Gig Review: Whitesnake – The Purple Tour, 19.11.2015

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Purple Nostalgia

The Dead Daisies, an Australian band I admittedly had not heard of before, came in support of the main act, promoting their latest album Revolución. Judging by the logo, I thought they were up to play some punk music, but what they actually – and rather logically – did was hard rock. Generally, the Dead Daisies are a highly professional musical collective, with lots of musicians linked to bands such as Guns N‘ Roses, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy and many more. So as the lights went off, they were announced by Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love guitar riff, fused with Black Sabbath’s War Pigs lyrics.

This time, they came in a pack of six: singer John Corabi (who also sang in Mötley Crüe) was vocally backed by lead guitarist Richard Fortus (who looks frighteningly similar to Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones), an incredibly friendly-looking rhythm guitarist whose name I was not yet able to find out (it was not David Lowy), bassist Marco Mendoza and keyboardist Dizzy Reed. Last but not least there was the insane drummer Brian Tichy, frequently throwing up his drumsticks metres high into the air – catching them again a few seconds later (most of the times, anyway).

They opened their set with Midnight Moses and continued with songs such as Evil, Mexico or Lock’n’Load. In the end, they finished off by covering The Beatles‘ Helter Skelter… which was of course harder than the original version. The Dead Daisies are a band that’s really got it together, showing energy and fun while performing, and were thus an ideal motivator for the audience for what was to come up next: Whitesnake.

For the hell of it

This time, the announcement’s Led Zeppelin-riff was fused with James Brown’s Sexmachine – indeed an interesting combination. Having released their latest Purple Album (a compilation of the three Deep Purple albums from the time when David Coverdale was their singer) on May 15th this year, Whitesnake are currently on Purple Tour through Europe.

It is thus self-explaining that there were no new songs to be heard that night. So Whitesnake took a pretty safe path playing all their own evergreens (e.g. Love Ain’t No Stranger, Fool for Your Loving, Here I Go Again and Still of the Night in the encore), but mainly Deep Purple’s old hits, such as Burn, The Gypsy, Mistreated, You Keep On Moving, You Fool No One as well as Soldier of Fortune (played with only one acoustic guitar, or, as Coverdale called it: „a nice piece of wood“), which was the part of the evening where I truly had to hold back by tears, considering this song to be one of my absolute favourites of all bands – all time.

Coverdale certainly is one of the best singers within the hard rock genre, which he proved once again. Even though I would have hoped for a few more of the slower songs, since those are also a strength of his, in contrast to his falsettos and rough parts.

Like on every great and legendary rock concert, you can be sure of hearing extended solos in the form of one-man-shows with nobody else on stage. So, first came guitarist Reb Beach, followed by guitarist Joel Hoekstra, who were „competing“ for the better solo; then came drummer Tommy Aldridge, who first went crazy with his drumsticks, only to throw them into the audience a few minutes later and continue playing without them, banging the drums with his bare hands – amazing! It wasn’t exactly an outstanding solo, I’ve heard more interesting ones, but the way he played it was something I hadn’t seen before. Special credits go to his steady double bass which was flawless even while standing. The other touring musicians are the Italian Michele Luppi on keys and the rather young (and vocally very talented) bassist Michael Devin.

The atmosphere and musicians‘ vibes of this gig reminded me very much of the AC/DC gig in May: old but gold rockers who know they have achieved everything, yet happily continue doing what they love so much – just for the hell of it… always with a smile on their lips and a bit of madness in their eyes. Raising awareness for the current happenings around the world, Mr. Coverdale chose the words for that night’s goodbye as follows: „Thank you for having the courage to come here, Vienna; be safe and happy and don’t let anyone make you afraid!“

Author: Robin Frank

More info / photo credits:
The Dead Daisies

Gig Review: Tenacious D, 05.02.2015

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No Joy for Jables and Kage

Once again I had a lucky hand in getting a last-minute ticket for the Tenacious D gig in Vienna, even for less money than I had expected. The venue was the same Jack White (review here) played just recently, so it’s no news that the sound quality of Gasometer was rather a questionable one.

Due to several reasons I did not manage to see the opening act Sasquatch.
Anyway, I came to see Jack Black and Kyle Gass, the two guys who constitute Tenacious D. They came with nothing but their acoustic guitars in hand, unplugged, and did not have any support instruments such as drums, bass or electric guitar. Even though this means very few instrumental possibilities, I think they did quite well.

With Kyle Gass being an acceptable guitar player and Jack Black a truly convincing singer, the crowd did not need much more to be entertained. Anyway, there were some moments in which the guys (mainly Kyle Gass) were clearly out of rhythm, but this is not surprising when playing without a drummer. Gass, however, made up for it by eventually playing three flutes at the same time.

A brief rock’n’roll history insight

They started the show with the in-your-face title Tribute, something nobody really expected that early. During the two-hour show, Tenacious D served one hit after the next to the hungry audience, who knew all the lyrics by heart. Among their legendary songs like Dude, Kickapoo, Rage Cage and Fuck Her Gently, which was sung by the crowd during a short break from beginning to end, Tenacious D apparently wanted to use the evening to teach the audience some rock’n’roll history by covering Led Zeppelin (Rock and Roll), Black Sabbath (War Pigs) and The Beatles (You Never Give Me Your Money, The End). They did this really well, in their own special way.

It was visible throughout the whole gig, however, that the two guys did not really seem to enjoy what they were doing. You could see and feel that performing the show was indeed plain work for them. With predictable sketches and jokes they tried to keep up appearances, but there was no joy in their eyes. This is no surprise, though. They are famous for their humour, the masses know them for it, and therefore expect to see exactly that. And if the crowd does not get what it wants, the consequences for the musicians might be very bad. This leaves the artists no real space for experimentation and development. Quite a shame, especially with Jack Black uncompromisingly proving to be such a highly talented musician.

Author: Robin Frank

More info / photo credits:
Tenacious D

Festival Review: Sonic Heartbreak Festival, 28.11.2014

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Hier folgt das Review über die beiden Wiener Bands FREDDIE RED und BREWTALITY, die ich mir am Abend des 28. November in der Szene Wien im Rahmen des diesjährigen Sonic Heartbreak Festivals angesehen habe.

Weniger ist mehr

FREDDIE RED ist eine authentische Rock’n’Roll Band, die aktuell aus vier Mitgliedern besteht. Darunter befinden sich Flo Weninger (Gitarre, Vocals), Raphael Weninger (Gitarre), Claus Trophobia (Bass) und Markus Graf Gabriel (Drums). Die 2010 gegründete Gruppe kann neben dem selbstgegründeten Label FREDDIE RED Records auch das Debütalbum FREDDIE RED ON FIRE vorweisen.

Unvoreingenommen lauschte ich dieser Band, die mich mit dem ersten – und sehr eingängigen – Titel Be A Rocker begeisterte. Hier passte viel: Fantasie, Melodie, Energie. Das Kapital von FREDDIE RED ist unbestritten Sänger und Gitarrist Flo Weninger. Prinzipiell hat der Frontmann eine eher tiefe und rauchige Stimme, was im Grunde immer gut ankommt. Trotzdem schlägt er manchmal auch höhere Töne an und traut sich zu schreien, wie etwa bei dem Titel I’m On Fire. Hier allerdings Vorsicht: da zu viel Geschrei schnell unmelodisch klingen kann, gilt „weniger ist mehr“.

Unsicherheiten konnte ich keine ausmachen, der Gesang hat überzeugt. Auch an der Gitarre stellte der Sänger sein Können unter Beweis, wobei es jedoch den Anschein hatte, dass ein leises Ungleichgewicht zwischen dem Spiel beider Gitarristen herrscht. Hier fände ich eine überarbeitete (Soli-)Aufteilung besser.
Überraschende Dynamik beim Bassisten: als offenbar agilstes aller Bandmitglieder hatte er den größten Bewegungsradius von allen und widerlegt somit gekonnt das Faulheits-Klischee, das BassspielerInnen anhaftet.

Nicht ganz zufrieden war ich mit der Setlist, einige Songs fehlten mir, wie zum Beispiel Better Days, I Want You und vor allem Thinkin‘ About You. Zwar ist letzterer nicht mein Favorit, wohl aber der Song der offenbar für die stärkste Publikumsresonanz sorgt. Es ist ein vergleichsweise ruhig und einfach gehaltener Song, der sofort ins Ohr geht und auch dort bleibt. Perfekt, um Abwechslung in den Auftritt zu bringen und sich neue Fans ins Boot zu holen – warum also nicht spielen? Vor allem hätte er doch so gut zum Motto des Festivals gepasst…

Nicht so brutal wie erwartet

Eine Band, die massenhaft Live-Erfahrung mitbringt – hat sie sich doch (in diversesten Formationen) in über zehn Jahren durch so gut wie alle Wiener Konzertlokale gespielt – ist BREWTALITY. Ein Power-Trio, das seinen Einfluss vorwiegend aus den 70ern zieht und dabei aber laut Bassist David Zenz „keine Kopie der 70er sondern eigentlich eine Weiterentwicklung“ verkörpert. Mit Ben Arslan an den Drums und Alexander Karlin als Sänger und Gitarrist ist eine Band entstanden, die mich vor allem durch die starke Bühnenpräsenz aller Mitglieder beeindrucken konnte.

Neben der guten Leistung an den Instrumenten sehe ich die Baustelle dieser Gruppe beim Gesang (hauptsächlich beim Frontmann aber auch bei den Backing Vocals). Zwar gibt es aufregende Screamings, die gut gelingen, vor allem aber bei diversen Refrains (wie u.a. von For A Weekend oder Lovestick Jungle) sind falsche Töne dabei, die dort nicht hingehören.

Überrascht hat mich das Cover des Deep Purple Songs Highway Star. Nicht, weil der Stil des Songs und dessen Interpreten nicht zu BREWTALITY passen würden, sondern weil ich die Band zugegeben eher als Cover-Verweigerer eingeschätzt hätte. Prinzipiell finde ich es sehr gut, wenn Bands bei Konzerten auch Cover spielen. Sie müssen allerdings gut ausgesucht und performt werden. Ist das der Fall, wird eine Serie von Vorteilen ausgelöst: das Publikum kennt den Song, singt mit, tanzt, die Stimmung steigt – und das resultiert in erhöhter Aufmerksamkeit und Akzeptanz der ZuhörerInnen für die Band.

Autorin: Robin Frank

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Gig Review: Uriah Heep – The Outsider World Tour, 19.11.2014

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„He’s a lonely rider, he is the outsider!“

After years and years of missing this band, it was on 19th of November that I finally got to see Uriah Heep at Szene Wien. It was a tough decision, since Slash played a concert in Vienna on the same day… but I chose Uriah Heep, and was not disappointed.

Formed in London in the year of 1969, Uriah Heep is a band often referred to as one of the „Big Four“ of Hard Rock (next to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin) and a true legend. Having sold millions of records, their latest and 24th studio album Outsider was released in June 2014 and songs from it are performed on the current world tour. The album also features bassist Davey Rimmer, who joined the band after the death of former bassist Trevor Bolder, who died of cancer in 2013.

First things first: the band was definitely worth the wait. They managed not only to fulfill, but to even top all the expectations I had. Apart from  playing and performing brilliantly, they also had a great show and a good setlist. The thing that amazed me most, however, is the atmosphere they managed to create, and the strong presence they had on stage. They seemed to be so excited to be back in Vienna again, yet they radiated that certain professional calmness that only real experts can have. Their joy completely captured the audience, and none of it seemed fake.

When Wednesdays turn into Fridays

Singer Bernie Shaw, who joined the band in 1986 after the death of original singer David Byron, is tremendously talented and has great power in his voice, which he managed to apply on every note. Apart from that, he is a great entertainer, informing the audience about the fact that this Wednesday was „not Mittwoch…just an early Friday!“

Instrumentally, there is truly nothing negative that can be said about this gig, or, in fact, the band itself. Mick Box, guitarist and founding member of the band, had a permanent smile on his face and convinced not only by his skills, but also by his creative guitar tricks and crazy hand moves.

Then there was Phil Lanzon on keys, who joined the band in ’86 and also proved his vocal talent. Lastly, the two „newer“ members, drummer Russell Gilbrook (2007) and left-handed bassist Davey Rimmer (2013), who make a great match and provide the best possible rhythmical basis for Uriah Heeps‘ music. I think I’ve never seen a bass with that long a neck as Rimmer’s.

To hell with three-minute radio songs

The band played songs from the new album such as The Law and the title track The Outsider. Generally, I can truly recommend this latest album, there are great tracks on it with genuine Heep-Sound. Amongst the setlist, they also played Sunrise (a personal highlight for me) and the 10-minute Prog Rock track The Magician’s Birthday (here, Bernie Shaw let us now that they would play this extra-long song, simply because they can, and because they send all those three-minute radio songs to hell). The concert also included the world-famous hits Gypsy, Easy Livin‘ and, of course, Lady In Black, on which the audience transformed into a huge choir.

It is such a great feeling when you get to see musicians who really know what their profession is all about. And after decades of playing, they still manage to deliver such happiness on stage, which makes everybody in the audience forget the world outside for a few hours. Cheers to this gig, cheers to hard rock, cheers to Uriah Heep!

Author: Robin Frank

More info / photo credits:
Uriah Heep

Gig Review: Jack White – Lazaretto Tour, 11.11.2014

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Where the Real Stuff Happens

Not being all too thrilled with Jack White’s latest album (Lazaretto), I did not pay very much attention to his tour dates. When I found out that he was going to come to Vienna, however, all the tickets were sold out, of course. To my luck, I found somebody who sold his ticket to me last minute.

The support, Lucius, was already playing the last songs when I entered the hall. To be honest, I was not convinced. They sounded very artificial, and I could not exactly identify the style they were trying to head at. It was something Indie-Pop-like.
It was after a few minutes that I actually saw them: two female (twins?) singers, looking identical, plus musicians who were supposed to lead the crowd into a great rock night. But neither the band nor the audience seemed particularly interested in making that part of the show something special. Honestly: Lucius was one of those support groups that you can skip without regret.

No phones allowed

The main act was planned to start at 21:00. After a delay of about twenty minutes, a memorable announcement was made on stage. The speaker talked of the band being happy to play in Vienna, and informed the audience about the fact that professional photos would be taken throughout the whole concert. These would then be uploaded a.s.a.p. after the show and available for free downloading on Jack White’s website. He explained that this arrangement was made in order not to have phones pointing up from the audience the whole time, because „that thing in your hand is not nearly as good as what you can see with your eyes, and listen to with your heart.“

A few minutes later, the curtain was drawn, revealing a simple stage-set flooded with blue light. There were no banners or animations (not even the screens beside the stage were switched on), everything was kept simple. Jack White, supported by four other musicians, started with a few fast rock songs. That was principally a good way to start, but the thing is that the location (Gasometer Wien) has a truly horrible sound. White’s guitar, as well as the other instruments, sounded really dry. Because of that, the songs (and soli) lost a lot of power and/or were not pleasant to listen to, and therefore tiring.

The band continued with a few country songs, which were really great, because they made such a nice contrast to the other style(s) the guys were playing. During one song, White even sat down on a piano chair (with his guitar still in hand!) and kept switching instruments back and forth. Even before the singer told the audience about it, you could already hear the influence from Nashville, the city he lives in now. At one stage, when he introduced all the band members to the audience, he explained different sounds and styles, accompanied by a solo of the musician currently presented, depending from where they originally come from.

The two-hour „encore“

The band went off stage after 45 minutes, but came back to play an encore (if you can actually still call it that) that lasted almost two hours. The spirit of the band, as well as their endurance, is to be highly praised. Nevertheless: people were getting tired, and so was the band. What you saw when you looked around yourself were static, sometimes even bored faces, and a band that gradually lost its energy. Toward the end, even though it did not seem like they didn’t enjoy playing, they were simply out of fuel.

Many songs sounded quite alike, or had outros that were simply too long, which was particularly tiring because of the bad sound I mentioned before. Instead of including a few more full songs, there was a lot of instrumental improvisation going on. Not that I’m not a fan of that, but in this case it was mostly dull repetition. The best songs, in my mind, were Steady, As She Goes (by The Raconteurs), Whispering Sea (a Loretta Lynn cover), and especially the White Stripes’ track My Doorbell.

Down to Seven Nation Army business: of course he played it. Of course it was the last number. Of course the audience went mad. But, honestly, it should have come before. I could not tell whether he played it just because it was expected of him, or whether he actually enjoyed it. By keeping the song short, however, and sort of „overriding“ it, not paying a lot of attention to neither vocals nor guitar, the song did not turn out to be the climax of the evening.

Mixed feelings

The thing that really did impress me, however, was the things Jack White told the audience. He started his nostalgic notions by stating how no average teenager of today could tell „what makes the sound on a record“, and listed several examples of today’s trivial artists such as Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. What he did is remember everybody in the hall what music is really about, and that most of it is going in a wrong direction.

I went out of the venue with mixed emotions that night. On the one hand I struggled with my unfulfilled expectations, while on the other I felt White had really brought that sense of spirit and musical purity among the audience of what this form of art is actually and truly about. It is thus no wonder that Robert Plant has communicated the wish to record a single with him (apparently Love Me, originally by The Phantom). The two musicians really make a perfect match, ideologically as well as musically.

The thing that’s left for me to say: I do not regret having gone to this show. Just by having been part of the audience, you got the feeling that Jack White actually cherished your being there, as a part of where the real stuff happens.

Author: Robin Frank

More info / photo credits:
Jack White

Gig Review: Kaiser Franz Josef – Reign Begins Tour, 27.09.2014

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Kaiserlich abgerockt

„Wen habe ich dieses Jahr am Nova Rock Festival verpasst?“ war die Anfangsfrage in meinem Kopf, die mich am Ende zu einer neuen Anhängerin einer vielversprechenden Wiener Rockband machen sollte. Ich durchforstete also das Line Up des Nova Rock 2014 und las: Kaiser Franz Josef. Von dieser Band hatte ich schon gehört. Ich kann aber tatsächlich nicht sagen, warum mir der Name ein Begriff war.

Nachdem mir klar wurde, dass die Gruppe bereits einen Amadeus-Award gewonnen und AC/DC in Österreich supportet hat, entfuhr mir ein lautes Fluchen: Hatte ich KFJ doch tatsächlich am letzten Nova Rock verpasst, obwohl ich dort gewesen war. Nach kurzem Frust und ein paar Klicks landete ich dann allerdings auf der KFJ-Website bei Liste der bevorstehenden Gigs: Samstag, 27. September 2014, Szene Wien, 20:00 Uhr. Volltreffer!

Support: The Crispies

Ein kurzes Wort zum Support des Abends, The Crispies: einige gute Ideen, ein solider Gitarrist (bei dem auch kurz ein Bottleneck zum Einsatz kam) und ein Sänger, der scheinbar versucht, seine Nervosität in exzentrische Bewegungen zu verpacken, die aber durchaus was für sich haben! Beim Auftritt  dieser Band kamen einige interessante Gesangselemente wie Seufzen und Stöhnen durch (z.B. bei I’ll Love), leider wurden diese guten Ideen aber durch zu viele Wiederholungen abgeschwächt. Das betrifft auch die Lyrics. Eine Assoziation für mich war Jack White – hier kann man bescheidene Ansätze stimmlicher Parallelen erahnen. Diese kreative Linie, bei der sich die Band selbst ausprobiert und experimentiert, ist ziemlich aufregend – weiter so!

Schau ma mal, was da rauskommt

Um niemanden mehr auf die Folter zu spannen: das Konzert war fantastisch. Es hat alles gepasst – die Band war pünktlich, legte gleich energiegeladen los und brauchte nicht lange, um das Publikum mitzureißen, die Halle war voll. Neben den bereits bekannten Songs ihres Debütalbums Reign Begins wie beispielsweise Found My Way, How Much Is A Mile oder dem in meinen Augen großartigen Seasons gab es im letzten Drittel des Gigs zwei Überraschungen:

Zum Einen kündigte Frontmann Hesham Abdelsalam in Schaumamalwasdarauskommt-Manier ein Cover an. Als die ersten Töne des Intros von Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love gespielt wurden, wurde ich kritisch. Man muss sich ja nicht immer gleich übernehmen, dachte ich, und meine Euphorie ließ ein gutes Stück nach… Allerdings nur, um Sekunden später einen neuen Höhepunkt zu erreichen. Die „Kaiser“ sind sogar einer der meistgefeierten Led Zeppelin-Nummern gerecht geworden! Selbst wenn ich von KFJ beeindruckt war: Das hätte ich ihnen dann doch nicht zugetraut.

Ab da konnte ich mir aber sicher sein: Als Sänger und Gitarrist weiß nicht nur Sham, was er tut. Tom Pfundners Beats waren präzise gespielt, und nicht nur bei diesem Song hat er richtig reingehauen! Die Jungs setzen sich offensichtlich penibel mit ihrem Material auseinander.

„Endlosschleife, bitte!“

Die zweite Überraschung war ein Acoustic-Song, der nicht auf dem erwähnten Album erscheint. Offenbar trägt er den Namen Release Me und ist Teil des neuen Albums, an dem momentan noch gearbeitet wird. Der ruhige Song kam extrem gut in der Menge an und wurde mit Ausrufen wie „Endlosschleife bitte!“ gepriesen.

Es ist sehr erfrischend eine Band zu sehen, die sich mehrerer Stilfacetten bedient und diese gut umsetzt. Man wird bei Kaiser Franz Josef hellstimmige, schnelle Rocksongs finden, die mit gekonnten Schreien versetzt werden, als auch balladenartige Songs, bei denen einzelne, lang gehaltene Töne Volumen bringen und für Gänsehaut sorgen.

Reign Begins habe ich mir anschließend beim Merch geholt. Und obwohl die Qualität der Aufnahmen sehr gut ist: Live überzeugt die Band mehr. Das kommt nicht oft vor, kann aber ein entschiedener Vorteil sein, wenn man sich dessen bewusst ist. Bei dem Konzert erreichte Shams Gesang kräftige Tiefen, auf dem Albummix flacht die Stimme dagegen oft ab.

Der Abend in der Szene war jedenfalls ein Highlight. Die drei „Kaiser“ wissen genau, wie man das Publikum zu sich ins Boot holt, die Kommunikation hat durchwegs gepasst. Hier hat vor allem auch der energetische Bassist Can Aygün für einiges an Stimmung gesorgt. Um es mit den Worten des tatsächlichen Franz Josef zu sagen: „Diese neue Erfindung hat mich sehr interessiert und ich danke für die Vorführung derselben.“

Autorin: Robin Frank

Mehr Info / Photo Credits:
Kaiser Franz Josef