Photo: Steve Rose

Joe Bonamassa Shines Bright in Hollywood

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Joe Bonamassa put on a dynamic performance at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Bonamassa, who posses Jedi-like skills on the fretboard, played material off his latest album, Blues of Desperation, and material from last year’s Three Kings tribute. Bonamassa, backed by a fantastic group of musicians consisting of: Anton Fig on drums, Reese Wynans on keys, Michael Rhodes on bass, and a three piece horn section, were dialed in all night and played off each other very well. Known for his extensive collection of historic Gibson and Fender guitars, Joe played a number of drool worthy axes throughout his sixteen song set. Some highlights of this well crafted set were “Mountain Climbing,” “Never Make Your Move Too Soon,” and “Going Down.”

It was great to see Joe Bonamassa once more before his touring schedule wraps up for the year, and there’s no doubt that he’ll get the blues machine primed and ready to tour in 2017. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this phenomenal performer when he’s in your town.

Joe Bonamassa @ The Dolby Theatre

Photos by Steve Rose

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Bush were Marvelous at The Observatory

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Bush continued their West Coast tour with a stop at The Observatory, a great Orange County venue. Many fans were in line a couple of hours before showtime and their energy was already at a high level. A good number of them were discussing the band’s show the night before in Los Angeles and were looking forward to another night of rocking with the band.

The Dead Deads, a five piece Nashville group, kicked things off and the fans were into it immediately. Their songs were consistently catchy and guitarists, Meta Dead and Betty Dead, did a great job playing out to the crowd as they worked the stage to get everyone involved. They were a fun band and a great choice as openers for Bush. Expect to hear more from them as they continue to pick up fans after each performance.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Shortly after 9pm, the house lights went out and Bush took the fog covered stage to the roar of the crowd. Gavin Rossdale, with a Fender Jazzmaster slung around his body, went out to acknowledge the fans before leading the band into Everything Zen, the widely popular song off of 1994’s Sixteen Stone. Gavin did a great job interacting with all of his fans and even went into the crowd and sang directly to select fans. Throughout the night, Bush played a great mixture of songs spanning across all of their releases and introduced a new song, Earth Keeps Burning. Rossdale and the band’s lead guitarist, Chris Traynor did a fantastic job all night playing these memorable songs and their chemistry on stage was evident. The rhythm section consisting of bassist, Corey Britz, and drummer, Robin Goodridge, were dialed in and kept the beat chugging throughout the night. After playing a fantastic cover of R.E.M.’s The One I Love, the band closed things out with Glycerine and Comedown, which were great choices to wrap up this awesome show.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Bush put on a helluva show and should not be missed when their tour comes to your town. It was great to relive some of that classic 90s nostalgia and Gavin Rossdale is a dynamic performer who’s still got it.

 Setlist

  1. Everything Zen
  2. The Disease of the Dancing Cats
  3. The Chemicals Between Us
  4. The Sound of Winter
  5. Greedy Fly
  6. The Gift
  7. Earth Keeps Burning
  8. Monkey
  9. The People That We Love
  10. Swallowed
  11. Lost in You
  12. The Only Way Out
  13. This House Is on Fire
  14. Little Things

    Encore:

  15. Machinehead
  16. The One I Love
    (R.E.M. cover)
  17. Glycerine
  18. Comedown

The Dead Deads
The Dead Deads @ The Observatory

Bush
Bush @ The Observatory

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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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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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AfterNAMMth: 2016 Edition

It’s that time of year when gearheads like myself get excited for the late-January trip to Anaheim. It’s always hectic trying to deal with the masses when parking and then having to join them as we funnel through the few available entrances of the convention center. NAMM is the only time of the year when I agree to wait in line to use and escalator and only be allowed to ride it in small groups.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Ernie Ball Music Man booth was my favorite booth of the convention. They showcased all of their new products in a thoughtful way that encouraged interaction with those visiting the booth. Some notable standouts from EBMM were their new line of overdrive and delay expression pedals, the Cutlass and Stingray guitars, and new signature models for St. Vincent and James Valentine. The St. Vincent guitar is by far the most unique and visually intriguing instrument of this year’s guitars. The guitar I was most impressed with, and the one was named Best in Show for 2016, was the new James Valentine signature model. This guitar looks great, plays great, and that’s all that you’re really looking for in a quality instrument.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Another standout booth was D’Angelico guitars. Their guitars are mainly hollow, or semi-hollow, body instruments that feel like art pieces as much as they do as guitars. I am highly considering getting a EX-DC as my next guitar. I was also a fan of the EXL-A, an acoustic archtop guitar that was stunning. I would recommend those to anyone looking for an affordable, well built instrument and especially to those looking for a great jazz box. D’Angelico also had a cool looking, limited edition EX-59 Marilyn Monroe guitar that caught the attention of many, but is only limited to a run of 20 — 12 of which will be for the US. The most unique guitar in their booth was the Teardrop New Yorker, which is part of their New York made Master Builder series.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Both ESP and Schecter impressed me with their instrument diversity and are sure to attract a variety of supporters. In the past, I felt like ESP and Schecter both catered toward the hardcore, or metal player, but now I feel like they are trying to branch out with more classic shapes, while still providing the radical designs that brought them to the forefront. Schecter had a great take on a Gibson Explorer-type of guitar that will definitely be of interest to many. They also unveiled a new Jeff Loomis guitar, called the Cygnus, which I expect will be a very popular model for them. ESP debuted two signature models that both look awesome: the Glen Tipton signature and a new James Hetfield V.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Fender booth is consistently impressive and this year did not disappoint. They announced the limited edition Magnificent Seven series of guitars, which will be released for only one month per model and with limited quantities of each. Similar to last year’s 10 for ’15, these guitars are sure to sell out and become instant collectors items. I was excited about the release of both a signature guitar and amp for The Edge.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The U2 guitarist’s sound is immediately identifiable and a good portion of that has come from using Fender products. The black strat and maple neck are timeless classics for a reason and it was not a surprise that The Edge chose them for his signature model. His hardwired Edge Deluxe amp is the fourth signature amp that Fender has made, building upon the success of the Eric Clapton amps. Fender also introduced the Bassbreaker Series of amps which consists of nine different models that will appeal to a diverse group of players. This is definitely one of the new releases at NAMM that I wish I could’ve spent more time playing.

The return of the CE model from PRS was a definite highlight for me. After being off the market for at least 10 years, PRS has decided to bring back this popular model that first debuted in 1988. Between the resurrection of the CE and the jaw dropping Private Stock models, PRS continually puts out high quality instruments. I also appreciate that Paul Reed Smith can often be found taking pictures and answering the questions of players, dealers, and associated media.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

In the matter of full disclosure: I’m not only a fan of these guitars, but I’m also a proud owner of a 30th Anniversary Custom 24 and couldn’t be more pleased.

The lackluster booth of the NAMM show (in my opinion) unfortunately went to Gibson. Their 2016 lineup featured the departure of the robot tuning gimmick and returned the brand to the quality and reputation that its fans have come to expect. The lowered price points will definitely help soothe the sour taste in the mouths of those who jeered the moves that Gibson had made in years past. I felt like the booth was too dark and it felt more like Club Gibson than a company trying to showcase their beautiful instruments. I like that Gibson had some top of the line models available to demo, including the limited edition Bob Dylan SJ-200, which was a treat to play. Gibson was more sad city than music city and that was kind of a let down.

As the 2016 winter NAMM show comes to a close, I’m excited about all of the new gear coming out soon. I have already begun plotting how I’m going to afford some of the things that stood out. My legs are excited to have another year to prepare for the hell I put them through walking the floor. It may be an insignificant detail, but I was impressed that D’Angelico passed out little bottles of hand sanitizer in their gift bags. I appreciated that D’Angelico was thoughtful enough to help us fight the dreaded NAMMthrax virus.

NAMM 2016

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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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Gary Clark Jr. is Mesmerizing at Amoeba Records

Gary Clark Jr.Gary Clark Jr. and his band took the stage at Amoeba Records just after 6 pm on Wednesday night and played a ferocious 40-minute set. The performance was to celebrate his new release, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, his second studio release and the follow up to the popular, Black and Blu, which was released in 2012. Coming off of two sold out shows opening for the Foo Fighters at the legendary Forum, Gary Clark Jr. played to a much more intimate, but highly enthusiastic crowd. The 8-song set was bookended with crowd favorite, “Bright Lights” and closed with “The Healing,” the opening track from the new album.

Gary used a pair of Fender Vibro Kings, a modest pedal board, and a few guitars that included: a GibsonGary Clark Jr. SG, Fender Custom Shop Strat, and his signature Epiphone Casino. Zapata, the other guitarist in the band, used pair of Fender Deluxe Reverb amps, a more populated but mysterious pedal board, with almost all of the pedals covered in black tape, and a couple of his signature Moollon guitars.

It’s no question that Gary is one of the more talented players out there and that talent was on full display during last night’s performance. When Gary Clark Jr. starts playing the guitar he is a force and people are immediately drawn to him. His playing commands your attention and rewards you with long lasting sonic gifts. Those who were fortunate enough to have been in attendance left with a memory and an experience that they soon won’t forget.

Gary Clark Jr.

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Heart Doesn’t Miss a Beat at the Hollywood Bowl

photo: Stephen Rose

photo: Stephen Rose

It’s always special to see a show at the historic Hollywood Bowl and the Heart show on Friday was almost magical. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, led by conductor, Thomas Wilkins, joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in a magical night. The band and orchestra opened with the first of two Led Zeppelin covers of the evening. The first was Kashmir and I think it was a great way to kick off the show. The mix of the band with the orchestra on this particular song was pure sonic nirvana. The way horns and strings accented and accentuated particular parts really brought a lot of definition to the music. They later closed their set with Stairway to Heaven.

photo: Stephen Rose

photo: Stephen Rose

Ann Wilson is a fantastic singer, and on this song she could’ve given Robert Plant a run for his money on any given day. Throughout their 90 minute set, Heart played a great mixture of chart topping hits and fan favorites. Some of the highlights, aside from the Zeppelin covers, were Kick It Out, Even It Up, and (obviously) Crazy On You. Another notable cover was Elton John’s, Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters sang by Nancy Wilson. During this song, she used her signature Martin HD-35. Nancy played a couple of Martins, Fenders, and a great Duesenberg Starplayer throughout the set. I can easily say that her Duesenberg was my favorite; it’s such a cool looking guitar. To close the set, the band also played a fantastic version of Stairway to Heaven, which featured Nancy handling the rhythm parts and lead guitarist, Craig Bartock handling those identifiable lead lines on this iconic song.

photo: Stephen Rose

photo: Stephen Rose

Heart is a high energy, high output, high caliber rock and roll band that simply puts on a great show. To see this band with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was a real treat. The Wilson sisters feed off of each other’s energy and it really comes through with their performance. If you haven’t seen them live, you really should. And if you have, then you know what I’m talking about.

Set list

Kashmir (w/orchestra)
Heaven (w/ orchestra)
What About Love (w/ orchestra)
Dreamboat Annie (w/ strings only)
Dog & Butterfly (w/ orchestra)
Kick It Out
Straight On
Even It Up
Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters (w/ strings only)
These Dreams (w/ orchestra)
Alone (w/ orchestra)
Stairway to Heaven (w/ orchestra)

-Encore-

Barracuda
Crazy On You

Heart

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Slightly Stoopid Enlightens the Greek

Stoopid fansOn Saturday night, Slightly Stoopid brought its Everything is Awesome tour to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The line-up included fellow Southern California acts, Stick Figure and Dirty Heads. Stick Figure did a great job getting the crowd ready for the night. The band’s dog, Cocoa, sat toward the front of the stage for the duration of their performance and was a highlight of their set. Dirty Heads brought exuberance to the sIMG_3766tage and had many members of the audience rapping along in unison to the first few songs of their set. After great performances by each band, it was time for Slightly Stoopid to take the stage. Shortly after 9pm, the red and white stage lights began to illuminate the aromatic haze that filled the air. The band, with instruments in hand, assumed its place on the stage and was ready to continue the chilled-out vibe the previous bands started.

 

Slightly Stoopid kicked things off with “Dabbington,” the first track off their new release, Meanwhile…Back at the Lab. This instrumental track has a memorable hip hop-type drumbeat and, thanks to Karl Karl and DanielDenson and Daniel Delacruz, the infectious horn parts were stuck in my head till the following day. Guitarist, Miles Doughty, steadily churned out some melodic staccato rhythms with his twin humbucker, hardtail Fender Strat. A non-musical highlight for me was his Star Wars themed cabinet and shirt. Also, the artwork on the grille cloth was something very reminiscent of Empire Strikes Back. MilesAs I looked into the crowd I saw a sea of smiles and people really enjoying the moment and enjoying the band. It was easy to tell that Slightly Stoopid have a strong following based on the diverse groups celebrating this band’s music together.This band has been playing together since 1995 and brought a very tight-knit level of musicality to this historic venue on a warm Southern California night. On this night, everything was awesome

 

Slightly Stoopid fansDrumsIMG_3689IMG_3701

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Up Close and Personal with EVH

Eddie Van Halen announces a new limited edition EVH 5150 IIIS Stealth head and 4×12 cabinet.

EVH® DEBUTS EXCLUSIVE ‘UP CLOSE & PERSONAL’ EDDIE VAN HALEN GOPRO VIDEO

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (March 18, 2015) – EVH is proud to announce the release of a brand new exclusive video of Eddie Van Halen personally demonstrating the new limited edition EVH Brand 5150 IIIS “Stealth” amplifier.

Filmed at 5150 studio exclusively with GoPro video cameras, fans will for the first time be able to see what Eddie sees when he’s playing and experience Eddie’s own perspective through the eyes of multiple GoPro cameras.

In addition, Eddie explains the inspiration of how the specially modified circuit originated and personally walks viewers through his amplifier rig showcasing its exclusive features and settings while playing some of his signature riffs and displaying some of his groundbreaking playing techniques. All from a perspective no one has ever seen before.

To view the video, go to www.evhgear.com or watch below.

The limited edition hand-modified EVH 5150 IIIS Stealth head and 4×12 cabinet combination is identical to the most recent rig Eddie has toured with and features the exact same custom modifications. The head and cabinet are available individually, or together as a complete half stack.

The 120-watt head features a single input and three channels (clean, crunch, lead), each with versatile controls (volume, gain, presence, low, mid, high). Channel two features increased gain for greater sustain and is re-voiced for improved low-mid frequency definition; channel three also features increased gain and improved range for the “low” control. Further, each channel has a rear-panel resonance control knob that dials in fine-tuned low-end response. The amp boasts eight JJ ECC83 preamp tubes, four hand selected high performance 6L6 power tubes, switchable output impedance (4, 8 and 16 ohms) and rear-panel “outboard accessible” bias probe ports as well as an outboard accessible and adjustable bias control. Other features include vintage-style “chicken head” control knobs, red jewel pilot light, dual speaker jacks, all tube effects loop, direct out and 3 super durable molded plastic handles.

The speaker cabinet features rock-solid birch construction, four Celestion® EVH G-12 speakers, EVH casters and recessed metal handles. Head and cabinet come in a special black “Stealth” aesthetic; and a seven-pin, four-button footswitch is included (controls each channel and the effects loop). Optional EVH fitted cover also available.

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