I even got to see Axl with his new Guns N’ Roses line up back in 2012, having previously seen Duff McKagan, Slash, and Matt Sorum (the Use Your Illusion line up) with Velvet Revolver at the aforementioned Ozzfest.

At the time I thought seeing the various parts of GnR in their new ventures was as close as I would get to seeing the original line up live; especially considering the legendary bad blood between Axl and his former bandmates.

Then the news broke last year that Slash was quoted making some exceptionally flattering comments about Rose.  And Axl was then quoted reciprocating with some equally complimentary statements about Slash.  The two cornerstones of the band thawing a bit?  Rumors flew quickly, would there be a reunion?

A few months later it was announced that Rose, McKagan, and Slash all signed up for a reunion show at Coachella.  Since I knew I wouldn’t hit the lottery any time soon I figured it’d be something I’d have to miss…until they announced tour dates featuring Axl, McKagan, and Slash.  And that they would be playing the football stadium in my city!

Duff back on bass!

I’ve been a GnR fan since the late 80s and early 90s.  I grew up watching their videos on MTV (back when they played music) and became borderline obsessed with the group after the Use Your Illusion albums.  Even though tastes and moods can change any time anyone asks “who’s your favorite band?”  Guns n Roses was always the answer.

It's not the same GnR without Slash...
It’s not the same GnR without Slash…

For me the show had a lot to live up to and it came through beyond what I could have imagined.  My best friend Mike (who’s been a fan almost as long as I have) called it “the culmination of his being.”  Over three hours of classic and newer GnR material.  Arrangements that harkened back to the Use Your Illusion tour (I remember seeing Slash play the Godfather Theme on a VHS tape I had of a GnR show from the 90s) and even some surprises; such as two songs featuring the first member to be ousted, Appetite for Destruction drummer Steven Adler.

Adler on drums for two Appetite tracks!
Adler on drums for two Appetite tracks!

What made the show remarkable to me was that it wasn’t just a greatest hits tour.  Yes they played the biggest of the biggest hits and the roar of the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard when the opening strains to “Welcome to the Jungle” echoed off the stadium stands, but it was more than that.  “Jungle” was followed with relatively deep cut “Double Talkin’ Jive” which has one of my favorite drum beats and guitar outros ever.    That in turn was followed by the 9 minute epic, “Estranged” which possibly features my favorite guitar solo ever.  Halfway through the show they broke out the ultimate GnR deep cut by playing Coma.  A 10 minute song I never thought I’d experience live.  Casual fans all around me sat down as the song wound its way through its narrative leaving me one of the few in my section standing up and singing along.

Coma Live in Concert!

The whole show transported me back in time where playing Doom and drawing comics was all I did every day.

It was far and away greatest concert I’ve ever attended.  What’s the future of GnR?  Who knows.  Axl being as unpredictable as he is may decide to drop the act and just tour with AC/DC (which I have to say if they came here with that line up I’d be pretty psyched for that too).  McKagen may ditch it for a solo act.  Slash might do the same.  The camaraderie on stage appeared pretty damn good though, with Axl jamming to Slash’s solos, and Duff getting to do his own Misfits cover.  And I can’t think of a show where bandmates could play for 3 plus hours for as many shows as they have if they weren’t enjoying themselves.

Nearly 30 years after their debut…Axl still has it..

I shouldn’t hold out hope for a new album featuring the OG GnR line up…but I am.  Maybe someday we’ll hear new material, even just a song or two, from 80s metal’s Lennon & McCarthy of Axl and Slash.

Take a bow!
Take a bow!

But if it never happens, or even if the band happens to implode yet again in the coming weeks, those of us who grew up in the GnR era will always have the masterpieces they produced from 1987-1992.  And I’ll never forget the show they all got together to put on in 2016.


Ultipro Connections: How to do a Conference

Off The Top of My Head

Like most young adults I’ve been to my fair share of conferences for work. I’ve attended them across the street from my office. In East TN so east it’s almost in North Carolina. I’ve had to man booths, I’ve had to sit through boring talks, and even had to give boring talks. But I can honestly say I’ve never been to a good one until the Ultimate Software Connections Conference in Las Vegas, NV 3/7-3/11.

They did some things that I think other event organizers could stand to do, and while it wasn’t perfect (there were a fair few sales pitches, but you come to expect those kinds of things), it provides a good template for how to do a good convention.


  • Book A Nice Location: Connections was at the Bellagio. It’s a little pretentious and pricey (especially if you’re doing the reimbursement thing) but staying in a good room and having nice surroundings for daily meetings and breakout sessions made for a much better experience. I don’t even gamble (I lost!) but the variety of locations and the excellent accommodations (I could spend the rest of my life in that bathroom) made for a perfect event atmosphere.
  • Have Good Speakers: If you’ve got a keynote make sure your keynote speakers are effective and entertaining. If you have breakout session instructors make sure they are comfortable and interesting presenters. The first keynote was Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs I had no idea what to expect but, he turned out to be a terrific story teller and had the crowd roaring with laughter in minutes. Even the self-help presenter, Chester Elton, did a good job. The session presenters were experienced speakers, and one in particular (Jarik Conrad on the neuroscience of human behavior) actually worked the audience and made for an intriguing session.
  • Provide Breaks: I’ve been to too many conferences and conventions that are planned like a ten-year old’s birthday party; scheduled event from beginning to end, and the sessions contain waste-of-time “getting to know you” sections. In a city like Las Vegas, the programmers were smart enough to give essentially two evenings to the attendees to pick what they wanted to do. It let us explore the city, try non-conference food (which was good but you can only have hotel buffet food so often…) and see a few sites. Also between each session there was usually (I planned badly for lunch on Wednesday) a good thirty minutes to take a break.


  • Good Entertainment: This is where the convention did its best. Along with Mike Rowe they had Catapult on Wednesday morning and A Cappella group Home Free on Wednesday. Even their appreciation night dinner was good stand up food with a decent DJ. And on the subject of Entertainment…


  • Having Journey Play Your Appreciation Night Doesn’t Hurt: First of all no conference I’ve ever been to has had an “appreciation night.” Secondly they had Journey play the show. The new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, worked the crowd like a good front man should and with Steve Perry pushing 70 he might have a bit more power in his voice than the original front man. At least when you could hear him over the crowd singing. At one point the girl in the glasses next to me and I were belting “Don’t Stop Believin’” to each other at the top of our lungs. She was a rockstar in her own right. How often do hear of that kind of performance at a business conference?

It was the first time I ever felt the experience of being on site was actually worth it and it made me appreciate a company that would actually put all this on for their customers. It gives everyone in a cubicle in every industry hope that maybe there next work conference might be a little less manila folder and little more Rock n Roll.

Lindsey Stirling in Nashville Vol. 3

Lindsey Stirling played Fontanel this week (aka Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater), and this was no regular show – it fell on a milestone birthday of someone I love very much.

This was the third time I’ve seen Lindsey. This year’s show seemed to focus more on her and what she wanted to do to improve her own performance and the show itself. Here’s what was different:

Lindsey Stirling Nashville 2015

Woman Power – Lindsey replaced her male backup dancers with women. On stage, she admitted to being the only girl on the tour for the last 2.5 years. Wow… I went on vacation with three male family members last year and thought I was going to lose my mind a few times. The new dancers were fun and talented. They didn’t do anything mind-blowing, but they added a playful, strong girl-power element to the show.

Fewer breaks – We were 10 feet from the stage, so I could see her catch her breath and get tired, which was cool. There were still several stage and costume changes, but they took much fewer breaks between songs than the last time, and the pace moved well.

Lindsey Stirling Nashville 2015

The spotlight – I didn’t realize until the next day, Lindsey was in the spotlight more. Her band members stayed hidden half the time, and the show was about her performing for the audience. The crowd has also grown, as Fontanel holds 4,500 people and was nearly sold out. I believe she has truly come out of her shell and will continue to get bigger and bigger.

Lindsey Stirling Nashville 2015

The songs – The set was awesome. She had a better balance with her songs and the variety of others she covers. For example, gamers love her for covering songs from Zelda, Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed, etc. She always plays one and thanks the gamers for supporting her from the beginning – they are the reason the became so huge on YouTube (nearly 50M views for Skyrim alone). However this year, she played a compilation and blended the most popular ones together, and it rocked.

The Encore – I was so tickled when we were walking to the car after the show, and my young companion said, “That last song she played was like a bunch of different songs!” I smiled and replied, “That was Phantom of the Opera.” That’s right, she ended the night with the epic song, which I’ve never seen her perform. It was incredible.

Lindsey Stirling Nashville 2015

Bonus – We met her. Because it was a special night, I bought VIP packages. We saw her playing cornhole, met and hugged her, took photos, did the Q&A, watched the sound check, and had a blast. I was able to thank her for being such a great role model. The milestone birthday will never be forgotten. It was 96 degrees outside, the venue was evacuated twice due to lightning, and afterwards I drove through the worst storm I have ever been in. It was an adventure and well worth it!
Be sure to check her out if you haven’t, and feel free to share some love in the comments below!

Lindsey Stirling in Nashville: The Follow Up

Lindsey Stirling played Music City on June 28, and I had the pleasure of seeing for the second time. The first show was great, but she has definitely grown and learned from her strengths and experiences.

Seeing the evolution in her performance from year to year is one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed. In 2013, she played the small Cannery Ballroom, which fits about 500 people standing. This year, she played the historic Ryman Theater, which seats more than 2,300.

Show highlights:

1. Set list. She recently released her second album, so she has plenty to pick from. At the first show, she played nearly her whole album. This year, she played for 2.5 hours and had a great mix of new, fan favs, and new songs.

2. Higher attendance. Last year, my RevPub partner and I went. This year, I had to buy six tickets! They were more expensive too. It’s a great example of an up-and-coming artist really making a name for herself. It was my oldest brother’s first concert too, and he’s 26 years old. In another year, she will sell out an even larger venue.

3. Lights and screens. I was impressed with the light show. Every song was different and complemented her playing well. My favorite was the little 8-bit Link that ran along the screen during Zelda Medley.

4. Dancers. Lindsey has a great pair of back-up dancers, but last year there was no room for them. The Ryman’s stage allowed them to dance, play, and have a dance-off during her breaks. They tossed her around and picked her up, all while she never missed a note on the violin.

5. The band. She has a live keyboardist and drummer on stage at all times. This improves sound quality beyond the normal noise that dubstep can sometimes project. I could tell the group really cares for one another, and it was very much like a family. You don’t see that closeness often, especially in bands, because of ego and entitlement issues.

6. A personal view. At one point, Lindsey played a photo slideshow of her growing up. Not only can you hear her emotions and experience in her playing, but you could see that at an early age she loved to play and dance. A lot of performers fill in break time with random messages or images, but Lindsey wants you to know her. I’ve never seen an artist open up on stage the way she did.

If you never seen her, you should. I’ll let this video speak for itself 🙂

Video by pixiegirl2426

Distant Worlds: The Music from Final Fantasy

I’ve been a Final Fantasy fan since the 90s and while my adoration for the games has waned of late, the scores composed by maestro Nobuo Uematsu have never lost their charm or virtuosity.

Distant Worlds is a symphonic or mixed-piece performance series that has been touring for years and when my RevPub partner and I found out it was coming to our town we knew it was a must-see.  It just so happens my friend Mike and his fiancee found out about it at the same time and went as well.  We all pretty much had the same opinion: it was fantastic.

Several of the pieces were from the “Final Fantasy 2002-0220” performances from over a decade ago and haven’t needed to change a bit.  Surprisingly a few of the pieces were VERY new, including one from the latest Lightning Returns, which made conductor Arnie Roth’s statement about short rehearsal times REALLY have impact.  The music was synched to a video screen showing clips from the games, re-cut to go with music.  It was definitely a nice touch, especially for those not accustomed to seeing an orchestra live.

My Final Fantasy CD collection.
My Final Fantasy CD collection.

There is something unique about seeing symphonic music live.  The sound of a symphony orchestra fills and surrounds a venue like no other kind of music, and with pieces as well-loved and recognizable as Uematsu’s scores it made for a terrific atmosphere. Most of the time orchestras play classical/romantic music, or music composed just to be music.  Uematsu composed his music as a score for a story or capture the personality of a character.  Even more impactful than film scores, Uematsu’s scores provide the ambiance for a story YOU help tell.  So when you hear them it puts you back in the narrative; recreates the mood and the emotion of events and characters we know so well.  Not one that is an hour or two, but maybe one that was 16, 28, or 65 hours or more…  That’s a lot of time to spend with characters.  A lot of time to get attached to their personalities and motives; Uematsu’s music always masterfully captures the essence of each.

From the jaunty and upbeat “Chocobo Theme,” to the intense strains of “Don’t be Afraid;” and from the profound passion of “Eyes on Me” to the mournful and delicate tone of “Aerith’s Theme,” every piece allows you to re-live that story again, put you back in that “distant world” and relate hours and storytelling magnificently in less than four minutes.

The performance was topped off by a surprise encore (that doesn’t happen much in symphonic music, even though it’s where the term originated!) where Roth asked the audience to sing the choral lyrics to “One-Winged Angel” while the symphony played the music.  We were asked only to sing the “SE-PHI-ROTH” portion but in an audience full of fans, many of us sang the rest of the lyrics in Latin.  Short of a surprise performance of Koichi Sugiyama’s Dragon Quest title music or Uematsu himself coming out to play the Advent Children version of Sephiroth’s inimical theme with The Black Mages, it was an performance that couldn’t have been improved upon.

Uematsu composed his first Final Fantasy music for 8-bit video games.  As the technology progressed he composed for 16-bit cartridges, CD-ROM midis, and later full orchestral scores for Final Fantasy games on DVD and even for films.  But the purity and beauty of his music is it works in ALL forms.  There is as much heart in “Dear Friends” whether you heard it on a Super Famicom, PS1, or in a symphony hall.  There is true beauty to be found in the simplicity of it and it is worth traveling to Distant Worlds to find it for yourself.

Uematsu (on the big Korg keyboard) performing One-Winged Angel with an symphony orchestra, full chorus, and his band The Black Mages.

2013 Concert Review: Teen Dreams Coming True

If someone had told me in January I’d be writing about seeing my favorite 90s bands, I would have laughed in their face. Even by March, the 2013 lineup for Nashville concerts looked bleak.

Oh how things changed…

It wasn’t long after that when tickets for the first show went on sale. Then the next and the next. What I thought would be a wasted year turned out to be my 90s teenage dream come true.

July 9: Marilyn Manson – This show was especially important because he played Nashville when I was in high school and I wasn’t allowed to go. Manson was in his prime, and of course, his reputation proceeded him. As a teenage, I always felt like I’d missed something pretty awesome.

In July, I fulfilled my wish and took two of my favorite people with me. We had a great time. Manson sounded great, rocked War Memorial, and there was not a bad seat in the house. He performed all our favorites and changed outfits and props nearly every song. My favorite part was talking to all the other 30-somethings who were seeing him for the first time because like me, their parents wouldn’t them see me. We stood united.

October 22: Nine Inch Nails – Anyone my age knows how big NIN was in the 90s. Trent Reznor was the man. I was again too young to see him, and later I missed NIN a few times due to biology labs and adult responsibilities. For 15 years I’ve listened to people tell me how awesome the show is, so this was a must-see. If you’re thinking about it, just go. He sounded amazing, and it was one of the best light shows I’ve ever experienced. You couldn’t take your eyes off the stage, and he performed Wish and March of the Pigs. You haven’t really heard these songs until you’ve heard them live.

November 24: Rob Zombie and Korn – Two headliners. And those two headliners. What can I even say? I’m surprised the roof didn’t cave in – everyone was on their feet the whole time. Zombie got the crowd rowdy and loud (as James says he’s a performer, a ring leader, a presence). As if Zombie and John 5 weren’t enough, he brought out a special guest: Mick Mars from Motley Crue. It was epic.

Then Korn set up. I won’t lie, I was a little winded, but you have to suck it up. This was the fourth time I’ve seen Korn, but this time was different. The crowd was LOUD. The arena shook with people jumping, screaming, singing. I looked around for a moment and thought, “This is what a concert should be. THIS is energy.”

We hope 2014 won’t disappoint because 2013 will be tough to beat. Here’s to ears ringing, lost voices, and rocking out.

If you had any fun shows this year, feel free to tell us about them in the comments!