Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Graham Bonnet Band Live Report

I'm sure this gig was billed at the main Islington Academy although I could be wrong, however when I got to the queue I saw lots of non hairy, non ugly, girls in the queue. Not GB fan material at all unless Graham has suddenly become teeny bopper fodder! It turns out the the GB Band were playing the smaller room Islington Academy 2. Either Graham didn't sell enough or he was due there anyway. The smaller Academy is a 250 capacity room at the side of the main Academy. I've been there a few times before for death and thrash gigs and it's not a bad little place although they tend to have an overly loud PA there.

As I walked in the crowd was already fairly decent at around 100 and would probably fill out to close to 200 by the time Graham came on so pretty full for such a cosy place. 200 would've been sparse in the big room next door though.

The first band was already playing what I guess was either the opening or second number. They were a hairy old mob by the name of Desolation Angels. I've heard of them before and heard them here and there but their NWOBHM doesn't really float my boat or so I thought. Well to be honest they actually got my head nodding on some of their songs. They sound like a mix between Motorhead and old Saxon. They have not a single atom of their being set outside of the early 80s UK heavy metal scene. The old rocker crowd seemed to enjoy DA a lot. They were OK indeed I must admit.

Next up were Evyltyde another UK band with a female singer. She didn't have grit in her voice like say Leather Leone or Doro. She sang much smoother. Their songs were ever so slightly doomy and always pretty mid paced. The root of the band is pure 80s UK heavy metal as with opening band DA, but their execution was a little bit more modern especially the guitars which didn't have a massive old school flavour. They were OK but I found the vocals to be a little monotonous from the young lady. The music in the band is quite cool trad metal though.

Finally at around 8pm or so (for a curfew of 10pm exists for Saturday nights), The GB band took to the stage minus the man himself until finally Graham strode on looking very lean and trim for a man who's close to 70. I didn't know this at the time but it turns out Graham has unfortunately been sick and had to cut short an earlier gig in the tour because he couldn't continue. However he did this full gig as it was the last of the night.

I must admit I don't know Graham's career very well at all. I know all the band's he's been in but I haven't heard all the songs he's done with his many bands apart from the really famous ones. His band consists of a Hispanic looking young American chap on guitars, His girlfriend Beth on bass and Mark Zonder on drums. I can't comment on her bass skills but she's quite a pretty lady and Graham has landed on his feet there for a man of his age! The guitarist was excellent and is a great find for Graham. The drumming was excellent too and I guess MZ is an amazing drummer that drum afficionados will was lyrical about. I'm not into drums personally.

Graham strode on to a loud and very cheery reception and I think he sound like a very humble guy indeed with his in between song banter hinting at his amiable style and personality. He's basically a typical, chirpy Northerner although he's lost his accent over the years. He's still got that charm and wit about him. He actually gave some good insight into some of the many amazing guitarists he's worked with over the years and he played not far off 2 hours. For a sick man we should be thankful for that. I must admit I had no idea about some of the songs he played having not followed his career but I still enjoyed them, although it's the hits that made the biggest impression on me and I guess most of the crowd. By the hits I mean songs like Night Games, All Night Long, Since You've Been Gone basically. The rest of the set contained classics for sure but I've personally never heard them before or at least not often enough to recognise them, though many of this old man crowd did and were singing along.

Unfortunately there's no two ways of saying this but either Graham's illness was too bad or he just can't hit the high notes any more in any of the songs. He's never really been a high pitched crooner anyway but when a song does call for a high he opens his mouth really wide but the sound coming out is totally strained. Call it age or sickness but he just can't really hit the heights of old so to speak. The thing is his normal register is still good and Graham should stick to that and sing for a few more years yet before he finally calls it a day although I think that day is sadly not far away for Graham. He still sang very well up to a point but in no way was he as good as his hey day and who can be at 68 or however old he is. That he's still up on stage and rocking for a room full old diehards is a miracle in itself. I know this would've been a huge long shot but I would've loved for him to play a couple of Impellitteri tunes especially of course Stand in Line, but I guess his tenure there is just not famous enough and people only know him from Rainbow and Alcatrazz. My triple whammy of three gigs in three days is finally complete. Mental note - try not to do this again!

Eyes of the World
(Rainbow song)
All Night Long
(Rainbow song)
God Blessed Video
(Alcatrazz song)
Will You Be Home Tonight
(Alcatrazz song)
Night Games
Suffer Me
(Alcatrazz song)
(Michael Schenker Group song)
Love's No Friend
(Rainbow song)
Desert Song
(Michael Schenker Group song)
Mirror Lies
The Witchwood
(Alcatrazz song)
Only One Woman
(The Marbles song)
Island in the Sun
(Alcatrazz song)
Since You Been Gone
(Russ Ballard cover)
Assault Attack
(Michael Schenker Group song)
Lost in Hollywood
(Rainbow song)

Monday, 22 February 2016

Symphony X - Islington Assembly Hall - Live Report

I could be wrong but I think it's my fourth time with Symphony X. I've always found them to be a pretty cool band but they never gained my fanboy status like a few other bands I could mention. I still like to check them out whenever they release a CD and Underworld is a great effort by the guys. When I saw that Tunisians Myrath would be the main support I quickly nabbed a ticket for this show as I love those guys too. There was a further support band of which I know little, called Melted Space.

Said band took to the stage at precisely 7.30 and played a 30 minute set of symphonic beauty and the beast metal with no less than 8 members on stage including no less than 4 singers. 1 growler, 1 male clean and 2 female clean one of which was slightly operatic and the other one more normal clean. They only had use of half the stage so it was a bit difficult for them to all fit on stage at the same time but thankfully they weren't all required for most of the songs! I wasn't too impressed with them actually especially the clean male singer whose voice was rather weak. Their songs were drenched with double bass drumming as well so if was hard to make out much in a blur of speed and a rather poor and typical "support band" sound mix. I enjoyed listening to the chicks though especially the very pretty thin as a rake one! Her vocals weren't all that though, the other girl actually had a better voice. Either way Melted Space didn't float my boat and they didn't play any longer than their allotted 30 minutes.

Myrath came on at 8.15 or so and immediately the sound mix was better and I had been looking forward to their set immensely and boy did they not disappoint! The sound mix was crystal clear especially Zaher's amazingly clean vocals. They played a short but pretty awesome set made of mainly new songs and a couple of their older songs. The highlights for me were Believer the amazing new song which sounds just as good live. They played it to perfection. Zaher's live vocals are superb as well as the guitarist whose riffs and solos are to die for. I loved Merciless Times from the previous album and the final song Duat was another huge highlight. I missed more songs from Tales of the and though but alas they've only got 40 minutes or so. I hope to see a headline set from them one day. they seemed to go down so well with the masses down on the Assembly Hall floor as well. Their mix of Kamelot and middle eastern melody is just a pure delight for the ears. Great stuff and a perfect support for the kings of power/prog Symphony X.

Storm of Lies
Get Your Freedom Back
Wide Shut
Nobody's Lives
Merciless Times

At just after 9 or a few minutes after the lights went down and the excitement from down below reached fever pitch as the Symphony X guys took their positions as the Overture intro played over the PA before the band tore into pounding opener Nevermore. I didn't know it at the time as the song was blaring it out but the band is touring Underworld and they would go on to play it in it's entirety but not in CD order as Russell explained later. Anyhow Underworld sounded bloody amazing from my vantage point, second row on the balcony. Russell's look is a bit hardman nu-metal with his wrap around shades and slicked back hair but it doesn't detract from his singing at all.

One thing I noticed about previous "X" gigs is that they play at colossal volume, especially Romeo's guitar. As the opener roared out of the PA it felt at least twice as loud as Myrath's set. And yet Russell's roar could still be heard over Romeo's gargantuan riffs and solos. The chorus of Nevermore saw the crowd takeover and it sent shivers up the spine the full participation and the huge roar that greeted the songs end. Symphony X\had just begun the ultimate demolition job on the Islington Assembly Hall!

They tore into the title track Underworld with ferocious abandon and Kiss of Fire, another venomous effort followed before they finally took it down a notch with the song Without You which Mr Allen sang brilliantly I might add. The guy is a serious and proper showman and has the front rows eating out of his hand whilst never one losing focus of the melody or losing track. Charon, one of my fave tracks from Underworld followed and was totally immense. More album songs followed and all were received and lapped up by the bay crowd down below.

One thing I will say about Romeo is that, that guy can fuckin' shred his ass off. His flurry of notes is unsurpassed but with the monstrous volume that he plays at, the solos can before a wall of sound and feeling or melody is lost. I guess that's just his style. He's an old school more is more style shredder and wants to tear you a new one all the time rather tha caress your ears with a gorgeous melody. They played all of the new album apart from Legend which they left until the final song of the night which was a fitting move. They played three "X" classics to close out the main and to please the crowd. Out of the Ashes never fails to bring up a sing along.

The encore saw the band return after huge cheers from the packed downstairs and play the very heavy Set the World on Fire and ending with the epic Legend. I am actually very glad that they played the whole of Underworld. It really is a classic in their discography and deserved to have every song played. Every member of Symphony X is at the top of their game but the band to me is just a one man led battle machine and that man is the one and only Russell Allen. The guy is just something else! His power on the mic is truly a sight to behold and leaves you in total awe at his performance. This is by far the best I have seen Symphony X play of all the times I've seen them. I think I like Myrath more on record than them but Sym X blew them out of the water live. A truly phenomenal and powerful performance that takes the Underworld record and makes it sound a much mightier and epic beast. If you are so so about Underworld, do yourself a favour and check it out live and prepare to have your ears and neck wrecked!

Kiss of Fire
Without You
To Hell and Back
In My Darkest Hour
Swan Song
The Death of Balance/Lacrymosa
Out of the Ashes
Sea of Lies

Set the World On Fire

Friday, 19 February 2016

Dream Theater - The Astonishing - Live at the London Palladium

To say that Dream Theater is an ambitious metal band is like using the proverbial is "the pope a Catholic?" line, but one has to admit that even by their standards they've pushed the boat out a bit or should I say a heck of a lot with The Astonishing.

They must've had a hell of a time coming up with the music for this album and I don't mean hell in a good way. The array of music on this album is truly mind boggling. The decision to tour the whole thing live, yes all two and a half hours of it is a very brave one indeed but I guess this band enjoys challenging themselves both on record and live and perhaps most importantly challenging their legion of fanboys and casual listeners like me.

The tickets for this damn thing weren't cheap by any stretch but I succumbed to curiosity and nabbed a ticket at close to £60. I just wanted to see how they could pull it off. The problem is you actually need to like the album as well to enjoy it more as a full on live experience and I don't think I can really say that about TA. It has typical good or even great DT moments but for this particular listener with a severe case of ADHD, it's just all too much. Yet I was intrigued enough to wanna see it live and in the London Palladium no less. A venue rich with history in the fields of classic British entertainment but not in rock and metal circles that's for sure.

Still I guess this grand old venue was a rather apt setting for DT to showcase their most ambitious offering yet and last night was the actual start of their European tour. They are actually doing a double header at the Palladium and are back there as I type, later on tonight for a second sold out night. The queues outside the Palladium were quite long but eventually I took my seat in the upper circle high above the stage but with a good view however. The show started at 8 sharp as the band took their positions and the intro parts of the TA played through a large video backdrop. The actual stage set up was a simple one allowing each member plenty of space with a simple drum riser holding up Mangini's extensive drum kit. I actually had a very good view of his drum skills and IMO Portnoy is not really missed in DT not that I'm a drum enthusiast. I couldn't really care less about drums but the guy was pretty much perfect.

To me TA is all about Keys wiz Rudess and Labrie's vocal highs and lows. In fact Petrucci who writes pretty much all the music with Rudess seems to have less impact on his guitar than on previous albums. He never seems to cut loose his arsenal of technical riffs at all. TA is not that kind of album at all really which is probably one of the reasons I can't fully get in to it. However the emotional aspects of the album really come through live. I couldn't tell you what song is what as I haven't heard the album yet but there are some glorious moments where the band sounds totally in sync with one another and on a musical level that other bands cannot even come close to matching.

I must say the sound mix in the Palladium was superb. It was very loud but crystal clear. Petrucci's guitar when riffing was superbly sharp and crystal when soloing. His solos seem more restrained and melodic on TA than I recall them before. They played the album with a 15 minute break between each CD to allow every one a rest or toilet break and each section got loud cheers. As I said I think this is the first night of the tour so maybe they were a little bit shaky at the start but they soon settled into their stride. I think the star performer of the night was Mr Rudess. TA feels like it's "his" album. His emotional and triumphant stamp is all over it. The swathes of ambient music and then his rising crescendos really leave their mark on the audience.

A little about Mr. Labrie. The guy can seriously do these songs justice live. How he remembers all the lyrics is a miracle in itself. He gets to use his emotional soft voice a lot on these songs whilst his more aggressive higher pitched voice sounded a bit shrill at times. Still I don't think any other guy can be the voice for DT after all these years. The show ended with the rousing and titanic ending song with the whole of the 2000 seated Palladium standing up to cheer this gargantuan epic of a fantasy album. Can I say it was an amazing show? Well it wasn't amazing in the enjoyment sense, but more in the sense that a band would even attempt such a thing. Even Maiden are not playing the whole of The Book of Souls live..I think? What I can say is that DT have really outdone themselves with their ambition and to witness it live only re-enforces the feeling that TA is an album that completely challenges the listener to the nth degree.

By the way no filming or photography was allowed during the performance but I did manage to capture the sound if not the pictures during some sections of the performance.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Luca Turilli's Rhapsody Live at the Underworld

I saw Luca Turilli's Rhapsody a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed their performance so I decided to see them again although with some trepidation I must admit. Not that I thought they would be bad but the reasoning behind it being that I was very disappointed in Luca's album from last year. I just couldn't get into the songs on Prometheus. They were far too ambitious for their own good and the essence of melodic metal was lost in histrionic OTT symphonic soundtrack music.

This show was originally billed at the Islington Academy where they played last time but it was downgraded to the Underworld due to less than stellar ticket sales I would guess. The Underworld may be smaller but the atmosphere is always cooler in my opinion and the 300 or so crowd would've been sparse in the Academy so the downgrade in the venue was a good move though I guess the band might not think that way having sold less tickets.

Two support bands were listed and were somewhat intriguing as well being Frenchmen Qantice and Italian, female fronted modern power metallers, Temperance. Qantice had PelleK sing on their lastest album, a guy whose vocals I'm not so fond of, hence me dismissing their latest album. I was sort of expecting PelleK to stide out as the other members took their positions but I wasn't sure but then some other dude stepped out. Thankfully the new singer was pretty damn good with a nice high pitched voice but not whiny like Mr PelleK. I don't know the Qantice songs well enough to say this is this and that is that but I really enjoyed their set. I loved the cool vibes of the power/prog mix within the tunes and the singer carried them off so well. Special mention for the lady bass player. The bass sound was one of the best I have ever heard from a live band at the Underworld. I enjoyed Qantice live and though the far majority of the crowd probably didn't know them, I think they went down pretty well.

Temperance were up next with their dancy modern take on power metal. I think I listened to their album Limitless and decided it just didn't quite float my boat. The live performance didn't sway me either. They were competent and have a very sweet and gorgeous front gal to boot but her voice is just OK and a bit shrill and girly to be honest. The songs are pretty fast and reasonably catchy but I could never really get a grasp on them or that spark which triggers enjoyment. They were OK but I preferred Qantice by far of the two supports.

Finally at 9pm it was time for Luca and his band to take to the smaller stage of the Underworld and unleash their symphonic mayhem. It must be said this audience though not high in number created quite an atmosphere of adulation for Luca and Co. Last time French guitarist Dominique Lerquin was missing because of his arm injury but he was restored this time to strengthen the band's French contingent to two again. The band sounded very good indeed as they tore into the opener Knightrider of Doom from the classic era. The energy levels were much better than you hear on plastic and the metal aspect was also much more multiplied unlike when you hear the same songs on record.

Not too much expense had been spared on this tour with two notable operatic backing singers brought in to re-create the operatic parts of the songs. There are certain parts which are piped in however with the band's own keyboard player and the two opera singers, the live feel is far enhanced and you feel as though you really are witnessing some kind of grand operatic metal extravaganza worthy of a far bigger stage than the tiny Underworld.

Alessandro Conti sounds really good live on lead vocals and is the perfect replacement for Fabio and I think I like him even a bit more. Rosenkreuz from the new album sounds much better live than on record as well, however it's classics that I'm looking forward to hearing the most and soon enough the almighty speedy power is unleashed with Unholy Warcry with it's monstrous chorus sung by literally everybody there! Mid set saw newer songs played and it all got very epic and symphonic and less memorable. However soon enough a wonderful duet between Ale and the female opera singer was sung. The vocal quality on that song was amazing though I forget which song it was but it's sung in full Italian and I think it might be from the new album.

Soon after we dove headlong into an unexpected Luca solo classic in Demonheart which is one of my fave solo tracks of his and every one loved that one no doubt and fists were pumping and voices raised during the chorus. Dark Fate of Atlantis from the previous album was another main highlight before the band tackled extreme epic, Of Michael the Archangel and Lucifer's Fall with all sections played perfectly from operatic to heavy parts. The main set ended with Dawn of Victory one of Rhapsody's heaviest tunes and got a lot of fist pumps from the crowd and a big sing along.

The encore followed as the band returned to rapturous cheers and played Ascending to Infinity from the previous CD before diving into perhaps the band's most popular track Emerald Sword when the crowd can really let go with abandon especially on that almighty chorus! The band left to big applause and though the gig was reduced in size I don't think the band let it get to them at all in the end. They have very good energy especially Luca who's all over the place like a whirling shredding dervish. They may sound a bit too much on record these days but damn these guys can still pull it all off live. I really need to see Rhapsody of Fire live to see how they compare in the live setting but those guys haven't toured this way yet whilst Luca has come over twice now. I hope to see Alex and Fabio soon one day though!

Nova genesis (Ad splendorem angeli triumphantis)
Knightrider of Doom
(Rhapsody cover)
Rosenkreuz (The Rose and the Cross)
Land of Immortals
(Rhapsody cover)
War of the Universe
(Luca Turilli song)
Ira Divina
Unholy Warcry
(Rhapsody cover)
Son of Pain
(Rhapsody of Fire cover)
Drum Solo
Il cigno nero
Guitar Solo
The Pride of the Tyrant
(Rhapsody cover)
Tormento E Passione
(Luca Turilli song)
Bass Solo
Dark Fate of Atlantis
Of Michael the Archangel and Lucifer's Fall
Dawn of Victory
(Rhapsody cover)

Quantum X
Ascending to Infinity
Emerald Sword
(Rhapsody cover)