The spoken journal entry-esque “X-Mas in Hell” greeted fans as Sixx: A.M. began an April 11 appearance at Los Angeles' Club Nokia with the lights down and the stage empty. There was a restless energy in the crowd, who were clearly anxious to see Sixx: A.M. It's a testament to the band’s appeal that they have such a strong and passionate fan base, despite never headlining before. “X-Mas in Hell” proved to be a fitting introduction to the concert, as it is the first song from their first album The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, and a nice treat for the fans who had been following them since the very beginning.

They got onstage to the upbeat and catchy “Let’s Go” while the audience jumped and sang along, and lead singer James Michael led the way by punctuating the song's familiar "Hey! Hey!" chorus with fist pumps into the air. There was a sea of camera phones taking pictures and video, and the energy of the crowd had changed from anxiousness to excitement. They had come to see a high octane rock show, and they were getting it.

The band followed with two other songs from their third album Modern Vintage, “Give Me a Love” and “Relief,” both of which kept up the enthusiasm with which they had been welcomed on stage. Bassist Nikki Sixx’s stage presence displayed his experience and status as a seasoned professional, while DJ Ashba demonstrated the kind of effortless virtuosity on the guitar that only God or the Devil can grant. All the while, groups of fans danced and gestured along with the lyrics of the songs, which is surprising since Modern Vintage had only been released six months before this show.

Sixx, Ashba and Michael all showed a relaxed confidence on stage, constantly exchanging looks and smiles that said “Yeah, we’re rocking it.” There was no sense of pressure or nervousness, just a group of super-talented friends having a good time and playing music that they loved. Drummer Dustin Steinke was a great add to the band and, when he launched into the opening rhythmic snare beat of their single “This is Gonna Hurt,” it was impossible not to get swept up in the moment. Afterward, the emotional “Dead Man’s Ballet” with its la la la la toward the end gave everyone goose bumps, and “Accidents Can Happen” would have been a perfect time for the crowd to put lighters in the air.

It was amazing to see the interaction and mutual appreciation between Sixx: A.M. and their fans. There were smiles and thank you's, and the group often played within an arm’s length of the audience. That really conveyed how much they cared. The fans, for their part, went crazy trying to take a piece of the band home. If you weren’t up for a mad scramble, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere close as one of their guitar picks came flying.

When it was time for “Gotta Get it Right,” the talented backup singers Melissa Harding and Amber VanBuskirk went to the front of the stage and added an extra dose of enthusiasm. Amber was turning 21 that day and got a rousing happy birthday from the crowd. Afterward, there was a down-tempo shift as James Michael started “Drive” on the piano, a memorable song from the Cars given a great update by Sixx: A.M. Another highlight of the show was “Lies of the Beautiful People,” from their second album This is Gonna Hurt. Looking around, every single person was singing the chorus at the top of their lungs.

They closed with the anthem “Stars,” a fan favorite, while confetti stars streamed from the ceiling. Six: A.M. walked off stage to the roar of the crowd, who made it abundantly clear that there would be no respite until the group returned. For their first encore, Sixx: A.M. did the tender and moving “Skin,” with DJ Ashba performing his solo while sitting on James Michael’s piano. The song, with its beautiful melody and deep, meaningful lyrics, showed the band’s acknowledgement and acceptance of each person’s less-than-perfect outwards appearance.

Sixx: A.M. finished with their debut single “Life is Beautiful,” which – as Nikki Sixx explained, when he took the mic at the end of the night to say farewell – was meant as a message of hope and healing, for themselves and for others. Once that single was out, he said, fans “kept pushing and demanding” until they had no choice but to become an official band, to release more songs and eventually go on tour. That background story made Sixx: A.M.'s Los Angeles show that much more special. The band members promised a fourth album and a world tour next year, and each thanked the audience for their love and support before leaving the stage.

The audience exited the venue to the sound of “Smile,” which made complete sense since every single person had a big smile on their faces. From a restless anticipation to a deep satisfaction, this show hadn’t disappointed – and there was the hope of more to come. Hats off, Sixx: A.M. Well done.

Review by Carina Fleckner

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