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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Brian Setzer Orchestra Spread Holiday Cheer at the Microsoft Theater

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Brian Setzer and his Orchestra brought their annual Christmas show to Los Angeles for a stop at the Microsoft Theater. Shortly after 9pm, the curtain came up to a festive display of oversized candy canes, Christmas trees, and Nutcrackers. The band opened with an upbeat version of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” before tearing into fan favorites “This Cat’s on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Stray Cat Strut,” and “(She’s) Sexy + 17.” Some notable favorites of the night were “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Rockabilly Rudolph.”

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Throughout his performance, Setzer used a number of drool worthy Gretsch guitars including his original and updated Hot Rod series and his familiar orange 6120. His Fender Bassman amps and Roland RE-301 Chorus Echo provided that signature tone that can be described as the classic Setzer sound. Before playing the Santo and Johnny cover of “Sleepwalk,” he added a little more echo before delighting the crowd with the timeless song.

Brian Setzer is a fantastic performer and the talented groups of musicians who make up his orchestra make glorious music together. The crowd was signing and dancing along with the music; some in ugly holiday sweaters and others with their young children whose faces were filled with joy and wonderment. This was my first time seeing one of his Christmas shows and it was a definite treat to experience his 12th Annual “Christmas Rocks” show.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

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Trey Anastasio Band are Joyous at The Wiltern

TAB-62Before the Trey Anastasio Band took the stage, you could feel an excitement bubble ready to burst amongst the crowd. When the band took their places and played the opening notes to “Sand,” that bubble burst and people were filled with joy and happiness as they danced and swayed throughout the night. The band played material ranging from Trey’s solo work, some Phish songs, and some great covers like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and CSN’s “49 Bye Byes.”

It was great to see Trey Anastasio coax and corral note upon note from his Languedoc guitar. On this night, he used his Ocelot Languedoc and that beautiful guitar is a sight to behold. This has been a great year for Trey; aside from celebrating the release of his band’s new album, Paper Wheels, TAB-57he spent the summer playing 5 farewell shows with the Grateful Dead, and then a summer tour with his other band, Phish. In preparation for joining the Dead, Trey spent several hours a day studying the essence on Jerry Garcia, and that amount of dedication elevated this already Jedi-like player to a new level. His playing is effortless, fluid, and makes me so envious of his nimbleness and dexterity all along the fretboard.

The horn section of James Casey, Jennifer Hartswick, and Natalie Cressman were all standouts in a band of fabulous musicians. It was great to see and hear the interplay between them and Trey all night. Russ Lawton and Tony Markellis were solid on drums and bass, while Ray Paczkowski was great on keys. The band has a few remaining dates on this tour and need to be seen live.
Trey Anastasio Band

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Slash, Myles, and the Conspirators Were Hard to Beat at Pechanga

Slash-81As the house lights dimmed shortly before 9 pm on Saturday night, there was a palpable level of energy coursing through the 1,200-seat theater at the Pechanga Casino. Slash strapped on his Tobacco Burst Les Paul and, for the next 90 minutes or so, a legend put on a helluva show in front of rabid fans. Fronted for the past few years by Myles Kennedy the band also consists of Conspirators: Brent Fitz on drums, bassist, Todd “Dammit” Kerns, and rhythm guitarist, Frank Sidoris.

The band played a variety of material ranging from songs off of Appetite for Destruction to the band’s new release, World on Fire. It’s always great to hear Kennedy sing the Guns N’ Roses era material. On this night, Kerns took over vocal duties for “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Doctor Alibi,” a song from Slash’s debut album. The music that Slash has made with Kennedy and the Conspirators has become some of my favorite and I think he’s playing better now than he did earlier in his career. Seeing the show validated this thought as I witnessed Slash’s fleet fingers scatter all along the fretboard. Sidoris did a great job playing the nuanced rhythm parts to these songs, while Fitz and Kerns kept the rhythmic train chuggin’ along.

Slash-65It was really nice to see children and their parents enjoying the show together. I saw kids who couldn’t have been older than 13 taking it all in with a look of amazement. The same kind of look I had when I was 9 and first saw Slash plug in his Les Paul in the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” video. Slash was my inspiration for picking up the guitar and I’ll bet he did the same thing for a handful of people last night.

 

Set List

You’re a Lie
Nightrain
Avalon
Halo
Back from Cali
Wicked Stone
You Could Be Mine
Doctor Alibi
Welcome to the Jungle
Mr. Brownstone
Beneath the Savage Sun
The Dissident
Rocket Queen
Bent to Fly
World on Fire
Anastasia
Sweet Child O’Mine
Slither

Encore
Paradise City

Photos courtesy of Steve Rose

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators

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Run The Jewels Shined Bright at the Fox Theater

RTJFrom the moment that Killer Mike and El-P took the stage on Friday night, they unleashed a high output performance on an eager Fox Theater crowd. Run The Jewels, the dynamic duo of gifted lyricists, Killer Mike and El-P, are at the top of their game and know it. Not cocky, but confident and really gifted at their craft. The two have worked hard to get where they are and the adulation and adoring fans are a welcomed byproduct. There were hundreds of fans holding up their hands to mimic the band’s logo and some even brought chains with them to add to its authenticity. The duo patrolled the stage and delivered lightning quick verses while they surveyed and interacted with many members of the audience. Mike and El-P put on a memorable show that included mosh pits and a guest appearance by Gangsta Boo, an equally talented female rapper from Memphis.

A Run The Jewels show is a show that one does not attend as much as it is one that they experience physically, visually, and audibly. They are halfway through their Jewel Runner tour and if you go, bring your chain and prepare to be impressed by these two.

Run The Jewels

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The Scorpions are Dynamite at The Forum

KlausIt’s always a great experience when I get to see a show at the Fabulous Forum. The venue has great sound, courteous employees, and attracts big name acts to play there. On Saturday night, that big act was none other than the Scorpions. The band, celebrating its 50th anniversary and the release of its newest album, Return To Forever, played to a packed Forum crowd filled with a fervor that I had not seen in a while; it speaks to the longevity and success that the Scorps have had during their time together.

From the moment the giant curtain dropped and the band took the stage, they gave their fans a high energy, high output performance. Guitarists, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, patrolled every edge of the stageRudy and Matty, delighting fans with their signature guitar licks and a number of quality rock star poses. Throughout the night, Rudolf played the iconic Flying V shaped guitars that he is known for, while Matthias played a couple of Explorer style guitars designed by Boris Dommenget. Klaus Meine proved that he still had the vocal chops to sing all of those memorable songs like, No One Like You, The Zoo, and Rock You Like a Hurricane. The rhythm section of drummer, James Kottak and bassist, Pawel Maciwoda were tight and cohesive all night. The interactive video screens worked well with the overall stage set up and definitely added to the visual performance of the band.

A notable aspect of the show, aside from the tremendous talent of the band, was the expertly crafted set list. The mixture of songs was enough to satisfy the expectations of both the casual “radio hits” fan and those die hard, longtime fans that live for their music. I overheard a woman in her fifties talking to her friend about how the Scorpions have been her number one band since high school and she was nervous and excited for the show. I have a feeling that those similar sorts of sentiments and emotions were prevalent throughout the venue.

The Scorpions are one of those few bands in the hard rock and metal scene that you need to see live and whose performance and musicianship lives up to any expectation that you may have. They have a few remaining U.S. dates scheduled before heading to Europe where they have a number of dates scheduled into early 2016.

Set List

Going Out with a Bang
Make it Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Dynamite
In the Line of Fire
Kottak Attack
Blackout
No One Like You
Big City Nights

Encore

Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane
The Scorpions




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