Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Adicts at the Highline Ballroom

Keith "Monkey" Warren
The Adicts came together as a punk band in late 1975 in Ipswich, England, and is perhaps the last remaining punk band from that first punk rock era to retain its original lineup. Briefly known as Afterbirth & The Pinz, the band became known in its homeland when it changed its name, lightened its lyrics and in 1978 dropped a standard punk wardrobe for more than a passing resemblance to the unruly "droog" characters in Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange. The band is comprised of lead singer Monkey (born Keith Warren), who perfected Malcolm McDowell’s macabre "Alex" grin from the film, plus guitarist Pete Davison, bassist Mel Ellis and drummer Kid Dee (born Michael Davison, Pete's brother). The Adicts released nine studio and three live albums, and had some underground success in the 1980s with the songs "Viva La Revolution" (featured in the video game Tony Hawks Underground), "Chinese Takeaway", "Bad Boy" and "Give It To Me Baby." The most recent album is 2012's All the Young Droogs.

Performing a rare U.S. concert at the Highline Ballroom tonight, the three musicians in the Adicts came on stage wearing their customary all-white shirts and trousers. Monkey followed wearing joker face paint along with a colorfully-sequined suit, vest and hat, white shirt and white gloves. The band tore into a ripping punk rock anthem, "Joker in the Pack," as Monkey dropped playing cards repeatedly into the audience. Throughout the concert, Monkey wore colorful wardrobe and tossed into the audience a party-store full of confetti, streamers, little stuffed animals and supersized beach balls. The theatrics were a joyful spectacle that combined the best elements of a child's birthday party, a carnival and a horror show. It would not have made any sense except that the band's punk rock was superb. The songs were loud, fast and short, energized with thrashing power chords and Monkey's angry vocals. The songs were far more multi-dimensional than typical punk rock, and incorporated occasional brief forays into pop, cabaret and even carousel music. With a distinctive image, sensational live shows and anthemic songs, the Adicts are 35 years into entertaining punks and rockers with an inimitable combination of high theatrics and good-time rock and roll.


Visit the Adicts at www.adicts.us.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

moe. at Stage 48

Guest guitarist Warren Haynes with moe.'s Rob Derhak.
Chuck Garvey and Rob Derhak, students at the University of Buffalo, formed a quintet to play a 1989 Halloween show at a friend's behest. They called themselves Five Guys Named Moe, the name of a Louis Jordan song. Once the band looked like it was turning into a serious venture, the musicians shortened the band's name to moe. moe.'s debut album in 1992 entered the band in a growing improvisational jam-band rock scene that came out of clubs like Wetlands in New York City. The band members in 1994 recorded a third album, quit their day jobs and relocated to Albany, NY. Originally a dueling guitar-driven quartet, the personnel has changed many times but, since 1999, moe. has been comprised of Garvey on guitar and vocals, Derhak on bass and vocals, Al Schnier on guitar, vocals and keyboard, Vinnie Amico on drums, and former drummer Jim Loughlin on percussion, including vibraphones. moe. has won four Jammy Awards.

The concert at Stage 48 tonight was an album release party for No Guts, No Glory, moe.'s 24th album, which was released yesterday. Avid "moe.rons" who purchased $150 V.I.P. tickets were serenaded by a mariachi band, ate a Latin-styled dinner and enjoyed an open bar. The fans also were treated to a pre-show acoustic set that opened with one of moe.'s earliest songs, "St. Augustine." The set featured a cover of Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun," reportedly played for the first time since 2007, as well as "Blue Eyed Son" with Garvey, Derhak and Schnier singing into one microphone for an a capella opening and Schnier then playing mandolin. moe. ended the acoustic set appropriately with "New York City."

Fans who purchased less expensive tickets were admitted closer to 10 p.m. for another two moe. sets. Beginning with a vintage song, "32 Things," moe. jammed on many fan favorites. Fans called out song titles, but at one point Derhak responded by assuring fans that the planned set list was adequately prepared to satisfy. "Water" then flowed into "Hector's Pillow," which in turn led into "Bring You Down" as a three-part medley. A few songs later, Warren Haynes, who had played earlier in the evening with Phil Lesh's band in Central Park, joined moe. onstage and contributed sensational guitar licks on "Happy Hour Hero." After another intermission, the final set of the evening began about 11:30 p.m. and was supposed to be dedicated to playing the No Guts, No Glory album in its entirety, but Haynes was invited to return to the stage at the start for a rousing version of the Rolling Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knockin.'" moe. played 10 of the 11 tracks from the new album, with the album's producer, Dave Aaron, contributing clarinet on "Blond Hair and Blue Eyes."

Overall, moe.'s jam band sound has evolved and was significantly textured. Derhak, Garvey and Schnier sang lead vocals with contrasting styles and yet silky harmonies. Garvey and Schnier offered blistering guitar solos, bassist Rob Derhak punctuated the low end with funky bass lines, Loughlin provided a jazzy flair with the electronic vibes and Amico kept the beat softly and gently. moe. tonight provided an outstanding evening of creatively refined compositions and intricately weaved jams.

Visit moe. at www.moe.org.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Green River Ordinance at the Studio at Webster Hall

Lead guitarist Jamey Ice and his bassist brother Geoff Ice had music-loving parents who encouraged them to play the blues and classic rock at an early age. Jamey was a 15-year-old in high school in Fort Worth, Texas, and Geoff was 13 years old in middle school when they formed the country-rocking Green River Ordinance, and their parents chaperoned them to their college and bar gigs. After a few personnel changes, the band was filled out with Josh Jenkins on vocals and guitar, Joshua Wilkerson on guitar and keyboards and Denton Hunker on drums. The name referred to Green River Ordinances, laws which prohibit door-to-door sales unless the house's owner grants permission to do so.

Green River Ordinance recorded a debut album in the basement of their church, a CD that sold out in just a few months. The band's initial releases, a 2005 full-length and a 2007 EP, were both released on a small independent label. The band's second album, 2009's Out of Our Hands, launched two singles, "Come On" and "On Your Own," into the Top 40. The band's most recent album, 2012's fan-funded Under Fire, had regional success with the singles "Dancing Shoes" and "Heart of Me." GRO were featured on every episode of MTV's 2010 reality series If You Really Knew Me and also had their video "On Your Own" featured after shows during credits on MTV. The band's music has been featured in 56 network and cable television shows and three films.

Green River Ordinance headlined the Studio at Webster Hall tonight and walked the lines between country, rock, pop, and folk. Country was the heaviest ingredient, however, the kind that makes one's heart sing and one's hips swing. Each song was crafted with pop melodies featuring slick multi-part harmonies, backed with clever rocking instrumental arrangements. The performance alternated in tempo and timbre from hushed and intimate acoustic-driven pop to rousing rock, all driven by driving guitar, mandolin or banjo and sweetly soaring harmonies. the set consisted of songs from the catalogue and introduced two new songs, "hold Me" and "Red Fire," but also included a cover of John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" and adding to original song "Fool for You" a long and rousing "na na na na-na-na-naaa" from the Beatles' "Hey Jude." Called back for an encore, the band went unplugged into the audience to sing "Come On." The dynamic set was polished, professional and near-perfect for those enjoying the rocking Americana that is now so popular. So why isn't Green River Ordinance a huge band yet?

Visit Green River Ordinance at www.greenriverordinance.com.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Maxïmo Park at the Gramercy Theatre

Paul Smith
Guitarist Duncan Lloyd, keyboardist Lukas Wooller, bassist Archis Tiku and drummer Tom English formed Maxïmo Park as an avant garde rock band in 2000 in Newcastle, England. The band took its name from Máximo Gómez Park in Miami, Florida, where many Cubans play dominos. At first a largely instrumental group, the four founding members played small shows, including Manchester's 'In the City', which showcases unsigned bands in the UK. In 2003, the original singers, Lloyd and Tiku, sought to add a front man so they could on writing the songs. English's then-girlfriend heard his friend Paul Smith singing to Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" at a karaoke night and recommended him. Smith previously had played guitar with his twin sisters in the instrumental band Me and the Twins, but this karaoke night was only the second time he had ever sung in public. The band members gave him demos of their songs and Smith joined Maxïmo Park. Together, they moved away from instrumental and avant garde music and collaborated on writing smart, sharply catchy songs inspired by 1980s British new wave bands like the Jam, XTC, Wire, and the Smiths. Maxïmo Park has released five studio albums; the most recent, Too Much Information, was released in February 2014. The first two albums went gold in the United Kingdom.

While popular in Great Britain, Maxïmo Park is relatively unknown elsewhere. That made it surprising that the band would headline the 500-capacity Gramercy Theater tonight. Ah, but during intermission everyone around me was speaking with British accents. British expatriates who relocated to New York comprised at least some of the light audience in the theater. Smith came on stage wearing a tweed-like suit and pork-pie hat (he later took off the jacket but never the hat). The band roared into "Give, Get, Take" from the band's current album. While the album introduced a more electronic sound to the band's music, the live performance retained the band's earlier guitar-based sound. From here on, it was a trip back to about 1980. Maxïmo Park is a pop band and the sound all evening was retro new wave. The beat frequently was too busy for dancing, but provided plenty of bop for pogoing. The band was energetic, but no member more than Smith, who paced, squirmed, and shook along with his microphone throughout the show. All was going well until the speakers failed 11 songs into the set, during "Leave This Island." The momentum cooled, Maxïmo Park took a brief pause while the sound system was restored, and then plowed back into bouncy pop music for another 11 songs. Song titles like "Brain Cells", "Hips & Lips", "Books from Boxes", "Drinking Martinis" and "Girls Who Play Guitars" explored a wide range of clever lyrics. Some songs were more serious than others, including "Her Name Was Audre," about the late Audre Lorde, a Caribbean-American writer, radical feminist and civil rights activist. Maxïmo Park may have a serious side, but tonight's concert was all about hip wiggles and shakes.

Visit Maxïmo Park at www.maximopark.com.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Manchester Orchestra at Terminal 5

Andy Hull
Andy Hull was feeling increasingly alienated and frustrated during his high school years in an Atlanta suburb that he spent his senior year studying at home. While home, he also wrote and recorded a full length indie rock album, and then built a band, Manchester Orchestra, around his songs in 2004. He named the band after Manchester, a musically prolific city in England (The Hollies, the Bee Gees, and Herman's Hermits during the British Invasion of the 1960s; the Smiths, the Buzzcocks, the Fall, New Order, and Joy Division during the late 1970s new wave; the Stone Roses and Oasis during the post-punk years later on). Manchester Orchestra is composed of Hull on vocals and rhythm guitar, lead guitarist Robert McDowell, keyboardist/percussionist Chris Freeman, bassist Andy Prince and drummer Tim Very. Manchester Orchestra has released several EPs and four studio albums; Cope was released on April 1, 2014.

Manchester Orchestra headlined at the 3,000-capacity Terminal 5 tonight, demonstrating how the band's popularity is steadily increasing. The band opened with "Shake It Out" from the Mean Everything to Nothing album, then "Pensacola" from the Simple Math album, and maintained the intense wall of sound from there on. Throughout the set, songs built dynamic crescendos that stabilized to a hypnotic point, then built further up. A decrescendo would often follow when the vocals reappeared for a verse or chorus. The song "42," originally recorded by Bad Books, a side project featuring Hull and Kevin Devine, tonight's opening act, remained soft from beginning to end. "Colly Strings," a song wrote to his wife before they married, might have qualified for an endearing moment. Many songs, including "Everything to Nothing," mixed the soft with the bombastic. During one of the encore songs, Devine came onstage to share lead vocals with Hull in a seven-minute version of "Where Have You Been?" That song, perhaps more than any other, nailed the band's signature crescendo-decrescendo dynamic. This is how the band's sound has evolved; while the vocals were often light and airy, the music often brutally pounded the head. On albums, Hull's lyrics are self-questioning and perhaps even seem to seek a spiritual center, but in concert the lyrics were largely indecipherable. Instead, the band fed its audience blast after blast of sonic boom, occasionally propelled by guitar duels between Hull and McDowell. Tonight, the band was less Pink Floyd rock and more Bad Brains mosh.

Visit Manchester Orchestra at www.themanchesterorchestra.com.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chiodos at Irving Plaza

Craig Owens
The original members of the post-hardcore band Chiodos came together in 2001 under the name The Chiodos Brothers during their high school years in Davison, Michigan. The band's name was a tribute to filmmakers Stephen, Charles, and Edward Chiodo, responsible for the film Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The Chiodos Brothers debuted at the Flint Local 432, an all-ages music venue in downtown Flint, and recorded three EPs. The band shortened its name to Chiodos with its first album, All's Well That Ends Well, in 2005. Chiodos changed lineup a few times, but most of the original band reunited in 2012. The band presently consists of returning vocalist Craig Owens, new lead guitarist Thomas Erak, keyboardist Bradley Bell , rhythm guitarist Pat McManaman, bassist Matt Goddard and returning drummer Derrick Frost. Chiodos released its fourth album, Devil, on April 1, 2014.

Chiodos concluded its Devil's Dance Tour at Irving Plaza tonight, and found plenty of fans enthused to see the reunited band. Owens made the most of the renewed attention he received. He spoke with the audience between most songs, pretty much repeating the same messages, about how awesome the audience was and, even more often, "I am going to ask you just one more time, lift your hands in the air." Rather than relying on its back catalogue, Chiodos introduced songs from its newest album as well, starting with the album's first single, "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now." The band continued the rampage on "The Undertaker's Thirst For Revenge Is Unquenchable" and other songs, and slowed the pace with "A Letter from Janelle." Chiodos alternated between new songs and old, soon playing another new song, “We’re Talking About Practice.” Several songs, including "3 AM" showed a more melodic side. Perhaps the weakest part of the show, however, was that it was all Owens. He sang and screamed well into the high notes rather than sticking with the guttural growls of many similar bands. He persuaded the audience to chant "I, I f*ing hate you" ("let me be your therapist," he explained by way of introduction) before and during "Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels." The balance was off, however. Several interesting arrangements stood out for a few moments here and there, but except for a short guitar blast or keyboard fill, the talents of the individual musicians were seldom spotlighted, to the point where it appeared that not much was happening instrumentally beyond backing up the front man. Chiodos put on a good show but failed to demonstrate that first and foremost Chiodos is a band.

Visit Chiodos at www.chiodos.net.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Apache Relay at the Bowery Ballroom

Michael Ford, Jr.
Michael Ford, Jr., was a music business major and singer-songwriter at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. He heard that fellow student and guitarist Mike Harris had formed an instrumental band called the Apache Relay. Ford hired the trio, which also included Brett Moore (keyboards, guitar, mandolin) and Kellen Wenrich (fiddle), to back him at a show. Ford dropped out of college, and the group recorded a 2009 debut album, 1988. Growing interest in the band's album and live performances took them further and further away from the campus beginnings. The Apache Relay added Michael Ford's brother Ben Ford on rhythm guitar and Stephen Smith on drums and is now co-headlining a tour with the Weeks in support of a third album, The Apache Relay, released on April 22, 2014.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, the Apache Relay proved that its music is distinctively its own. Starting with a folk foundation, the band incorporated rhythm & blues vocals and wall-of-sound rock presentation to forge a rather unique sound. The Apache Relay somehow managed to marry acoustic near-Americana roots, ambient guitar sounds and pop rock melodies in a package that did not shy away from occasional reverb. Ford's singing was soulful, and when he paused the lyrics, Harris packed simple, smooth and shimmering melody lines on his guitar or Wenrich played a fiddle line in a manner that never sounded like bluegrass. From time to time, the music wailed like arena rock anthems, but mostly it was a lively soft rock with an innovative indie edge. The Apache Relay's performance was an ambitious statement that song-based music does not have to sound like or depend on standardized, clichéd genres.

Visit the Apache Relay at www.theapacherelay.com.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Richie Furay at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill

Richie Furay and his daughter, Jesse Furay Lynch
Paul Richard "Richie" Furay was about 20 years old when he finished college and left his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio, to become a folksinger in New York City. This was 1964. There he met Stephen Stills. Together they led the nine-member Au Go Go Singers, the house band at the Cafe au Go Go folk music club. The Au Go Go Singers recorded one album together. Furay was working at an aircraft engine company when he heard the beginnings of a country rock movement developing in California. He contacted Stills there and they formed Buffalo Springfield with Neil Young, Bruce Palmer, and Dewey Martin. The group had a hit song but split after two years and three albums, with Stills and Young moving on to greater fame. Intending to pursue country rock, Furay formed Poco in 1969 with Jim Messina, Rusty Young, George Grantham and Randy Meisner in the late 1960s. That band also looked poised to break into the big time but never did; Furay left Poco in 1974 after six albums, and Messina went on to fame with Loggins & Messina. The Souther Hillman Furay Band, with J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman, was Furay's next attempt at rock and roll stardom, but that group recorded one marginal hit single and two albums before disbanding. Although he has participated in short-lived attempts to reform Buffalo Springfield and Poco, Furay has been a solo artist since 1976 and since 1983 a pastor of a church in Broomfield, Colorado. The Richie Furay Band presently consists of Furay on vocals and rhythm guitar, his daughter Jesse Furay Lynch on backing vocals, Scott Sellen on lead guitar with his son Aaron Sellen on bass, and Alan Lemke on drums. The most current album is the 2007 29-song double CD Richie Furay Band Alive.

At B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill tonight, Furay performed a handful of Buffalo Springfield songs and a handful of Poco songs, but also introduced some of his newer material. Early in the set, Furay sang a medley of three Neil Young-written songs he sang in Buffalo Springfield, "Flying on the Ground in Wrong", "Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It" and "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing." Later in the evening Furay sang three others, including the band's only hit song, "For What It's Worth," which was originally sung by Stephen Stills, and an encore of "On My Way Home," originally sung by Neil Young. The Poco songs included the better-known "Pickin' Up the Pieces" and "A Good Feelin' to Know," plus three others. A sparse and tender encore of "Kind Woman," a song dedicated to his wife of 47 years, was the bridge, a song written for Buffalo Springfield but better known by Poco. Furay also sang the sole Souther Hillman Furay Band hit, "Fallin' in Love." The new songs included the title track of a forthcoming album, Hand in Hand. These lyrics described the faith and hope that comes with a mature love; the song may be the sequel to "Kind Woman," nearly 50 years later. Furay's daughter sang lead on one new song as well, "A Girl Like That."

Furay is 70 years old, but tonight he sang as well as he did in his prime. Similarly, his repertoire has stood the test of time. The problem tonight was that country rock is no longer cutting edge music and the exciting innovation of those songs has diminished. The songs were reworked somewhat for the stripped down band as well. Poco frequently had several instrumentalists playing pedal steel, banjo and guitar off of each other, but tonight's band featured one talented guitarist driving those songs. Furay and his band performed well, but the show was especially suited for the nostalgic country rocker.

Visit Richie Furay at www.richiefuray.com.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Off! at the Bowery Ballroom

Keith Morris
Dimitri Coats, vocalist/guitarist of Burning Brides, was producing an album for the reunited Circle Jerks in 2009, but the album fell apart. Coats and  the Circle Jerks' lead singer, Keith Morris, had written a few songs together, and so they formed a new band with bassist Steven Shane McDonald of Redd Kross and drummer Mario Rubalcaba of Rocket From The Crypt. Some 30 years after the birth of hardcore punk, the genre had its first Los Angeles-based pedigree supergroup. The band released its third album, Wasted Years, in April.

Hardcore punk largely faded in the 1980s with new bands forging new hybrids of hardcore punk with pop, heavy metal, industrial and other forms of music. At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Off! was more than a revival, it was the booming canon announcing that the original sound of hardcore music is still loud, powerful and commanding. At 58 years of age, the dreadlocked Morris was still the character he was when he co-founded Black Flag in 1976 and the Circle Jerks in 1979; he was an energetic shouter during the songs and an endless rambler between songs.

As Off! took the stage, rowdy fans threw cups of beer to the stage. Morris took the microphone and reprimanded the beer-tossers, talked about the beautiful weather, casually introduced the band members and then concluded, "...and we are OFF!" The hour-long set launched with "Void You Out," the first song from the newest album, and the fans responded by punching fists high in the air and forming a reckless mosh pit. Stage divers followed during the second song, "Black Thoughts," the opening track from the band's debut album. So it went, fierce rock played expertly by four talented and experienced punk rockers who kept it all loud, energetic and dynamic. As McDonald and Rubalcaba interlocked the hard and speedy rhythms, Morris provided the screeches. Coats, meanwhile, powered the songs with fast guitar leads and hard and heavy riffs, and dove into the audience to crowd surf several times, shredding solos as he was carried back onto the stage. The audience responded particularly to older tracks like "Poison City", "I Got News For You," "Darkness," "Jeffery Lee Pierce," and "Panic Attack," but also thrashed to new songs including "Hypnotized", " No Easy Escape" and "Red White and Black."

Twenty-two songs and lots of banter filled the hour. Considering than many songs were about two-minutes long, Morris' gabfest were sometimes longer than the songs he introduced. Frequently, Morris asked the crowd, "Are we having fun?" Between songs, Morris spoke about how the tour is promoting the new album, praised the other bands on the bill, recalled anecdotes from his years in the music industry, hinted about the drawn-out legal battle with Black Flag co-founder Greg Ginn, and interacted with many hecklers, especially those who told him to stop talking and play music. As the band was about to start the double encore of "I Don't Belong" and "Upside Down," Morris told the audience, "The best thing about St. Petersburg, Florida, is the Salvador Dali Museum because he is a true hero." What? The hecklers were justified, but Morris was a terrific billboard for a punk renaissance and Off! put on a fine high-octane, stripped-down garage punk show.

Visit Off! at www.offofficial.com.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Clear Plastic Masks at the Mercury Lounge

When lead vocalist and guitarist Andrew Katz, born in Detroit and raised on theatre, met drummer Charles Garmendia, born in the Dominican Republic, in a Brooklyn bar, they found they had a common passion for aggressive music. They jammed with guitarist/keyboard player Matt Menold and bassist Eduardo DuQuesne and formed Clear Plastic Masks in 2011. The band began performing on the local music club circuit and then expanded its touring through the midwestern and southern states, eventually stopping for recording sessions in Nashville, Tennessee, in December of 2011 and April of 2012. The four musicians found a supportive music scene there, and decided to relocate in late 2012. Clear Plastic Masks' CPM EP was released in January 2014.

At the Mercury Lounge tonight, Clear Plastic Masks proved to be a curious band in that the music escaped classification and defined genres. Just when it seemed like the band was falling into a niche, the next song would take the band in another direction. Give the band a label, and within minutes the musicians will tear up and disintegrate the category. Any attempt to describe the music is going to be insufficient and incomplete. So, here is my futile attempt to color in what they sounded like, and it will be inaccurate. As a vocalist, Katz seemed to find his soul in both singer-songwriter story-songs and Stax-style rhythm and blues, until he began to shout, at which point he sounded like an early punk rocker. On several songs, Menold played lead riffs on a keyboard that owed a debt to classic rock, but then was overpowered by the building garage-rock of the rest of the band. On other songs, Menold moved to the guitar and played crisp, fluid licks, while the rest of the band delivered a scrappy grunge. Overall, the thread that held the adventurous performance together was a raucous and rough, experimental and explosive rock that was seeking its ground zero in what might have been an unintentional blues. Disregard everything I wrote, as it is all wrong. Listen to Clear Plastic Masks' innovative and cutting edge music and whip up your own description; it will be as inadequate as mine.

The band will perform a record release party at Rough Trade in Brooklyn on May 16, although the band's album will not be released until May 27. Visit Clear Plastic Masks at www.clearplasticmasks.com.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Colin Blunstone at City Winery

In the early 1960s, the British Invasion that started with the Beatles radically changed the American music scene forever. The Zombies were among those groups, charting with "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No," but like most of the British artists of that era, the band nearly disappeared after the two initial hits. The band's last gasp a short time later was "Time of the Season." The Zombies split after recording baroque pop concept album, 1967's Odessey and Oracle, which had limited success in its time but took a quarter-century to become a cult classic. Rolling Stone in the U.S. and New Music Express in the U.K. both named the album among the top 100 albums of all time.

For a brief time in the 1970s, vocalist Colin Blunstone worked in the insurance business before launching a solo career that kept him working but left him obscure. Meanwhile, keyboardist Rod Argent had success in the 1970s with a rock band called Argent. In recent years, the two reformed the Zombies. Blunstone, meanwhile, this month embarked on a two-week tour in America, his first in about 40 years, to promote his 10th solo album, On the Air Tonight, which was released on January 21, 2014.

At City Winery tonight, Blunstone was pleasingly personable between songs, sharing amusing anecdotes of the 1960s and beyond. Backed by a guitar-keyboard-bass-drum quartet for most of the show, he was in strong voice. That voice, as awe-inspiring as it was when it hit the higher ranges, however, was accompanied by music that was way too ordinary. The opening songs sounded like 1980s Survivor-Toto-Foreigner anthem rock. He fared better with a cover of Jimmy Ruffin's 1966 hit, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," a song Ruffin sang on Dave Stewart's 1980 solo album. But why was a song with lyrics about the struggle to overcome the debilitating sadness of a broken love relationship so buoyant and rocking? Much of the repertoire was comprised of songs he recorded on solo albums or albums by other artists. They included original songs, including "Caroline Goodbye" about Blunstone's break-up with the model/actress Caroline Munro, and others by artists from the 1960s and 1970s, including Argent's Russ Ballard ("I Don't Believe in Miracles"), Wings' Denny Laine ("Say You Don't Mind"), Tim Hardin ("Misty Roses") and Smokey Robinson ("Tracks of My Tears"). Midway through the show, "Misty Roses" led a trio of compositions in which Blunstone was backed by a string quintet rather than by his band. Blunstone's delicately superb vocals were especially pronounced during this segment. Blunstone appealed to audience members nostalgic for the British Invasion, but much of his concert seemed better suited for the cabaret or Broadway stage than for today's rock stage.

Visit Colin Blunstone at www.colinblunstone.co.uk.

Edward Rogers at City Winery

The Los Angeles-based Edward Rogers is an Emmy Award-winning composer for television shows including Warehouse 13. The New York-based Edward Rogers, however, is a British-born singer-songwriter with a low-key history in the local music scene. The latter Rogers moved to New York City when he was 12 years old during the mid-1960s and soon started playing drums in several garage bands. One day in October 1985, however, he felt sick while riding a New York subway. He stepped between the subway cars and slipped. He miraculously survived, but his right arm and right leg below the knee were amputated. Steadfastly committed to a music career, Rogers turned to songwriting and found singing and writing more rewarding than playing drums. He recorded two albums with the Bedsit Poets folk band and his fifth solo album, Kaye, was released in April. Rogers also is a concert promoter and hosts a weekly Sunday afternoon radio show, Atlantic Tunnel, on East Village Radio (www.EVR.com).

Opening for Colin Blunstone at City Winery tonight, Rogers performed a too-short but very enjoyable 35-minute set. Although Rogers is quite American by now, his music had a distinctly British flair and charm, reminiscent of Ian Drury. Backed by two guitarists, James Mastro of the Bongos and Don Piper, who doubles as Rogers' producer, Rogers' story songs were quaint and articulate, and his jovial projection helped flesh out his lyrics. He is worth a listen.

Visit Edward Rogers at www.edwardrogersmusic.com.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Black Label Society at the Best Buy Theater

Zakk Wylde
Zakk Wylde was 19 years old when he joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band as lead guitarist and co-writer. He performed with Osbourne for nearly 20 years. Wylde then formed Pride & Glory in the early 1990s, playing a mixture of bluesy southern rock with heavy metal; the band recorded one album and then disbanded in December 1994. Wylde subsequently released an acoustic solo album in 1996. He finally found his niche when he formed Black Label Society in 1998. Black Label Society has released 10 studio albums, two live albums, two compilation albums, one EP, and three video albums; the most recent studio album, Catacombs of the Black Vatican, was released on April 8, 2014. The band has been through numerous lineup changes, but the present line-up is Wylde on vocals, lead guitar and piano, Dario Lorina on rhythm guitar, John DeServio on bass and Jeff Fabb on drums.

Black Label Society currently is headlining the Revolver Golden Gods Tour, which also features Down, Devil You Know and Butcher Babies. When the hanging Black Label Society curtain dropped to the apron of the stage at 10:30 p.m., the bearded, imposing Wylde came front and center, standing on a platform before a wall of Marshall amplifiers, whipping his head and swinging his thick mop of hair while playing furious guitar licks. Wylde looked to the audience and moved to a mic stand decorated with a wooden cross, a rosary, a thick chain and several skulls. Wylde sang a scorching "My Dying Time," the first single from the new album. Wylde’s thick, leathery and bluesy drawl proved to be a refreshing alternative to the current trend of nu-metal screamers. The titles of the next few songs, "Godspeed Hell Bound", "Destruction Overdrive", "Heart of Darkness", "Overlord" and "Damn the Flood," spelled out the mindset and the direction of the band's 90-minute performance -- Black Label Society was proudly grounded in heavy metal culture. Visually, the long-haired Wylde fit the image, wearing denim, leather, studs and chains.

The spotlight throughout the concert was on Wylde's guitar wizardry, with the other three members of the band mostly supporting backup. Midway through the show, Wylde tore into a very extended guitar solo, and we mean solo -- no one else was on stage for the entire composition. During the solo, he compiled back-to-back every virtuoso guitar trick that he had scattered in smaller bursts elsewhere in the performance, from chicken picking to double handed tapping to feedback to harmonics. Wylde barely spoke to the audience between songs, instead bashing through 15 ripping songs and playing more lead guitar than most ears can handle. Towards the latter end of the concert, a piano was rolled out and Wylde showed that he was an accomplished pianist as well on "In This River." He then retrieved a double-necked guitar and put the pedal to the metal with "The Blessed Hellride," followed by "Suicide Messiah" with the audience singing the chorus, "Concrete Jungle" and "Stillborn." Completing a night full of highlights, the show closed with ex-Pantera and Down vocalist Philip Anselmo joining Black Label Society onstage to sing a cover of the Pantera's "I'm Broken." Metal music has been splintering into many subgenres over the past two decades, but Zakk Wylde and Black Metal Society in concert were the epitome of classic lead guitar-centered heavy metal  rock.

Visit Black Label Society at www.blacklabelsociety.com.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BRAIDS at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Raphaelle Standell-Preston
Vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston and drummer Austin Tufts first met in school in Calgary, Canada, when they were 12; they were comparing belly buttons in the long-jump pit. They had previously seen each other in the school orchestra; he played drums, she played clarinet. A later conversation over a blueberry muffin in a high school cafeteria, prompted the formation of a quintet called the Neighbourhood Council, later to be renamed Braids (often stylized as BRAIDS). Tufts has said that the original name was "pretty terrible" and that the name change in 2006 to Braids reflected the band's "interwoven and interlaced" style. The band had early success backing Standell-Preston in a songwriting contest hosted by the Calgary Folk Music Festival. Braids began receiving international attention with its debut album, 2011's Native Speaker, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. The art rock band's second and most recent album, Flourish // Perish, was released in 2013. Braids is currently based in Montreal and is now a trio consisting of Standell-Preston on vocals, synthesizers and guitar, Tufts on drums and Taylor Smith on synthesizers.

Opening for  Wye Oak at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, Braids' music was bundled up in layers. Largely relying on synthesizer tweaks and progressive percussion, the trio produced a soft and dreamy yet intricate collage of sound that owed a debt to shoegaze bands of the 1990s. The largely electronic music was a mesmerizing and experimental haze, manipulating sounds and complicating rhythms to the point where when Standell-Preston was bouncing at her synthesizer, one could wonder which of the polyrhythms she was grooving on. Meanwhile, her gentle pillow-talk vocals delivered sometimes graphic lyrics in feather-light atmospheric and ambient gentility somewhere between curiosity and trance. Snippets of synth lines and percussion ricocheted behind her smooth vocals. The meticulous chill-wave architecture of the compositions was expansive, as rhythms were deconstructed, looped and re-sculpted into a balanced soundscape between chaos and recreation. Braids’ eccentric music fell into a whimsical weirdness that was part wonder and part perplexing.

Visit Braids at www.braidsmusic.com.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crobot at Webster Hall's Marlin Room

Brandon Yeagley
Vocalist Brandon Yeagley from the coal-regions of Central Pennsylvania and guitarist Chris Bishop from Eastern Tennessee met through a band audition. They formed a band and one night they were performing at Bar 46 in Hackettstown, New Jersey. Two brothers, bassist Jake Figueroa and drummer Paul Figueroa, lived upstairs above the bar. They heard Yeagley singing downstairs. Even through the muffled din of the bar below, Yeagley's voice had so much clarity and presence that the brothers went downstairs to investigate. Bishop was shredding guitar riffs and Yeagley was twisting and gyrating on stage. The four musicians became fast friends. Before long, Bishop invited the Figueroas to join Yeagley and him in Crobot. Crobot released one album, 2012's, The Legend of the Spaceborne Killer, recorded before the Figueroa brothers were in the band; the current line-up is scheduled for a 2014 follow-up.

The hard-touring Crobot opened for Kyng at Webster Hall's Marlin Room tonight (the original headliner Kill Devil Hill cancelled) and demonstrated why the band is getting strong word-of-mouth. Drenched in 1970s blues-rooted hard rock, the band sounded like it was headlining the original Woodstock festival. Crobot played a dynamic groove-heavy riff-rock with boundless flash and energy. Fast-moving Yeagley was a riveting front person and a powerhouse with soaring, elastic vocals. Bishop alternated between funky riffs and whiz-band licks; hopefully in the future the songs will be stretched out a bit more to allow him more space to steal the spotlight. Jake Figueroa's bass playing was smooth and steady, often harboring around the low frequencies, providing extra heaviness while Bishop wailed on a higher guitar register. Crobot is a hard rock band that will be going places very quickly.

Visit Crobot at www.crobotband.com.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rodney Crowell at City Winery

Rodney Crowell was born in 1950 in Crosby, Texas, to a poor but musical family. One grandfather was a church choir leader, the other was a bluegrass banjo player, one grandmother played guitar and his father sang semi-professionally. At age 11, Rodney starting playing drums in his father's hillbilly band. In his teen years, he played in garage rock bands in Houston, performing a mix of pop radio hits and country songs. He began to write songs in college, and after college moved to Nashville, Tennessee, searching for a career in music. In short time, his songs began breaking into the country circuit. Emmylou Harris recorded a song and then invited him to join her band. After three years with her, he formed a short-lived band with Vince Gill before venturing solo. Crowell's first albums received little traction, but his songs were recorded by  Waylon Jennings, the Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Etta James, Van Morrison, Jerry Reed, George Strait and Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band. He married Roseanne Cash, produced her albums, and put his own career on hold in 1981.

Crowell finally had a successful album in 1988, Diamonds & Dirt, which produced five number one country hits. Crystal Gayle, Alan Jackson, Keith Urban, Lee Ann Womack, Wynonna Judd and Tim McGraw then had country hits with Crowell's songs. Crowell is now a multi-Grammy winner, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association, and an inductee in the Music City Walk of Fame. His Tarpaper Sky album was released on April 15, 2014; the title is an allusion to the rickety house with a bad roof in which he spent much of his childhood.

At City Winery tonight, Crowell did nothing different than he has been doing for the past 40 years or so. He put on his hat, strapped on an acoustic guitar, stepped up to the microphone and sang original story songs from his heart. Dressed in a plain button-down shirt and dark pants, he administered a similarly casual simplicity to his performance. Backed by a three-piece backing band that included guitarist and collaborator Steuart Smith, who also backs the Eagles, Crowell mixed old and new catalogues. The songs were products of a meticulous literacy, paired with only  a subtle musical polish; Smith offered a clever lead guitar fill here, another twang there, but ultimately kept everything very basic. Many songs were gently sweet and touching compositions, while other seemed tailored for a blue-jeaned honky tonk. Crowell's vocal range and timber were unremarkable except for its standout trait -- an honest and unpretentious delivery. Older songs like "Stars on the Water" and “Til I Gain Control Again” revved up the audience, but then a striking song would paralyze all audience momentum. The most stunning example was performed solo; on “Wandering Boy,” Crowell's introspective lyrics pondered on the inner cry of twins he knew from childhood, one of whom contracted HIV. In the end, what made the concert interesting was Crowell's commitment to avoiding trends and simply tell his stories.

Visit Rodney Crowell at www.rodneycrowell.com.