Month: December 2013

My Favourite Songs of 2013

These are my top three favourite songs, with sixteen honourable mentions. The reason it’s a Top 3 is because those three songs were my clear favourites. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you probably have a general idea of what music I like and what to expect on this list. Remember that this is supposed to be my favourites not the best of 2013. I’ll also provide links to the reviews of any album I wrote about.

Here are the honourable mentions in no particular order.

Stone Temple Pilots – ‘Out of Time’ from High Rise

The first single showing off the new singer of Stone Temple Pilots is an absolute scorcher. That singer, of course, is Chester Bennington from Linkin Park and Dead by Sunrise, two of my favourite bands. The guitar work sounds killer and Chester’s vocals fit in naturally. If you don’t like Linkin Park I do suggest giving this a listen as Chester’s a very versatile rock singer and his new role makes great use of his talents. STP purists should stay clear, as those Scott Weiland goggles won’t budge.

Steel Panther ‘Party Like Tomorrow’s The End of the World’ from All You Can Eat (future release)

It’s a Steel Panther song, so it had to be on this list. It’s textbook Panther – sex, drugs and rock and roll. All of the above can be seen in the best music video of the year!

Bernard Fanning ‘Departures (Blue Toowong Skies)’ from Departures

This is a nice song. Nice piano, nice guitar nice vocals, nice meaning. I saw this live too and it was very poignant.

Alice in Chains – ‘Hollow’ from The Devil Brought Dinosaurs Here

Never really liked Alice in Chains or grunge in general all that much, but I really got into this song, as well as the rest of the album. Sludging metal riffs kick things off and we are treated to awesome harmonised vocals in the chorus, then a cool bridge and a rocking solo. Bands can often never recover from the departure or death of their lead singer, but Alice in Chains are doing well for themselves.

Queens of the Stone Age – ‘If I Had a Tail’ from …Like Clockwork

Queens of the Stone Age are out doing the good work spreading great rock music. You were probably expecting ‘My God Is The Sun’ or ‘I Appear’, but ‘If I Had a Tail’ is my favourite. Like most of QOTSA’s stuff, I find it hard to explain why I like it, because it’s just all-around awesome. Have a listen.

Daft Punk – ‘Touch’ from Random Access Memories

Yep, the only non-rock song on this list, but I’m more than happy to place it alongside the others. This song is pure brilliance, especially the second half. The best way to describe it is a beautiful love story from outer space. Random Access Memories is a very awe-inspiring album and ‘Touch’ is its centrepiece.

Deez Nuts – ‘Streets are Watching’ from ‘Bout It

Deez Nuts is essentially hardcore punk mixed with hip-hop (rapcore), and it’s freaking awesome. I love the aggression in ‘Streets Are Watching’, with the fast paced rapping over loud head aching distorted guitar. All their songs also have a hip-hop cultural vibe to them, despite the thud of the punk. This song and the album is a lot of fan and I highly recommend everyone checking them out.

Black Sabbath – ‘The End of the Beginning’ from 13

13 did exactly what a comeback album should: it sounded like a Black Sabbath album and the songs were good Black Sabbath songs. Van Halen also pulled this off two years ago with A Different Kind of Truth. It was really hard for me to choose ‘The End of the Beginning’ over ‘God Is Dead?’ and ‘Loner’, because all three songs are really good yet are extremely different in style and structure. How did I make my decision? I have no idea; it may have been different if I wrote this last week. All three songs to me represent the music of Sabbath perfectly. ‘The End of the Beginning’ starts with the most doom metal of all doom metal riffs, and then changes to one of the coolest riffs of the year and then ends with a lengthy Tomy Iommi solo. The end is nigh.

Megadeth – ‘Kingmaker’ from Super Collider

Pretty lame album, but this song is really, really good. If the whole album sounded like this I would have no complaints. It sounds like classic Megadeth, it’s fast, it’s heavy and has excellent guitar leads. Don’t bother with Super Collider, but do check out ‘Kingmaker’.

Bon Jovi – ‘What About Now’ from What About Now

Another lame album, but I do this song. It’s one of the few on the record I’m not embarrassed about having on my iPod. It has Jon’s uplifting lyrics without being too cheesy, and the chorus is pretty good. I will say that if you’re not a fan of the band, this certainly won’t change your mind.

Deep Purple – ‘Weirdestan’ from Now What?!

The new Deep Purple album is pretty damn solid and its style easily fits in with their older material. ‘Weirdestan’ is as strange as the title implies. The keyboard playing is the star of the show – dat organ riff & dat organ solo.

Andrew Stockdale – ‘Let Somebody Love You’ from Keep Moving

Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother is one of few writing rock songs centred on simple riffs. There’s a ton of great riffs on this album, but this song contains the catchiest and it repeats almost through the entire song and doesn’t get boring. I couldn’t find the original version on YouTube, but the acoustic version is still quite good!

Airbourne – ‘Live It Up’ from Black Dog Barking

Yes, I know these guys might as well perform under the name ‘AC/DC’ as the similarities are so obvious, but at least they write great AC/DC rip-offs! With Acca Dacca on borderline retirement, what’s wrong with a younger band receiving the torch? Live It Up is loud, catchy, simple, has an awesome guitar solo and it makes you feel powerful – what more could you want?!

Karnivool – ‘We Are’ from Asymmetry

Atmospheric and epic, just like many of the ‘Vool’s greats.  I love how it sounds both unsettling and calming. It’s great to just sit back and hear the tune progress. Killer live band by the way!

Deap Vally – ‘Walk of Shame’ from Sistrionix

I caught this song on video when the Deap Vally gals came to Australia. The music video kind of sucks, but the tune is bloody awesome, especially when performed live. I love the rawness of it, and the lyrics are pretty funny. It’s great to have female representation in rock and roll. Check Deap Vally out, they’re not just hype, they’re rock goddesses.

Dream Theater – ‘Along For the Ride’ from Dream Theater

This was another one I had trouble picking from the other highlights of the album, so I made my decision from iTunes number of plays. It starts off with a soft rock verse and chorus, and then we step it up a notch to progressive rock. Lucky us, we get two solos – on guitar and then the keys. The lyrics about our inability to really do anything about what occurs on this planet are quite moving.

And now, for my Top 3!

Baby Animals – ‘Under Your Skin’ from This Is Not The End

I already loved the single ‘Email’, but the song ‘Under Your Skin’ was the moment I actually gave a crap about the band. I interviewed guitarist Dave Leslie, which you can read here, but one thing that’s not included in that feature is his insight into this song, which is actually the opener for the ‘Feed the Birds’ tour. He described the entire song as a guitar solo, with the “water” guitar opening it to the “Hey hey hey oh” vocals by Suze Demarchi that launches the song into gear. I loved this, it’s my third favourite song released this year.

Paramore – ‘Ain’t It Fun’ from Paramore

There are many great songs on Paramore’s latest album, but this is something special. One word describes this song: catchy. Hayley William’s scat vocals are catchy, the guitar parts are catchy, the gospel choir beginning at the song’s bridge is catchy. The entire running time is catchy. This was easily my number two favourite song of the year. Dave Leslie who I just mentioned told me he couldn’t stop listening to this song when I asked about any new stuff he likes, so there’s a professional opinion for you!

The Dead Daisies – ‘Lock N Load’ from The Dead Daisies

This is typical me, my favourite song of 2013 is an old school rock and roll track. The one and only Slash co-wrote this song with The Dead Daisies and his recognisable guitar playing here is better than any track recorded on his solo album that came out last year. The main riff is amazing, the solos are beautiful and Jon Steven’s singing is outstanding. I never listened to Steven’s former band Noiseworks growing up, but I liken him to Axl Rose’s singing style with the charisma of the late Michael Hutchence. My number of iTunes plays of this song is more than enough to convince me it’s an awesome tune. Congratulations guys, I hope you somehow break the mold of this modern pop music wasteland.

I didn’t get round to listening to every new release I wanted to hear, but part of that is because I spent the last few months listening to Midnight Oil over and over again (my new favourite old band). Seriously, you’ve got to listen to Midnight Oil.

I only did a review of music in 2013 because I only reviewed about three 2013 video games. My year in gaming was spent playing older titles. As for my film knowledge… well it leaves a lot to be desired.

What were your favourite songs or albums released this year? Feel free to leave a comment below! Thank you all very much for reading my blogs this year. I look forward to more writing in 2014; hopefully my future posts will be shorter and more concise! Have a good new year!

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“Pokemon Y” review

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The hype surrounding this game was intense from the moment it was announced. I myself had never been this excited for a Pokemon game. Black and White, the previous generation, had come and gone quickly and I didn’t care enough to jump on board until Black 2 and White 2 came out. It seemed strange to me that I was excited at all. I mean, the fifth generation began in 2011, only two years prior to these new ones, (unless you lived in Japan in which it was three);  and the core gameplay of Pokemon is the same thing over and over.

I guess what makes it different this time is the human element. Pokemon X and Y are the first Pokemon games (the first Nintendo games in fact) to have a worldwide launch on the same day (as opposed to days or a week apart). All previous Pokemon games have been released in Japan months before making it to English speaking countries, and thus had information spread all over the internet. The entire world was excited for the new Pokemon games – and while we knew we were going to get yet another RPG style game and collect eight badges again to challenge the Elite Four again, we were looking forward to doing it in a new region with new Pokemon to discover. Our friends would be along for the ride, and why wouldn’t they with the deepest multiplayer and online features of any Nintendo game to date? Pokemon X and Y arrived to be enjoyed by the world, with the world.

The moment I saw the trailer I knew which version I was picking up. Pokemon Y features Yvetal, easily the coolest Pokemon to ever grace a boxart, and a nice departure from the Dragon types of the last couple of gens. Nintendo had enjoyed drip feeding us new information about the game – a new Eeveelution was exciting enough, but not telling us which type it was only fuelled speculation that it had to be a new type. Once Fairy type was revealed, it became clear that Game Freak wasn’t afraid of shaking up the Pokemon formula. They indicated this once again with the Mega Evolution, a concept quite similar to Super Saiyan and Digivolution. Competitive play will never be the same, and I didn’t even mention the new moves, abilities and items.

The joy of seeing our Pokemon battle it out in full 3D was fully realised when Pokemon Stadium came out on the Nintendo 64, and after many years of staring at those outdated two-dimensional sprites, the main series on handhelds is finally presented in full 3D. It truly felt refreshing to finally see things from an over the shoulder perspective rather than a top down one. The region of Kalos was inspired by France, and thus beauty was a theme of the game, and you can just tell by all the little touches throughout the game such as the stunning Glittering Cave. The game also attempts to keep up with modern gaming by making everything generally more convenient. From very early on in the game you acquire rollerblades (and soon after, a bike) to move quickly around Kalos.

Like the previous generations, the main quest is a fairly meaty adventure. 30 or 40 hours is roughly how long it’ll take you to become the Pokemon champion. That time consists of battling, capturing and training Pokemon, collecting the eight badges and stopping the new bad guys, Team Flame. Each game in the series has essentially two plots: the personal development story of catching ‘em all,  collecting the badges and becoming the champion; and the thing that’s much bigger than you, whether it’s Team Rocket trying to profit off Pokemon or Team Magma and Aqua trying to expand the land and sea mass, respectively. The personal story is the same like always, but the plot involving Team Flame I felt was a bit of a letdown. The leader of Team Flame and what motivates him and his grunts was never believable or interesting from the start. It’s all sooooo predictable too. Also disappointing was the lack of a back story for the legendaries. I was in love with Yvetal, yet all we learnt is that it destroys stuff and probably doesn’t like Xerneas.

Also, something that’s bugged me for a long time is that almost all NPCs just talk about Pokemon. I know it’s a Pokemon game, but it’s still an RPG too. Don’t any of these people have real life problems unrelated to Pokemon or just don’t care for the pocket monsters at all? Game Freak created NPCs to only serve your curiosity of Pokemon, which weakens the game world somewhat.

As for the Pokemon themselves, I believe that the new creatures, as well as the Mega Evolutions, aesthetically look as good as the designs of the last few generations. Of course there are duds, such as Quilladin, which is literally an overweight Chespin, but it’s final evolution more than makes up for it. I loved my fire starter Fennekin – which looks like a cross between Vulpix and Eevee (my favourite Pokemon!). Fennekin eventually evolved into a Fire/Psychic mage. Awesome!

There’s Klefki, a keychain Pokemon that’s way too absurd for me to consider it a lame Pokemon (unlike Garbador from 5th gen… what utter, utter garbage…). Honedge, the Steel/Ghost sword Pokemon, which has even cooler evolutions, is another highlight. My personal favourite would have to be Hawlucha, the first and only Fighting/Flying type. It’s literally known as the ‘Wrestling Pokemon’, and I nicknamed mine WWE.

Must admit I was disappointed with the smaller amount of new Pokemon. Less than 70 new Kalos pokemon, and if Mega Evolutions count, it’s under 100. Most of the new ‘Mon were revealed before the games came out too, so that element of surprise diminished. Pokemon Black and White featured 150 brand new Pokemon with no oldies to make it feel like a new game, so in a way, X and Y can be considered a step back. On the other hand, the old along with the new in X and Y means there’s over 450 Pokemon to catch in the Kalos Pokedex (they even split the ‘Dex in three!). This means you won’t see GOD DAMN Zubats every single freakin’ cave.

Two new battle types are Sky Battles and Horde Encounters, both of which I could do without, but neither of them really add anything to the game. In the case of Horde Encounters, they just make me very angry, because most of the moves in Pokemon are designed to attack one opponent. So unless you’re lucky enough to have Razor Leaf or Surf in your arsenal, you attack one of the five Pokemon at a time. Horde Encounters always have lower level Pokemon, but because you can only catch wild Pokemon where there’s only one out in the field, catching these low level Pokemon without fainting them makes me angry.

Something I did like was the changing to sharing experience points. Experience can now be shared to all Pokemon in the party after battle. You also gain experience after you capture Pokemon, not just if you defeat it. These changes have reduced the need for grinding considerably, and thank God for that.

You can take time out of the main story quest and just check the touch screen to unveil a whole heap of pleasant distractions. You can raise your Pokemon’s stats with minigames, pet them like virtual pet simulators or try out one of the communication features; the ease of the latter is one of the biggest drawcards of X and Y. It’s so easy to trade and battle with other trainers. Most Nintendo games have had lacklustre online offerings, but X and Y’s is a triumph.

It’s both a shame and a little strange that this game doesn’t take full advantage of the 3DS’s stereoscopic 3D function. Only some locations in the overworld give the 3D option, and when you have it on during battles, the framerate drops considerably, which seems stupid as it’s a turn based game! Even though the 3D does look nice when it works, you might as well leave it off except for cutscenes to save battery life. The 2DS came out the same time as this game, so maybe the developers dropped the ball once they realised Nintendo wasn’t pushing the 3D effect anymore.

Despite some drawbacks, these are easily the best Pokemon games to date. Not only is there quite a bit to do after finishing the story, alongside the huge range of multiplayer options is a high number of functions I haven’t even tried out yet, such as the Global Link and the soon to be launched Pokemon Bank service. The core game is the same, but there’s enough new stuff to make it feel fresh and modernised. Obviously if you’re sick to death of Pokemon you’ll skip this, but if you’ve never played Pokemon before, there is no better time to start. I admittedly got bored of Pokemon at one point a number of years ago, but X and Y have revived the passion, and that’s quite an achievement.

I’m giving Pokemon Y a score of 4.5 out of 5. 

 

 

Steve Balbi Announces Headline Sydney Shows and More Baby Animals Support Dates

Hot off the back of his national tour support with The Baby Animals, virtuoso musician, songwriter and performer Steve Balbi, will play two up & close and very personal headline shows in Sydney, on Friday February 14th at The Brass Monkey, Cronulla and on Saturday February 15th at iconic Sydney venue, The Basement.

Steve Balbi has walked the line, experience his story being told in Balbi’s own way – through music.   The former Noiseworks, Electric Hippies and Rose Tattoo bass player and guitarist will be playing a collection of songs from across his career, including those from his recently released first solo album, “Black Rainbow”, an album that reflects on where he’s come from, and where he’s going.

After supporting iconic Aussie rockers Baby Animals on their national capital city tour earlier this year, Balbi has been invited to share the stage with them again on a string of new dates in 2014.   Presented by Social Family RecordsThe Harbour Agency and MAX“Feed The Birds Part II” will kick off in Merimbula and continue to Wollongong, Coffs Harbour, Laurieton, Albury, Batemans Bay, Dee Why and Belmont.

Tickets are now on sale for all of Balbi’s upcoming shows via the links listed below.

“Black Rainbow” is available now from HERE.

STEVE BALBI – HEADLINE SHOWS

Fri, 14th Feb   The Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW  http://www.brassmonkey.com.au
Sat 15th Feb   The Basement, Sydney, NSW        http://www.thebasement.com.au

BABY ANIMALS “FEED THE BIRDS – PART II” TOUR WITH STEVE BALBI

Fri, 28th Feb      Club Sapphire, Merimbula, NSW          http://bit.ly/BAsClubSapphire
Sat 1st March    Waves Nightclub, Wollongong, NSW    http://bit.ly/BAsWaves
Fri 7th March     Plantation Hotel, Coffs Harbour, NSW  http://bit.ly/BAsPlantation
Sat 8th March    United Services Club, Laurieton, NSW http://bit.ly/BAsLaurieton
Fri 21st March   Kinross Woolshed, Albury, NSW           http://bit.ly/BAsKinrossWoolshed
Sat 22nd March Soldiers Club, Batemans Bay, NSW      http://bit.ly/BAsBatemansBay
Fri 11th April     Dee Why RSL, Dee Why, NSW             http://bit.ly/BAsDeeWhy
Sat 12th April    Belmont 16s, Belmont, NSW               http://bit.ly/BAsBelmont

STEVE BALBI LINKS:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stevebalbiofficial
Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevebalbi

The Dead Daisies Release New Single ‘Washington’

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“It’s a sensational line-up that oozes experience, excitement and the X-factor required to give standout tunes…Bringing Bad Company, The Allman Brothers, classic Lizzy and Free back to life, The Dead Daisies are the very epitome of retro rock. It’s been done before but this lot are more than capable of doing it all over again. And doing it well.”  – Simon Rushworth, RushOnRock 
“It’s easy to go into a record like this with a preconceivedidea of what you’re in for when you read who’s in the band, yet listening to the record here from The Dead Daisies it’s impressive that they’ve managed to craft a sound of their very own, offering up a real taste of straight up rock ‘n’ roll, and showing that when it’s done well, the results are awesome. My advice – get out and check these guys out – you won’t be disappointed.” – Loud Stuff

It’s been one hell of a year for The Dead Daisies – with the release of their debut single ‘Lock ‘N’ Load’ featuring Slash, a successful tour of the USA as part of the4th Annual Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival, and multiple shows sharing the stage with the rock legends ZZ TopAerosmithJane’s AddictionAlice in Chains, and Coheed & Cambria. The rock super group will finish 2013 on a high, with the release of their second single ‘Washington’ in Australia, whilst also touring the UK with The Black Star Riders and headlining their own show in Israel.


Recorded in L.A., The Dead Daisies new single ‘Washington’ is good taste of that 70’s Rock n Roll, that we all know and love and a great follow-up to the debut single‘Lock ‘N’ Load’. The single has received rave reviews in the US, with immediate airplay on several radio stations, including WDHA FM 105.5 The Rock Of New Jersey, and Nights with Alice Cooper.
With an impressive line up of musicians, several tours in place and a debut album in the works the future looks bright for The Dead Daisies.
The Dead Daisies are: Jon Stevens on vocals (INXS, Noiseworks), Charley Drayton on drums (The Divinyls ,The X-pensive Winos, The Cult), Richard Fortus on guitar (Guns N Roses), Darryl Jones on bass (The Rolling Stones), David Lowy on guitar (Red Phoenix, Mink, Doc Neeson’s The Angels) and Dizzy Reed on keys (Guns N Roses).

‘Washington’ has been released nationally via Spitfire Music and is available for download on iTunes.

The Dead Daisies debut album will be released in Australia early 2014, with a national tour that includes some shows with Jimmy Barnes.

Listen to ‘Washington’ on Souncloud HERE
Download ‘Washington’ on iTunes HERE

 

THE DEAD DAISIES LINKS:

Website: http://www.thedeaddaisies.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thedeaddaisies
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedeaddaisies
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/thedeaddaisies
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thedeaddaisies
Media Link:  http://www.thedeaddaisies.com/press/

Bon Jovi “Because We Can” Tour live in Melbourne review – 8/12/13

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I saw Bon Jovi three years ago at the same venue with the standing areas set up almost in the same way. The difference is that this time our beloved guitarist Richie Sambora wasn’t present, and the band was supporting an album I didn’t like very much.

Supporting the band was Kid Rock, an artist that I’m not very familiar with, but what I did know is that his music spans a variety of genres, including rock, rap and country; and he even performed a DJ solo. I was impressed with what I heard, and I’m keen to check out more of his stuff, because most of his set sounded like good ol’ rock n roll.

Bon Jovi surely played Melbourne one of the longest gigs it’s ever seen with 26 songs and that included the occasional medley and extended jam. There was something for every fan, old and new, from their breakout Slippery When Wet record to this year’s lame What About Now. The title track from the new album was the only one off that record that I liked. My least favourite part of the night was ‘Because We Can’, which is the name of the tour. It’s the lamest single the band has ever written. I thought it was the “Lost Highway” tour at one point, because they played five songs off that record, which is fine by me because that was the last great Bon Jovi album, but there were tons of hits that they missed.

Jon Bon Jovi struggled to hold an extended note at times, most evident with ‘You Want To Make A Memory’ and the poor man’s ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Amen’, but he is a 51 year old man. Something that clearly isn’t gone is his passion and charisma and he knew how to work a crowd.

One of the nicest surprises was the stripped down version of ‘Someday I’ll be Saturday Night’. Drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan got to step out off their usual instruments and hit some tambourines and play with an accordion. This continued into ‘Diamond Ring’, one of my favourites from These Days.

‘Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars’ is…well I have no idea what that song is about. It’s a strange inclusion into the set, and at this point in the set I was thinking that the show was ‘good but not great’.

It was late in the set when things really started to pick up. ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ and ‘Bad Medicine’ have a ‘70s-‘80s jukebox feel to them, and the middle of these songs were interrupted to incorporate snippets of cover songs, such as ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Shout’, and a personal highlight, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. It was great, because rock n roll is great.

The band came back from the encore and then it hit me: they were about to play ‘Dry County’. That was the song I wanted to hear, and Sambora’s replacement Phil X did a great job of that sacred solo. After that nine minute epic wrapped up I was I’m not sure if the crowd was politely listening or were indifferent to this special song, but if it was the latter than I’m officially mad at them

I could go home happy after hearing ‘Dry County’, but there was more good stuff to come! There was the Bon Jovi national anthem ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, where the crowd sang the entire first verse. Next was ‘Have A Nice Day’, a fan favourite, and the underrated ‘I Love This Town’. A pleasant surprise was ‘These Days’, and what was not a surprise, but was very exciting nonetheless was, of course, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Having the entire crowd sing that song to the top of their voices was one of the greatest live moments I’ve seen from any band, and there’s no better song to end with.

A few songs could have been swapped out for something better, but there was plenty to like here, especially later in the set. Fans got their value for money as the show went for over two and a half hours. Let’s just hope that next time the band writes a better album to play off; if not they better just play a ‘best of’ set.

Rating: 4/5.

SETLIST (Best performances in bold)

That’s What the Water Made Me

You Give Love a Bad Name

Raise Your Hands

Lost Highway

Whole Lot of Leavin’

It’s My Life

Because We Can

What About Now

We Got It Goin’ On

Keep the Faith

Amen

Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night

Diamond Ring

(You Want to) Make a Memory

Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars

Born to Be My Baby

We Weren’t Born to Follow

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (w/ Start Me Up, Wipe Out, You Shook Me All Night Long snippets)

Bad Medicine (w/ Shout snippet)

Encore:

Dry County

Wanted Dead or Alive

Have a Nice Day

I Love This Town

These Days

Livin’ on a Prayer