SIXX:A.M. Sensational At Starland Ballroom Sayreville, NJ 5-24-16

The collective known as SIXX:A.M. has been on fire in 2016. Having already released Prayers for the Damned, Vol. 1 back in April, with plans for Prayers for the Damned, Vol. 2 sometime later in the year, they launched what will end up being an extensive 24-month tour on April 30th. Scheduled to take them all over the world, the tour comes less than a year after SIXX:A.M.’s first ever headlining tour with Finland’s Apocalyptica as support. Now armed with a list of new songs, there appeared to be a refined dedication to the band that began as a small side project back in 2007.

A unity of three friends, Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx (bass guitar, backing vocals), Guns N’ Roses’ DJ Ashba (lead guitar, backing vocals), and James Michael (vocals), it all began when they wrote/recorded The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack that accompanied Sixx’s book of the same title. Documenting Sixx’s downward spiral into drug addiction with his narcotic of choice at that time, heroin, there was also alcohol and cocaine in his life, but his main poison was the needle. An honest telling of this horrible addiction, the creative release of SIXX:A.M. soon became something more and the band landed on tour in 2008, all because demand was so high to hear them live.

Now almost a decade later, SIXX:A.M.’s rose is still blooming, and with Mötley Crüe concluding their farewell tour in 2015 and Ashba departing from Guns N’ Roses, SIXX:A.M. has the full devotion of their core. Throw into the equation the addition of their first full-time drummer, Dustin Steinke, and it is an exciting time for the band, as well as for their fans. With all this in mind, the buzz following them to each show has been off the charts. Already completing a month full of shows on Tuesday, May 24th, they arrived at Starland Ballroom outside New York City in Sayreville, NJ. While week nights residents of tristate New Jersey/New York are at home, either eating dinner, watching prime time television, or getting themselves ready to go to sleep for work, 2,100 New Jerseyans and New Yorkers made the trip to Starland Ballroom. A sold out show, it would be their second performance inside the venue’s walls; the first back on April 25, 2015. This time around they would have support from two local acts, New Jersey’s Dead Fish Handshake along with New York City’s Cilver, and to say it was more than an average Tuesday night would be simply unjust.

The show began with New Jersey locals Dead Fish Handshake. This working class bunch formed in 2010, and have worked with the likes of Sevendust’s Clint Lowery. Simply a good Hard Rock band with solid vocals, they are made up of Matthew Paul behind the microphone, Guitarist Rob Ferreira, Bassist Darren Furman, and Mark Birkelbach on drums. Beginning at approximately 8:00 PM, in front of a big crowd already, the band rocked out for a quick twenty-minute set, performing four tracks from their 2014 album, Nothing Stays Gold. Opening with title-track “Nothing Stays Gold,” newer song “When it Rains,” and “Turning a Blind Eye,” they were tight as they made the most of their time allowed. Concluding with “The Blackest Skies,” the hometown band did a fine job of getting the night started.

Rocking Robyn Lane, local radio personality for WRAT in New Jersey, came on the stage to rev up the audience and throw out a couple of t-shirts to the crowd, while also introducing the next act. That act is known as Cilver, a New York City Hard Rock band whose stock is rising fast. Spending time on 2014’s Revolver’s Hottest Chicks In Hard Rock Tour in 2014 with Lacuna Coil and Sick Puppies, Cilver is now signed to eOne Entertainment and released their debut album, Not the End of the World, on April 29th. Now on as direct support for SIXX:A.M. all spring, Cilver look to turn on a new group of fans to their brand of Rock.

With Uliana Cilver belting the vocals, Guitarists Ramsey Modiri and Leon Lyazidi, Josh Pillbox on bass, and Drummer Christina Vitucci, Cilver performed tracks from their latest release beginning with “Afterlife.” With the room filled to capacity, the floor was rattling as they followed with “Break Free,” mixing in a jam session to get the juices flowing even more. A first introduction to many to the young Cilver, the best way to describe them would be an immensely talented band with a strong percussion section, clean vocals from Cilver herself, lots of guitar soloing from both Leon and Ramsey, and overall fun.

After their first few songs, they continued with “It’s My Life” and “Not Afraid,” followed by giving Ms. Vitucci the stage all to herself behind the skins and bashed the hell out of them. A tight solo, single “In My Head” came before “Razorblade” as the band interacted playfully on stage, as well as with the crowd. Capturing the crowds undivided attention, they concluded their set with single “I’m America” and “Headstone.” All in all, Cilver rocked Starland Ballroom and certainly gained a bunch of new fans in the process.

The time had finally arrived for the moment everyone had patiently waited for, it was the time for Sixx: A.M. Once again, Rockin Robyn came out on stage with the radio t-shirts and took a snapshot of the crowd to capture the moments prior to the explosion once the band arrived under the spotlights. First to emerge on the stage was Steinke, who walked behind his drums with a fist salute to the audience as everyone returned the gesture. Ashba, then Sixx, and Michael following close behind, and as expected, the crowd went absolutely bananas. Everyone shouted, screamed, applauded, and had their hands in the air as James acknowledged everyone. Then, along with Backing Vocalists Melissa Harding and Amber VanBuskirk behind Sixx’s end of the stage, the set lifted off into “This is Gonna Hurt,” the title-track of their 2011 album.

An exhilarating start, there was a quick moment for a breath as James asked the audience to, “Lift your fists once again and when I sing ‘Rise’ I want you all to raise your fists high in the air.” And just like that, the audience followed as the band went into the first single off their current album, “Rise.” With each passing song, the fans in the audience increasingly became frenzied, so thrilled to be in the building watching Sixx, Ashba, and Michael. They were captivated in the moment of each track as SIXX:A.M. unleashed music, including more off the newest record such as “When We Were Gods.”

Changing it up again, the band went back to their first two albums, including the songs “Live Forever,” “Accidents Can Happen,” and “Deadman’s Ballet.” Michael made it known that he, Sixx, and Ashba were severely under the weather. In fact, Michael posted the night before the show on Instagram with caption reading he was fighting the flu. Regardless, hearing him on stage, there might have been some moments a fan heard the illness in his vocals, but the majority of the time it was impossible to know he was not 100% as he showed top-notch vocals. With that in mind, they battled through as they played “Everything Went to Hell” with fans fist-pumping to the cut that is more than likely a favorite for those who have had their hearts broken by the opposite sex. Adding to the drama, there was a moment in the song, for the second verse and chorus, Vanbuskirk and Michael sang face-to-face those ultra-cruel lyrics of the song. Meanwhile, Sixx and Ashba did their own thing as the crowd watched Michael and Vanbuskirk going at each other in the most emotional fashion.

Keeping the energy level high, “Prayers for the Damned” came next, and during this one, Ashba did something superbly awesome for one young audience member. He invited a little girl, no more than ten years old, onto the stage with the band as they performed around her. A magical experience for a young kid, Michael sang to her, and she strummed the strings of Ashba’s guitar. More than likely, standing stage center, she must have been nervous with 2,100 sets of eyes on her, but surely it will be a moment she will never, ever forget. After such a moment, the audience could sense the show was coming to an end as they were waiting for those final songs they cherish. Offering “Goodbye My Friends” and “Lies of the Beautiful People,” large yellow smiley face balloons began to be bounced around the room by the fans. This was before they played the only track off 2014’s Modern Vintage, “Stars,” and it was a pleasure for everyone to hear the favorite. Then, the one guy not heard from through the entire show, was finally announced by Michael, shouting, “Nikki. Muthaf*cking. Sixx.” Giving Sixx the spotlight, he went into his speech in the middle of the stage. Speaking heartfelt about the dreadful events in Paris, France, it segued into “Rise of the Melancholy Empire” for an epic sea of emotion.

Departing from the stage for a moment, soon afterwards a piano was pushed to the center of the stage before Michael reemerged sitting at the piano stool and began to sing the song “Skin,” the final piece off This is Gonna Hurt. Midway through his performance, the rest of the band returned to the stage behind and beside him. This was a prelude to the finale where they dropped the song that began the band’s career, the one that introduced everyone to their sound, “Life is Beautiful.” Met with amped-up crowd participation following Ashba’s guitar so, “Just open your eyes, just open your eyes and see that Life is Beautiful” was sung by the audience. Pausing to let the crowd take over, it was a stunning moment for all involved.

While SIXX: A.M.’s North American run is concluded they are now off to Europe through the entire month of June. During their time at Starland Ballroom, they did more than perform a Rock-n-Roll show, they touched the hearts of every soul that entered the building. Those who missed the experience, not to fear, they will return for a U.S. run this coming fall with Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown for Midwest and West Coast shows.

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