Category Archives: Shows & Event Reviews

Primal Fear Live in New York City

Primal Fear
Live @ Stage 48 in New York City

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On Wednesday April 30, 2014, New York City area had the 10th wettest day on record with almost 5 inches of rain falling.  One of my Devil’s Five partners, George Brianka and I got drenched going to and from the concert.  But that mattered little as International heavy metal powerhouse Primal Fear was in town and the band from Europe made it all worth it.

After catching the second opening act, New York City’s female fronted Flames of Fury, the metal juggernaut that is Primal Fear came on to blew the opening act off the stage.  The difference between the two bands was so vast that there was no comparison, but I’ll still name a few.  The instruments in Flames of Fury seemed work against each other, with one guy trying to play over the top of the other, never giving the songs room to breathe.   The drums weren’t mixed right and visually there was no coordination amongst the band with the lead guitarist looking like he was constipated or in some kind of pain.

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Primal Fear is honestly a heavy metal machine.  These five guys are so tight and have so much chemistry that they interact with the audience and you can see that they are having a blast performing.  Plus musically Primal Fear is incredibly smart by backing off heaviness at times to give their music much more dimension and texture.  When the huge riffs come in, they feel so much more powerful.  When the band slows down, when certain instruments stop playing, both of these choices allow the solos to be heard more clearly and when someone rips out a lead section, its impact is so much stronger than everyone always playing fast all the time.  I’m sure this mostly comes from professionalism and experience, something Primal Fear has in spades.

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I also trace this to Randy Black’s drums, which are nothing short of amazing.  He’s a monster behind the kit pounding out furious beats but more importantly constantly mixing up time changes and rhythmic patterns.   Because of this, the songs don’t all sound the same (a problem with the opening band).  Just watching Black play is astonishing as he sometime plays with each arm crossing over to opposite sides and his ever changing double bass kicks had George & I grooving big-time.

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Vocalist Ralf Scheepers is one of the best singers in heavy metal period.  What became obvious to me was that Scheepers is in the prime of his life as a front man.  His multi-octave voice soared reaching incredibly high notes very few can reach, especially not with his Rob Halford-like inflection and control.  Scheepers’ voice is so understandable and melodic that the audience was always singing along with him.  Also he did something really cool, I’m not sure was intentional or not.  After instrumental passages you could clearly see him counting down (three, two, one) before he came in, which alerted the audience when to join him just at the right time.  It was like he was a conductor leading us along.

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Plus you can’t help talk about Scheepers stage presence.  The man commanded the room.  He visibly made an effort to look to every area where audience members were positioned and encourage them to join in the metal celebration.  His conviction was so strong and true that it reminded me of the top front men I’ve ever seen; Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio.  He’s also built like a German tank and just looks the part as a natural leader.

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The band began the night with “Final Embrace” from their 1999 album Jaws of Death and had the crowd rocking from the start.

I was particularly delighted with seeing how much the audience got into the third song “Delivering The Black”, since it is the song we have licensed for our film Devil’s Five.  The high octane energy of the title track from their latest album had me banging my head with the rest of the crowd.

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The band went through an amazing set list that covered something on almost all their studio albums.  I really appreciated how they mixed it up with fast heavy songs, mid-tempo rockers, a ballad and even the ten minute epic “One Night in December” off Delivering The Black.

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Something that really struck me about Mat Sinner, besides the huge bass sound he provides, was how his voice augmented the band’s vocal power.  It’s not like Scheepers needs any help but he does give Primal Fear an added advantage.

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Guitarists Alex Beyrodt and Tom Naumann, who is an original founding member (filling in for Magnus Karlsson, who couldn’t do the long tour so he can spend more time with his little kids) complimented each other perfectly and reminded me of the great guitar duos in Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.  These two guys could both rip it, yet they kept their playing within the songs and never tried to hog the musical space.

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After a rousing set, the band was brought out for an encore that consisted of “Unbreakable Pt. 2” and “Running in the Dust.”  This left the New York City crowd ecstatic with heavy metal joy.  There is something else I have to say and this is important.  Though Primal Fear is a heavy metal band who talks about death, darkness and the devil, there’s not speck of negative energy about them.  I never sensed any kind of hostile aggression from the audience but rather just unified enthusiasm.  In this way, they come across like metal giants Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

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After the show, George and I met the band backstage and they couldn’t have been nicer.  The band members had no air of arrogance but rather humble appreciation for our interest in using their song in our movie.  It capped off a wonderful night that neither one of us is sure to forget.

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Absolutely make every effort to see Primal Fear when they hit your town.  It’s not every year they come to our continent so join their heavy metal revolution this month:

http://www.primalfear.de/home/tour/

May 3 – Sat
PRIMAL FEAR in Toronto, Ontario

May 4- Sun
PRIMAL FEAR in Cleveland, Ohio

May 7 – Wed
PRIMAL FEAR in Lawrence, Kansas

May 8 – Thu
PRIMAL FEAR in Denver, Colorado

May 10 – Sat
PRIMAL FEAR in Seattle, Washington

May 11 – Sun
PRIMAL FEAR in Vancouver, British Columbia

May 12 – Mon
PRIMAL FEAR in Portland, Oregon

May 14 – Wed
PRIMAL FEAR in San Francisco, California

May 15- Thu
PRIMAL FEAR in Anaheim, California

May 16 – Fri
PRIMAL FEAR in Tempe, Arizona

May 19 – Mon
PRIMAL FEAR in Houston, Texas

May 21 – Wed
PRIMAL FEAR in Atlanta, Georgia

May 23 – Fri
PRIMAL FEAR in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

May 24 – Sat
PRIMAL FEAR in Rochester, New York

STEVE VAI Live show review

STEVE VAI Live show review

@ NYCB Theater at Westbury, NY August 31, 2012

 

 

The legendary hometown guitarist returned to his stomping grounds to give another brilliant performance that floored, excited and moved all of us in attendance.

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What I liked most about this show was how relaxed Vai and his band seemed to be with a crowd that included had many of his family and friends.  I think Long Island looks at the rock star as one of our own and rightly so, he is after all from Carle Place.

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Vai’s band came out tearing up three songs off his latest CD, The Story of Light.  Then they delved into a wild assortment of musical directions that alternated between being funky, oriental tinged, acoustic, jazzy, hard rocking and so much more.  I know I wasn’t the only one that appreciated every diverse tune.

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One of the songs that really surprised me was when the opening artist Beverly McClellan (a final four contestant from the first season of the TV show THE VOICE) sang a hard rocking tune “John the Revelator” from The Story of Light.

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There were a couple really special instances that displayed the deep passion Vai feels for his fans and vice versa.  A young girl was asked to come up on stage, at which point she gave Vai a rose and THE BEE MOVIE DVD.  I didn’t realize the significance of this particular movie at the time but have since learned that Steve Vai is an avid bee keeper.  It was really thoughtful gesture on the part of the girl and it was a tender moment for all of us to enjoy.

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Later, Vai picked a boy from the audience to have him help create a song on the spot, because he said anyone can write a song.  “Watch I’ll show you.”  The boy mouthed a nice little beat that Drummer Jeremy Colson copied then the kid came up with patterns that Vai assigned to rhythm guitarist, bassist, the electric harp player and even one for himself.  Then the band jammed off the new grooves for an improvisational tune.  This was really neat because I looked at this like something Vai’s mentor Frank Zappa would have done.  I think Zappa must be smiling up in heaven because Steve Vai is carrying on his creative music approach.  It was refreshing and invigorating to experience firsthand.

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Vai played many of the songs from his 30-year career and every time you’d hear a few notes of one of his signature pieces of music, it sent Goosebumps out to the crowd because we knew what followed.

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Steve Vai changed clothes quite a few times over his 2+ hour set.  One of them was sort of a science fiction outfit that seemed right of STAR WARS.  This get-up featured a cape with gloves & hood that projected tiny laser-like lights out in a variety of colors.  While donning this costume, Vai played a specially designed guitar that looked almost like a futuristic weapon that matched the design of his attire.  This definitely added spectacle to an already awesome concert.

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Another thing that really struck me was what happened at the end of the show.  Steve Vai stood emotionally moved by the cheering standing ovation for a good couple minutes after the rest of his band left the stage.  Then he said that playing in front of this beautiful town and his hometown people meant a lot to him.  He thanked all of us for being there from the bottom of his heart and there was no doubt about his sincerity.  I think Vai realizes in this tough economy there is no guarantee about how many people can go to see a live show.  But Long Island turned out to support him and his appreciation was obvious.

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It’s been five years since Steve Vai last toured.  If you’ve never seen him perform, you are missing out on one of the most original, passionate artists on the music scene.  If you have seen him before than you know it’s time to go see him play again for the warmth and energy that you will get from experiencing his latest tour.   Please visit Vai’s website to find out when he’s going to be in your area.

 

www.vai.com/tourdates/

2Cellos Live at Highline Ballroom

2Cellos Live at Highline Ballroom
New York City, NY April 2, 2013

 

There’s been a long standing debate over the value of classical based instrumental music outside of the traditional music settings.  For example, many from the classical music population argue that rock music lacks the structure and integrity of formal music.  While the heavy metal/rock followers often feel classical music doesn’t have the spark and enthusiasm of their favorite genre.  That being said, 2Cellos are a perfect blend of each.

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What was so invigorating about seeing 2Cellos is that there was absolutely none of this pompous, elitist attitude from the musicians or the audience.  The two talented, classically trained cellists from Croatia just wanted to rock and have fun.  It shows by the choice of songs they play and especially how they perform them.  It’s actually a great way of cross pollinating the two types of music because it opens the door for them to establish a much larger audience.

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Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic began the evening by performing “Where The Streets Have No Name,” which brought an infusion of energy to the New York City crowd.  The two guys play with such an incredible amount of passion and emotion, which is visually obvious in every song. The music was so emotional that you could almost hear the words being sung from the cellos themselves.

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The men were smart with their arrangement of songs by taking the audience up with “Streets” and then easing us down with another U2 song “With Or Without You.”  This was a brilliant approach as everyone could get energetically into one song and then catch your breath in the other.   They did this tactic pretty much throughout the whole show, like playing Michael Jackson’s sensitive “Human Nature” followed by their breakthrough version of the late performer’s “Smooth Criminal”

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I think the songs that really showed off 2Cellos instrumental prowess were all the rock songs like Guns N Roses “Welcome To The Jungle,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and three of their renditions of three AC/DC songs “Back In Black,”” You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Highway To Hell.”

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Though I’m from Seattle, I never really liked the grunge music, but I will admit the Nirvana song “Smells like Teen Spirit” and Green Day’s “Good Riddance” actually worked wonderfully as rousing soulful renditions.

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I have never experienced a concert like this.  If you haven’t already, please do yourself a favor and look at 2Cellos’ concert schedule. They are set to play dates scattered across the country until the third week of April. Going to see them would refresh your musical palate and undoubtedly bring sparkles of joy into your life.  If there are no dates near you, I suggest you check out their myriad of videos on their website.

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If you think this concert was full of emotion, you should look at the passion of the Bach Double Violin Concerto in D Minor.

 

www.2cellos.com