Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Redlight King at the Gramercy Theatre

Mark Kasprzyk grew up in the hardworking Canadian steel town of Hamilton, Ontario. He wrote his first song at the age of 7 and began recording music as a 16 year-old. In his teens, music took a back seat to judo, eventually earning admittance into Canada's Olympic training center to prepare for the 2000 games. He did not make the team, though, and returned to music. He morphed into rapper named Kazzer, and had a hit in Canada with “Pedal to the Metal.” The song was used in Canadian television shows and movies. After struggling with substance abuse and hitting rock bottom, he cleaned up, sold everything he had, and relocated to Los Angeles in a rebuilt '49 Mercury pick-up in 2008. There Kasprzyk, now reinventing himself as “Kaz” for short, began writing songs and gathering musicians to form the band Redlight King, and recorded a debut album called Something for the Pain.

At the Gramercy Theatre, Redlight King was recreated as a rock band, not a rap band, although many of the songs did showcase Kaz’s rapping. The set showed the band to be a story-telling rock band, in the style of Bruce Springsteen or Jackson Browne. This was a good move, since Kaz’s singing is better than his rapping. Another good move was that although the album sampled fellow Canadian Neil Young’s 1972 “Old Man” chorus; in concert the chorus was sung live. The reworked song, with Kaz’s own verses, emoted about his reverence for his father. Another standout, “Bullet in My Hand,” told of Kaz’s struggles with drug addiction and his frustration about narrowly missing out in the 2000 Summer Olympics. The performance was not all shimmer, however. If Redlight King is to focus on songwriting, then we could have done without the drum solo. Many of the other songs sounded good but sounded alike. Redlight King is a very promising act, but needs time to mature and refine its strengths.