Killswitch Engage Dominates Downtown L.A.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Novo Theater in downtown Los Angeles was the place to be Friday evening for a great night of metal with Unearth, Exodus, and Killswitch Engage. With these three acts on the bill, this show was guaranteed to deliver and they went above and beyond with their performance.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Unearth kicked things off with a great set that included “The Great Dividers,” “My Will be Done,” and my favorite from their set, “Giles.” This song had one of the biggest circle pits of the night and was definitely one of their standout performances. This Massachusetts based band was a great selection to kick off the show and fire up the crowd. Guitarists, Buz McGrath and Ken Susi, were phenomenal all night as they made great use of all 7 strings on their signature LTD guitars.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Exodus was the next band up and these bay area vets wasted no time in unleashing their brand of brutal thrash. Gary Holt and Lee Altus were masterful on their ESP guitars as they sawed through their picks playing their signature high-octane riffs during their eight song set. Notables during their show were “Blood in Blood Out,” “Bonded by Blood,” and the closing song, “Strike of the Beast.” Steve Zetro Souza did a fantastic job all night singing these songs and getting the crowd going. He sent a shoutout to his fellow “satanic hispanics” in the crowd before inviting Dino Cazares of Fear Factory and Brujeria to take the stage so the band could wish him a happy 50th birthday.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Before the crowd had a chance to catch their breath after Exodus’ crushing set, Killswitch Engage energetically took the stage and put on a great headlining set. The band played a diverse selection of songs ranging from songs off their current album, Incarnate, to earlier releases like “My Last Serenade” from their 2002 release, Alive or Just Breathing. Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz were a dynamic pair all night. Their high energy level of guitar playing was inspiring and great to see live. Their Caparison guitars sounded great and they were able to dial in some awesome tones through their rigs. Vocalist, Jesse Leach, drummer,       Justin Foley, and bassist, Mike D’Antonio also put on noteworthy performances.

Photos by Steve Rose

Unearth

Unearth @ The Novo

Exodus
Exodus @ The Novo

Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage @ The Novo

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Santana & Journey were Timeless at The Forum

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

On Sunday night, thousands of L.A. concertgoers were treated to a rare double billing of two rock titans: Santana and Journey. On any other night, each of these bands are headliners, but for this special night, they shared the stage and churned out hit after hit for nearly a combined four hours.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana and his band took the stage first and didn’t waste any time getting the crowd going. His signature brand of Latin-infused rock and blues had the crowd dancing from the front row to the last seat in the house. Playing fan favorites like “Maria Maria,” “Smooth,” and “Oye Como Va” really got the band going and it was evident that they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience. One special moment during Santana’s set was when Neal Schon came out and joined the band in playing “No One to Depend On.” The genuine happiness could be seen on the faces of Carlos and Neal as they traded licks on this classic song. Toward the end of the set, Carlos enlisted the help of a little boy to help him strum a few notes on his signature PRS guitar before ending the night with “Love, Peace and Happiness.”

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Shortly after 9pm, the house lights went dark at the “Fabulous” Forum and Journey started their show. For two hours, they played one memorable song after another while the sold out crowd eagerly sang along. Singer, Arnel Pineda, was dynamic all evening as he worked every part of the stage, connected with the fans, and was vocally impressive. Seeing Neal Schon dazzle with his fretboard fireworks was a highlight for me as a guitar player. His performance during “Lights” on a vintage Strat was notable, especially as nearly 20,00 fans lit up the venue with their phones. Other standouts from the night included “Open Arms,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin,’” which was their closing song.  

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Both Journey and Santana have an extensive list of notable, chart topping songs that have been the soundtrack to the lives of so many. This night was a celebration of music, their fans, and to the longevity of these two historic acts. These two bands will share the bill once more during Labor Day weekend in San Francisco along with Steve Miller and the Doobie Brothers. If you’re in the area, this is definitely a show you will not want to miss.

Santana

Santana @ The Forum

Journey

Journey @ The Forum

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Guns N’ Roses Hit a Home Run at Dodger Stadium

Photo credit: Katarina Benzova Tag: Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime tour presented by Live Nation at Dodger Stadium.

Photo credit: Katarina Benzova
Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime tour presented by Live Nation at Dodger Stadium.

Guns N’ Roses made their triumphant return to Los Angeles and put on a dominating three hour performance. The band started shortly after 8pm and right after a great opening set from The Cult, the anticipation started to build with every passing minute. The crowd, decked out in their various GNR shirts — with some in full Axl or Slash costume, were talking about which songs they might play, while others were still in disbelief that this show was actually happening. The show kicked off with a couple classic songs from Appetite for Destruction: “It’s So Easy” and “Mr. Brownstone.” Some well timed pyro and fireworks accented each performance. Seeing “Coma,” the band’s 10 minute epic song from Use Your Illusion I, performed in its entirety was my favorite moment of the night. There were a number of spectacular performances, but that was the best in my opinion. Throughout the night, the band played a good mix of songs from all their albums, and even worked in some great covers. Their version of “The Seeker” by The Who was a notable cover and was a great selection to play before they closed out the night with “Paradise City.”

Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime tour presented by Live Nation at Dodger Stadium.

Photo credit: Katarina Benzova

Like many, this was my first time seeing Axl and Slash perform together and it was thrilling to not only see these two legendary rockstars share the stage, but to see them perform so many of the songs that were so important to my musical foundation and development. The reason I started playing the guitar was due to seeing Slash plug in his Les Paul copy at the beginning of the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” video. Over the past few years, Slash’s playing seems to have gone up a notch and that was on full display during Friday’s show. He effortlessly moved up and down the neck of his signature Les Paul and really showcased his brilliance during “Civil War” mid way through their set. Rhythm guitarist, Richard Fortus did a fantastic job tackling these classic tunes, and drummer, Frank Ferrer, put on an unbelievably powerful performance. It is no easy task to follow drummers like Steven Adler and Matt Sorum, but Frank knocked it out of the park and it was clear why he was chosen hold things down for this mighty band. Axl Rose, now fully recovered from the foot injury that plagued some of his earlier performances, was running all around the stage in the same manner as I remember from videos during the Use Your Illusion era. He has a commanding stage presence and still sings like a caged beast ready to be unleashed. Duff McKagan kept the low end going as he churned out his signature bass lines through his low slung white Fender P bass. Throughout the show, he could often be found on the drum riser locking in with Frank as their rhythmic locomotive chugged on through the night.

Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime tour presented by Live Nation at Dodger Stadium.

Photo credit: Katarina Benzova

That night, the various merch stands were packed with fans looking to get a shirt or some other mementoto commemorate this historic night, but for me, the memories that this night provided go far beyond anything that could be sold at a booth. It was privilege to be in attendance and witness such a historic show at an iconic location like Dodger Stadium. The band has some international dates already scheduled into next year, and I hope they will come back for another round in the U.S.

Setlist

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Signature Style: Cost Effective Quality

It seems like more and more artists are getting signature model guitars and these guitars are being made overseas to make them more cost effective to hopefully get them into the hands of more people. As a guitar player, do you think that the quality of a particular instrument diminishes because it is made outside of the U.S.? Are U.S. made guitars superior to guitars made in China or Indonesia? Is the feel and sound of the instrument all that matters and all that should matter? These are all very important and relevant questions that should be addressed.

First off, I know many guitar players who refuse to play another artist’s guitar. Some have a problem with someone else’s name on the guitar, while others believe that the guitar should be for that artist or their fans. Personally, I have no issues in playing or owning a signature model guitar. I like that they tend to have different specs or features not on stock models and at times, they are limited production models, and have some added value. Some guitars are very artist specific like the various James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett ESP and LTD models, while other artists like Eric Johnson or The Edge have understated Fender Stratocaster signature models. It all comes down to the preference and style of the consumer and they type of guitar they feel like playing.

So if you’re the type of musician who would own a signature guitar, do you care if it is made in the U.S. or overseas? There are some musicians who if they buy a signature model, will only buy a U.S. made model because they believe the quality or sound is superior. I have owned a number of signature models and have not found that belief to be true. I care more about how the guitar sounds or feels in my hands than where it is made. I’ve played so many guitars that I can tell almost instantly if it works for my needs. One of my favorites was a 2006 Jackson Dominion that was made in Japan. The guitar could do anything and sounded phenomenal. These guitars are now made in Indonesia as are most Jackson Pro Series models, but that hasn’t hurt the playability or quality.

Recently, artists like Matt Heafy, Brent Hinds, and even the legendary Tony Iommi have announced Epiphone signature models. Each of these musicians could very easily have a Gibson signature line, but have realized that what matters is playability and reliability. If that can be achieved by making a guitar overseas and keeping the costs more affordable to the consumer then it is a great balance. Even Hinds’ fellow guitarist in Mastodon, Bill Kelliher has recently left Gibson to sign with ESP and his first model is a LTD signature that will be released in the Fall. These artist signatures aren’t just limited to Epiphone endorsees either; Paul Reed Smith has announced a PRS SE model for Periphery’s Mark Holcomb that joins other guitars in the signature SE line with artists like Santana and Mark Tremonti. This is just an example of a few guitar manufacturers that have taken their production of signature models overseas and haven’t sacrificed any quality or playability. Guitar god Zakk Wylde started his own company, Wylde Audio, to produce instruments, amps, and pedals. The first few models have begun shipping and production of all of those instruments takes place in Asia. The trend is going toward high quality, but cost effective instruments that sound great regardless of where they are manufactured.

To those signature guitar naysayers: more often than not, there is another name on that single cut Gibson electric guitar, and that signature model has done pretty well.

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Scorpions and Queensryche are a Winning Pair in Vegas

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Scorpions and Queensryche wrapped up their penultimate show at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. This residency, dubbed “Blacked Out in Vegas,” consisted of a five night run at this fantastic venue. The crowd was energetic and excited from the moment that Queensryche took that stage and that emotion carried over until the Scorpions played their last note of the night. These two bands have been touring together since last Fall and compliment each other nicely. They both have die hard fans that live and breathe on each note played or lyric sung.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Queensryche put on a fantastic eight song set that was filled with fan favorites like “Operation: Mindcrime,” “Jet City Woman,” and “Queen of the Reich.” Michael “Whip” Wilton’s playing was fiery and inspiring as he tilted his body back to go with the notes being bent on that familiar skull painted ESP guitar. The other members of the band were all dialed in, while singer, Todd La Torre was spot on vocally and did a great job interacting with the fans.

Following a short break, the kabuki curtain with the Scorpions Return to Forever artwork on it, dropped to the ground, and the band emerged from the fog and kicked off their eighteen song set with “Going Out With a Bang.” Throughout the night, the band played a mixture of current songs and the legendary ones that they are known for. “The Zoo” is always a good one and the band played it early in the set. This song features Matthias Jabs on the talk box and handling the lead duties on his black explorer style guitar. Rudolf Schenker and bassist, Pawel Maciwoda, patrolled the stage and played to everyone in the front row, at times pointing and smiling at selected fans who were yelling to get noticed. For a band entering it’s 51st year, they show no signs of age or slowing down. Klaus Meine still has that legendary and recognizable voice and showed his appreciation to the fans by throwing out handfuls of drumsticks to as many as he could in between musical breaks.

Both bands put on great, hard rockin’ sets and it’s obvious they each love playing these great songs to their adoring fans. These two bands only have a couple of dates left together, but both have extensive touring plans throughout the year.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

 

Queensryche @ The Joint

Scorpions @ The Joint

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Dream Theater Deliver a Masterful Performance at The Wiltern

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Dream Theater brought their tour for the futuristic album, The Astonishing, to the Wiltern in Los Angeles. The band’s latest release, a 34 track double album set in 2285, came to life visually and sonically, as the band played the album in its entirety to a packed house. The band played in front of 5 interactive video screens which added a visual accompaniment to this dystopian concept album. The design, production, and performance of this show must be quite the undertaking, but the sensory rewards are much greater and a sheer delight for the fans in attendance.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Dream Theater, comprised of John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, John Myung, Mike Mangini, and James LaBrie are all masters of their craft. James LaBrie is a supremely talented vocalist, who’s voice seems to get stronger on each album. When performing live, there’s no doubt that he has the pipes and his performance on The Astonishing is a great example. Mike Mangini and John Myung are rhythmic powerhouses who were locked in the entire night. Myung, who plays a 6 string Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo bass, moved up and down the neck with great dexterity as he held down the low end. Mangini, almost octopus-like behind the kit, made use of every drum and cymbal, as he filled, rolled, and crashed through the band’s most challenging material to date. Jordan Rudess, a wizard behind his customized hydraulic keyboard stanchion, wowed the audience with his fleet fingered phrases as his keyboard rotated and tilted throughout the band’s extended set. John Petrucci, not only a highly technical guitarist who produced many jaw dropping fretboard fireworks, but was also the mastermind behind The Astonishing and it’s well thought out concept, characters, and locations. Petrucci, played a few of his signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitars through his new signature heads from Mesa Boogie and they sounded great together. I’m certain many a guitar player went home that night and started researching and plotting their next gear acquisitions…I know I did. 

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

There have been mixed reactions to the material and band’s direction on The Astonishing. Some have questioned the seemingly overly theatrical elements of the songs, while others, follow the band along the twist and turns of it’s musical journey. Having listened to the albums a handful of times, it comes across much heavier live, and deserves to be seen when the tour comes to your town. Any skeptics of this newest release will be pleased when they see this masterful performance play out as Petrucci envisioned.

Dream Theater @ The Wiltern

 

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The Generation Axe Tour Wows at The Wiltern

 

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Generation Axe tour rolled into The Wiltern and was every bit as impressive as one would expect. Shortly after 8pm, these five wizards of the fretboard took the stage and opened with Boston’s “Foreplay.”  Each took turns putting their flair on this classic tune. The lineup for Generation Axe consists of: Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi.

After the first song, Tosin Abasi kicked things off with his polyrhythmic stylings on guitar. He was playing a uniquely shaped Ibanez 8 string guitar, which will most likely become a new signature instrument and is a radical departure from his current RG shaped signature. During Tosin’s last song, he was joined on stage by Nuno Bettencourt. Nuno joked during his set that it was hard finding the 1 when it came to keeping time and playing with Tosin, who’s music is heavily based on off time or uncommon meter. Nuno played a few songs which included a medley of Extreme songs and an uptempo acoustic instrumental piece that was very interesting and a departure from the music that Nuno wrote with Extreme.  During Nuno’s final song, he brought out Zakk Wylde and they played “Sideways,” with each sharing vocal duties.

Zakk, with his new Wylde Audio guitar in hand, only played three songs, all covers, but was arguably one of the best sets of the night. He started things off with Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B” and then segued into Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” before capping it off with “Whipping Post” from the Allman Brothers. During his “Little Wing” performance, he made his way into the crowd during an extended solo and most fans took pictures, while some stood in awe of his performance.

After Zakk’s performance, it was time for Yngwie Malmsteen to dazzle an already frenzied crowd. He did not disappoint with his trademark Fender Strat, and dizzying array of arpeggios, it was clear that Yngwie Malmsteen was there to leave his mark on the night. Yngwie played an eight song set that featured “Far Beyond the Sun” and had Steve Vai join him as he closed with “Black Star.” Both of these legends were having a genuine good time as they fed off of each other and continued to drop the jaws of those in attendance.

Steve Vai’s set was a favorite of many and featured “Tender Surrender” and “Building the Church.” Steve’s main guitar for the night was Flo III, a white signature Ibanez Jem. He also played a custom painted Jem and another with blue LED fretmarkers. The band then all reconvened on stage and finished off the night with fantastic renditions of “Frankenstein” and “Highway Star” from the legendary and newly inducted members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Deep Purple.

This all star roster of guitarists should not be missed when this tour comes to your town. Check out the site for tour dates near you. These musicians go above and beyond expectations and your fingers will be sore from all of the air guitar that will be played throughout the night.

Generation Axe @ The Wiltern

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Ruby Friedman Orchestra Hit All the Right Notes at the Hotel Cafe

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Ruby Friedman Orchestra put on a soulful performance in front of a packed house at the Hotel Cafe. The seven song set featured an eclectic mixture of tunes that expressed sentiments of longing, heartbreak, and perseverance. The crowd at the Hotel Cafe were shouting out song requests and professing their love for Ruby in between songs. There was the feeling that Ruby and her band felt at home in this intimate venue and fed off of the vibe of the crowd.

The band regularly performs shows in Los Angeles and have some upcoming dates in New Orleans. Ruby has been described as “dynamic diva” by LA Weekly and she very much lives up to that moniker. She commands an audience and rewards them with her beautiful singing and great collection of musicians. This is definitely a band to check out!

Ruby Friedman Orchestra @ The Hotel Cafe

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David Crosby was Spectacular at Segerstrom Hall

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

David Crosby’s performance at the 2,000 seat Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa was nothing short of breathtaking. For over 2 hours, this legendary singer-songwriter entertained the sold out audience with stories, political opinions, and some amazing guitar playing and singing. David told the crowd that he flew in from New York earlier that day, but showed no signs of jet lag or fatigue. He was candid with his stories and admitted that he gets in trouble on Twitter from time to time.

Throughout the evening, David switched guitars between songs and would usually alternate between a few Martin D-45s or his custom built McAlister guitars. He said that the McAlister was the best guitar he’s ever played and they did sound amazing all night. David’s fingerpicking was articulate and inspiring. David was not backed by any band, it was just him, the guitar, and a microphone. He didn’t need much to have the crowd in the palm of his hand and it’s a testament to him as a performer to play the entire show so exposed and never make a mistake. His musicianship is fantastic and had the crowd in a daze as he played such songs as “In My Dreams,” “Rusty and Blue,” and “What Makes it So.” His iconic voice is familiar, memorable, and has not diminished in any way.

David Crosby is such an important figure in music and to music history. He is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and has been a part of some of the most iconic groups in music. He has also been successful as a solo artist and his newest release, Croz, is an example of the type of great music that he is still creating.

This was the first stop on his tour so don’t miss the opportunity to see this legendary performer if he is playing a venue near you.

David Crosby @ Segerstrom Hall

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Santana Delivers a Supernatural Performance in Vegas

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana and his band put on a spellbinding performance in front of a sold out crowd at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. For 2 hours, this musical legend took the captive audience through a journey of familiar hits that spawned over 4 decades. The energetic crowd fed off the energy from the band, and the band seemed to play even more inspired music as a result. Santana’s playing was expressive, passionate, and, at times, jaw dropping. Some standout songs from the night were “Jingo,” “Evil Ways,” and “Hope You’re Feeling Better,” which also had some teases of “Purple Haze” that Carlos worked into the solo.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Santana, a longtime PRS player, played an exquisite Singlecut model with a stellar red colored maple top. This was a custom built guitar for Carlos by Paul Reed Smith and I hope they decide to do a production model of this one. He also used a classic looking gold top Singlecut later on in the set, and that guitar was equally as nice. A key component of the Santana tone is the Mesa Boogie Mark I and that modest sized combo amp is a tone-lovers dream. The Santana sound is iconic, desirable, and comforts my soul.

It was impressive how tight and cohesive the band was musically, and how much they seemed to love playing this music. The joy in the faces of the band as they played was echoed throughout the crowd as they were smiling back. The music is a mixture of many styles including: Latin, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, and Rock and it all worked in an amazing musical stew that soothed the impassioned audience. 

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana’s residency at the House of Blues Mandalay Bay has a handful of dates in February before returning in May. Make every attempt to see this Supernatural Legend and be sure to wear some comfortable dancing shoes.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana

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