On Tuesday night Sixx: A.M. played their last scheduled headline date on their ‘Prayers for the Damned Tour’ at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey after a busy weekend in the area that included the band playing 3 shows in the Philadelphia area this past Saturday alone. One thread remains true with Sixx: A.M. and that is their dedication to the fans whether it was the sold out MMRBQ appearance in front of 25,000 people, the intimate “Prayer Session” at the Foundry at midnight, the numerous post show “Hit and Runs” or the last show of the tour at the Starland Ballroom before they hit some more festivals in the coming weeks. It has been nearly 10 years since the band, who never set out to be anything more than a creative outlet for the trio, released “Life is Beautiful” to radio at the request of their label and from there they began to develop the dedicated fanbase they have today. The real beauty of Sixx: A.M. is that it isn’t just about Nikki Sixx, James Michael, DJ Ashba and newcomers Dustin Steinke, Melissa Harding and Amber Vanbuskirk; the fan’s voices and stories are present in everything the band does and have always been from the beginning.
All of that being said it came as no surprise that Sixx: A.M.’s return to the Starland Ballroom sold out shortly after going on sale a few months back now. Having played there on their first headline run a year ago it was expected that fans would be eager to return to see the band supporting their new record. Having just seen the band perform both a short 8 song set at the MMRBQ a few days before and being in attendance at the first ever 12 song “Prayer Session” at midnight we were very interested to see what surprises they had left up their sleeves for the headline show. Their tour stop last year had set the bar for a headline show very high and there is no doubt that Sixx: A.M. was aiming to top that show this past Tuesday.
After a solid couple of hours of support acts the stage was finally set with the band’s gear and following a brief introduction from a local radio station the time had finally come for Sixx: A.M. to return to the Starland Ballroom stage. An erie tune played through out the speakers as the stage became cast with a mixture of dim blue and iridescent crimson lighting as guitarist DJ Ashba was the first member to walk out on stage. Ashba was greeted by a massive roar of the sold out crowd and return the gesture with a smooth smile. Behind him Dustin Steinke snuck his way on to the drum kit with a simple wave to the crowd and together the two began the introduction of the longtime fan-favorite “This is Gonna Hurt.” James Michael and Nikki Sixx came running out on stage and welcomed in a solid color wash of radiant blue light as the band kicked off the night strong as they both engaged with the crowd as they dove into the song.
As the first song came to a close James Michael stepped above the crowd on a small riser set on the front of the stage. As a warm yellow and orange glow began to mask the stage Michael asked how many people owned their new album already. Nearly the entire venue shot their arms into the air and Michael asked them to keep their hands up and make a fist as the band jumped right into their newest single, “Rise.” The band has been very vocal about the fact that “Prayers for the Damned” was written to be performed live and this showcased how taking that creative approach in the studio allowed Sixx: A.M. to truly transform their live show in a new way. When you hear the song play on the radio you can’t help but think to yourself that it would be a fantastic song when performed live and “Rise” was just that. While it was very impressive to watch the band perform it to the massive crowd at the MMRBQ there was something more impactful about it at the shows at both The Foundry and Starland Ballroom because as each fan tossed their fist above their head the band was close enough to look them in the eye and acknowledge them.
Strobes pulsed across the stage, smoked flooded the room and the concert began to embrace it’s own production and transform into a remarkable color struck scene as the band spent much of the night running from one end to the other. The crowd’s energy rose as the colors changed along to each beat and the band’s constant interaction with them helped continue to raise the intensity of the room. As “Rise” came to a close the stage went dark for a brief second but the band quickly began what would be a very tight performance “Relief,” off their previous album “Modern Vintage.”
The band remembered their roots and played a few songs off their early albums to the approval of many fans in attendance but they didn’t shy away from focusing on the new album and that was welcomed by everyone we think. Some of the more impactful moments of the night included powerful yet eerie performance of title track “Prayers for the Damned” and the deceptively heavy “When We Were Gods” off the new disc.
Sixx: A.M. is no stranger to delivering a quality show for their fans and this has been the case since they did Crue Fest in the earliest days of the band’s existence. The show last April at the Starland Ballroom was one of the best shows we covered in 2015 and this week’s show certainly lived up to expectations, even surpassing them in the end. The band has grown a lot of the past year in their live performances to the point that it is visibly noticeable on stage. DJ Ashba is as tight as ever when it comes to what he can do with his guitar yet he has some how gained in air of confidence in his stage presence that makes his shredding riffs look like second nature. It might be the smirk that he is constantly giving the audience has he effortlessly plays a solo while looking the other day. Nikki Sixx feeds off DJ Ashba and when the two of them collide on stage it is hard to believe that they aren’t related, their chemistry is unmatched and can’t be compared to any other duo in rock. In one moment Sixx went from standing back to back playing with Ashba to swinging his bass across the front of the crowd as he yelled in their faces with a smile on his face the whole time. Sixx: A.M. showcase something special when they perform live and that is their commitment to the music, they love what they are doing together as a band and it is fantastic to see them so engaged in their art.
The vocal section of the band shared the same chemistry that Sixx and Ashba do. Amber Vanbuskirk and Melissa Harding have transitioned seamlessly into the band as back up vocalists and have started to become a large part of the shows, especially during songs like “Everything Went to Hell” which featured Amber and James trading off lyrics as they danced across the stage. Speaking of which, James Michael has never sounded better performing live and that can be credited to how much last year’s tour really helped him grow as a performer. His ability to create urgency in every member of crowd from the front row on the barricade to the back of the venue at the bar and commanded them through out the show is something that is lacking in rock music these days. Michael used his abilities to his advantage and made sure the crowd was never left feeling like they weren’t a crucial part of the show. All of the band are not afraid to reach out and hold fans hand for a portion of a song and they are certainly no stranger to making these intense connections with fans who will remember these moments forever.
Last year when we reviewed the band’s first headline tour we made some very bold and confident comments such as this one in our review :
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.
I stand by what we published nearly a year ago and actually think I need to add to it. Sixx: A.M. from the very beginning have defied the odds when it comes to becoming a band. They were founded as a creative muse to bring Nikki Sixx’s book to life with a soundtrack and that creative spark that brought James Michael, DJ Ashba and Nikki Sixx into the studio for that album has never died. As the years went on the fans began to get louder and louder about the band touring and releasing new material to the point that Sixx: A.M. is no longer a side project for them as it has captured their full attention at this point. Their recent run across many of the rock festivals including the MMRBQ in Camden was a stroke of pure genius because they have shown that they are here to stay as a band and are looking to continue to grow as a band. Ten years ago Sixx: A.M. was just a name they through together to release a song to radio, a year ago the band hit the road for their first headline tour and this year they are back on the road selling out venues again changing the game constantly. Sixx: A.M. has another album coming out this year but the success hasn’t distant them from their fans, if anything it has brought them closer back to that thread that I mentioned earlier that intertwines every show the band plays. Sixx: A.M. continues to deliver for the fans with killer shows, intimate “Prayer Session” shows in small rooms, and of course their Twitter Announced “Hit and Run” acoustic shows that take place outside after the shows. What is next for Sixx: A.M.? Who knows but I can tell you one thing, Sight of Sound will be there to find out.
Be sure to check out our exclusive photo gallery of images from the Starland Ballroom show and keep an eye out for future coverage about Sixx: A.M. as they continue to take over rock music :