Archive for the 'Live Show Review' Category



29
Nov
11

Opeth – Swedish metal fun!

Recently during the wee hours of the morning when I was having trouble sleeping I decided to check out my list on Tivo of shows that I randomly decided to record and check out later; one was another installment of the 2011 Sonisphere concert.  I had seen the past installments with Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth but not some of the lesser known acts.  For example, this particular artists featured this included Sum 41, Cavalera Conspiracy, Diamond Head, In Flames, and Opeth.  To be fair, these are not household names around the halls of HiFi Central, but perhaps they are in your abode.  Clearly they are “popular” to someone otherwise they would have never made the bill for Sonisphere in the first place. 

Out of the fore-mentioned bands I found myself listening to the Sum 41 set, which was more nostalgic than eye opening, the guys are good and still popular perhaps, say in Indonesia these days. Sadly, Sum 41 is not involved in the main music scene in the US these days; an underground fanbase I would assume keeps them alive here.  Sum 41 has not put out any radio worthy music in years; and in some ways reminded me of a goofy Green Day wanna be band on Sonisphere.  I’m sure the shoppers at Zumiez or Hot Topic may think they still are incredible, but here at HiFi Central we use their poster as a dart board and cd’s as drink coasters.

Cavelera Conspiracy had my attention for about 25 seconds and then I quickly found them utterly boring, especially when the lead singer Max Cavelera opened his mouth.  It wasn’t until I realized why I knew the name Cavelera and then zingo – Sepultura!  I always liked Sepultura’s instrumentals but never liked the vocals, hmmm, guess what?  Still don’t! After listening to the reincarnation with Cavelera Conspiracy, it was like trying liver again at 40 – I still think it sucks, sorry.

Diamond Head was merely a special reunion for a 1970’s metal band that some of todays bands merit (Megadeth and Metallica) with being highly influential.  Ok I guess, personally for me it was a bunch of old geezers having a good time and if they played my town I would disregard them as a decent garage band, the music was nothing worth really noting and I pressed fast forward (thank the Lord for TIVO!!!) 

After watching this chapter of Sonisphere 2010 the only bands that stood out for me were Swedish metal bands In Flames and Opeth.  I was familiar with In Flames since they recently had a show locally and I am kicking myself for missing the show; they are REALLY good!   Opeth was a complete mystery to me and I was amazed how good they were.

In Flames and Opeth are equally talented bands and exemplify some of the best Death / Progressive metal coming out of Sweden.  I found myself entranced with both bands sound and vocals;  these bands are accomplished masters of the metal sound and have discovered the ability to make quality music.  In Flames, although very good, is somewhat one-dimensional when compared to talents of Opeth. Opeth is clearly more of  a mix of conceptual progressive rock, death metal, and classic rock.  To make it a bit more precise, it would be fair to say that Opeth is a culmination of Dream Theater, early Rush, and Lamb of God mixed all together to create a tasty goop of hard driving riffs, strong choral arrangments, constant time changes, acoustic breaks, and the occasional growling vocals added at the right times. 

What I think appeals to me most about this band is the variety of music they have created over the past decade, albums range from mellow acoustic arrangments echoing with haunting vocals exemplified by the concept albums My Arms, Your Hearse (1998) and Still Life (1999).  Both albums remind me of an early Rush concept album like Hemispheres, not in the vocals but the story line.  In Still Life a character returns to his town after years of banishment due to his faith, a faith that contrasted with the majority and he comes back years later to find his true love. As the album moves forward it introduces those who originally banished him and the bad things that follow. 

Concept albums can be fun; especially when artists use the songs exemplify the chapters and progression of the character and development of a story as a whole; I think Opeth does a good job in these two albums.  As a sidenote, and clearly coincidental, the album My Arms,  Your Hearse offers three instrumental songs, one is named “Madrigal” (as found on Rush’s Farewell to Kings (1977)) luckily it’s not a cover.  Regardless, I still found this humorous; and “Rush-like” quality can be found on the first song off of Still Life called “The Moor”; very Cygnus-X1-like with a journey of soft haunting guitars setting the tone for a deep story full of twists and turns.

Opeth has been smart not to rely on the same recipe for their albums; they keep to a constant style, yet manipulate the arrangments very smartly.  This constant shift from acoustic to metal can be reflected in more recent albums where a much more hard driving non-stop Death metal style of growling vocals and blistering guitars is introduced sparingly.  I liken their albums to a “metal roller coaster ride”, albums may start off with a soft haunting vocal and guitar backdrop and then transition into fast paced dark anger and fury, then back to mellow.  Much of this style can be highlighted on an album such as Blackwater Park (2001); at the same time you can find a mix of both acoustic melodies and metal offered Watershed (2008).  So far I have found that Opeth put out very solid albums that keep the listener enthralled and not yearning to advance to the next song.  It’s actually more anticipation to see what’s next and I like that.

As much as I want to continue writing an indepth analysis about the the body of Opeth’s work, there is simply too many albums and not enough time for me to fairly be overly critical  (positive or negative); however, I can say with great conviction that from what I have heard so far, I am very impressed!

 This band is clearly on to something and I can’t wait to see if they ever have a show in HiFi Central’s hometown of Albany, NY.  If you are interested in learning more about Opeth see if you can snag their Still Life album as a starter; Still Life is one of my current favorites.   If you have seen Opeth or like their music please drop us a comment, we’d love to hear what you think.  If you have not heard them before and decided to check them out via this blog, please let us know if we made a good suggestion or whether we suck at making suggestions.

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08
Nov
11

Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger: The Egg 11/9/11

I received an email from our local liberal artsy-fartsy venue called The Egg; a venue that HiFi has visited on several occasions to catch excellent past shows like Dweezil Zappa and Al DiMeola.  Most of the time The Egg tends to pander to international dancing acts, modern dance groups, or musicians that often tend to be more underground yet accomplished in their own right, such as Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin.  At times The Egg will have mainstream performers such as ex-Audioslave and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell or Phish bass-player-extrodinaire Mike Gordon rolling through for a rare appearance.  Often these shows are for smaller audiences and thus offer a far more up close and personal experience all around.  My only gripe in the past has been The Egg’s lame ticket policy of offering the best seats to “Egg Members” and then offering the very same seats (if the don’t sell) closer to the actual night of the show instead of when they release them to the general public. 

The Egg has two theaters, one big (Hart Theater – 982 seats) and one small (Swyer Theater – 450 seats); while each theater may reflect half of each size, it can be truly said that there are no bad seats perse.  However, during the Dweezil show (held in the larger Swyer Theater) HiFi was seated far right of the stage and were unable to see the movie screen, bummer, but not the end of the world.  For the DiMeola show it was held in the Hart Theater and it was more than cozy and probably one of the best $35 I’ve spent on a concert; truly worthwhile.

Appearently The Door’s legends Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger are touring and will play the venue on Wednesday, November 9th, cool.  As much as I am curious about an evening with members of The Doors, and I’m sure it will be a solid show, I can’t help but wish the bill included Ian Astbury (ex- The Cult) as the faux-Morrison lead singer.  Astbury has toured with them over the past few years and has imitated Morrison impecably!  I’m not sure if HiFi readers have seen a clip of Astbury channeling Morrison, but it’s pretty friggin’ awesome! 

Since Astbury will not be featured I feel affects the overall price of the tickets; simply listening to Manzarek and Krieger play will cost you the range of $35 – $60, a bit steep in my opinion.  Later in the month at The Egg, the legendary Ray Davies, the lead singer of The Kinks, and is only charging $39 – $49 for tickets! Sorry, but Manzarek and Krieger were merely backing musicians and I can’t justify that kind of cash.  It’s like paying $50 for Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as a night with Led Zeppelin, but it ain’t.  I dunno, although Manzarek’s keyboards were an integral part to The Doors sound, I just still can’t see spending my hard earned cash.  I’m thinking more 1/2 The Doors = 1/2 the price, no?

If you check the show out I’m sure it will be good, I’m not trying to take anything away from their legacy, but without Astbury providing his rendition of Morrison I’m less inclined to want to spend the money.  I’ve provided you a clip of the Astbury version of “Break On Through” with Manzarek and Krieger backing; tell us if you think the price is worth it without him?

04
Nov
11

Shpongle Live @ the Hammerstein Ballroom–New York, NY 10.28.11

Experiencing a rare Shpongle live ensemble performance at Camp Bisco X this past summer was a glorious moment in festival history for me. Therefore I knew an indoor headlining show in New York City for Halloween weekend would be another unforgettable night and a fantastic way to start my “Halloweekend.” Marking their 2nd U.S. appearance as a full band, Simon Posford, Raja Ram and company brought even more mind-bending sights, sounds and characters with them to the city that never sleeps. It was a special premature commemoration of a beloved holiday but more importantly, Posford’s date of birth.

Arriving late after 11pm to the Manhattan Center, the entrance was mobbed with people in kooky outfits and ghastly attire. After all it was “Shpongleween”, an appropriate title for this bizarre costume affair and a scene drawing curious gazes of passersby. We entered the ballroom to flamenco guitar, entrancing salsa rhythms and schizophrenic vocals of“Dorset Perception.” The first balcony section was a quintessential location: having the bar and bathroom in close proximity to your seats is always advantageous to the show experience, but not your wallet ($8 cranberry vodkas, you say? Sigh.) Anyways, nobody actually sat in their designated seats so the first balcony was practically a free for all. But that didn’t matter—most of the time everybody was joyously dancing or completely transfixed by the performance onstage.

The stage was a colorful concoction of costumes and acrobatic performers wearing feathers or garments lined with bright, neon shapes and patterns, donning tribal masks. A horned man paraded the stage on stilts. Singers Michele Adamson and Abigail Gorton wore vibrant wigs and glow-in-the-dark tights. Yup, we had reached our far-out destination: Shpongleland, a psychedelic dimension created from visions and adventures inspired by the drug induced hallucinations and experiences of Posford and Raja Ram, akin to a spiritual and ritualistic gathering.

One of the most anticipated songs of the night was “Nothing is Something Worth Doing.” Everybody’s attention was directed to the man dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (not sure if it was Manu Delago) sitting front and center under a spotlight, playing the rich melodic introduction with a hang. The hypnotic buildup made this a climactic point of the show, the crowd spellbound by the profound music, harmoniously tangled up in bliss.

Then a striking guitar melody ascended from the mystics, conjuring the exotic tones of “When Shall I Be Free” right into “Stamen of the Shaman” off 2005’s Nothing Lasts…But Nothing is Lost. While the latter song was missing the organic sound of a live trumpet, the ballroom went bonkers and current Furthur drummer Joe Russo kept the crowd grooving with pulsating latin dub beats. The next batch of songs were from Shpongle’s latest release Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland. Adamson and Gorton lent their impressive vocal range to “No Turn Unstoned,” while celestial tones of the harp, violinist, cellist and flute added instrumental depth to this ambient piece. Next thing you know, a cryptic Indian chant and deep sitar timbre introduced, “I Am You.” Raja Ram spoke through a processor that fluctuated the pitch of his voice. Ominous violins and metallic synth arpeggios picked up the tempo and the cosmic fantasy unfolded into a dark, psy-trance journey. From there I did not expect them to go into the orchestral centered “Invisible Man In a Fluorescent Suit,” but it was a nice change of pace and wonderfully enchanting once it progressed.

Divine Moments of Truth” and “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” were two strong closing choices, the former being a popular Shpongle tune that was heavily in rotation during Simon’s Shpongletron tour as well as at Camp Bisco. “My Head Feels Like a Frisbee” fuses so many styles of music, you simply cannot fight the urge to dance. Listening to Raja Ram’s flute part in the closing song was indeed a satisfying experience, but when they came out to perform the encore “Around the World in a Tea Daze,” all senses were stimulated by the vivacious flautist. Gorton and Adamson’s operatic vocals soared in unison over confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling in celebration of Simon Posford’s birthday and Shpongleween.

Blending indigenous traditional music of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures with psychedelic, trance, dub and ambient styles is what makes Shpongle more sonically diverse than most acts in the world. Additionally the eccentric theatrics, lazer visuals and humorous antics of Raja Ram were essential factors for producing such a unique and fascinating show. This is a stimulating presentation that music lovers from all walks of life wouldn’t want to miss with its mysticism, majesty and moments of musical transcendence. Although the opportunity to catch them in the States is uncommon, I’m sure they’ll be back again after three successful appearances in 2011. And of course, Simon Posford in New York State means chaotic climate as indicated by the subsequent snow storm on Saturday and rain he brings to Camp Bisco every summer.

 5/5

31
Oct
11

Shonen Knife – Japan’s Punk Queens on Tour!

While checking out the local club scene about upcoming acts online  this past Tuesday I noticed that the legendary Japanese rock trio Shonen Knife was coming to HiFi Central’s stomping ground of Albany, NY.  The venue is Valentine’s which is a shoe-box of a club normally associated with local hardcore and rock acts that I often choose to overlook on a  regular basis; however though, at times they have had some national acts roll through worth checking out.  The last band that  I wished I had known about was the California rock group Dada; one of the best nationally unknown rock bands to come out the 1990’s.  It would have truly been pretty incredible to see them that close and personal, bummer I missed it.

So, after missing that show I’ve checked the listing from time to time just to see who may be randomly doing a one-night stand.  Well, clearly the waiting and random checking of their site has been well worth the effort since Shonen Knife will be dropping by on Sunday, November 20th (18+ show).  Shonen Knife has been around since 1981; the only remaining member making Shonen Knife still Shonen Knife  is lead singer and guitarist Naoko Yamano.  The remaining founding members Atsuko Yamano (Naoko’s sister) and Michie Nakatani left the band to pursue other interests, but the replacements for these members have held their own over the course of the last decade never losing the true Shonen Knife sound.

Over the course of the past 20 years the band has released 19 albums and toured with the likes of  Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Mudhoney, and perhaps the coolest bragging right, Nirvana.  The band has appeared on the BBC with famed rock radio host John Peel,  performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and has been featured on MTV’s 12o Minutes.  The band was a featured act on 1994’s Lollapalooza tour as well.  So, even though they have not reached the heights of fame since their decade long run in the 1990’s, they still have a loyal following and are anything but a goofy band hanging on to remnants of fame.

HiFi is heading to this show with great anticipation; I would not be surprised if it might be the last chance for you to see them in the US for some while.  This tour is supporting a Ramones tribute album entitled “Osaka Ramones” released this past July, so I’m sure that it should be a fun and unique show!  Get your tickets soon since it will be sold out, especially since Valentine’s only holds about 50 patrons; and be sure sure to bring your earplugs!

HiFi will provide a full review of this show, so check back.

You can check more out about the Valentines show by clicking here.

You can check out some samples of Shonen Knife’s “Osaka Ramones” by clicking here.

26
Oct
11

Weird Al Yankovic @ the Palace Theater in Albany–Tuesday October 18th, 2011

When asked if I wanted a free ticket to attend Weird “Al” Yankovic one and half hours before the concert started, I simply couldn’t refuse this random and spontaneous opportunity. Especially since my memory was immediately flooded with absurd verses from 1996’s Bad Hair Day, my first and only copy of a Weird Al album.

My friends and I arrived ten minutes before show time; the orchestra level was almost full and I imagine nobody was up in the balcony. From young children to baby boomers, the age range of the audience was pretty diverse. A lot of adults weren’t there with kids either, but that didn’t surprise me. Weird Al has been making parodies of popular songs since the early 80s and is still relevant and appreciated by generations old and new. Touring off his latest release from June, Alpocalypse, Yankovic emerged onstage to boisterous applause and cheers, beginning with his most recent polka medley, “Polka Face.” Strapped with an accordion and backed by a rock band, Al proceeded to perform top 40 radio hits from 2008-2010 with his trademark polka twist, including the obvious “Pokerface” by Lady Gaga, “Day ‘n Nite” by Kid Cudi, “Fireflies” by Owl City and “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry.

Yankovic continued to play songs off “Alpocalypse,” probably to keep the younger demographic satisfied, knowing their attention span and invested interest wouldn’t outlast their elders. A satirical new song “TMZ” pokes fun at the gossip site, notorious for posting photos and stories about the outlandish antics of celebrities. “Another Tattoo” comments on people’s strange need for more bizarre skin markings to fulfill their ink obsessions. One performance I thoroughly enjoyed was “Craigslist”, the music being a blend of various Doors songs with lyrics mocking the missed connections section and free stuff posts: “You were a blonde half-Asian with a bad case of gas/ I was wearing’ red Speedos and a hockey mask.” Al tapped into his inner Jim Morrison, wearing tight pants, a bohemian white blouse and shaggy wig, vigorously gyrating as if inebriated a.k.a classic Morrison. Of course the night wouldn’t have felt right without him doing his Lady Gaga parody “Perform This Way”, a youtube sensation receiving over nine million views. Wearing a peacock costume with his band also dressed in outrageous costumes was laughable though not nearly as ludicrous as Gaga would have done it.

Visual presentations of zany clips and references to Weird Al in popular culture kept the audience entertained during his numerous wardrobe changes. His famous “Al TV” interviews with musicians such as Madonna, Eminem, Robert Plant and Keith Richards were edited to create a humorous interplay between Al and his chosen subjects. Sure, they were silly and corny but funny nonetheless.

Going all out is Al’s forte for sure. Other memorable performances included his nineties hit “Amish Paradise” where he and his band dressed as Amish folk. During “White and Nerdy” he recklessly rode around on a Segway, rapping in a tacky red jumpsuit. And of course, Al performed his Grammy award winning songs for “best comedy recordings” and most beloved Michael Jackson parodies, “Eat It” and “Fat.” Yankovic dressed as MJ for the former song and donned a chain laden fat suit, complete with a double chin for the latter performance.

We all know “Weird” Al is big geek and speaks to the nerd inside us all, making his Star Wars inspired encore of “Yoda” and “The Saga Begins” a totally appropriate note to end on. “Yoda” uses the music of “Lola” and “The Saga Begins” is Don McLean’s “American Pie” (Anakin guy). Most definitely a clever lyrical homage to the Lucas legacy, especially the acapella and dance breakdown during “Yoda.”

While I never expected to attend a Weird Al concert in my life, this show undeniably exceeded my expectations. The man can perform in more ways than one, humorously yet impeccably embodying the spirit of the musicians he mocks (can’t forget “Smells Like Nirvana”) and continuing to deliver his traditional polka versions of popular songs throughout the past decades. He’s funny, quirky, dorky, and clever and knows how to put on an interesting concert for all ages. My friends and I couldn’t help but laugh and smile when we discussed our favorite moments post-show.

4.5/5

24
Oct
11

Trey Anastasio – Free TAB six-pack

Totally 0ld news since it was made available last month; but if you are not aware of the free six-pack sampler offered on the LivePhish.com website it is worth your time.  As many know, Trey and his band made several stops along the US earlier this year to select cities spreading their incredible music throughout.

This sampler is worth downloading, sadly there is nothing from the Albany, NY show in this mix, but regardless, I’m just happy that it’s free!

You can find the download at livephish.com and will need to set up a free account and password.  The free downloads offered by LivePhish are temporary, so you need to act quickly before they take it down.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

19
Oct
11

EOTO @ Jillian’s in Albany – Thursday October 13th, 2011

String Cheese Incident’s live improvisational side project EOTO returned to Albany this past Thursday, redeeming themselves after a redundant and unimpressive set back in April when they opened for Bassnectar at the Washington Armory. Instead of catering to the “basshead” crowd like last time, their set at Jillian’s demonstrated the duo’s uncanny ability to create and execute multiple styles of dance music. While both are trained drummers and percussionists, Jason Hann sits behind the drum set as Michael Travis stands surrounded by samplers, keyboards, a guitar, and bass, focused on crafting melodic loops.

I only caught ten minutes of ELECTRONICAnonymous, EOTO’s opener. This DJ project of Jules Jenssen, the drummer of Higher Organix and more recently Indobox, warmed up the dance floor by playing dubstep and electro-house for the eager young crowd. After a short break, Hann and Travis came onstage and the main event of electronic music magic began.

Performing two sets for an approximate total of 3 hours, EOTO continuously explored various genres and thoroughly excited the audience at every turn, much to my delight (considering their previous wobble heavy sets from the Armory and The Big Up). They cohesively concocted one style of electronic music to the next with a nice balance of breakbeat, house, dubstep and techno. At an early point in their first set, EOTO went from an upbeat electro-house tune to a west coast hip-hop instrumental, very reminiscent of a Dr. Dre beat. From there, Travis plugged in an electric guitar and used a sitar setting, creating a very psychedelic, middle-eastern vibe as Hann laid down a mellow, dub beat. Glancing at the six flat screen TV’s displaying kaleidoscopic visuals made it an especially trippy show moment for me.

In addition to bass and guitar loops, EOTO threw in popular vocal samples over fun and quirky dubstep rhythms, including Salt N Peppa’s “Push It” and Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.” Watching Hann switch tempos and drum styles, smoothly transitioning from fast aggressive patterns to slow, syncopated beats was also very entertaining. Basically he is the groove monster and Travis is the loop master.

It was incredibly enjoyable to witness EOTO’s charismatic musical prowess and energy onstage at Jillian’s. For two middle-aged men to appeal to young twenty-somethings nowadays is rare. After Thursday’s experience, it’s apparent Hann and Travis are tuned into what’s new and relevant in today’s electronic music scene, indicated by their diverse palette of styles and unique take on live improvisation. With a demanding fall tour schedule (playing 29 out of 31 dates in October) it’s remarkable how hard this aging yet rambunctious dance factory works, striving to captivate and move audiences from one city to the next. I hope EOTO continues to bring the same raw energy and variety that was present at Thursday’s show because it truly reminded me how talented and multifaceted they are as musicians.

Performing at Electric Forest Music Festival in Michigan

Rating: 4/5




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