The big summer tours usually skip El Paso to play larger venues, particularly sheds (aka amphitheaters), in larger cities. The third Carnival of Madness tour bucked that trend with an Aug. 18 stop at Don Haskins Center that drew a crowd of 5,435.
I opted not to cover it. I was too worn out, frankly, from all the extra writing I did in the run up to and during the Plaza Classic Film Festival, plus I was trying to do most of my regular coverage for the paper and helping my mom recuperate from a recent hospitalization.
Luckily, my friend Ryan Brassard of Axestogrind, the heavy music site, asked one of his contributors, J. Blaine Simmons, to review it for us, which I'm finally getting around to posting here. As luck would have it, reader Vincent Arrieta sent me his two cents' worth — unsolicited.
Here's what they thought.
By J. Blaine Simmons
Confined in the event tent, more commonly known to native El Pasoans as “The Don,” was a stage that held five touring bands all in convergence for the Carnival of Madness tour.
The tour features nothing but rock, albeit with a wide range of styles and in various forms. There were impressive supporting acts on tour with headliner Evanescence, including New Medicine, Cavo, Halestorm and Chevelle.
Yet another great tour comes to the Sun City – we have been spoiled this year for sure!
The marathon began with New Medicine; this being a return to El Paso for the Minneapolis, MN-based act. The band just came through the 915 only four months ago, playing Tricky Falls in April with Shinedown.
The boys from Minnesota rocked the crowd, bringing with them a clear and unique Midwest rock style, performing a select set from their 2010 debut release, "Race You to the Bottom"(Photo Finish Records).
Next to hit the stage was St. Louis-based Cavo, who have been on tour this summer in support of their 2012 release, "Thick as Thieves" (Eleven Seven Records). Cavo had an energetic presence that invigorated the crowd, with frontman Casey Walker switching out from guitar duties and holding down vocals while Chris Hobb blazed the remainder of guitar work and solos. The stage presence of Brian Smith is worth noting, as he roamed the space slapping the bass throughout the entire set.
The first choking moment of delight came with Halestorm. The Pennsylvania-based alternative rockers pumped out a truly exceptional set, delivering mostly tracks off their 2012 release, "The Strange Case of…" (Atlantic Records). Frontwoman Lzzy Hale showed off her wide range of talents, which included an excellent set of pipes and keytar/guitar skills.
Halestorm's set was great until it turned exceptional when Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee joined for a duet of “Break In.” Halestorm proved without a doubt they are a great complement to Evanescence on the third annual edition of the tour, and first to feature female-fronted bands.
The excitement was thick following Halestorm’s set, and the anticipation growing before Chicago’s melodic rockers Chevelle hit the stage. They're are a definite favorite here, and it showed when the almighty bull was revealed at the beginning of the set. The crowd roared as this massive toro bravo was revealed as “Hats Off to the Bull," the title song of their new album, broadcasted loudly.
The stage was decorated in a bold red with gold accents, keeping with the tradition of Chevelle and their stylish stage presentations. The set rocked hard and all four of the supporting bands worked hard in bringing us to this point in the Carnival of Madness tour bill.
Evanescence took the stage to a hail of applause and cheers. Lee showed off the exquisite vocals she was blessed with; she's truly unbelievable to hear live. Their show was grand. Lee pumped energy with every breath through each song, and can stop you from breathing with her subtle and intimate mid-set piano solos.
The highlight of the set was the best rendition of “Bring Me to Life” I have ever heard. It consisted of nothing but Lee, with backup vocals by the crowd during the unsung interjections many are familiar with from the album version. The Haskins Center felt united and whole with Lee as choir leader.
The set closed with “My Immortal,” which left the feeling of bittersweet partings between Evanescence and the Sun City Saturday night.
If there is one thing that this music enthusiast enjoys more than the music itself, it is that diverse and talented musicians take it upon themselves to monster multiple instruments. This talent was present throughout the entire event, which really stuck with me as I departed the Haskins Center.
By Vincent Edward Arrieta
The third annual Carnival Of Madness tour's Sun City stop was an incredible celebration of rock and roll. About 5,400 people gathered in the Don Haskins Center to feel and experience the magic of live rock 'n' roll that skips El Paso much too often.
New Medicine started the show off with a bang at with their Beastie Boys-style rap rock. They sure are on the way to the top and never fail to dissapoint. One of the coolest things about the band's live show is the presence of Coolie the Guitar Doctor, a guitar tech who doubles as the band's hype-man and onstage beer server.
The band closed the show with an alcohol-fueled rendition of their drinking anthem, "Race You To The Bottom," with the surprise addition of Arejay Hale of Halestorm. Support this band, see them live, and say "hi" to "Coolie" for me.
Cavo was good, but seemed out of place in this lineup. Their music wasn't really made for the arena setting, and their absence could have made more room for the other bands to play. Otherwise, they are your standard modern rock band in the vein of Buckcherry or Nickelback. They played music from their newest disc, "Thick as Thieves," as well as their signature hit, 2009's "Champagne."
Next up: Halestorm. Ahhh, Lzzy Hale, how you bewitch me.
Halestorm kicked off their set with a screaming rendition of their smash hit "Love Bites (So Do I)." The band bottom-loaded their set with songs from new album "The Strange Case Of...," playing only two songs, "It's Not You" and "I Get Off," from their self-titled debut. No complaints about that.
The performance was highlighted by a piano-playing Lzzy singing "Break In" with a surprise appearance by Amy Lee of Evanescence. Rock moment of the year. History in the making. I cannot wait to see Halestorm at a headlining show again so they can play a longer set, and I can watch Lzzy scream and shout how she's a "Freak Like Me"
Chevelle was, as usual, amazing. The Don Haskins Center is a far better venue for them than Tricky Falls. You could actually hear what Pete Loeffler was singing about and Dean Bernadini's bass sounded crystal clear, filling the room with every pulsing note.
Hearing "Hats Off To The Bull" live in that setting was the high point of the whole show for me, the song sounded like a demon being exorcised from a madman. The only thing negative about their set was the fact that they left out some of their most popular (and some of my favorite) songs, like "Antisaint," "Comfortable Liar," "Letter From a Thief" and "Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)" in place of newer and deeper songs like "The Meddler" and "Another Know It All," respectively.
I immediately proceeded to purchase Chevelle's newest live album "Any Last Words?" the day after the show to satisfy my thirst for more of this band's performance.
Evanescence closed out the night and sure did make it a point to show why it has that slot. Opening with their latest hit "What You Want," singer Amy Lee and the boys proved their music is not a product of a stale studio. Her voice never faltered in any way throughout the night.
Their performances are powerful, emotional, and energetic as hell. They have a near-Korn style heaviness in the live setting that makes anyone in their right mind bang their head. To balance that out, several roadies wheeled out a grand piano center stage for Lee to perform some of the gentler songs of the night, such as "My Heart Is Broken" "Lost In Paradise" and "My Immortal."
Songs from Evanescence's new self-titled album held up particularly well. The addition of Will Hunt, formerly of Staind, on drums and Troy McLawhorn, formerly of Seether, on guitar was a fantastic choice on her part. The band sounds better than ever. They played every song imaginable for the casual and devoted fans for a good hour-and-a-half.
Unfortunately, the Don did not sell out or even fill up completely for this show, so for those of you who decided not to go, here's your reason why El Paso doesn't get some the best concerts: low attendance.
The crowd that did show up did seem a little divided depending on the bands; the Chevelle fans didn't seem to know many of Evanescence's songs, the Evanescence fans didn't appear to know many of the Chevelle songs and so on. But that comes with such a varied lineup. Everyone in the Don sang along to the mega-hits like "Bring Me To Life" or "Face To The Floor".
Maybe we need another "Simon" for this generation's rock 'n' roll to hype up the crowds like the Sun City's heyday of rock many moons ago...
Thanks to KLAQ and UTEP for bringing us this amazing show, and please do not lose faith in El Paso for future shows. Maybe bring them to a slightly smaller venue like the Coliseum so the crowd completely fills up or sells out. Keep up the good work guys. Keep 'em coming.
In the words of Neil Young: "Rock and Roll Can Never Die."