Archive for February, 2013

Live Reviews – Doro – Empire – 2/3/13

Posted in Gig Reviews on February 15, 2013 by novametalreview

Also featuring “A Sound Of Thunder” and “Sister Sin”

Doro Pesch is one of a select few female rock performers with “credibility” as a singer and front-woman. While many wanna-be contemporaries of Doro resort to flagrant sexism in an attempt to attract attention (or more accurately distract from the ‘music’…), Doro doesn’t need, or appear to have any desire, to play that game. Breaking onto the metal scene back in the early 80’s with her debut album “Burning The Witches” with the band Warlock that she co-founded, Doro has continued to bring her flavor of German power metal with a consistency that shames many coming from the same era.

I think the last time I saw Doro was at the 1986 Monsters Of Rock festival, but that memory is getting vague to say the least, but I am shamed into admitting that we passed on seeing Doro last time she was in town, back in October of 2010, so this time around we were determined to make it. Not even the Superbowl was going to stop us… yep, you read that right. This gig was scheduled to conflict with the biggest sporting event in the USA. I guess you could say this was a going to be a rough night. At least you could be sure that anyone who made it out to the show was a committed fan. Fortunately the clever scheduling of local favorites “A Sound Of Thunder” as openers brought a sizable number of eager metalheads to the show, who, combined with a few for the second billed “Sister Sin” and a clutch of die-hard Doro fans, brought something like 120 people to the show (unofficial NoVAMetalReview eyeball count), which I think was a respectable turnout. While not packed, Empire certainly didn’t feel empty by any means.

So, the evening was opened by NoVAMetalReviw favorite, “A Sound of Thunder” (ASoT), and this show marked the public release of their latest recording effort, the excellent “Queen Of Hell” EP (previously reviewed). As Josh Schwartz broke into the opening riff of the title track to kick-off the evening, a stirring chant, “Hail, Queen of Hell, Hail, Queen…”, broke out within the crowd. This was the “Thunder Choir” (or at least some members of it) who took part in the recording sessions at the invite of the band, now featured on the Queen Of Hell EP and on the forthcoming “Times Arrow” full-length release. Over time this could easily become a strong signature for the band.

ASoT are now beginning to introduce new material to their set list, both from Queen Of Hell and Times Arrow, so of the seven numbers played, only two were oldies from Out Of The Darkness – the title track and their namesake “A Sound Of Thunder”. That the band is able to bring five new tracks is a testament to their prodigious songwriting output and confidence in the new material.

Of the new numbers, the opening track “Queen Of Hell” has been creeping into the set for a good while, so I really only class this as ½ new, but this is a certain keeper, with all the hallmarks of a classic. Next up we had “My Disease” which features Jesse Keen (bass) on vocal, which is a challenge when stacked up against Nina Osegueda who we already know is a vocal powerhouse. Jesse was pretty sick, so I’ll reserve judgment on this track to a later date. Skipping over oldie “Out Of The Darkness”, we next met “Reign Of The Hawklords” which pays homage to the band Hawkwind. This involves the use of a musical instrument called a “theremin”, which makes weird sci-fi noises and is classic Hawkwind, played by waving hands near the two antennas. Anyway, I like this track. This was followed by “Hello Nurse” which is a rather campy track from the EP, somewhat in the mold of “Kill That Bitch”. While I like the EP version, I’m not convinced this is a worthy replacement for “Kill That Bitch” live. For now I’ve a mental note ‘question mark’ over this song. The bands namesake track was delivered with usual precision, leaving closing duties to the somewhat obscure Black Sabbath number, “Trashed” which worked well. Overall a good night for ASoT with a score 8/10.

Next up was Sister Sin, who I have to confess I knew nothing about before the show. Yes, shame on me indeed. I don’t know why, but I had an entirely different idea of what they would sound like, and, preconceptions being what they are, I was firmly seated in the rear bar when they started their set – I might have been able to use the Superbowl as an excuse normally, except the power had failed at the stadium…

Anyway curiosity got the better eventually and, whoa there! This lot can ROCK! For those that don’t know, Sister Sin are a female fronted “classic metal’ band, who for me draw on the energy of some of the early 80’s bands, particularly Mötley Crüe from the “Too Fast For Love” and “Shout At The Devil” era. The band is due to headline The Recher Theater on March 7th (Towson, Maryland), so I will save a full review until then, however, the fact I am going to that show probably gives the game away. I will say that the two CDs purchased from the Sister Sin merch stand have been on constant play since this night. In the meantime I might just have to sneak in a review of the latest release, “Now And Forever” – it’s really excellent.

Despite all the general metal greatness that opened the evening, as soon as Sister Sin cleared the stage, a growing sense of expectation took over the crowd, with the impending arrival of The Metal Queen herself. Doro has a pretty deep catalog to dig from as far as material to pull from with 16 album releases, but I think it fair to say most folks would be expecting a set that would lean heavily on tracks from the Warlock days and they would not have been disappointed with 10 of the 18 songs being from those first 4 albums.  I snagged a setlist at the end (see pic!), but Doro switched things around a little and the correct list can be found here > http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/doro/2013/empire-nightclub-west-springfield-va-23dbe06b.html

Doro is an exceptional performer and sounded just like I have heard her previously, be it on album, video or live, but I think her strongest facet live is her very direct connection and interaction with the audience. Taken at face value, she seems genuinely grateful for the fans and determined to give 110% no matter what. At one point early during her set she mentioned that she had been feeling a little sick before the show, but I can honestly say there was no hint I could tell. However, a few days later into the tour a couple of dates had to be cancelled, so even more credit to the lady. Touring through the US in the middle of winter, it is probably impossible to avoid contact with one or two people that are sick, especially given Doro met with each and every one of the fans that stayed after the show.

Highlights of the set for me were “Burning The Witches”, “True As Steel”, “Fur Immer”, “All We Are” and “Hero”. The latter track is from the latest album and is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio and worked great in the live setting – may be better than the recorded version. Doro has a history with Dio that stretches back at least to the Triumph And Agony album from 1987, touring with Dio in Europe.

While we at it, the band Doro has surrounded herself with are no slouch, with Nick Douglas on bass having been with her for some 22 years, Johnny Dee on drums for 20 years (great drum solo incidentally during Earthshaker), Luca Princiotta on guitar and Bas Maas on lead guitar (both more recent hires). Each of them fits in well, and play the role of support to the main focus, which of course is Doro herself.

At the close of the show, following what I think was a four song encore (excellent!), a long line of hopeful fans formed for an impromptu meet’n’greet, and full credit to Doro if she didn’t make sure each and every fan got their picture taken with her and whatever memorabilia they had brought with them or purchased signed. My “True As Steel” Warlock LP cover will be framed and up on the wall before the weekend is out, along with the signed set-list. All in all an excellent night of female fronted metal, proving that women in rock can thrash it up with the best of the fellas. As if you need a score for Doro, but for completeness this was a 10/10 night – if you like her music, then it is hard to see how she could deliver a better show! Definitely recommended.

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The “Metal Queen”

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The audience was always Doro’s focus, high-fives all round

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Headed straight for the “walls of fame”

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Live Reviews – Uli Jon Roth – Sully’s Chantilly – Feb. 5th 2013

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , on February 8, 2013 by novametalreview

As soon as I learned that Uli Jon Roth (UJR from here out) was touring the USA late last year I was eagerly following the UJR website as dates were announced, and was greatly relieved/pleased to see a date within a 30 minute drive of the NoVAMetalReview homestead. However Sully’s is a new venue to me, so excuse a moment or two in the following for a quick ‘venue’ review.

Getting back on-topic, the worthy focus of this tour is to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of Uli joining the Scorpions, featuring a selection of songs from each of the five albums he recorded with the Scorps, plus a selection from his solo material. Promising to play material that in some cases hadn’t ever been heard live before, this was an opportunity to see Uli get back to his roots and for some of us “oldies” to relive some of the songs we grew up listening to.

In Uli’s own words: “2013 marks the 40th anniversary of my involvement with the SCORPIONS. The main theme of this tour will therefore be dedicated to performing my personal favourites from the five albums which I recorded with that great band. I have chosen about 30 songs in all from that era as the basis of our repertoire, several of whom have never even been performed live by either the SCORPIONS or myself. We shall be rotating a selection of these songs on the tour, varying our sets on a nightly basis, because we cannot possibly play all of them in one go.”

So, firstly a word on Sully’s…. I tried on multiple occasions to buy tickets ahead of time but this is not possible via their (pathetic) website and after driving there twice in the normal work day only to find them closed I wasn’t overwhelmed. Add to this that their phone just rings and rings until eventually giving you a “memory full” message. Well, overall the impression isn’t a good one. This isn’t improved on when you do get inside. We decided to eat at a nearby Mexican (very good and right next door), but I nipped out to get our ‘tickets’ in case the place sold out, and paid the $50 for our two tickets, except there were no tickets. Huh? The doorman said he would “remember me”! Come on fella’s, this isn’t confidence inspiring. At least give the chap a Sharpie or some of those wrist strap tie things.

As for the rest of Sully’s – well the nicest thing I can say is to quote a friend: “I think they are a potential candidate for the “Bar Rescue” TV show….” – indeed!!! The stage is minimal being raised about 6 inches off the floor at most. However there is a decent looking PA and enough lighting to look effective. The main area in front of the stage is populated by tables and chairs, so it was fairly clear that this was not a “stand at the front and mosh” sort of venue. In some ways this was welcome, as much of UJR’s music is perhaps better appreciated in a less frantic setting. The only other thing I will say about the venue is throughout the show the waitress was endlessly going to and fro delivering food and drinks to the tables, which to be honest got pretty distracting. (As a venue I’m going a anoint them with a score 4/10… there is a lot of potential, but currently there’s a lot more lacking or needing straightening out).

Venue notwithstanding, anticipation grew as activity started on stage, but wait a minute who is this young lad climbing on stage. Surely someone’s son brought to see the show? Huh? He seems to have a Les Paul strapped to his body? We’ll come back to this… because here’s Uli… And the journey began. Looking not more than a few days older than I remember him from the last time I saw him back in 1984 (UK, Leeds University), clutching a Dean Sky Guitar, UJR took us on a musical ride that is a rare thing these days – not a “smash your brains from your skull” assault, but something much closer to a spiritual connection with the ether; something that your soul can feed on. Rarely do I waffle on with such a ‘hippy’ vibe, but there were moments throughout the night where I completely forgot about the rest of the room, forgot about any distractions and just soaked up the stunning guitar playing being delivered with such fluid ease. Uli has such technique and touch that it doesn’t matter whether he has full on overdrive or the volume wound almost off on his guitar, it just speaks to you. If you asked the average rock music fan to list their top 10 guitarists, I suspect Uli might be overlooked by most, but that is a travesty. Those of you who are fans of Uli already understand what I mean and equally, any that have seen UJR on this tour will get it – this man is completely in control of his instrument.

It would be totally unfair to overlook the rest of the band performing with Uli, and I think it fair to say they were all exceptional. On vocals we had Henning Basse, who was a new face to me, previously with Metalium, a Power Metal band from Germany and I believe currently Sons Of Seasons who are a Symphonic Rock band. Henning sang the majority of the songs and did a great job. Uli handled a few songs on vocal himself. On bass guitar was Elliott Rubinson who I recognized from recent tours with Michael Schenker. Handing the keyboards was Paul Rahme who also did an exceptionally good job on backing vocals. On drums we were treated to Peter Holmes, who is perhaps better known as the drummer of Black’N’Blue, and did another solid job here.

Finally we have the young lad I referred to in the earlier paragraph on second guitar… so, intrigued by what I was seeing in front of me, I had to dig out the iPhone and do a little internet searching during the show (something I rarely do). The young man’s name is Ali Clinton and damn it, if he isn’t just 16 years old!!! Here he is basically keeping up with one of the world’s best guitarists. Awesome job. This young chap is from the UK, somewhere up north (I forget exactly where – perhaps it was just outside Liverpool). I spoke to him after the show and a nicer young man you’d be hard pushed to find I’d venture. What an amazing experience for him – and he was genuinely stunningly good, handling some seriously complex harmony guitar parts with apparent ease. Well done indeed!

As for the set – I didn’t even try to keep a full track listing but a sampling of what we were given included: All Night Long, Longing for Fire, Crying Days, Robot Man (!), In Trance, Catch Your Train, Dark Lady, Life’s Like A River, Drifting Sun, Yellow Raven, Sails Of Charon and All Along The Watchtower/Little Wing/Purple Haze. In total the set time ran near to 2.5 hours which still felt like it could have gone on longer easily.

Normally I close my reviews with a score, intended as a guide to help someone figure whether this is a band/artist worth going to see… if anyone passes on seeing UJR they need their head examined would really be my opinion.  My score is a straight 10/10.

Photo by: M.Waterman

Uli gives the wammy bar a work out

Photo by: M.Waterman

Classic Uli in the moment

Photo by: M.Waterman

This the young Ali Clinton – showing us that old tricks still live on…