Tag Archive | Concert Review

Yoshiki Classical Special at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall
Yoshiki Hayashi Performs at Carnegie Hall (All Photos Courtesy of MSOPR, Los Angeles)

Drummer, Pianist, Composer, Record, Producer, Entrepreneur: there is not much at which Japan’s most famous Rock Star, Yoshiki Hayashi does not excel. On January 12 and 13, 2017, Yoshiki added one more impressive accomplishment to his extensive resume, when he made New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall feel like an intimate venue. Accompanied by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Yoshiki performed for two sold-out nights at the famous concert hall’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage as part of his Yoshiki Classical Special World Tour, and what a fantastic evening it was!

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

While Yoshiki is not exactly a household name stateside, his level of renown continues to grow thanks to the recently released, award-winning documentary film, We Are X, which tells the amazing true story of X, the groundbreaking heavy metal band Yoshiki founded in the 1980s, which continues to perform today, including a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden in October of 2014, which I was fortunate to attend.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

The evening’s two-hour program featured many original compositions including modern classical pieces, themes for TV and film (including the Yoshiki-penned Golden Globes Theme) and songs he has preformed with X, such as “Hero” and “Endless Rain,” which were presented here with alternate, classical arrangements. Also included were popular pieces by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, which have special, personal meaning for the pianist.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Despite playing for such a large crowd, Yoshiki kept fans engaged by taking frequent breaks (between nearly every piece), to chat with the audience, sharing fun anecdotes about his life and his career. Adele does this same kind of thing at her shows, and it makes the concert so much more personal and memorable. Plus, Yoshiki is so charming and adorable, he was stealing hearts right and left.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Clips from We Are X occasionally appeared on the stage as a backdrop, as a means to illustrate a song’s importance, or as a way for Yoshiki to pay homage to departed loved ones. Above, you can see Yoshiko performing in X with former bandmate, Hide, who took his own life in 1988. The song “Without You” was dedicated to Hide’s memory as well as that of Yoshiki’s father, and another bandmate, Taiji, who died under mysterious circumstances in 2011. Yoshiki talked about how he still feels inspired by all of these people today.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Here is the complete set list:

Yoshiki Hayashi Classical Special at Carnegie Hall
January 12 & 13, 2017
Musical Selections

1st Set
1. I’ll Be Your Love (Theme for the World Expo Japan)
2. The Last Song
3. Forever Love (Theme for the animation film X)
4. Golden Globe Theme (Theme for the Golden Globes®)
5. Hero (Theme for the animation film Saint Seiya)
6. La Venus (Theme for the film We Are X)
7. Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
8. Anniversary (Theme for the Emperor of Japan 10 Year Anniversary)

2nd Set
9. Tears (Theme for the TV drama Nikushimi ni Hohoende)
10. Miracle
** extra song: Star-Spangled Banner – new arrangement by Yoshiki Hayashi
11. Bloom Like A Rose (Theme for the TV drama Seisei Suru Hodo Aishiteru)
12. Say Anything (Theme for the TV drama Lullaby Keiji)
13. River of the Light
14. Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky)
15. Without You
16. Kurenai
17. Transition
18. Art of Life
19. Endless Rain (Theme for the film Zipang)

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall Orchestra
Members of the Orchestra cross their arms to indicate “We Are X” — a gesture of solidarity!

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki next performs with X Japan at London’s Wembley Arena on March 4th, 2017. Visit This Link for tickets and more information!

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

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X Japan at Madison Square Garden: Best Concert Ever!

X Japan Billboard
X Japan Billboard, Corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue (All Photos By Gail)

Here in New York City, it is no secret that you can have a magical adventure if you are just willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown. This is what happened to me when I accepted an invitation to see Japan’s most famous heavy metal band X – known here in America as X Japan, owing to another band in Los Angeles that happens to also have that name. Prior to this past weekend’s concert at Madison Square Garden the only things I knew about X was that their drummer, Yoshiki had been immortalized in a comic book by Stan Lee, and one song, “Jade” – which, prior to Googling the lyrics, I thought was called “You Are Beautiful” due to its only discernible English lyrics.

X Japan Stage Logo
As You Can See, Their Stage had a Catwalk, Which Every Rock Stage Should Have.

Since I had no previous familiarity with X Japan’s music, this review will be based on my experience as someone who was seeing and hearing the band for the first time.  I would say that X Japan is going to appeal to your musical taste if you like any of the following:  Big Arena Rock, Heavy Metal, Glam Metal, Dream Theater, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and any 80s Metal Band. It’s probably due to my affinity for that latter, much maligned genre that X Japan resonated with me right away, and I would (probably) still rather listen to  the cheesiest ’80s Metal for 100 million billion years than to any charting modern band for 15 minutes.  Just being serious.

Please enjoy my pictures and commentary!

First, let’s meet the members of X Japan.

Toshi Lead Vocals

This is Toshi, lead singer and founding member. He and Yoshiki have known each other since they were four years old (45 years ago), and started their first band together when they were eleven.

Yoshiki on the Kit

This is Yoshiki, X Japan’s drummer, pianist, and resident Sex God.

Yoshiki Hair

When his hands aren’t busy playing an instrument, Yoshiki touches his hair 60 or 70 times a minute.

Pata Guitarist

Here we have Guitarist Pata, who has been with the band the longest next to Toshi and Yoshiki.

Heath Bassist

This is Heath, on Bass Guitar.

Sugizo Violin

Sugizo plays the Violin.

X Band on Stage

A female string quartet added to the atmosphere of their sometimes symphonic metal songs.

Besides the band sounding and playing great, there was a ton of visuals to keep your eyes entertained and your brain engaged, such as:

Skulls Stage Shot

Crazy Visual Projections!

Fire Background Stage Shot

X Red Fire wirh Prop

Giant Stage Props! In the above photo you can see the two halves of the letter “X” coming together from across the stage.

X Prop Stage shot

Here it is again!

X Japan Stage Prop Pink Fire

P1050663

Laser Lights and Fire Bombs!

Confetti Bazooka

Confetti Bazookas!

X Japan Wrist Band

When we first entered the arena, ushers gave everyone this wrist band thing. We wondered what it could be for, but a couple of fans told us it was probably something that was going to factor into the show, and that we should be sure to wear it. That was excellent advice because look what happened with those wrist bands about an hour into the nearly-three-hour show:

Lit Up Wrist Bands

Lit Up Wrist Bands

It was amazing!

Yoshiki on Drums

At one point during the show, Yoshiki’s drum riser actually moved down the Cat Walk and then rose up into the air over the crowd!

Yoshiki Rising Drum Riser

It was just insane!

Yoshiki at Piano

Yoshiki steps away from his massive kit to play piano many, many times during X Japan’s set. He even played a bit of Swan Lake! Here, he prays for everyone to have fun at the show. Prayers answered!

X Japan have been together off and on for 30 years. Here are some photos of what they looked like back in the day:

X Japan Old School

X Japan Old School

Two former members (not necessarily pictured above) have passed on. RIP!

Lyrics to Hero

They did a new song called “Hero” with the lyrics projected on the screen so fans could sing along.

Lyrics to Hero

“Hero” managed to be both uplifting and sad simultaneously.

X Band on Stage with Banner

Finally, it was time to say goodbye, as the members of X Japan gathered at the edge of the Catwalk and pulled this banner from the a fan in the audience. Yoshiki proceeded to wrap himself in it. Cute!

X Band on Stage Farewell

Goodbye X Japan and thanks for the crazy fun show!

THE SET LIST

MIRACLE   (INTRO)

JADE

RUSTY  NAIL

SILENT  JEALOUSY

BENEATH  THE SKIN

PATA   +   HEATH  SOLO

DRAIN

SUGIZO  VIOLIN  SOLO

KURENAI

HERO

BORN TO  BE FREE
·∙

ENCORE 1

PIANO  SOLO

DRUM  SOLO

FOREVER  LOVE

I.V.

X
·∙

ENCORE  2

ENDLESS RAIN

ART OF LIFE  (PIANO)

Top Ten Memorable Moments of the 2014 R & R Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

R&R HOF P Gabriel Induction
Chris Martin Inducts Peter Gabriel. (Crappy Photos By Gail’s iPad!)

The Class of 2014 entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night and it was an evening full of magical moments, even for jaded, old-school, Rock Curmudgeon like me. The show went on for over 5 hours – and 90 minutes of that was just the E Street Band members giving their individual ‘Thank You’ speeches! A televised version of the ceremony will air on HBO on May 31st and I’m guessing that, to get it edited down to two hours, they’ll cut out all of the juiciest parts (Courtney Love being booed in front of her dead husband’s family, that was painful to experience). But I got see it all from a comfy seat in the Barclay’s Center. Here are a few moments that stand out.

Listed in the order they occurred:

That Peter Gabriel introductory montage was something else. He’s always been a musical genius (Six Words: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), but the reminder of how much he’s done in his career was almost jarring. Because, wow. Peter Gabriel is awesome.

Chris Martin’s Induction speech for Gabriel was absolutely hilarious and man, does Martin look happy to be getting divorced.

After talking non-stop shit about each other in press for the past few months (it seems) all four original members of Kiss managed to not be total dicks to each other while accepting their awards (they were the only band to not have any kind of associated performance). I know that Gene thinks that Peter and Ace have no business being inducted along with him and Paul, but if he doesn’t understand that without those two that band would be residing in Nowheresville, he needs to pull his huge, ego-swollen head out of his ass.

I am pretty sure I had seen printed reports that Yusef Islam (FKA Cat Stevens) would not be appearing at the event, so no one was more blown away than me when he not only showed up, looking and sounding great, but also performed three of his classic songs including – wait for it – “Wild World” and “Peace Train”! Holy Effing Ess, “Peace Train.” I can’t even think about that song without losing my shit, so imagine what it was like to hear CAT FUCKING STEVENS perform it flawlessly, live in front of thousands of people. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment that you’ll never see again. I still can’t believe it happened, and I was there!

This out of chronological order, but it was so great to see Art Garfunkel induct Stevens. I love that guy.

Linda Ronstadt is an artist whose music I grew up loving back when AM Radio was a thing you listened to. Ronstadt is now retired and no longer travels due to symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, but many talented ladies of rock were there to pay her tribute including Bonnie Raitt, Emmy Lou Harris, Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow. Carrie Underwood also performed a stunning version of “Different Drum” (written by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. Way.) that knocked my socks off. She may have the stage presence of a shoe, but her voice has gotten completely insane since she won American Idol.

I was charmed by Bruce Springsteen’s Induction speech for his longtime musical companions, The E Street Band. They seem like a great family of musicians. Also, Max Weinberg is hot. Also, thank you E Street Band acceptance speeches for providing an excellent opportunity for me to make a much-needed trip to the Ladies Room.

My fondness for the music of Hall and Oates is pretty much restricted to “War Baby Son of Zorro” and, if forced to cite a more recent title, “Method of Modern Love,” on which I enjoy the part where Daryl Hall spells the song’s title. The thing is, despite the fact that songs like “Maneater” and “Sara Smile” serve as very, very effective emetic, their band is one of the tightest live bands I’ve ever seen, and Daryl Hall still ranks among the best voices in rock. I really enjoyed their performance.

I can’t even remember who said in their speech that the “Greatest pop song ever written was Beethoven’s 9th,” but that person was 100% correct.

Joan Jett Performs with Nirvana
Joan Jett Performs with Nirvana

Nirvana’s Induction started at 11:45 PM, but it was so worth waiting for, not only to see Joan Jett front the band for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the surprise performance of “All Apologies” as sung by teen singing sensation, Lorde, but also to hear David Grohl drop the F-Bomb at least four times. He is my new Hero.

Blake Morgan Debuts New CD at NYC’s The Cutting Room

Blake Morgan Diamonds in the Dark Cover

Armed with only his acoustic guitar and a soaring vocal range, singer/songwriter Blake Morgan celebrated the July 30th release of his latest CD, Diamonds in the Dark, with an engaging set played to a packed house at Manhattan’s Cutting Room.

While the unplugged set was missing the lusher aspects of Diamonds in the Dark’s expanded instrumentation, Morgan’s delivery and on stage charisma did each song full justice. This CD is really fantastic! Morgan’s adept guitar playing fondly recalls that of the late great George Harrison, while his voice varies between comparison to the adult contemporary mellowness of hit-maker Duncan Sheik and top-shelf Seventies pop greats such as Andrew Gold. And what’s not to like about that?

Morgan draws his subject matter from his past romantic relationships, and while the songs are obviously deeply personal, he keeps the message universal and accessible. Tuesday’s set featured nine cuts from the just-released Diamonds, including a few of my favorites like the opening number, “Haunt Me,” “Best Bad Idea” and “I Can Hear You Say.” I enjoyed Blake’s humorous between-song banter (where he revealed many of the details behind each song) and it was a fun evening for all! Diamonds in the Dark is available now wherever fine music is procured, and you can find out more about Blake by visiting This Link. See the set list below!

Cutting Room Set List

Haunt Me
Black Into Blue
Suspicious Bliss
Water Water Everywhere
Best Bad Idea
Don’t Want To Let You Go
I Can Hear You Say
We Left Off
So Scared And Happy

Joseph Arthur Debuts The Ballad of Boogie Christ at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom

Joseph Arthur Bowery Ballroom 5
All Live Photos Courtesy of According2G.com

Joseph Arthur’s tenth (tenth!) studio album dropped this past Tuesday (June 11th) and it is once again proof that the New York-based, wildly prolific musician and multi-media artist never runs dry of engaging ideas. Joe performed The Ballad of Boogie Christ front to back (with a few old favorites thrown in at the end) at the Bowery Ballroom last evening, and fans came out to pack the room despite a cold and windy rain working up a frenzy on the streets outside.

For a fan like me, who’s been following Joseph’s career since his 1997 debut, Boogie Christ is a bit more of straightforward “rock” album, bolstered by strong Bob Dylan influences, that still dips into the arena of Arthur’s gorgeous, subtly nuanced ballads.

Joseph Arthur Boogie Christ Cover
The Ballad of Boogie Christ Cover Art

Although it’s always a kick to experience Joe’s one-man-band performances, last night he was accompanied by a full band – including a saxophone! – which allowed him to rock out a bit more, being freed up from carrying the entire evening on his nevertheless very musically capable shoulders.

Joseph Arthur Bowery Ballroom 2

Joe will be touring nationally througout the month of June and you can find tour dates in your area at This Link. He’ll also be performing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Friday June 21st, so be sure to tune in or set your DVRs!

See the setlist and more photos from last night’s show, plus check out an awesome HD video of Joe performing the title song from the album, at This Link. The Ballad of Boogie Christ is available from Joseph Arthur Dot Com and wherever fine music is procurred.

Happy Birthday, Rod Argent!

Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone
Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent

Keyboard player and composer Rod Argent of The Zombies and Argent was born on this day, June 14th, in 1945. Read my review of The Zombies mind blowingly great 2011 performance at NYC’s City Winery at This Link. Happy Birthday, Rod!

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Black Stone Cherry at NYC’s Beacon Theater

Black Stone Cherry Press Photo
Image Source

A publicist recently asked me what bands I’m currently listening to – and I know she expected me to name some “new” bands, but I had to confess that the bulk of music I’ve been loading on my iPod or adding to my collection in recent months is music from the 1970s. Because, from The Beatles through Glam, Prog Rock, Classic Rock, Hard Rock, the onset of Electronica, Punk Rock and New Wave, the Seventies really had it all. This realization actually brought back an awkward memory of the time an editor (whom I still affectionately refer to as Iron Nuts) accused me of being “desperate to like a modern band.” Okay, guilty as charged. Still, I’m not going to apologize for it.

One modern band that I do like a lot is Black Stone Cherry. I’d own all of their records even if I didn’t get them for free from their label, and I try to see the band play live when they come to New York City. So, I felt very fortunate to get on the guest list to see these remorselessly southern rockers from Kentucky kick out a super tight but exhilarating 45 minute set last week, in support of the Sammy Hagar-fronted all star contingent Chickenfoot. Making sure to please both faithful and new fans, Black Stone Cherry’s three albums (2006’s eponymous debut, 2008’s Folklore and Superstition and 2011’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea) were equally represented within an eclectic 10-song set list.

Black Stone Cherry maintain a gritty enough modern edge to do battle with the fiercest head bangers, but what they remind me of at their creative core is The Allman Brothers with a touch of Hendrix. Surely no one could find fault with that. And any doubt of the veracity of this groups’ southern rock roots is laid to waste with Deep Blue Sea’s exceptional cover of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” on which Black Stone Cherry pay deep homage to the original tune while completely making it their own. It’s easy enough to casually toss out a phrase like “The Real Deal” when describing a blues-based rock band, but I’m not fronting when I say that Black Stone Cherry does their old school mentors proud in their ability to rock out and entertain without the need for any added bells and whistles. These guys just love music; and it shows. Front man Chris Robertson, who effortlessly tackles lead vocals and lead guitar owns a seasoned but fluid voice that delivers both rockers and ballads with equal power and finesse. As a front man, he’s cute but also burly and masculine. I dig his vibe. While bassist Jon Lawhon stays mostly anchored to the stage, his fretwork is top shelf, and it’s a lot of fun to watch rhythm guitarist Ben Wells work the stage, tirelessly leaping atop monitors, engaging the audience and heightening the energy of the room. But for me, the superstar of the band is drummer John Fred Young, who channels the thunder power of John Bonham in his attack on the kit while fully capturing the showmanship of a crowd-pleasing player like Tommy Lee. Young’s arms never stop moving. I could watch him play drums all day. Plus: Hot.

Black Stone Cherry had me and the rest of the crowd on our feet for most of their set (impressive for an opening act), and I love all of their songs, but the most memorable tune of the evening, I think, was “Blame It On The Boom Boom,” which, despite being somewhat dorky, keeps the decadence of the Rock Star Lifestyle alive with its message about the joys of bonking and getting wasted, or something like that. I doubt that any of these guys are Motley Crue-level partiers, but it certainly wasn’t lost on me that they chased “Boom Boom” with few bars of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” – a song I would love to see them cover on a future album.

See the Set List after the Jump!

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