Live Review : Sixx: A.M.

     Sixx: A.M. brought the “Modern Vintage Tour” to the Starland Ballroom on Friday night, which marked the band’s first headline appearance in the state. The tour has been seven years, three albums, and one acoustic EP in the making as fans have been practically begging the super-group to embark on a proper headline tour. Prior to this tour the band has only made a few live appearances including a short summer stint on the first Crüefest as well as a live appearance at the Revolver Golden God Awards a few years back. Shortly after the release of their third album, “Modern Vintage,” last year the band announced that the fans would be getting the tour they always wanted from the band in 2015.

     With Mötley Crüe set to end in 2015 it came as no surprise to see Nikki Sixx shift his attention to his artistic side project that has blossomed over the years into so much more than a side band. Joining him in Sixx: A.M. are James Michael on lead vocals, known primarily for his prolific producing career, and DJ Ashba, Guns N’ Roses’ current lead guitarist. The “Modern Vintage Tour” is the band’s first official headline run and a vast majority of the dates have been sold out, a good sign for the band’s future as they prepare to record a 4th album and embark on a World Tour in 2016.

     Hundreds of fans were wrapped around the Starland Ballroom for hours as they patiently waited for the doors to open so they could rush as close to the stage as physically possible. The dedicated Sixx: A.M. fans had to wait until just a few minutes before 7PM for the doors to open and as they began filing into the venue you could sense the anticipation in the air as the crowd quickly filled the venue to capacity. The show was a sell out, in the true meaning of the word with fans literally overflowing from the various bars onto the steps and into the crowded standing room pit.

     At 9:10 the moment that New Jersey had spent 7 years waiting for had finally arrived as the house lights went dark and “X-Mas in Hell,” the intro from the band’s first album, was played through the venue sound system. The first person to rush the stage was Sixx: A.M. touring drummer, Dustin Steinke, who was met to a roar of approval from the fans as he mounted his drum-kit. Moments later Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba strutted out on stage with their instruments and in perfect synchronization began the first song of the night, “Let’s Go,” a new song off “Modern Vintage” that sent the crowd into a cheering frenzy.

     I am a firm believer that the first song of a show sets the tone for the rest of the night and that saying yet again proved true for Sixx: A.M. that night. James Michael was smiling from ear to ear from the moment he grabbed his microphone and it didn’t take him long to toss his sunglasses to a lucky fan in the crowd. Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba were in similar spirits as they constantly toyed with each other on stage which made them look like brothers caught up in laugher and jest, not something you usually see amongst bandmates honestly.

     Lastly, the crowd was fed off all of their energy as well as their own personal excitement for the night which just added to the overall atmosphere. By the time Sixx: A.M. hit the 4th song they had already ran through a good chuck of material from “Modern Vintage” and sounded incredibly tight while doing so but it was at this moment they began to dig backwards in their discography as they brought out tracks of “This is Gonna Hurt” and “The Heroin Diaries.”

     Early in the night I wondered how the backup singers, Melissa Harding and Amber VanBuskirk, would be worked into the set but on the majority of the older material they served the replicate the complicated and intricate songs Sixx: A.M. was making during this time as band. As Nikki Sixx would say himself later in the night they truly had never planned on touring as a band, their earlier material showcases this because a lot of it would be extremely difficult when translated into a live setting for just one singer to handle. Both Harding and VanBuskirk held their own during the night and even came up to sing directly alongside James Michael during “Gotta Get it Right” and “Help Is On the Way.”

     There was no doubt the concert was a pure showing of fresh, artistic, modern day rock from Sixx: A.M. but that didn’t mean the band was afraid to slow things down. In fact a good number of their most powerful songs are slower and they dug deep in their library when making their setlist because the heavy hitter “Accidents Can Happen” was one of the first slower songs to make the setlist in the night. Their cover of The Cars “Drive” was also another fantastic showcase of the James Michael vocal range as well as Nikki Sixx’s and DJ Ashba’s ability to play with extreme complexity at a slower speed. Sixx: A.M. had one major song hidden up their sleeve yet but fans wouldn’t get to taste that until late in the night during the encore. The band wrapped up their main setlist with a stunning performance of “Stars” as star shaped confetti rained down on the Starland Ballroom crowd.

     The night was not over however as the massive amount of stage lighting Sixx: A.M. brought with them for the “Modern Vintage Tour” flickered back to life as James Michael calmly sat the piano to treat the crowd to a moving performance of “Skin.” He was soon joined on stage by the rest of the band as they powered through what is easily their most emotionally charged song. After that the piano was rolled away and one song remained, the song that started it all for Sixx: A.M. and got them to where they are today as a band. I’m talking of course about “Life is Beautiful,” the song that Sixx said was never supposed to get radio airtime but was so heavily requested that it did and from there the rest is history.

     As Sixx: A.M. tore into their iconic song the crowd sang along knowing that the show they had waited years for was almost at close. When the house lights came on shortly after the song’s close you could see nothing but smiles across the fans faces, a few fans were even moved to tears as they slowly walked out to their cars each grateful for sharing such an amazing performance with the band that evening. The full setlist from Sixx: A.M.’s show at the Starland Ballroom is below for those who wish to relive the night or those who weren’t lucky enough to grab tickets :

X-Mas In Hell Intro
Let’s Go
Give Me a Love
This Is Gonna Hurt
Pray for Me
Dead Man’s Ballet
Accidents Can Happen
Live Forever
Gotta Get It Right
Help Is on the Way
Goodbye My Friends
Lies of the Beautiful People

Life Is Beautiful

     I will go on record and state that Sixx: A.M. are the best thing to happen to not only rock music but music in general in a very long time. They will continue to grow and certainly prosper as a band from here out now that they each can commit more time to the band and properly tour on their material. Their 4th album is in the works now as I said earlier and it has the potential to skyrocket the band to new heights, maybe even catapult them into massive arenas. That being said I don’t think Sixx: A.M. will ever forget their roots, they are there for the fans and they feed off the amazing stories the fans offer them.

     James Michael, Nikki Sixx, and DJ Ashba are some of the most humble musicians I have ever seen on stage together and it excites me to see what the future will bring for them. Until then fans have a few more dates on the “Modern Vintage Tour” that they can try to make it to if they missed this show. I would say 2016 is a long ways away but for fans that waited so long for this tour I think a year’s wait to see their favorite band again will be a breeze. Sixx: A.M. brought it for New Jersey and as a result the “Modern Vintage Tour” has become Sight of Sound’s Number 1 recommended tour of 2015 as well as Number 1 on our list of “Best Concerts of 2015.” Sixx: A.M. is here to stay and I will speak for the entire Pennsylvania and New Jersey markets when I say that we can’t wait to have them back in the area.

Be sure to check out exclusive photo gallery of the band’s performance from Matt Christine Photography :

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