Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Best Decision I've Made This Year: A Recap of Content Marketing World 2014

Joe Pulizzi Kicking Off CMW 2014
Last year about this time, I was doing what I'm doing right now. I was thinking back on my experience at Content Marketing World 2013 and trying to encapsulate just how awesome it was (you can read my recap of the 2013 event here). It was my first time going and all I knew was that I couldn't wait until the next one. So much so, I put it on my 2014 goals at my work. Well, they didn't cooperate the way I was hoping. I was denied! 
This Old Marketing Live Podcast
I quickly got over my disappointment as I realized that I had another option: I could go on my own. It didn't take long for me to make up my mind. I got my wife's blessing (there are a lot of things we could have done with that money...) and quickly went ahead with my registration. I couldn't pass up learning from so many great marketers that would be descending upon Cleveland, my hometown! Not to mention, seeing all the Tweeting during the event would have driven me nuts if I wasn't there! 
It was clear how much the conference has grown as you stepped into the Expo Hall. It all seemed bigger. There were many more exhibitors and in a bigger space. It really had a nice feel to it. There were a lot of common spaces where I ran into quite a few friends. I even noticed the expanded exhibit hall for the keynote addresses. It was bigger, but not overwhelming. 

Joe Pulizzi, in all his orangeness, kicked off the conference with a video explaining what to expect from the conference. It of course featured his closet of orange suits, his orange journal and lots of close-ups of him eating ribs (I can’t unsee that!). It was clear that this was not going to be a repeat of last year's message. The "Beyond Storytelling" tagline reflected the growth of content marketing over the past year. As last year focused on telling the story, this year was all about taking your stories to the next level and making them work harder for you. Strategy was a common theme throughout the conference and it began with Pulizzi explaining that successful content marketers focus first and foremost on documenting their strategy. This was the biggest aspect (but not the only - see the photo above) that separated those that are effective. 
Andrew Davis - Moments of Inspiration
The keynote speakers each had a different take on how we can market smarter and better. Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping and last year's highest rated speaker, asked if we were Ptolomy or Galileo. Do we believe that our website is the center of the Internet universe? Or do we understand that we're just a small blip revolving around the big sites (read Google) and how do we get closer? His "Moment of Inspiration" (MOI) is when we start our search for something. He used meatloaf to take us through his entertaining journey to show us the thought process and path that our customers go through until they reach the moment of purchase. Most companies are good right before the purchase stage, but the MOI is the biggest opportunity for us to send our customers on a journey. We can do that by telling stories that drive revenue.  MOI leads to ROI. He used examples like Disney that created the Nemo Effect with Finding Nemo. So many kids wanted clown fish after seeing the movie that it created a shortage. 
Julie Fleischer, Kraft Foods
Julie Fleischer, Data+Content+Media Director for Kraft Foods, took us through Kraft's evolution from "generic, lowest common denominator" marketing to "personalized, unique, smarter" marketing. They are creating memorable content across all devices that their customer relate to measuring their success. They've used their data to test, learn and improve their ROI.  She also said what might be my favorite quote from the conference: "Learn Fast and Break Things!"


Robert Rose's inspirational presentation told us what's next for marketing. Quite simply, WE are what's next as we move into the Experiences era of marketing. Marketers need to take the lead on providing valuable experiences. Customers no longer have a guided journey to make purchases. You could almost hear the choir singing in the background as he called upon us to change marketing and lead our organizations instead of being the subservient support group. His book which will cover this topic more in depth comes out later this year and will shoot quickly to the top of my must-read list.

That led right into Scott Stratten exploding onto stage to Rush because, as he explained, he's Canadian! He then went on 30 minute tirade of the things that drive him crazy with content marketing and what we should (and shouldn't) be doing. This included rants on how Delta diffused his anger after rude treatment, bad newsletters, vanity metrics, marketers that exploit tragedies for their social media or blog posts and automated posts (which he compared to sending a mannequin to a networking event). The highlight was his demonstration of the lack of logic in using QR Codes in emails. I don't know how I've not heard him speak before now, but he's easily one of my new favorites.

Kevin Spacey was the headliner for this year's event (right after Joe of course). After talking about the sales funnel, ROI and a few other buzzwords, he said, "That's right. I know your f---ing terms!" He then went on to explain the phone call he received from Joe asking him to speak at the event, using a Joe Pesci voice to mimic Pulizzi. That led to his impression of William Shatner at last year's event. When he got serious (with a few quotes from House of Cards's Frank Underwood thrown in from time to time), he talked about the Story. The three keys to great story telling are conflict, authenticity and audience. Finally, he talked about his decision to take House of Cards to Netflix. He gets that the audience doesn't care about the platform. They care about the content. Customers should be able to get content how they want it, when they want and where they want it.
Here's a quick rundown of a few more highlights and takeaways:

  • Ann Handley (one of the best sessions!) used a slide of a Simpson image that I Tweeted to her . When I met her after, she said she would have given me credit if she knew I was there...not that I wanted credit. I was just thrilled that she actually included it.
  • I got to meet Jason Miller, LinkedIn's Head of Global Content and Social Initiatives and Rock Concert Photographer (check out rocknrollcocktail.com!). His presentation incorporated a few of his photos and a plethora of rock star images. I simply loved it! 
  • Watching the live podcast, This Old Marketing with Joe and Robert which included their announcement that Content Marketing Institute will launching their own podcast network featuring talents like Todd Wheatland, Andrew Davis and Tim Washer. 
  • Content Marketing Strategy is clearly the next piece of focus for many and I expect to see it be a huge topic in the coming months.
  • Google Trends came up in multiple sessions and will be something I will be spending some time checking out.
  • I got the chance to catch up with a lot of friends and met many new friends (invaluable!) 

I could go on and on...I haven't even mentioned the parties! It's easy to see that I clearly got my money's worth, but the value goes way beyond that. Attending Content Marketing World was easily the best decision I've made this year. Bring on Content Marketing World 2015. It can't come fast enough! 
CMI's Joe Kalinowski and Cathy McPhillips and me

If you attended, or even if you just followed #CMWorld, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the show and what you thought were the biggest takeways. As always, thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Every Simpsons Ever: the Epic Marathon by FXX - But Now What?

12 days. 25 Seasons. 552 episodes. 1 movie. Every Simpsons episode ever. A huge programming stunt to promote a semi-new network (roughly a year old) and their $1 billion deal to get The Simpsons on cable. Early indications are that the increase in viewership has been successful. The first day brought in 1.01 million viewers in prime time...up 391% over their normal viewers. Of that, the 18-49 age group accounted for 623,000 viewers...up 461%! (stats gathered here) However, smartly, FXX didn't just leave it at the programming stunt. They incorporated social media and web tactics to take advantage of the marathon.

The social media aspect included a Twitter account, @EverySimpsonEver, that live-Tweeted during the entire marathon. They have just under 56,000 followers. Additionally, they created a #SimpsonsSelfie contest for viewers to post their photos of themselves watching the marathon which included collecting their email addresses (I entered! See below.). They also worked with the TVTag app on a contest for checking in on Simpsons episodes during the marathon to win giant stickers. All told, I can tell you that my Twitter feed was full of SimpsonsSelfies and overall comments from viewers watching throughout the 12 days.
I think it's safe to say that the marathon was a success for FXX, but what now? The key is to build upon the audience they've built. FXX does have some plans in place. They're building a website/app called "Simpsons World" (read more here). This portal will launch in October (and will grow in January) and will have everything a super fan could ask for. It will require you to authenticate that you have FX as part of your cable package. Features will include:

  • Access to every episode ever (Note: The Simpsons Movie will be available for limited times. They're also working on the original clips from "The Tracey Ullman Show".)
  • A search function to easily find and share your favorite jokes and scenes
  • The ability to curate your favorite episodes and scenes - and then recommend similar content
  • An exhaustive episode and character guide - including scripts that can run along with the episodes

With all of the email addresses they were able gain with the #SimpsonsSelfie promotion, hopefully, they'll use that info to push out content to promote the Simpsons World app, promotions for new Simpsons season on the Fox network, additional Simpsons mini-marathons/programming stunts, promotions for other programming on the channel (and FX), more contests or other ways to keep these viewers engaged in the channel and their shows. As long as it's relevant and interesting, I, for one, won't mind getting emails from them.
Overall, I think they were able to breathe new life into The Simpsons as a whole...whether it needed it or not. I think a lot of people have a renewed appreciation, if not just a reminder, for the brilliance of the show and Matt Groening. I'm curious to hear from you. Did you watch any of the marathon and how much? What's your favorite episode or gag? Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends!
One last reminder (at least on my blog) that were just a week away from Content Marketing World in Cleveland! Feel free to reach out to me if you're going. I'd love to meet up and talk marketing! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marketing and Branding the Sammy Hagar Way

A few weeks ago, I started writing on the theme of how rock stars are using marketing. You can read the first article here. I then wrote about Bon Jovi's use of marketing here. Today, I'm continuing this theme (I don't want to call it a series as that implies a specific number of articles) with Sammy Hagar, who just may be the best businessman/rock star from a success standpoint that we've seen.

If you've been to a Sammy Hagar (or Van Halen or Chickenfoot) concert (and I've been to a bunch), you know that it's not so much a concert as it is a party. Many bands may say that, but Sammy means it. He's famous for saying, "I don't drink before the show. I drink during the show!" He's not shy about sharing either. One of his tours included a brief intermission in which he made his signature "Waborita" made with his Cabo Wabo Tequila (since sold for roughly $94 million) and passed it to the lucky fans in the first few rows. What a perfect way to promote your product...directly to your most die hard fans every night across the country on tour. 
Cheers from the Cabo Wabo Cantina in Las Vegas!
Sammy Hagar is a rocker first (Red Rocker, to be exact) and a businessman a very close second. Perhaps best known as the lead singer of Van Halen after David Lee Roth left, he's had an extensive solo career and formed Chickenfoot. On the business side, besides Cabo Wabo Tequila, he's owned a clothing business, has multiple Cabo Wabo Cantinas, Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill restaurants (including one at Cleveland Hopkins Airport), additional restaurant partnerships with world class chefs and wrote a best selling autobiography. While the Sammy vs. Dave debate will continue for years to come, there's no arguing Sammy's success in business.

Authenticity and Branding
In an article with Forbes.com (read it here) back in 2011, he attributes his interest in business to being poor growing up. He started out with some investments and got addicted when they worked out. Unique for him was the ability to build his brand and promote his products on tours around the country with sold out shows. Beyond that, he attributes his success to the authenticity of the products. Specifically with Cabo Wabo Tequila and Sammy's Beach Bar Rum, he created (with help) what he truly believes is the best tequila and rum available. He didn't just endorse someone else's creation and slap his name on it (as is becoming very popular...in part, due to Hagar's success). That authenticity shines through to his fans.  


Do What You Love and Give Back
Hagar is in the enviable position of having made enough money with his music, that his business ventures are fun for him. Add the success and huge selling price of his Cabo Wabo Tequila and you know he's set for life (and his kids' and grandkids' lives...). These days he only takes on projects that are fun or that allow him to give back to the community. In each of his Sammy's Beach Bar and Grills (currently four locations: Cleveland, Las Vegas, Maui and New York City and two more coming soon), all of the money he makes goes directly to help kids in the cities each restaurant is in. The profits of the Cleveland restaurant will go to the Cleveland Food Bank and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (to be used for children's music appreciation programs). 
My wife, Kristen at Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill at Cleveland Hopkins Airport
Takeaways
So what can we take away from Sammy Hagar's successes? Regardless of your product, you need to own it. Customers can see right through you if you're phony. If you don't believe in your product, neither will they. While we may not have sold out concerts to promote our products to our biggest fans, we do need to find where our best customers are and speak to them there. Target our biggest fans and get them to help spread the word about our products. That might be Facebook, email or an event. Whatever it is, take advantage of your most loyal fans to help you. Most of all, have fun! Nothing is more contagious than having a good time. That will make your customers come back again and again.

Do you have a different take? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And, just for fun, who do you prefer in Van Halen - Sammy or Dave? I love both eras and I see them as two completely different bands. My personal favorite is Sammy though. He gets the edge because he can actually sing.

Reminder that Content Marketing World is less than two weeks away in Cleveland! If you're going, let me know. I'd love to meet up and talk a little marketing...or music! Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cleveland Concert Review: Tesla at the House of Blues 8/19/14

Stormy night under jet black skies, Tesla pulled into town. Thunder rolled and lightning bolts came crashing to the ground! The lyrics to “Modern Day Cowboy” fit perfectly for their concert at the Cleveland House of Blues last night. A huge thunderstorm rolled its way through downtown Cleveland shortly before Tesla took the stage. They then came in and stormed through an incredible set!
It’s hard to believe that Tesla has been around for 27+ years as Jeff Keith pointed out during their show last night. Touring in support of their newest CD, Simplicity, it clear there’s still plenty left in the tank for these guys. Jeff Keith has one of the most unique voices in rock. While the years have seen his voice altered a bit, and they clearly tune their instruments down quite a bit on a few songs to help him out (most notably Edison’s Medicine), his voice is as strong as ever. Nobody saunters around a stage the way Keith does. It’s entertaining in its own right. Add the rest of the band, highlighted by one of the most under-rated guitarists, Frank Hannon, and you’ve got one of the most entertaining bands you’ll ever see.

They may have come out in the midst of the 80’s hard rock scene, but they’re hardly a hair band. Their songs have always been straight forward rock and roll with substance. No glitz or glamour, just straight up rock that will kick you in the ass. Their authenticity has been the calling card of the band and clearly separated from many of the bands from that era. And, luckily for their fans, they show no signs of slowing down. I’ve seen Tesla a bunch of times since the early ‘90’s and this show was as good as any I’ve been to.

The show started with the slower (but still heavy) “MP3”, the opening track of their new CD, and it didn’t take them long to settle in. They blazed through a 16-song, 90-minute set highlighting their hits, along with four of their new songs. While I like the new CD, hearing the songs live gives them a whole new depth and passion. The best of the new songs by far is “So Divine”. It just has the classic Tesla sound and comes off live very well. Other highlights, as always, are “Love Song” (I can watch them play this over and over. It never gets old) and “Modern Day Cowboy”. The only complaint I had (and a small one) was that they didn’t include any songs from “Into The Now” which I think is one of their best CD’s.
Back to the 27+ years, that makes them eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I haven’t heard their name in any discussions as far as who should be in the Rock Hall, but I’m going to start the argument. There are plenty of bands that haven’t made it in yet that clearly deserve to be (see www.rocksnubs.com) and I’m adding Tesla to that list. Should they go in before some of these others? Not necessarily, but they do deserve to be in there at some point. Let’s make it happen!
Have you seen Tesla live (if not, what are you waiting for)? What do you think of the band? As always, thanks for reading and please share it with your friends!

SET LIST:
MP3
Edison’s Medicine
I Wanna Live
Hang Tough
So Divine
Heaven’s Trail
Mama’s Fool
Life is a River
The Way It Is
Burnout to Fade
What You Give
Signs
Love Song
Gettin’ Better
Modern Day Cowboy
Little Suzi (Encore)



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two Things Bon Jovi Can Teach You About Marketing


As I posted a couple of weeks ago, rock artists can teach us a lot about marketing (read it here). Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, Bon Jovi has grown from the darlings of MTV to a global band that have enjoyed even larger success in the 2000's than in their 80's "heyday". From a marketing standpoint, there are two things that Bon Jovi does better than any band has, other than the Beatles. First, they managed to transform their brand image while also staying true to who they are. Second, they've embraced digital marketing and the opportunities it has created for them. Many brands can learn from them.

When you think of Bon Jovi these days, a far different image comes to mind than in the '80's. They've done more than just grow up from the hair band days. They've completely lost their association with that era. Not the songs mind you, "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" still hold up easily all these years later. But the image and connotations of the hair band scene have been replaced with a multitude of new anthems, philanthropy and their never-give-up messaging (yes, cliched, but they've worked).
Even my cat, Echo, can't keep her eyes off of Bon Jovi!
 Their transformation started with their "Keep the Faith" CD in 1992. After a band break (and some making up in the band), they announced their return as "chapter 2" with a more socially conscious approach to lyrics. The CD sold well, despite a changing music scene. Fast forward to 2000 with their next "come back". After another hiatus that saw Jon Bon Jovi explore acting and appearing in a number of movies, they roared back on the scene with "It's My Life" from their "Crush" CD. This amidst another shift in the music scene...this time mostly known for boy bands and Brittany Spears. The CD was huge. People were starting to notice their longevity and ability to flourish by staying true to who they were and continuing their optimistic lyrics.

Tragedy struck in the form of 9/11 shortly after. Bon Jovi was front and center offering support and doing what they could to help those suffering. They weren't the only ones, but they may have been the most visible. At the concert for New York, they played an incredible set, and when everyone came out to sing with Paul McCartney at the end of the show, Jon Bon Jovi was planted squarely behind him. I guarantee that was no accident. They were sharing the stage with the biggest names in rock royalty and standing proud.

Jon Bon Jovi began appearing all over the place with big names in politics, business and general celebrity. They began multiple philanthropic efforts to help those effected by 9/11 and homelessness. Jon bought the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League and used them to further enhance his charitable missions. The band even donated $1 million to Oprah Winfrey on her show.

During this time, they continued to release new CD's and sell out arenas around the world. They even crossed over into the country music world...and did it well (I say begrudgingly). I wasn't a huge fan of it at the time as I'm not a country music fan at all. But, the CD is actually one of their better CD's...again, I say begrudgingly. A move like that has killed many bands, but Bon Jovi had an authenticity to the music. They described it as Bon Jovi music with a Nashville flavor. It didn't feel or sound like a stunt or quick money grab.


They've embraced digital marketing and social media wholeheartedly. They've launched  many iterations of their website (www.bonjovi.com) with each new CD. They extensively build their email list to send newsletters and announcements. With "Crush", they did something not many bands were doing yet at that time. They streamed live footage of their recording of the CD online. I remember logging in and saw them recording backing vocals and drums...not the fun stuff like lead vocals and guitar. This was early on with the technology and it wasn't necessarily pretty, but they gave us a view we hadn't seen before and it built excitement for the new CD.

They were among the first to stream portions of concerts online. Their past tour had them streaming quite a few shows in their entirety, including their last show in Cleveland in 2013 (one of the last shows with Richie Sambora). Last month, Jon Bon Jovi sold "tickets" to stream a live solo concert with the proceeds going to the Parker Family Health Center.

They even put together an online promotion in which fans could submit videos of themselves performing "Livin' On a Prayer" and the band used them in a collage on their giant screens in concert when they played the song.  With their last CD "What About Now", they experimented with augmented reality. With their Bon Jovi App, there was a feature that interacted with the CD cover that brought it to life with animation. The band members themselves were even fully painted to blend into the cover.
So what has all of this gotten them? Besides a ton of content that they can repurpose over and over, they've grown their fan base so that they're now one of the biggest bands in the world. They consistently have the top grossing tours. They're the only band that had insane success in the '80's as a hair band and are even bigger now. It's basically been the vision of Jon Bon Jovi.

What other marketing lessons can we learn from Bon Jovi? There's more, but this is just what stands out the most to me. I didn't even spend much time on the amount of content they have, his storytelling or the hundreds of TV appearances that led to much of their success. Thanks for reading and if you like this post, please share it with your friends.
Let me know if you'll be at Content Marketing World next month in Cleveland. I'd love to spend a few minutes talking about marketing!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Rock Music and Content Marketing Collide

My guitars in my little corner of our basement
The lights go down. Anticipation rises. The intro music gives way to silhouettes taking their place on stage. Excitement gives way to goose bumps as the lights come up revealing your favorite band as they kick into their opening song.  The journey is just starting. They're about to take you on a ride unlike anything else out there. There might be 20,000 other fans on the same ride, but it feels like it's just you and the band. That's what the best bands are able to get you to feel when you see them in concert.
Rock stars are some of the best content marketers. They use their content to grow their audience and sell their products (CDs, DVDs, concert tickets, etc.). How do they do it? It starts with their songs and the stories they tell. Storytelling is at the heart of content marketing. There are great writers, amazing TV shows and movies, speech writers, etc. But does anyone do it any better or get hold of you like a rock band? They can tell you a complete story in three minutes, and the best ones make you feel like it's all about you. Jon Bon Jovi once said about song writing (slightly paraphrasing), "It's nice when you hit a story and it's about you (meaning him). And then the magic of it is when you all think it's about YOU! (referring to the audience)". He just happens to do that very well. Want proof? How many of you instantly know who Tommy and Gina are? 
The results that brands are seeking with content marketing are exactly what bands seek in building their fan base. Musicians that do it well capture engagement that most companies can only dream about. Many bands focus on their songs, CD's, concerts and books. Some branch out to other artistic endeavors like acting or painting. Some create their own products from liquor to wine to coffee to signature instruments. Then there's Kiss that will sell anything they can slap a logo onto. It's all content. They use it to help grow their fan base or grow their band's brand.

Nowadays, with social media, fans have much more access to bands and their offstage life than ever before. Fans get a much clearer view of behind the scenes material (intended and unintended) through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. It also gives bands more ways to promote their concerts and new music. Last year at a book signing, I asked "That Metal Show" host Eddie Trunk about social media's effect on the music industry. His answer is below. Needless to say, those that do it well are reaping the benefits.
In the upcoming weeks, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite rock artists and their use of content marketing. You'll have to stay tuned to see who they'll be. In the meantime, there are a few marketers that I've been following that I really enjoy how they weave marketing and the music business together for great case studies, examples and stories:

  • Mack Collier (@MackCollier) - Author of "Think Like a Rock Star" and founder of #Blogchat: His examples are more country and pop than actual rock (Rock Star is one of the most overused terms anymore...), but the premise of his book about turning customers into fans is right on. 
  • Jason A. Miller (@jasonmillerCA) - Sr. Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn and owner/photographer of Rock N Roll Cocktail: His marketing presentations include examples of Judas Priest and Kiss...how can you not love that? He's also got a book coming out soon, so keep an eye of for that!
  • Ruth Blatt (@ruthblatt) - Contributor at Forbes: I recently just discovered her writing and began following her on Twitter. She describes her writing as the "intersection of rock 'n' roll and business".
Check them out for some great insight on marketing with a rock and roll twist. One thing I've learned from them and many more is that it's ok to look for marketing best practices from the industries you're passionate about and I hope to share more of that.

Thanks for reading and please sign up to receive my blog posts in your email. Share them with your friends too! If you're going to be at Content Marketing World in Cleveland in September, let me know. I'd love to meet and talk a little marketing, rock music or anything I might be able to help you with.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cleveland Concert Reviews: Black Label Society & Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators

This weekend, Cleveland was treated to two outstanding concerts featuring two world class guitarists. It seems like when I was in my 20's that this happened more often. I remember some weeks I had 3 or 4 amazing concerts. This was back in the days when Cleveland was a can't miss stop on most tours.
Friday night, while there was some country concert going on at Progressive Field, Black Label Society was rocking Cleveland at the House of Blues. There is no other player out there that attacks the guitar like Zakk Wylde. Couple that with his voice that sounds stronger than it has in years. It's hard to believe that Black Label Society has been around for 15 years already. Touring in support of their newest CD, Catacombs of the Black Vatican (see my review here), they mixed in the new with some early material and the fan favorites. Throw in a 10+ minute guitar solo and you've got a killer show.
I do have to say that he used some recorded music as the intro to more than a couple songs. That's a huge pet peeve of mine. Luckily, it was clear when the band roared in...the volume increase alone made it easy to see when they took over for the recorded stuff. That's my only complaint. The set list was great and included his heartfelt tribute to Dimebag Darrell during "In This River" which featured Zakk on piano. Here's to hoping that he finds his way back to Cleveland soon.
I was still basking in the concert glow of Black Label Society on Sunday night as I made my way to the Hard Rock Rocksino for Slash with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. This was my first time seeing a show there and I was very impressed. The concert hall was very new and clean and the sound and acoustics were great. If only it wasn't out in the middle of nowhere, but I'll definitely be back there for more shows.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Slash is currently opening for Aerosmith on their summer tour. I was mad they're not coming to Cleveland, but Slash more than made up for it with a 2-hour/20-song show that found him in top form.  He played 3 songs from his upcoming CD that sound like he's picking up where he left off with Apocalyptic Love. The highlight of the night for me was "You Could Be Mine". I was just watching the new Guns 'n' Roses DVD on AXS TV where they played that and thought I'd rather hear Slash play it. So that was an awesome surprise to have him pull that one out. "Rocket Queen" was also incredible as it featured an extra-extended guitar solo that almost seemed tailored to match Zakk Wylde's solo from Friday night.
You can no longer talk about Slash without mentioning Myles Kennedy on vocals, as well as the Conspirators. Myles has a great vocal range and is able to sing all of the solo Slash stuff, but also the G'n'R, Velvet Revolver and Slash's Snakepit songs as well. And, he nails all of them. the Conspirators, Brent Fitz, Todd Kerns and Frank Sidoris, provide the perfect rhythm section to round out the band. I'm hoping this incarnation of Slash will be sticking around for the long haul and they complement Slash very well.
Both of these shows were the types of shows that you just want them to keep playing for days and both have the catalogs that make it hard for them to play everything you want to hear. It was a perfect one-two punch for Cleveland that made for a great rock music weekend and the crowds were perfect examples of why Cleveland is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Capital of the world...and deservedly so!
Did you see either of these shows? What concerts have you seen or are you going to see this summer? Or, just tell me your favorite concert of all time. Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends!

Set Lists:
Black Label Society
Slash 
Destruction Overdrive*
Hard and Fast
Funeral Bell
Night Train
Bleed for Me
Standing in the Sun
Heart of Darkness
Back From Cali
My Dying Time
Shots Fired
Damn the Flood*
Stone Blind - NEW
Fire it Up
You Could Be Mine
Guitar Solo
Dr. Alibi
Godspeed Hellbound
Not For Me
Stillborn
30 Years to Life - NEW
Overlord
Rocket Queen
Angel of Mercy
No More Heroes
In This River
Starlight
The Blessed Hellride
World on Fire - NEW
Concrete Jungle*
Anastasia
Suicide Messiah
You're a Lie

Sweet Child o' Mine
*Not completely sure if these songs are right
Slither

By the Sword - Encore

Paradise City - Encore