Sunday, July 15, 2018

Armored Saint and Act of Defiance Put on a Show for the Ages in Boston

Wow. What a night.

When Armored Saint announced a summer tour where they would play 1991's Symbol of Salvation in its entirety, I was already in. Then I found out that Act of Defiance was the supporting act, and it became one of my most anticipated shows in a long time. Expectations were high, and both bands exceeded them by a mile.

I saw Armored Saint a couple years ago on the Win Hands Down tour, and they were fantastic, so I knew we'd be in for a great show from them. As far as Act of Defiance, I had been wanting to see them since former Megadeth members Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover formed the band in 2014.  I've loved the two albums Act of Defiance has put out so far, and couldn't wait to see them live.

This was my first time seeing a show at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, and it instantly became one my favorite venues. The place is tiny, but has great acoustics, and that's a great combination.

I got a chance to meet Chris Broderick outside before the show, and he was super nice, which pretty much made the night a success before we even got inside. Little did I know it would get much, much better.

Act of Defiance came out and played a great set that featured a great mix of songs from both albums, including M.I.A, The Birth and the Burial, Rise of Rebellion, Reborn and more. Seeing Chris Broderick's guitar wizardry up close was a mind-blowing experience. He is one of the all-time greats. Bassist Matt Bachand and drummer Shawn Drover provided a brutal foundation for Broderick's fretboard gymnastics, and singer Henry Derek brought a ton of energy that the crowd gave back twofold. It was a great set, and solidified Act of Defiance as one of my favorite bands of the last several years.

Matt and I ended up chatting with Bassist Matt Bachand at the merch table after the set, and since he's a Massachuetts guy, we reminisced about hanging out at our local music shop Music Outlet,a s well as some of the local places we all used to catch shows when we were kids. We also got to meet Shawn Drover, and caught back up with Chris Broderick again, which was great.

And them Armored Saint came out and put on one of the best shows I've ever seen.

First, they warmed up the crowd with March of the Saint, Long Before I Die and Chemical Euphoria. And then they launched into Symbol of Salvation in its entirety and it was perfect. John Bush provided some insight about different songs as they went, and the crowd ate up every word. The place as packed with Armored Saint fans, and the crowd sang along to every song. The energy was just huge.

As if hearing that landmark album from front to back wasn't enough, Armored Saint played four more songs before they wrapped their set, including Can You Deliver and Win Hands Down. It was amazing.

If this tour is coming anywhere near you this summer, GO SEE IT. Armored Saint is a legendary band, and this a legendary show. And Act of Defiance is a sight to behold evil as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #800 Was Totally Worth The Wait

I put off reading Amazing Spider-Man #800 for a almost a month and a half (it was released on May 30th). There are so many emotions tied to it for me that I was just not ready to read it. Even though it's not the last issue of AMS that Dan Slott wrote (his run ends with #801), it is the conclusion of Dan Slott's last major story arc, and that is a really big deal to me for multiple reasons.

First off, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is my favorite comic character of all time.  Which leads me to my next reason.

Dan Slott is my favorite Spider-Man writer of all time, bar none. I have pretty much loved his entire historic run on my favorite character. For me, he has not only done justice to both Peter and Spidey, but he has redefined some supporting cast members in a way I never thought possible. The work he did with Otto Octavius alone would have made his run legendary in my eyes. But he did so much more than that.

The last reason the end of Slott's run is such a big deal to me is that it comes not long after the end of Secret Identity, a comics and pop culture podcast I co-hosted and produced for 12 years. Matt and I ended Secret Identity at episode #800 (though we produced well over 900 episodes overall, including specials and odd-numbered shows). Secret Identity began almost two years before Dan started his run on Amazing-Spider Man, and it ended in November of 2017, shortly after issue #791 of Amazing Spider-Man came out.

For me, Secret Identity and Slott's run on Amazing Spider-Man will forever be connected. Our show ran through almost all of Dan's run on AMS. We discussed dozens AMS issues on the show, and I interviewed Dan on four separate occasions. The first time I sat down with Dan was in early 2008 when he had just become part of the "Spidey Braintrust" that was tasked with picking up the pieces of the "One More Day" event. The last time I interviewed Dan was in August of 2016, during the lead-up to "Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy," which featured the return of Ben Reilly.   

So with all the history I have with Slott's run, how did issue #800 stack up for me?

It was damn near perfect.

In the 80-page conclusion to the "Go Down Swinging" storyline, there are so many moments that serve to acknowledge all of the characters that Slott has told stories with during his run. And in those moments, we see how much all of these people matter to Peter Parker, and to Slott himself.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this issue is that it honors Norman Osborn as the longtime nemesis of Spider-Man, while giving Otto Octavius his moment to shine as well.

I'm not going to spoil the story here, because any Spidey fan should read it for themselves. But for me, it was extremely satisfying, and very emotional.

I still haven't brought myself to read Slott's final issue of Spidey (#801), because I'm not ready to completely say goodbye yet. But issue #800 made me want to go back to the very beginning of Dan's run and start reading all over again. His will forever be my favorite run on the book. And for that, I cannot thank him enough.

But I'll try, after I read issue #801.