On April 29, 2015 with support by The Vamps and Apocalyptica
Sixx AM @ The Filmore, Silver Spring, Maryland USA
Since its inception in 2007, Nikki Sixx always swore that Sixx AM was just a musical project and would never be a touring band. The group took its name from the last names of its members, Nikki Sixx (bass), DJ Ashba (guitar) and James Michael (vocals). The group’s first two albums were essentially soundtracks for Nikki Sixx’ books: “The Heroin Diaries” and “This is Gonna Hurt”. Although the group did play a few live shows here and there, there were no major headlining tours. But after years of fan pressure, Sixx AM decided to cave to their fans wishes. After the release of “Modern Vintage” last year, their only studio album not associated with one of Nikki’s books, the group decided to give a major headlining tour a try. When the 2015 North American tour was announced, I decided to go see for myself what this band was all about.
The opening band that night was a five piece hard rock band from Japan called Vamps (not to be confused with the British band: The Vamps). Vamps are essentially a hard rock duo, formed by Hyde (vocals, rhythm guitar) and K.A.Z. (lead guitar). They tour with a bassist, drummer and keyboardist that are listed as support. I had heard their name before, but knew nothing else about them. I thought they put on an excellent show. The music was hard and heavy and they sounded great live. Hyde and K.A.Z. were the most animated of the bunch. The keyboardist wore a gas mask the whole set, the significance of which was lost on me. It was very evident from the audience reaction and all the singing along that the group had a huge fan base present. They played a lively seven song set including the Motley Crue cover “Live Wire”. I thought this was a really brave move, given that they were opening for Nikki Sixx, but they really did a fantastic job with it! They closed their set with a song that seemed to be the band’s anthem: “Sex, Blood, Rock N’ Roll”. I enjoyed them immensely, and hope I see them again soon.
Next up was Apocalyptica and this was a band I was familiar with! They have been rocking the world with their unique brand of metal (3 cellos, drums, no guitars) for almost 20 years. This year’s tour was in support of their eighth studio album “ Shadowmaker”. This tour was a bit different as this was the first time they’ve actually toured with a permanent vocalist (Franky Perez) that also performed on the album. Previous albums have been instrumental only or have had guest vocalists that did not necessarily tour with the band. I’ve been a fan of Apocalyptica for a long time, but this was the first I’ve seen them live. Stunning doesn’t even begin to cover it… The music was just beautiful and, even though I knew what to expect, I was still amazed at the music that the cellos could produce… who needs guitars when you have cellos!! The drummer was beyond crazy and seemed to spend just as much time playing while standing on the bass drum as he did while seated.
In most bands, the vocalist is considered the “frontman”.. the person that is watched the most and keeps the audience engaged. But it was different with Apocalyptica. While Franky did a great job with the vocals ( he sang on about half the songs), I didn’t feel his vocals either added to or subtracted from the performance. The frontmen in this band were definitely the cellists, especially Eicca Toppinen! They played about eight songs and definitely left us wanting more. In my opinion, they stole the show that night! I’ll be there to see them when they come around again!… and you should too!
I was anxious to finally see Sixx AM live. I had heard so much about them and I was a big fan of the previous/current bands of Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) and DJ Ashba (Beautiful Creatures, Guns N’ Roses). There was a little bit of trepidation on my part as well as I hadn’t been that blown away by their videos that I’d seen online. So I was here to make my own opinion of what Sixx AM was all about. After seeing them perform that night, I do have a lot of good things to say. First off, they are musically very good. I thought the vocalist James Michael was an amazing frontman. I thought his vocals were great and he has a talent for keeping the audience engaged. DJ is an excellent guitarist and I absolutely loved his guitar solos. I did have a bit of a time adjusting to seeing Nikki perform with a group that wasn’t a hard core, in your face, metal band. After 34 years with Motley Crue, he is a little bit “typecast” in my mind and it was weird to see him performing lighter music. One of the biggest things that stood out to me, though, was that this band really looks like they enjoy playing with each other. This was evident by the exchanged smiles and playful pushing and shoving… especially between DJ and Nikki. Nikki even gave a short monologue about how great it is to be in a band with great musicians that respect each other. To me that was a not so subtle criticism of his Motley Crue band mates (the fact that the members of Motley Crue don’t get along is one of the worst kept secrets in the music industry).
However… despite all of the positive things I can say about this band and the quality of their stage show… sometimes the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. The band just didn’t grab me and I can’t say that I left the show a big fan. And I don’t say this for any negative reason… their musical performance just didn’t speak to me or stir me emotionally as much as it obviously did for a lot of the fans in attendance. They played an impressive 17 song set: 16 original songs and one cover (Drive by The Cars). I really liked some of them, and others were just kind of “there” for me. So that leaves me in a bit of a quandary of what to recommend to those of you reading this article. But this may be the best way to sum it up. These guys are great musicians and put on a quality show. Although this is still a hard rock band, don’t go expecting Motley Crue or Beautiful Creatures as this band is not as heavy. They obviously have a lot of fans, so there are a lot of people out there that enjoy their music. So my advice to you is this… Go see them for yourself and make your own opinion. They will give you a great performance! The great thing about music is that there is enough variety that there is something out there for everyone. Sixx AM doesn’t have a huge fan base for nothing.. they are great musicians and they’ve earned it! And you will get your chance to see them, as Nikki did confirm they are working on a new album and a planning a worldwide tour! Go check them out!