Thursday, March 29, 2007

Heaven & Hell, March 18, 2007

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1971 was the last time Black Sabbath played Winnipeg. Their 1983 show was cancelled due to a conflict with the Shrine Circus. Now, almost three decades from their peak with Ozzy Osbourne, I wondered how many people would show up to see the Dio-era Sabbath, now renamed Heaven & Hell. When Dio recorded two albums with Sabbath, Heaven & Hell (1980) and The Mob Rules (1981), he easily breathed desperately needed life into the floundering metal band, the founding band in metal. Dio left on bitter terms with the band and was often quoted as citing the credits on the 1982 live album, Live Evil, which named him as Ronnie Dio, rather than Ronnie James Dio.

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A couple of days before the show, I noticed an advertisement which indicated that the floor seats would general admission. For those who had really good seats on the floor, they now would have to show up early to get close to the stage.

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Opening act Down were terrible and quite forgettable, and had no memorable songs. Still, quite a few people in the audience wore Down t-shirts. Down are essentially a "supergroup" comprised of former members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar and Superjoint Ritual. Their three albums are NOLA (1995), Down II (2001) and Down III (2007.) Singer Phil Anselmo had vocal problems and referred to them throughout the set, but the fans on the floor didn't seem to mind at all. I have read other fan reviews of the show and the Down fans thought Heaven & Hell and Megadeth were dreadfully boring while Down ruled!

Megadeth were surprisingly good. Compared to Down, Dave Mustaine and company sounded like a classic rock group. They had a clearer sound and their songs have the right balance of melody and aggression and for the most part, are memorable. Highlights for me included Wake Up Dead, Symphony of Destruction and Peace Sells. They are about to release their 11th studio album, United Abominations and have sold over 20 million albums over their 25 year career. Joining Dave in the band were Canadians Glen (guitar) and Shawn Drover (drums)and bassist James Lomenzo (White Lion.) If Dave had a $1 for every line-up change in the band's history, he'd be richer than he is already. I was quite impressed with this version of Megadeth and I would go see them again.

Heaven & Hell. There's some great material from the Dio years, but so much of the other songs sound alike, including the new songs. Instead of opening with a new track or an old favorite, they opened with After All(The Dead), the second track from the third Dio Sabbath album, 1992's Dehumanizer. Honestly, the three songs from Dehumanizer, including I and Computer God, are second rate material. The three new tracks, Ear In the Wall, The Devil Cried, and Shadow of the Wind, also failed to get the crowd going. ost bands play more than one song in their encores, but these guys only offered up Neon Knight.

I was hoping that guitarist Tony Iommi would say something, but the only one who addressed the crowd was the man with the mike, the diminutive Dio. I was a bit surprised by how close to the studio album was Geezer Butler's bass guitar. Butler and Iommi didn't move around the stage, leaving Dio as the focal point. Vinnie Appice is a well-known drummer, however, I was really disappointed with his drum solo. It was one of the most boring, unimaginative solos that I've ever seen.

The most effective songs for me were the rousing Mob Rules, Children of the Sea, Lady Evil, Sign of the Southern Cross, Die Young, Heaven & Hell and Neon Knights. They are on tour in support of the new compilation album, Black Sabbath: The Dio Years and played everything from that album save for Lonely Is The Word, Turn Up The Night, Falling Off The Edge Of The World and TV Crimes. The show would have been better if they played a longer encore, left out some of the weaker songs in favour of Country Girl, Falling Off The Edge Of The World and Turn Up The Night.

Heaven & Hell: Ronnie James Dio - Vocals, Tony Iommi - Guitar, Geezer Butler - Bass, Vinny Appice - Drums, Scott Warren - Keyboards
After All (The Dead)
Mob Rules
Children of the Sea
Lady Evil
Ear in the Wall
Sign of the Southern Cross
The Devil Cried
Computer God
Shadow of the Wind
Die Young
Heaven and Hell
Neon Knights

Megadeth (45-minute set)

1. Sleepwalker
2. Wake Up Dead
3. She Wolf
4. A Tout Le Monde
5. Washington Is Next
6. Symphony of Destruction
7. Peace Sells/Mechanix
8. Hangar 18
9. Holy Wars (encore)

1. Lysergik Funeral Procession
2. Lifer
3. Hail The Leaf
4. New Orleans is a Dying Whore
5. Losing All
6. Bury Me In Smoke

"Black Sabbath: The Dio Years" track listing:

01. Neon Knights
02. Lady Evil
03. Heaven And Hell
04. Die Young
05. Lonely Is The Word
06. The Mob Rules
07. Turn Up The Night
08. Voodoo
09. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
10. After All (The Dead)
11. TV Crimes
12. I
13. Children Of The Sea - Live
14. The Devil Cried*
15. Shadow Of The Wind*
16. Ear In The Wall*

* Newly recorded tracks

Audience: 7,500.

My rating for this show is 3/5.

Friday, March 23, 2007

60,000 km on the car

Finally, after 64 months of ownership, I finally put on 60,000 KMs on my car.

This is what it looks like, although this is someone else's.

2002 Accord Coupe EX-V6

My local dealer actually expressed an interest in buying it from me since it has low mileage, but I plan to hang onto it for a while yet.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Concert Review: Meat Loaf - Winnipeg, Manitoba, March 11, 2007

MTS Centre
Winnipeg, Manitoba
audience: 6000

Would Meat Loaf put on a cheesy show as a pale imitation of his former self or would he rekindle so many memories of the 70s onward with his cannon of theatrical classic rock?

For me and most of the audience, it was the latter. No, he can't sing as well as he could almost 30 years ago, but everyone at the show knew that ahead of time. We sat six rows above the ice, the three left-most seats, so we almost had a side-view. Not surprisingly, the audience ranged from teens to grandparents.

I left less than two songs into the opener, Marion Raven, since she was too loud with just two acoustic guitars, if you can believe it. Raven appears on the latest Bat Out Of Hell album in the duet "It's All Coming Back To Me Now," written by Meat's main songwriter, Jim Steinman. I returned for the main show, armed with tissue paper ready for my ears.

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Aspen Miller with Meat Loaf

The backup singer who sang in the opener, "Paradise By The Dashboard Light," Aspen Miller, is also, not surprisingly, an actress. Age difference aside, it was totally fun to watch her, dressed as a cheerleader, and Meat exchange the classic lines and ham it up. The other back up singer, the equally scantily clad blonde Carolyn Coletti-Jablonski, sang duet on one song with Meat. During "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth" from the first Bat album, the audience immediately song along, but Meat stopped the show to "chastise" them for not singing louder. The first set was mostly 70s material. The first Bat Out Of Hell album sold 30 million copies and is the 5th best selling rock album of all time. The 1993 follow-up, sold 15 million copies.

The first song in the second set, "The Monster Is Loose," was co-written by Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue and John 5 from Marilyn Manson and it was true bombastic heavy metal, showing that Meat isn't afraid to add a bit a variety to his sound. At the end of the second set, the band gathered at the front for a collective bow, and I thought the evening was over. Short-cropped blonde lead guitarist Paul Crook ran around the stage more than anyone, showing off a collection of several distinctive heavy metal guitars. Crook has been a lead axeman with Anthrax. You can just tell he was busting to put on a show almost by himself.

The lights remained turned off and the band returned for the encore set which kicked off with "Black Betty," made famous in the 70s by Ram Jam. In town filming a movie, barefoot actor Dennis Quaid lept from the drum riser onto the front of the stage and launched into the Van Morrison classic "Gloria," but despite all his energetic running around, he failed miserably on the vocals. I kept on waiting to hear something worthy of his appearance, but he just couldn't do it, despite making an effort. Quaid left and the band tore into "Gimmie Shelter," a Stones' classic.

Meat Loaf spoke about a song offered to him back in 1986, which turned out to be Jim Steinman's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now," which was a smash hit for Celine Dion in 1996. Steinman is the composer behind the first two Bat Out Of Hell albums. The song was meant for Bat II but was passed over in favour of "I'd Do Anything For Love..."

Noticeably absent were video screens showing the concert. The three video screens that appeared at the back of the stage showed some animation from one of his videos, but they were not heavily utilized.

The lineups for t-shirts were surprisingly long. Never underestimate the extent to which baby boomers will go to hang on to cherished 1970's memories. I must have stood in line for about over 20 minutes.

Meat sang his guts out. While the sound wasn't as good as I had hoped (maybe due to where we were sitting), the guy sang like his life depended on it and easily won over the audience. Without a doubt, Meat Loaf is still a viable, competitive recording and touring act, even at age 59.

I would rate this show as 4/5.

SXSW 2007 - Free Download of Over 730 MP3s

Austin, Texas' South By Southwest Festival 2007 is upon us and once again, the organizers have made hundreds of MP3s available that you can stream, download individually, or download in one shot as a torrent.

The festival is really three festivals in one: interactive, music, and film. The music festival has been around since 1987 and is one of the premiere industry events in the US and the same parent company also runs the North By Northeast (NXNE) event in Toronto. It takes place March 14 - 18, 2007 and features approximately 1400 bands in over 50 venues. Many of these artists are unknown but there are several industry veterans included to keep the mix healthy.

Notable speakers for the 2007 music festival include Iggy Pop, David Byrne ("Record Companies: Who Needs Them?"), Emmylou Harris, Rickie Lee Jones, and the Keynote Speaker, Pete Townsend of The Who. Some of the best-known performers out of the 1400 bands appearing include Bloc Party, Interpol, The Hoodoo Gurus, Donovan, Thurston Moore, Graham Parker,and The Stooges. You can view the listings of the bands and stream or download individual MP3s from this SXSW website.

The film and interactive festivals were launched in 1994 and tis year's festival, which runs March 9 - 13, 2007, is one of the top events that focuses on new talent. Most of the films are either regional or world premieres.

Not one to put all their eggs in one basket, the interactive festival (March 9 - 13, 2007) sounds like a companion to Wired magazine. 75 year-old journalist Dan Rather was one this year's main speakers at this event. He said, "Attracting digital creative as well as visionary technology entrepreneurs, the SXSW Interactive Festival enables you to connect, discover and inspire your link to the cutting edge. The SXSW Interactive Festival offers five days of panels, keynote discussions, trade show and exhibition, and exciting evening events. Attendees benefit from hands-on, how-to training as well as long-term, big-picture analysis in an atmosphere that charges creativity and out-of-the-box thinking."

Previous speakers have included Mark Cuban, Thomas Dolby, Richard Florida, Al Franken, Philip Glass, Jaron Lanier (virtual reality), Todd Rundgren, DJ Spooky, Joe Trippi and Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia and on the cover of the current issue of Fast Company.)

Visit this SXSW site for news about the torrent for film trailers, once it's available.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Eddie Money, March 9, Club Regent Casino

Hasbeen corporate rocker or classic 70's-80's nostalgia act?

This was my first trip to Club Regent. About 500 people showed up to see 58 year-old Money, probably 20 years or more past his prime.

At first, I wasn't sure if I should laugh at Money's stage presence. He looked as if he had just run a marathon and his dancing looked so Vegas cheesy. Who knows? Maybe he has back problems. Nonetheless, he tore through about 5 hit songs in a row. Throughout the show, he played just about every hit song, plus a couple of covers of Ray Charles' and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. The Ryder song, CC Rider, is appearing on the new Money album and it's classic rock'n'roll grooves made the best of Money's solid band. He has a distinctive, recognizable voice and has several excellent radio hits. His lesser material, a couple of songs, were quite forgettable, however.

I couldn't tell if Money was trying to entice the fans in some audience participation or if these gestures were just part of the show, but they made me feel awkward when the audience seemed uninterested.

The fans came for the hits, Money delivered, and he did his best to put on an enthusiastic performance which was met was plenty of warm applause. It wasn't the kind of show that would make me line up for tickets the next time he came through town, like I would for Van Morrison, but it was a pleasant trip through the 70s and 80s. My friend and I had free tickets from CITI-FM, otherwise I wouldn't have ponied up $25 to go.



For what it was trying to be, it was a good film. I didn't like the Persian King Xeres. He looked like a giant drag queen. The strategy behind the battle was interesting as was the Spartan's fighting technique. The political sub-plot back in Sparta was boring.

This wasn't a perfect film but it was entertaining and visually appealing. Terrific acting job by Gerard Butler as the Spartan king.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Jehovah's Witness doctrine hypocritial

From the Winnipeg Free Press

Thu Mar 1 2007

By Kerry Louderback-Wood

The leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses publicly declares that followers "abstain from blood" in accordance with the Book of Acts in the Bible. Blood that leaves the body has to be returned to the dust of the ground, according to Leviticus.

Following this ruling led to 22 children being "martyred"-- dying rather than receiving a transfusion -- according to the May 22, 1994, edition of Awake!

So it's prohibited and that can be fatal. Yet, the public would be surprised to learn the leadership actually allows for many blood therapies and have frequently changed their doctrine since it began in the 1940s.

I was born a third-generation Jehovah's Witness. My mother entered the religion in the 1950s, a time when both whole blood and blood product transfusions were banned. If taken, she would have faced severe shunning by our families and friends, as well as God's rejection. In 2005, my mother died of heart failure after refusing a life-saving transfusion to treat anemia.

Following my mother's death, I revisited the leadership's stand on blood. To my horror, my family did not know that in 2000, the leadership began permitting hemoglobin transfusions that could have saved her.

Hemoglobin constitutes 97 per cent of the red blood cell by weight. It is responsible for transporting oxygen to our tissues. Hemoglobin looks just like whole blood as it hangs in a transfusion bag.

So, how did hemoglobin, made from stored, donated blood, suddenly become acceptable? Had the Bible changed? Why didn't members know? Shouldn't this blood be poured on the ground?

Today, the leadership permits followers to take any "blood fraction" made from donated, stored red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets or plasma. To make fractions, surplus blood is sold to manufacturers who, in turn, separate out the desired blood product. Fractions are made from many units of stored blood. Rather than pouring the blood on the ground, I found out the leadership permitted 2,500 units of donated, stored blood to make one dose of a clotting agent called Factor VIII, a life-saving treatment used by hemophiliacs.

Interestingly, Jehovah's Witnesses do not donate blood. Is it not both hypocritical and selfish to accept blood products made from other people's donated blood, but not donate blood back into the common pool?

The Associated Jehovah's Witness for Reform on Blood is a group of Jehovah's Witnesses who have united to change this blood policy so that Witnesses get the medical help they need.

According to their website,, the religiously approved "blood fractions" include hemoglobin (14.8 per cent of whole blood), albumin (2.6 per cent), globulins (1.6 per cent), clotting factors (0.2 per cent), interferons/ interleukins and wound healing factors (1.3 per cent), just to name a few.

Since blood is approximately 80 per cent water, each fraction of water would total a whole unit of blood if combined! The leadership's blood policy can be likened to Adam and Eve being told not to eat the apple; but apple sauce, cider and pie made from it are OK to eat.

The leadership does not make clear that the allowed fractions plus water equals whole blood. Instead, it suggests the allowed fractions are "minute." Is it not hypocritical to say you "abstain from blood" but then in reality accept every blood fraction?
During the 1990s, the leadership repeatedly explained that the decision to approve the blood component albumin was based, not on the Bible, but on analyzing the natural world. They reasoned that albumin was not sinful since it naturally transferred between a mother and fetus during gestation. Oddly, red blood cells also naturally transfer during gestation and white blood cells transfer during breastfeeding. So why does the leadership still forbid red or white blood cell transfusions?

Followers are not allowed to pre-deposit their own whole blood for use in elective surgery. Yet, the leadership permits followers to use their own whole blood or red blood cell transfusions using cell tagging techniques. How can this be?

Apparently, the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses wants all to believe its view has not changed. The bottom line is that the leadership touts its infamous "no blood policy" as it proudly martyred those 22 children and their recent actions with the sextuplets.

But, their actions appear to prove they no longer believe in their own policy. If blood is to be poured out onto the ground, the use of blood products and cell tagging should be prohibited. Since this is not the case, why can't all of blood be used to sustain life? The leadership's actions prove its insincerity, yet it stands ready to shun any follower who disagrees with it.

This bizarre hypocrisy would be a curiosity if its effects were not so serious. Fortunately, Canadian judges have demonstrated that they will protect children from this lunacy. But adults and advanced minors die.

Kerry Louderback-Wood, author of

Jehovah's Witnesses, Blood Transfusions, and the Tort of Misrepresentation, Journal of Church and State.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

concert review - Van Morrison, March 1, 2007, Winnipeg

The show was under way around 7:45 pm and ended around 9:30 pm. The couple I went with were on their first trip to the MTS Centre and had seen VM a couple of years ago in Minneappolis.

Someone introduced the Van Morrison band and they played two songs before the diminutive Van the Man was introduced. He jumped right in on the saxophone. Throughout the show, Van's vocals seemed effortless and just fine, unlike the vocal performance I witnessed by the past-prime folk icon Gord Lightfoot last year.

The band were competent without being overly flashy. The organ player would solo with one hand which drew a fair bit of applause. The pedal steel player received a lot of applause when she appeared on the two video screens due to her overall attractiveness. I really enjoyed the trumpet player, who was flanked by two female backing vocalists, both hotties. Toward the end of the show, each player soloed which more or less signaled that the evening was coming to a close. The Free Press had warned people not to call out for the old classic hits since that may upset the Man, but we were treated to Baby Please Don't Go, Brown Eyed Girl and the finale, Gloria.

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Everything they played was worth it, no duds, no glaring mistakes and no attitude from Van who seemed to be in a good mood. He appeals to blues, jazz, pop, country and folk fans, but there wasn't a whole lot of country or folk played, saved for some instrumentation. I was surprised by the amount of sax Van played. On some of the looser tunes, he did some vocal improvisations, which went over well.

Van has 35 albums and a career spaning something like 45 years, so naturally, he left us wanting more. With 200 songs in their repretoire, they would have played longer, but I felt I got my money's worth.

I don't recall seeing the upper most seats being used for most of the shows that I've taken in, but apparently, they were going for $50. It's possible that this show outsold The Who. Like Bob Dylan who is enjoying a new peak of popularity with his recent # 1 album, I hope people discover Van Morrison, who is also a true music legend. Van's new album is a compilation of songs used in movies and I can vouch that it is terrific. On sale only at the show was a double CD for $20 from the Austin City Limits festival, which I have yet to listen to.

I would rate this show at 5/5 stars. I don't know what he could have done to make it better, save for play longer.

Next up for me, Meat Loaf, Heaven & Hell (Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio on vocals), Eric Clapton, Dimmu Borgir and Roger Waters.

Set list from the Winnipeg Sun.
1) My Own Business (band only)
2) T-Bone Shuffle (band only)
3) Wavelength
4) All Work and No Play
5) Stranded
6) Whinin' Boy Moan/Symphony Sid
7) Domino
8) Little Village
9) They Sold Me Out
10) Cleaning Windows
11) In the Midnight
12) Baby Please Don't Go
13) Days Like This
14) Moondance
15) St. James Infirmary
16) Goin' Down Geneva/Brand New Cadillac
17) Help Me
18) Brown Eyed Girl
19) Gloria

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