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Today I am proud to bring you a review of the Killswitch Engage concert I attended at the Hawthorne Theater. I am really excited because this is our first guest review! Dylan DePriest kindly asked me along to the show and even more kindly agreed to write up the review! Oh, and when he talks about “the Reverend” that’s me and here’s why (<–follow link).


Killswitch Engage

Killswitch Engage concert review
28 November 2012
Portland, OR
It was a typical cold Wednesday night in Portland. For many it was the milestone marking the middle of the work week, but for metalheads it was the night that Acaro, Shadows Fall, and Killswitch Engage were performing in our great city. This show’s placement in the middle of the work week refined the crowd from people finding something to do on their day off to people who would risk their sleep schedules to see three amazing bands.
I’ve always found that waiting in line outside of the venue is a great start to a show because you get to hear what people say about the bands. The Reverend and I stood right next to someone who was less than affectionate for Shadows Fall; we noted this because her choice to use derogatory terms in her description of the band rather than her choosing to use a more logical and fact-based argument that other people would use. (editor’s note: she called Brian Fair, Shadows Fall’s lead singer “gay” and she didn’t mean he was homosexual, so clearly she is font of taste and discernment, or you know someone who needs to be made aware that is not cool) This conversation continued until we had finally passed Hawthorne Theatre’s security.
Acaro were the opening act for the night and they sounded great and performed great as well. Unfortunately the crowd was pretty weak at this point in the show because that the place wasn’t full and people weren’t warmed up yet. Two guys along with the Reverend and I were the only ones moshing which was fun, but it wasn’t super intense in terms of overall crowd intensity. Acaro’s set was great in terms of performance, but they only played about half an hour.
By the time Shadows Fall came on, the crowd had filled in significantly which brought along the 300 lb. moshers, which pretty much ruled my participation out. Shadows Fall were amazing performers, excelling significantly in their manipulation of the stage lighting and their ability to excite the crowd. Also, Brian Fair’s dreads were a great addition in terms of the visual aspect of the set. The crowd was great as well, people had started to stagedive and be more involved in the metal experience. (editor’s note: DD did plenty of stagediving his own self)
After two great acts, Killswitch Engage performed and did a damn good job of it too. Killswitch Engage started with some Howard Jones-era songs, which was really quite great to experience since Jesse Leach is the band’s vocalist again. The band then performed their entire “Alive or Just Breathing” record. I’ve listened to that record many times from start to finish and it never gets old, so having the live experience was absolutely amazing and, based upon the way the crowd acted, they felt largely the same too. After performing the entire record, Killswitch ended with two more Howard Jones-era songs, ultimately bringing their set to around two hours in length.
This concert was one of the greatest shows I have ever been to. After the opening, the crowd was intense, responsive, and fully engaged in the metal experience. While the show was at a small venue, which is a complaint from many people but not from me, the show was amazing and the music was loud. All three of these bands were great performers and even though I wasn’t completely familiar with all of the songs by the first two bands, they made an environment that was great for new fans and diehards alike. This will be a show that I will remember for many years to come.


I can’t thank Dylan enough for inviting me along and for writing this review.

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So I was very lucky to see Eric Johnson last night thanks to my good friend, Ted (he’s also my step-father-in-law. What? that’s a thing.) I’ve only seen him live in concert once before. Eric Johnson, not Ted. I’ve seen Ted live lots before, though not in concert… I was 16 ( again referring to Eric Johnson not Ted), it was in San Diego at Symphony Hall, and an as yet unknown, at least to me, Sarah Mclaughlin opened for him. This time around it was at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Or. First let me say it is a great venue. Everyone I talked to said a version of “not a bad seat in the whole place” and they are right.

It was a great show. Eric was backed by Chris Maresh on bass and Wayne Salzmann II on drums. Maresh and Salzman are amazing!  Really interesting thing, they seemed to be their own opening band. They played a 45 min set and then took a break and then came back for a full set. I almost wish I had written down their set, but honestly I was too engaged in just enjoying the show and letting it wash over me.

Eric Johnson was one of my early guitar heroes. He has it all. Amazing tone, great technique, dedication to writing songs that fit his perspective of what is great, and he also has one of the two right hands in guitardom that I would want, the other being James Hetfield’s. Seriously, EJ can pick like nobody’s business and finger pick, and do a combination of both.

Check out the Fenders and Marshall and EJ’s pedals!

The Show 

The opening 45 minute set was tight and rocking great energy with some crowd favorites. After the break EJ was solo on the stage with an acoustic and played a few songs that blew me away. His technique is insane. For those of you who do not play let me tell you it is easier to shred on an electric than an acoustic and EJ played flawlessly on his acoustic and did shred, but in a tasteful way. Yes, yes he did.
Maresh and Salzman came back out and the band got to rocking again. Then, about halfway through the second set they played “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” and this was the first wrong note for me. Now, let me be clear-I. Love. That. Song. But, it came after an incredible version of a Coltrane song that highlighted everyone’s talents. Side note: Salzman owned those drums and Maresh made me consider giving up the bass.

Chris Maresh’s pedal board

Back to my point. It may have been that “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” came after such an amazing performance, but EJ also seemed to be a little off his game at this point. His phrasing was a little stuttery. THAT may have been due to the fact that they just got back from Europe and had been awake since 6 a.m. But I think there is more to it than that. When they played some other songs off of “Ah Via Musicom” I noticed the same thing, but when they played newer songs or covers EJ seemed to be more on. To clarify, not bagging on him, it was still better than 95% of guitarists out there when EJ was off. So no “Eff you dude” and no “Yeah he sucks.”

There was one encore and it was great! They closed with “Wind Cries Mary.” And then it was over and I didn’t want it to be over. But I scrambled up front to get some pictures, which was difficult because there was still a grip of people at the front milling about.

Drums and bass rig

Final Thoughts

Eric Johnson is stil the man at 57. The newer material is stronger than one might expect and my observations on the “Ah Via Musicom” aside he is still vital. I look forward to seeing him the next time he comes around. Also, I still need this jacket ↓

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