PowerTrip Festival Empire Polo Grounds, Indio, California, USA 6th, 7th, 8th October 2023 – Review

PowerTrip Festival Empire Polo Grounds, Indio, California, USA 6th, 7th, 8th October 2023 – Review

15th October 2023 0 By Kevin McCallum

It’s one of those chances you have to take in your rock life. A rumor mill in April acknowledges that a huge festival would take place somewhere, sometime in the US with as yet unnamed bands taking the stage. As the days moved on it became clearer that one in particular would be making a long awaited comeback, more about them later.


So fast track… the tickets are announced to go on sale, the festival would be 3 days and take place on 6th-8th October 2023 at the world-famous Empire Polo Grounds in Indio California, which is the home of the legendary Coachella Festival. Heftily priced at a whopping $600 for GA standing, going up to a basic seat at $700 rising to $2000 and above. It’s clearly not a basement ticket price. However, when the lineup announcement for Friday night hits you with openers Iron Maiden followed by headliners Guns N’ Roses, it smacks you that this ain’t no low-end rock event. Both legendary rock acts have spanned the decades delivering the best and most memorable songs that have inspired rock fans young and now old.

Boom !! Blowing it further into legend status the Saturday announces the return to live shows with headliners AC/DC with the night opening with Ozzy Osbourne. Celebrating a 50th year in music in 2023 AC/DC, haven’t played live for 7 years.

Sadly, Ozzy pulls out on health grounds and is replaced by for me a totally suitable replacement, one of the UK’s pioneers in metal, Judas Priest.

Not finished yet, the Sunday brings us in openers Tool and the festival closes with one of the biggest rock acts currently on the planet, the mighty Metallica.


So it’s a decision time, apply for tickets or not. No brainer, go for it. Factor in travel etc it’s a hefty bill, but quote one of the bands ‘..in rock we trust, it’s rock or bust..’.

Get the tickets in the opening day sale, seating at floor level, do for us, a bit further back but judging by the comments about previous events run by organizers Goldenvoice, they deliver a top-class visual, light, and sound show that gives you the best wherever you are in the venue.


Arriving late on Wednesday evening at our apartment in LaQuinta after a long flight from London and then a long drive from LAX, it’s still a hot and balmy 25 degrees but a welcome increase in temperature from the UK climate.


So Friday arrives we start the trek of getting to the venue. The organizers lay on shuttle buses at key points within a 25-mile radius of the venue, saving you the hassle of driving and parking. Our pickup point is a short 10-minute walk away so on we go. The temperature is 105deg so it’s a searing walk. It’s a bus journey to the polo fields of about 20 minutes. This is the first thing that strikes you that these guys know what they’re doing, it’s a slick well-oiled machine. Huge venue awaits, long merch queues which isn’t unusual, but short bar queues which is unusual. Further security checks to get to our seating area and there we are ready to rock n roll.


Over the huge PA system, absolute top quality sound, blasts out UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’, and Vangelis ‘Blade Runner’ theme then Maiden hits the stage opening up with ‘Caught Somewhere in Time’. Massive screens beam the images to those all around the venue and that sound system booms out their opening track of what would be a 15-track setlist.


The visuals are stunning, sound quality is exceptional. ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ gets the full interaction between Bruce and the crowd, a great frontman. ‘The Writing On The Wall  was the first of three in a row from 2021’s album ‘Senjutsu’ a belter of a track on the night, then ‘Days of Future Past’ and ‘The Time Machine’ quickly follow.


Next up from ‘Number of the Beast’ the opening commentary soundtrack, which still has that utopian scare factor even after 40 years, brings us to ‘The Prisoner’, which for me was on the list of the best tracks of the night.


The band power through ’Death of the Celts’ and ‘Can I Play with Madness’,  then two from ‘Somewhere in Time’,’ Heaven Can Wait’ and the stunning ‘Alexander the Great’, which was the track of the night.


There’s always plenty going on at a Maiden gig, the triple-guitar work from Janick/Adrian/Dave, the powerhouse drumming from Nicko, the Iron Maiden signature bass playing from Steve, and a frontman that is up there with the best of them. Then of course the various manifestations of ‘Eddie’ that intersperse the stage play with some of the guys in the band. ‘Fear Of The Dark’, ‘Iron Maiden’, with the expected ‘Scream for Me Indio’ interludes from Bruce, bring us to the encore with set closers ‘Hell on Earth’, ‘The Trooper’ and ‘Wasted Years’ then the final round with a bit of Monty Python.


Join up a great set of world-class musicians, great visual displays, a quality sound system, and a huge welcoming crowd there’s not much to disagree with or criticize. OK they are far more theatrical in their approach than when I first saw them on the ‘Beast on the Road tour 1982’, this might dissuade some but its progress and development

Maiden arrived, opened up PowerTrip 2023, and kicked butt.


Enter the Friday headliners Guns N Roses.

Starting their set about 30 minutes later than billed, which wasn’t unexpected, they stormed into   ’ It’s so easy’. First things first though, for me all the criticism of Axel’s recent vocal ability was quickly thrown out from the first few lines of the opener. He came over clear and well-toned on this first track of a huge 29-song setlist.


‘Bad Obsession’, ‘Chinese Democracy’, and the superb ‘Slither’ fill the Indio air, and Slash is on fire. His guitar work is genius. ‘Pretty Tied Up ’, ‘Mr. Brownstone’, bring us into their signature rouser ‘Welcome to the jungle’, which goes down well not unexpectedly with the crowd. Things did flatten out a bit over the following tracks ‘Hard Skool’, ‘Absurd’, ‘Double Talking Jive’, and ‘Reckless Life’. It changed though when the opening bars of ‘You Could Be Mine’ from ‘Use Your Illusion II’ blasted out. Awesome solos from Slash supported by Richard Fortus.


‘Estranged’ follows then Axel introduces that it’s the 50th anniversary of the release of Wings ‘Live and Let Die’, this track for me is one of the best in the set. The third cover of the night was ‘Down On The Farm’ by the UK Subs then ‘Rocket Queen’ and then The Stooges ‘TV Eye’.


‘Better’, ‘Anything Goes’, and ‘Civil War’ lead us into Slash’s epic guitar solo before ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’.

There’s something very special about ‘November Rain’ not sure if it’s the images of the church in their epic video that follows the track that springs to mind or just that it’s a superb legendary tune. This is the highlight of the set for me, has everything, big vocals, big guitars, and solid rhythm work from Duff and Frank Ferrer.


Two further covers follow up with ‘Wichita Lineman’ and Dylans’ Knockin’ On Heavens Door’.

Set closers ‘Patience’, ‘Coma’, ‘Nightrain’, and final track, no surprise ‘Paradise City’ close off the first night of Powertrip 2023.


There was a contrast in the atmosphere between the two bands, Maiden pretty much had the crowd in their grip from the word go, GnR though had lulls across the set, probably due to their choice of set list which contained a core of songs that don’t have the exposure as some of their better air-played tunes.

All good though across the whole night, a short shuttle bus journey back from site to digs.

Looking forward to Saturday night already.


When Ozzy pulled out of the festival, so many replacements were muted as being contenders to open the night for AC/DC. Personally it was a great choice to throw in Judas Priest on Saturday night. A well-respected heavy metal outlet, with a long back catalog of great tunes, and an enigmatic frontman in Rob Halford.

Judas Priest entered the arena with ‘The Hellion’ and ‘Electric Eye’ the two go together exactly as they are placed on the ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ album, then a hattrick from it concluded with ‘Riding on the Wind’. It’s a powerful start from these guys, blowing away any myths that their presence at Power Trip wasn’t justified.


Lightning Strike’ then ‘Diamonds and Rust’ are up next, the latter showcasing a brilliant solo from Richie to introduce it. ‘The Sentinel’ and ‘A Touch of Evil’ bring on more quality as the sun disappears over the mountains around Indio.


These guys are on fire, ‘Turbolover’, ‘Firepower’ and the well-placed ‘Desert Plains’, echoes around the polo field. Rob is in top form, with multiple jacket changes but one constant is his delivery of some of the most creative lyrics in metal.


The superb ‘Rapid Fire’ a classic track from the also classic 1980 album ‘British Steel’ blasts Priest along the way. A memory sparks for me, getting ‘British Steel’, ‘Axe Attack’ and ‘Highway to hell’ albums as a Christmas 1980 present. Three of the bands on that classic ‘Axe Attack’ are playing Power Trip and I’m watching and listening to one of them right now, quality.


The Green Manalishi’, ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Coming’ and ‘Painkiller’ draw the formal part of the set to an end. It’s been a belter, with great band sound, and video screen accompaniment fits perfectly with the tracks. It might just be me but the volume is louder tonight than for Maiden/GN’R. The motorbike roar given throttle by Rob brings us the legendary ‘Hell Bent For Leather’. This makes way for another legendary moment, the entrance of Glenn Tipton to join the band with three more from ‘British Steel’, ‘Metal Gods’, ‘Breaking the Law’ and ‘Living After Midnight’ that brings the set to a close. This has been brilliant, had everything you’d want from a metal show. The PA sounds out ‘We are the Champions’ by ‘Queen’  bringing the Priest’s involvement in Power trip to an end. Sit back down on the seat, and power rest.


There is no doubt in my mind that the main driver for me to get to Power Trip when the initial rumors were leaked was the golden chance to see it once again AC/DC.


My first rock gig was at the legendary Glasgow Apollo on 1st November 1980 on the ‘Back in Black’ tour, I saw them up close that night and it gave me a life-changing vibe and initiated a lifelong love of this music and this great band in particular.


Fast track nearly 43 years later, the lights go down, and the massive screens fill the backdrop. Boom out come the lads and straight into an opener from ‘Highway to Hell, with ‘If You Want Blood (you’ve got it)’. All the chat on the shuttle bus getting to the gig, no one predicted this one as the set opener. An opener that led us into a 24-track set list, all the family favorites, the classics, and a dip into the new material. ‘Back In Black’ follows on, this takes me back to that night in Glasgow. ‘Demon Fire’ from the last studio album ‘Power Up’ from 2020 then ‘Shot down in flames’ this is bliss. Angus is delivering, albeit his hair is now totally grey, and his guitar sings with the tones and fretwork of that immense back catalog that has inspired many of us. ‘Thunderstruck’ gets the crowd pumping, it’s a classic, looking behind me it’s a sea of bopping heads during the chorus. Two more from ‘Back in Black’ with ‘Have a Drink On Me’ and  ‘Hells Bells’. There’s no Brian swinging on the bell rope tonight, that’s consigned to the past. He does though give the vocals a push, giving us that gravelly voice in between the higher notes. ‘Shot in the Dark’ from ‘Power Up’ gets its live debut  A rousing ‘Stiff upper lip’ with the brilliant backing vocals from Stevie and Cliff, goes down well. ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ , ‘Shoot to Thrill’, and then ‘Sin City’ from ‘Powerage’ close off the first half of the set.


I can’t pick a favorite from these 12 songs, but if pushed it would be the set opener, then ‘Have a Drink on Me’, ’Hells Bells’, and ‘Shoot to Thrill’. What I will pick out though is the new guy, drummer Matt Laug. Big shoes to fill to replace Phil Rudd, but he’s done it superbly.


The second half of the set starts with ‘Give the Dog a Bone’ and ‘Rock n Roll Train’. There’s very little interaction with the crowd, but that’s the AC/DC way, short gaps in between the tracks let the band regroup and then get back into delivery. ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, and ‘High Voltage’ are all quality tracks, this is a great night. As a 58-year-old I didn’t think I’d ever hear those opening guitar lines delivered by Angus in ‘Sin City’ in a live setting again, but hey ho never say never. ‘Hell ain’t a Bad Place to Be’, ‘Riff Raff’, and ‘Highway to Hell’ let the band do what they do best, high standards, high quality, and sharing with the Indio crowd with a passion.


The opening bars of ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ meet with the characteristic back chant of ‘Angus…Angus’ Although it is a bit muted compared to the ’80s, it’s a different generation now, but still, those of us of a vintage give it large. ‘Let There Be Rock’, is my all-time favorite AC/DC track, it didn’t fail to deliver, ‘TNT’ and the awesome ‘For Those About To Rock’ close this set down with cannons, lights, sound, and fireworks. Like the set first half, difficult to pick out favorites, but for me ‘Riff Raff’, Hell Ain’t a Bad Place To Be’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’ are my choices.


So here ends the 2nd night of PowerTrip, this was my main night, well impressed. You can relate music to many things, it triggers emotion, marks your life events, and rekindles memories with your friends and family.


I saw AC/DC belt out 24 tracks of material again,12 from the Bon Scott writing era and 12 from the Brian Johnson era in a Californian desert with my own and also AC/DC family, That is all that needs to be said from me.


Last trip to the venue on a Sunday night, openers Tool was the band I knew least about when the full lineup was announced. One thing is for sure there were a great deal of their fans around the area.


They opened up with ‘Jambi’ in a set that totaled 12 songs. All previous bands used the video accompaniment to show all around the area the images of the band on stage, Tool changed that and the images were solely video, which was unexpected. However, became clear as the set went on that they looked for the music to sell their story and not just watch the individual band members.


‘The Pot’, ‘Fear Inoculum’, and ‘Rosetta Stoned’ blended in well with the herbal aroma around the festival. Very little interaction with the crowd through the whole set, again a message that they wanted to let the music do the talking.

Definitely a large fanbase around me and as the set went on they became more vocal. ‘Pushit’, Forty-six & 2’ got us to the halfway point.


The graphics beaming out from the video screens were excellent. Well produced and each followed a storyline as the songs progressed. Some of the images were pretty dystopian and as we approached Halloween definite horror messages in parts,  but overall very enjoyable to witness.


‘Pneuma’, ‘The Grudge’, and ‘Invincible’ were tracks I’d heard before and were played extremely close to the recorded versions. Think that’s when the penny dropped to me that ‘Tool’ wants you to engage with the music and sell their story in audio rather than a video of stage activity. It’s a good way to do it and kind of takes you back to the earlier large-scale festivals when video screens didn’t exist. Just as soon as it started the ‘Tool’ set came to an end with ‘Stinkfist’, “Swamp Song’, and ‘Ænima’.


Am I a ‘Tool’ fan? On the basis of what I heard at Power Trip and the limited knowledge I heard before the festival, probably not. However, they are extremely professional and intent on delivering their music to the highest standard they can achieve, which is no bad thing. Plenty of fans around me tonight who get the ‘Tool’ vibe and that’s good for me.


So finally after 3 long nights of quality rock music, the festival comes to an end with one of the biggest of them all, Metallica.


In the run-up to tonight’s gig, the guys were in the same vain as us mere mortals, air guitaring to AC/DC and Judas Priest the night before in the pit, yep all fans together.


The closing section of ‘It’s a Long way to the Top…’ gives way to ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’, the std Metallica intro track, very poignant considering the venue and the surroundings. Opening up with the very fast ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Creeping Death’ the band was clearly giving it full throttle. Pause breaks in between tracks to leave the stage to stall the pace a bit, but I’d seen them before and knew this would be the case in Indio. My favourite of all time ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ was superb. Hammett is up there with the best of them with his style of guitar playing although a few tracks later maybe the occasion got the better of him with a false start. Hetfield is the typical front guy, power vocals with guitar playing leveraging with aggression and finesse in equal measures.


Trademark Metallica ‘Enter Sandman’ bellows into the Indio polo fields, particularly apt considering the desert surrounds us. ‘Lux Æternat’ and ‘ Too Far Gone’ keep the pace going. The awesome ‘Fade to Black’ for me showcases Lars’s skills as one of the world’s top-end drummers. The double bass drum sound goes right you through, his toms throw out a tone that I can’t think of being matched anywhere. The Power Trip sound system and the quality of the engineers’ work are some of the best I’ve heard whether indoors or out. I did pick up in various forums that it would be and it has delivered. ‘Fuel’ and ‘Orion’ quickly keep the vibe going until Kirk takes center stage to introduce ‘Nothing Else Matters’. Bit of a false start on the guitar intro from him, he puts it ‘down to the heat’, hey it’s affecting us all in different ways!


The track ‘Sad But True’ is for me one of their best works. Rolling with two back-to-back classic tracks ‘The Day That Never Comes’ and ‘Hardwired’ brought towards the end of the set but not before ‘Seek and Destroy’, ‘One’ and then the set finale with ‘Master of Puppets’. The band as they always do share a bit of mic work each and say their goodbyes to the Indio crowd.


So yes it is a goodbye to the Empire Polo Grounds and the Power Trip Festival. Six bands over three nights, sharing the experience with fans from all over the world. One guy sitting next to us lives next door, us from Scotland, on the left a couple flew in from Melbourne Australia, such has been the global reach of this gig drawing from near and far.


The organization behind is exceptional. The shuttle buses allow you to go to strategic pickup points back and forward to your accommodation. No multiple stops just straight there and back which for us was 20 minutes.


Big shout out to those attendees who camped, I take my hat off to you. In a searing 100-degree heat when we got into the arena ahead of Iron Maiden, there was no let-off in temperature for them until they left the site.


The volume of friendly helpers/volunteers/guides/security staff makes everything go like clockwork. Lines kept flowing, although the merchandise queue was a sight to behold and needed a bit of a rethink.


Then of course the bands. For me AC/DC as I said earlier was the main driver to attend, and I’ve not been disappointed. They nailed it. Not forgetting Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, GN’R, Metallica and Tool. All are very memorable for many different reasons. Will there be another Power Trip? Who knows, but this one will be remembered long into the future.


Dragging my family halfway around the world to share in this festival has been a life moment that neither I nor they will ever forget.


Keep on rockin’, keep music live.



How useful was this post?

Click on a thumb to rate it!

Average rating 4.7 / 5. Vote count: 653

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!