Thursday, March 31, 2016

Judah & the Lion at the Gramercy Theatre

Vocalist/guitarist Judah Akers wrote some songs while in university in Nashville, Tennessee, and wondered what they would sound like with banjo and other traditional instruments. Fellow student Brian Macdonald of Illinois was transitioning from guitar to mandolin and learned that another student, Colorado native Nate Zuercher, played banjo. Coming together in 2011, the three students immediately sensed that they should continue playing together. They recruited drummer Spencer Cross and became Judah & the Lion. The band released its second album, Folk Hop 'N Roll, on March 4, 2016.

Headlining at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Judah & the Lion merged Americana bluegrass, folk, blues and soul with modern pop and hip hop for a wild mix. While on several of the band's recordings each of these sounds was refined and cultivated, on stage the lines were more blurred for an overall loud pop rock sound with only hints of the other genres. The marriage of southern twang with urban beats was promising until the banjo and mandolin began sounding exactly like electric guitars. When the songs were more linked to their roots, however, they boasted of integrity, particularly the acoustic songs that featured vocal harmonies. The brief hip hop segment was fun, and most of the set highlighted a joyous feel that kept more than a few hips swaying. Judah & the Lion is a creative genre-bending band which is very close to defining for itself how to combine its optimal strengths.

Visit Judah & the Lion at www.judahandthelion.com.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Celebration of Adam Roth at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

After college in Boston, Massachusetts, guitarist Adam Roth in 1979 moved to New York City and joined his brother, drummer Charles Roth, on the local punk rock stages. Adam briefly joined the Boston-based Del Fuegos shortly before the band split in the early 1990s, and also worked with Jim Carroll, David Johansen, the Lemonheads' Evan Dando, and comedian Denis Leary. Adam later wrote and performed music on television programs and commercials. Most recently, he worked on the score for the FX series Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll while playing with his brother in the Liza Colby Sound and in Billy J. Kramer's band. Adam also made time to help young people battle addiction through the Road Recovery Foundation.

Adam Roth was diagnosed with stage four bile duct cancer in October 2015 and died on December 16, 2015. He was 57. A local community of musician friends celebrated his life at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom, with all proceeds going to Adam's five-year-old son, Charlie Ringo. The evening featured performances by Kramer, Garland Jeffreys, Lenny Kaye, the Del Fuegos' Dan Zanes, the Sic F*cks, and Jane Lee Hooker.

Lenny Kaye reunited with his old band, the Lenny Kaye Connection, for the first time in about 30 years. He closed his four-song set with a cover of the Jim Carroll Band's "People Who Died" with members of the Sic F*cks and Jane Lee Hooker.

Liza Colby's band was listed as Liza Colby's Sound Machine and performed four songs.

Garland Jeffreys performed an extended "Wild in the Streets" and three other songs before the entire cast joined him for a cover of Joe Williams' Washboard Blues Singers' "Baby, Please Don't Go."

Monday, March 28, 2016

Savages at Irving Plaza

Jehnny Beth
Growing up in Poitiers, France, Camille Berthomier tasted the entertainment world from touring with her father's plays. In her late teens, she met Nicolas Congé, and in 2006 they relocated to London, England, adopting new names, Johnny Hostile and Jehnny Beth, to form the indie rocking John and Jehn. Gemma Thompson played guitar for them, but began forming the concept for a band called Savages. Hostile declined being in the new band, leaving Beth as the lone vocalist. With Ayse Hassan on bass and Fay Milton on drums, Savages became an all-female indie rock quartet in 2011. The band's second album, Adore Life, was released on January 22, 2016.

The world might not know Camille Berthomier, but before long the world will know Jehnny Beth, the person that Berthomier becomes when she leads Savages. Headlining at Irving Plaza tonight, Beth proved to be a fierce rocker, writer and reveler. Onstage, the four raven-haired members all wore black, accentuated as the staging utilized only white lights. Hassan thumped hard and steady bass riffs as Milton creatively played drums and cymbals and Thompson played sparse and clear collages on her guitar, never once relaxing into standard blues or rock power chord progressions. As the musicians relegated themselves to their areas of the stage, Beth roved a limitless path that included walking on the upraised hands and shoulders of her audience, singing chant-like manifestos about rebellion, justice and complicated, troublesome love. Comparisons could be made to the song-crafting of U2, but this was immensely more jagged and angular and far less anthemic or commercial. Beth sang most of the band's two albums in a limited, almost talky range, but projected anger, resilience and mystery with every passionate breath. Wow!

Visit Savages at www.savagesband.com.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mutemath at Terminal 5

Paul Meany
Based out of New Orleans, Louisiana, keyboardist/vocalist Paul Meany was a member of a short-lived Christian rock band called Earthsuit in the mid-1990s. After Earthsuit, Meany stayed in communication with drummer Darren King in Springfield, Missouri, and the two began a long distance working relationship on some of Meany's songs. King moved back to Louisiana in 2002 to work more closely with Meany on this project, originally called Math. The band eventually changed its name to Mutemath, and presently consists of Meany, King, bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas and guitarist Todd Gummerman; all are multi-instrumentalists. The band's fourth album, Vitals, was released on November 13, 2015.

Headlining at Terminal 5 tonight, Mutemath's music was challenging to categorize. At its root, the set originated in experimental synthesizer work, but which developed into pop/soul indie-tronica, particularly through Meany's rhythm and blues-styled vocals. The quartet opened with the atmospheric "Stratosphere" from the most recent album, then jumped back 10 years to the debut album with "Chaos." Not much separated the two songs, nor most of the rest of the set. Songs were loaded with waves of electronic sound, peppered with a few rallying choruses and King's strong percussion. Meany was an energetic front person, sitting by, standing at or standing on his keyboards or working the front of the stage with a fiery presence. Much of the layered music behind him was cold and lacked bite, however, and despite occasionally cascading dynamics, was bland enough to dissolve in a swirling wash of sound. Nevertheless, a couple of thousand fans found a groove and moved with the music for 22 songs.

Visit Mutemath at www.mutemath.com.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Jake Bugg at the Bowery Ballroom

Jake Bugg was born in Clifton, a suburb of Nottingham, England, to musical parents who separated when he was young. His father was a nurse and his mother worked in sales, although both previously had recorded music. An uncle introduced the guitar to a 12-year-old Bugg, and a few years later the teen was enrolled in a music technology course, but by the age of 16 he dropped out and was writing and performing his own songs. Now 22, his third album, On My One, is scheduled for release on June 17, 2016.

There seemed to be two Jake Buggs at the Bowery Ballroom tonight. One Jake Bugg was a young musician who mined old time rock and roll for inspiration on songs like his first single, "Lightning Bolt." The other Jake Bugg was playing more contemporary pop music that seemed devoid of roots. The first Jake Bugg was exceptional; the other Bugg was pleasant but uneventful. Bugg's snarling vocals and fluid guitar leads held it all together. Backed by four musicians, Bugg started his 75-minute set with the forthcoming album’s title track. In all, he performed 20 songs: eight songs from his forthcoming album and six songs from each of his first two albums. Bugg's blistering rock and roll on "Gimme the Love" and retro folk leanings on "Me and You" and his solo acoustic version of "Country Love" were infused with honest integrity and authenticity; mopey songs like "Never Wanna Dance" and "Love, Hope and Misery" were pop fare for the more commercially minded youth in the audience. Bugg is a promising artist, depending on which direction he takes.

Visit Jake Bugg at www.jakebugg.com.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Megadeth at Terminal 5

Dave Mustaine
Guitarist/vocalist Dave Mustaine was born in La Mesa, California, where his first band was called Panic. That venture ended quickly when the drummer and the sound man were killed in an automobile accident after the band's second show. Mustaine joined Metallica as it was forming in 1981, but was fired in 1983 after several drug and alcohol-fueled incidents. Back in Los Angeles, Mustaine formed the short-lived Fallen Angels while working as a telemarketer. He started Megadeth in 1983, a pioneer band in the American thrash metal scene, becoming  one of the genre's "big four" with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. Megadeth has sold 50 million records worldwide, earning platinum certification in the United States for five of its 15 studio albums. Megadeth's 15th album, Dystopia, was released on January 22, 2016. After many personnel changes, the band presently consists of vocalist/lead guitarist Mustaine, bassist David Ellefson, guitarist Kiko Loureiro and drummer Chris Adler.

Headlining tonight the second of two consecutive nights at Terminal 5, Megadeth proved that thrash metal is far more than thrust, crunch and speed. Mustaine and company played in a rich technical style, featuring both fast and complex arrangements. These arrangements were imaginative, and in an odd way for thrash, lush, in the sense that they were dense with layers of meticulous progressions. The set consisted of five songs from the current album, but the remaining 12 songs were all from the band's earliest collections. From the opening tune, "Hanger 18," to closer, "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due," Mustaine sang menacing vocals and played tornado guitar riffs. Frequent strobe lights and video shorts behind that band were unnecessary and perhaps distracting, yet fed into the stadium-quality magnitude of the concert. Headbangers and fist-pumpers in the audience got what they came for, but those who also listened carefully heard the depth and creativity of a well-executed metal concert from a veteran band.

Visit Megadeth at www.megadeth.com.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bloc Party at Irving Plaza

Kele
Rowland Kelechukwu Okereke, also known by the mononym Kele, was born to Nigerian parents in Liverpool, England, and grew up in London. In 1998, he became friends with Russell Lissack. A year later, while studying English Literature at college in London, Okereke met Lissack again at the Reading Festival. They formed an indie-rocking quartet first called the Angel Range, then Diet and for a short time Union. In 2003, the band changed its name to Bloc Party. Bloc Party got its first break after Okereke went to a Franz Ferdinand concert in 2003 and gave a demo copy of "She's Hearing Voices" to both lead singer Alex Kapranos and BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq, who played the song on his radio show. Bloc Party has sold over 3 million albums worldwide. The band's fifth studio album, Hymns, was released on January 29, 2016. Bloc Party is currently comprises vocalist/guitarist Okereke, guitarist Lissack, bassist Justin Harris and drummer Louise Bartle.

Most bands start a concert with a blazing rocker; Bloc Party launched the set tonight at Irving Plaza with a mid-tempo flicker. "Only He Can Heal Me" offered a spiritual message backed by a throbbing synthesizer and drum beat. The second song, "Octopus," increased the tempo, but continued the minimalistic arrangement behind Okereke's strong vocals. Throughout the evening, Bloc Party played guitar rock that was informed by the mesmerizing impact of electronica and the out-front rhythmic repetition of house music. This repetition allowed the sometimes unorthodox chord progressions to sound embraceable, yet thoroughly indie. The band drew five songs from its newest album and 10 songs from earlier collections, plus a surprise cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" for the first of four encores. The return of Bloc Party was ultimately a renaissance; the concert was not so much a visit to the past, but a sign that despite recent personnel changes, the band is moving forward.

Visit Bloc Party at www. blocparty.com.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dee Pop's 60th Birthday Bash at the Bowery Electric

Dee Pop
It was like old home night at CBGB's. Dimitri Papadopoulos, better known as Dee Pop, is best known for being Bush Tetras’ drummer since 1979, but he has provided percussion for countless local bands. Pop celebrated his 60th birthday at the Bowery Electric with rare performances by Bush Tetras, Gary Lucas, Faith, Floor Kiss w/ Deerfrance, Immaculate Hearts w/ Freddie Pompeii, Aaron Blue and the Bootleggers, Dee Pop's Private World, Dennis Driscoll and Jam Messengers w/ Rob Kennedy. Pop enjoyed his party; he played with eight of the 11 bands.

In the early 1980s, Bush Tetras was the most exciting post-punk band in the Manhattan club scene, although the band never achieved mainstream success. The band seldom reunites anymore, but when it does, its funk rhythms and dissonant guitar riffs are still awesome.
Singer/songwriter/actor Felice Rosser leads a trio called Faith with her powerful and emotional voice, her moving, grooving songs, and her bass playing.
Gary Lucas has recorded more than 25 albums, but is best known for playing behind other people, including Captain Beefheart, Lou Reed and Jeff Buckley.
Deerfrance used to sing with John Cale, but most people in the New York club circuit knew her as the door person at CBGB's. She formed Floorkiss in the 1980s.



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The 30th Annual Birthday Tribute to the Late George L. Popp

Bill Popp has been a fixture in the New York music scene since the 1970s. Performing as Bill Popp & the Tapes since 1981, his pop rock sound has survived other passing trends, including glam rock and punk rock. Never achieving fame, he is perhaps the only artist that has continued to play the club circuit all these years. Recently retired from his day job as a plumber with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the 63-year-old rocker might be seen having a drink at the Bowery Electric, Otto's Shrunken Head or similar venues. Anyone who hangs in the local scene knows him and loves him. That is why when he hosts his annual benefit for the American Heart Association, the local bands always donate their services.

Popp's annual benefit is named for his late father, George "Daddy Tapes" Popp, who died of heart disease. The first benefit was held at CBGB's on Daddy Tapes' birthday, March 10, 1987. The benefit later moved to Kenny's Castaways and the R Bar. The 30th Annual Birthday Tribute to the Late George L. Popp was held at the Bowery Electric on March 9, featuring the Alan Merrill Trio, the Dive Bar Romeos, the Left Banke, Ricky Byrd & Deuces Wild, Bill Popp & the Tapes and Anne Husick. Over the years, the Daddy Tapes benefits have raised thousands of dollars for charity.

Bill Popp hosted his 30th annual benefit concert.
The blues rocking Ricky Byrd & Deuces Wild featured the former guitarist from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.
The Left Banke featured George Cameron, the one remaining member from the original group, and performed a set that included the band's 1960s hits, "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina."
Dive Bar Romeos featured rhythm and blues singer Joey Kelly, who has been a downtown fixture as long as Bill Popp.
The Cynz are a hot new rock and roll band wowwing the local circuit.
Alan Merrill's original band, the Arrows, were a teen band with a television series in England in the 1970s. Joan Jett later immortalized his "I Love Rock and Roll."

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cradle of Filth at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Dani Filth
At the age of 18, Daniel Lloyd Davey worked in a Chinese restaurant in his native Hertford, England. He later chose a career in music over an internship at a newspaper, and began with bands called Carnival Fruitcake, the Lemon Grove Kids, PDA and Feast on Excrement before becoming Dani Filth and founding extreme metal band Cradle of Filth in 1991 in Suffolk. Cradle of Filth's 11th and most recent studio album, Hammer of the Witches, was released on July 10, 2015. The band has had more than 20 personnel changes, but presently consists of Filth on vocals, guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek "Ashok" Šmerda, keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft, bassist Daniel Firth, and drummer Martin "Marthus" Skaroupka.

Cradle of Filth's refusal to blend into the metal scene continued with tonight's headlining and tour-closing engagement at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom. The backdrop was adapted from the cover art from the current album, a black goat-like creature holding two naked and bloody women. Entering the stage in macabre face paint and black shredded-leather wardrobe, the band ripped into fast and furious chords, and Filth started his vocals with a lengthy shriek into a skeleton-clad microphone stand. The 14 songs, old and new, featured creepy novel-like lyrics, which barely could be deciphered in the live context. Amid the shrieks, growls and thunderous music, Filth's dark and ominous stage presence was commanding. Most impressive, however, was how the band bridged extreme, progressive and symphonic metal, particularly when Schoolcraft sporadically upended the tone with her clear and melodic vocals. Beyond the theatrics of the band's appearance and the shock value of the lyrics, Cradle of Filth's extreme metal was artistically masterful.

Visit Cradle of Filth at www.cradleoffilth.com.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Leon Bridges at the Beacon Theatre

Todd Michael Bridges, better known by his stage name of Leon Bridges, can sound like a gospel singer, but he was too shy to audition for the church choir when he was a child in Fort Worth, Texas. Later, while attending community college, he studied dance, inspired as a kid by seeing his dad moonwalk, and learned to play simple chords on a guitar in order to accompany the songs he had begun composing. Living with his mother, Bridges worked as a busser and then as a dishwasher, but wore sharp vintage suits when he sang old-school-styled soul songs at local open-mic nights. Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block of White Denim happened to catch his show and subsequently launched his career by producing tracks that received local airplay. Bridges' debut album, Coming Home, was released on June 23, 2015.

Headlining two nights at the Beacon Theatre, Bridges highlighted the retro in neo-soul. Although he is a mere 26 years old, his set was an authentic throwback to 1960, when Sam Cooke and similar crooners were finding a larger and whiter pop audience. Several vocalists recently have explored this rhythm and blues renaissance, but Bridges perhaps sounded the most genuine, thanks to the nuanced arrangements that deliberately accentuated both smooth vocals and a punctuating saxophone. It also helped that he dressed and moved like he was on American Bandstand. The 90-minute set included his entire debut album plus a few additional songs from the deluxe edition, and accompanied by six musicians and one background vocalist, the minimalistic arrangements were sweet and classy. Contrary to what some may view as gimmickry, the product was respectful of an African-American musical legacy and deliciously served for a nostalgic audience.

Visit Leon Bridges at www.leonbridges.com.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Strange but Surf at Otto's Shrunken Head

Guitarist Barry Simon and drummer Angelo "Marbles Mahoney" Liguori were riding with a scooter club on Long Island when they discovered they shared a desire to play surf music. They formed Strange But Surf in 2003 in Liguori's garage in Levittown, New York. Staunch members of the North East Surf Music Association (NESMA), Strange but Surf annually invites bands to play Twangstock, a surf music festival in Levittown. Strange But Surf's second and most recent album, Swimming in Reverb, was released in 2009. The band presently consists of Simon, Ligouri, guitarist Greg Timm and bassist/keyboardist Joel "Dr. J" Levine.

Unsteady Freddie hosts his Surf Rock Shindig on the first Saturday of every month at Otto’s Shrunken Head, and Strange but Surf have been recurring guests for over a decade. At Otto's tonight, the spine of Strange but Surf was indeed surf music, although the band also spun into instrumental themes from television shows from the 1960s, rockabilly and British Invasion, all soaked in reverb. The band's few original songs were strictly surf, however. Unusual for a surf band, the set also featured singing, although even these songs were more instrumental than vocal. Strange but Surf provided an enjoyable, danceable rock and roll set for nostalgias.

Visit Strange but Surf at www.strangebutsurf.com.

blessthefall at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Beau Bokan
Metalcore band blessthefall began in 2003 with teenaged high school friends in Phoenix, Arizona. Initially a Christian-oriented screamo band with some hip-hop and nu metal influences, the band's popularity grew partly due to exposure on Warped tours. To Those Left Behind, blessthefall's fifth album, was released on September 18, 2015. The band presently consists of vocalist Beau Bokan, guitarists Eric Lambert and Elliott Gruenberg, bassist and co-vocalist Jared Warth, and drummer Matt Traynor.

At Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, blessthefall performed a blistering, dynamic set that while entertaining, showed how much metalcore bands tend to sound and perform alike. A heavily tattooed, messy-haired lead vocalist and another vocalist traded clean vocals and growls, prowled the stage and continuously exhorted the crowd surfers to slap a high five at the stage. The heavy-bottomed music regularly paused for breakdowns and other changes in rhythm, and crunching guitar chords were more generous than guitar solos. Even the staging was standard issue, with spotlights relinquished in place of back lights flashing constantly into the audience, dry ice fog further obscuring stage visibility and two risers for the front line to stand on to generate cheers. From the opening "Hollow Bodies" to the closing encore, "Open Water," the band offered a fierce 14-song set that could have pulverized concrete blocks and smashed heads. The musicians in blessthefall did this very well, but in the end it sounded kind of samey.

Visit blessthefall at www.blessthefallmusic.com

Friday, March 4, 2016

Coheed and Cambria at the Theater at Madison Square Garden

Claudio Sanchez
While living in suburban Nyack, New York, Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever transitioned together through several short-lived local bands including Toxic Parents, Beautiful Loser, and Shabütie. All the while, Sanchez was conceiving a series of science fiction graphic novels called The Bag.On.Line Adventures, later renamed The Amory Wars. In 1998, the musicians renamed their band Coheed and Cambria after two of the comics' protagonists, and adopted the comics' storyline as a theme that would unify their future albums. Coheed and Cambria's eighth album, The Color Before the Sun, released on October 16, 2015, is the band's eighth album and first album not connected to the Amory Wars. The progressive rock band presently consists of Sanchez (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Stever (guitar, backing vocals), Josh Eppard (drums, keyboards), and Zach Cooper (bass).

Headlining at the Theater at Madison Square Garden tonight, Coheed and Cambria's progressive rock was classy and artful, incorporating elements of pop, heavy metal, and post-hardcore. This in itself was remarkable, in that the band threaded the various sounds seamlessly, without stretching to extremes and risking a loss of identity. Whether Sanchez and Stever played a soft acoustic song and jelling their vocals for light harmonies, or whether the four piece powered into wall-shaking power rock, Sanchez's smooth singing and Stever's innovative guitar work gave each song both shine and depth. It was not necessary to follow the fantasy-laden storyline of the older songs to recognize that their performance was unique and stunning; the freedom granted by the scattered inclusion of seven new non-conceptual songs distracted from the sequence of the sci-fi adventure anyway. The concert demonstrated that Coheed and Cambria is at the start of a new adventure, and is bringing along the finely-minted excellence of its past.

Visit Coheed and Cambria at www.coheedandcambria.com.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Struts at Irving Plaza

Adam Slack & Luke Spiller
Luke Spiller was raised in Bristol, England, where at the age of seven he discovered pop music through Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album and felt inspired to become a dancer. By the age of 11, however, Spiller was listening to classic rock, and he began playing in bands as a teenager. In 2009, Spiller, then living in Clevedon, met Derby-based guitarist/songwriter Adam Slack, who also had been playing in bands since his teens. Spiller moved to Derby, where he and Slack lived, wrote, and recorded together for nearly three years, forming The Struts in 2010. The band presently lives in Los Angeles, California, and consists of vocalist Spiller, guitarist Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies. The Struts will reissue the debut album, Everybody Wants, on March 4, 2016, adding five songs not included on the original UK release in 2014.

The photo-ready hair, mascara and clothing will make the Struts a favorite pin-up image in teen circles, much like Black Veiled Brides. Indeed, the audience at Irving Plaza tonight was young, but the Struts performed high energy rock and roll that knew no age limitations. The songs emphasized Spiller's well-studied Freddie Mercury, as Spiller belted out a crisp, polished range beyond the capabilities of most rock singers. Meanwhile, the band rocked with full throttle guitar riffs and hard rocking rhythms. The songs were crafted as stadium-ready anthems, building crescendos with rallying chorus harmonies. The set included all but one song from the debut album, including live premieres of "The Ol' Switcheroo",  "Mary Go Round" and "Young Stars." Two surprises were a cover of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" and an acoustic version of "Black Swan." The Struts closed with "Where Did She Go?," complete with a massive amount of confetti shot from canons. Teenagers will make this glam band huge, but older rock fans also might be impressed with the Struts' commitment to a classic sound.

Visit the Struts at www.thestruts.com.

Paul Burch at Sid Gold's Request Room

Born and raised in rural Maryland and Virginia, Paul Burch's family in the 1970s took him to concerts by Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and John Prine in the Washington D.C. area. In the early 1990s, Burch moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he became an occasional member of Lambchop and a popular mainstay with his backing band, the honky-tonking  WPA Ballclub. Burch's albums mined vintage country swing and rockabilly. His 10th album, Meridian Rising, an imagined musical biography of roots music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers, was released on February 26, 2016.

In a rare visit to New York, Burch performed an underpublicized show tonight at Sid Gold's Request Room. Playing solo on guitar or with accompaniment from a pianist, Burch introduced his exploration of the life and legend of Jimmie Rodgers, sharing anecdotes and reinterpreting Rodgers' songs. Burch also had Americana songstress Laura Cantrell join him on a few songs, and invited her to sing on the Rodgers theme by herself as well. The show was not the kind of rousing, swinging show Burch has performed in the past with his band, but instead spotlighted his smooth, husky voice and the formidable songs themselves. Burch alone on guitar retained an authentic old-timey sound, but for best results, Burch hopefully will bring along his skiffle band next time around.

Visit Paul Burch at www.paulburch.com.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reed Turchi & the Caterwauls at the Mercury Lounge

Reed Turchi
Reed Turchi grew up just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, where he learned to play boogie woogie and New Orleans style piano before moving to slide guitar. He learned to play Hill Country style of blues and founded his blues-rock trio, Turchi. Two years ago, the guitarist began collaborating with Italian guitarist Adriano Viterbini, leading to Scrapyard, a guitar duo album. Around the same time, Turchi the man disbanded Turchi the band and moved from North Carolina to Memphis, Tennessee, digging into new sounds and writing songs that incorporated all the styles he had learned. Turchi's debut album, Speaking in Shadows, will be released on March 4, 2016.

Reed Turchi & the Caterwauls (guitarist Joey Fletcher, keyboardist Heather Moulder, drummer Andrew McNeill) performed at several New York venues over a few days. At the Mercury Lounge tonight, Turchi showed a variety of bluesy influences, as his guitar playing, his vocals and his songs all resourced the swampy grooves of America's backwoods. Residing somewhere between J.J. Cale and ZZ Top, Turchi's music had an Americana earthiness while shimmying with sparkling blues guitar-fueled jams. This rocking boogie music came with a swagger of bravado, and while it was not anything new, it was a style of music that is not heard enough.

Visit Reed Turchi at www.reedturchi.com.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Helloween at the PlayStation Theater

Andi Deris
Helloween was formed in 1983 by members of Gentry, Iron Fist, and Powerfool in Hamburg, Germany. The band quickly became a pioneering force in the power metal genre, and has sold over eight million records and received 14 gold and six platinum awards. Twelve musicians have been a part of the band's line-up in its history, which since 2005 has consisted of vocalist Andi Deris, guitarists Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf, and drummer Daniel Löble. The band's 15th studio album, My God-Given Right, was released on May 29, 2015.

Helloween came on stage at the PlayStation Theater tonight to the recorded sound of the title track of 1985's debut Walls of Jericho album; this was a bold move, considering that the composition that was recorded before many in the audience were born. Once in place, the musicians charged into 1989's "Eagle Fly Free," mixing a bit of thrash metal with Iron Maiden-like vocal melodies. Even when the 18-song set moved into newer songs, the concert paid homage to vintage 1980s power metal. In some ways, the performance sounded dated, but it accentuated the strength of that era of music, when clean metal dynamics and sterling instrumentation were more climactic and less abrasive. The songs featured speedy grooves, twin guitar leads, soaring vocals and occasional gang vocal harmonies on the choruses. Helloween also revived the old practice of guitar and drum solos towards the end of the nearly two-hour set. For those who were not yet attending concerts in the 1980s, Helloween's concert was a teleport to that metal age.

Visit Helloween at www.helloween.org.