Ricky Byrd/The Bowery Electric/October 2, 2014
Ricky Byrd is the Bronx-born, Queens-bred guitarist who played in Joan Jett & The Blackhearts from 1981 to 1991 (including the iconic riff in 1982’s “I Love Rock & Roll”). That Ricky Byrd also recorded and toured with Roger Daltrey and Ian Hunter and released a solo album, Lifer, in 2013. In the past year, Ricky Byrd performed as a singer-songwriter at The Bowery Electric, The Bitter End and B.B. King Blues Club & Grill with simply a microphone and an acoustic guitar. Byrd now returned to The Bowery Electric with a rhythm section and demonstrated that he is also a fine blues singer and electric guitarist. Byrd’s musical influences were 1970s British blues-rock bands and maybe this was a throwback Thursday, because his set featured many old-time blues covers. He sang well from the gut and played impressive chops that probably would not have worked in Jett’s band. Byrd still loves rock and roll, but now with some deep American roots.
Rival Sons/Irving Plaza/October 3, 2014
Black Summer Crush split up when vocalist Thomas Flowers rejoined his previous band, Oleander. Guitarist Scott Holliday was ready to continue the band with his bassist, Robin Everhart, and drummer, Mike Miley. Miley had played briefly with vocalist Jay Buchanan earlier. With a skeptical vocalist recruited, the revamped hard rock band was renamed Rival Sons in 2009 and quickly self-released its debut album. Everhart left the band in 2013 and was replaced by Dave Beste. At Irving Plaza, Rival Sons played a blues-rock sound that was common circa 1972 but is rare today. Buchanan belted soulfully in a voice that sounded uncannily like Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company, and Holliday’s chunky guitar leads recalled Deep Purple, Blackmore’s Rainbow and Dio. Opening with a heavy guitar riff, “Electric Man” from the new album was the start of a vintage-sounding hard rock set highlighting important keys to rock and roll mastery—loud, bluesy guitar virtuosity and soulful singing matched with memorable songs. Rival Sons filled a void in hard rock music that has been missing since 1979.
Alex June/The Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village/October 6, 2014
Alejandra Felmer, better known by her stage name Alex June, is a French-born and Chilean-raised musician who relocated to Paris in 2007 to study fine art and start a career as a draftswoman. She also enjoyed playing in a band until her two bandmates returned to Chile. She then gravitated to creating a solo electro-pop project. At the Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village, June teamed with another synthesizer player and presented a few original songs in a 20-minute wash of dreamy synthpop music. Soft, minimalistic and pulsating, the set was more art house or indie than dance-club groove. With shoegaze music becoming increasingly popular in the United States, the French musician may find an American audience.
Camilla Sparksss/The Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village/October 6, 2014
Barbara Lehnhoff lived her early life on Native American reserves along the Great Lakes in northwestern Ontario, Canada. Finding her path in life, she moved to Switzerland, studied economy and graphic design, and became a filmmaker. She began playing electronic music, writing songs and singing, and by 2012 had developed an avant garde art pop experiment called Camilla Sparksss. Camilla Sparksss is more than an electronic art pop music project, however; Lehnhoff is a performance artist. In an abbreviated set in the Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village, Lehnhoff played throbbing dance beats and thick synthesizer runs while she abrasively shouted and screamed her lyrics. There were hints of mystery and horror in her performance. A young woman danced at her side. In her final number, Lehnhoff began whispering into the microphone, set her synthesizer on loop and walked stalkingly through the audience shouting vulgarities. The song ended with Lehnhoff and her dancer both wrestling and caressing on the floor. Camilla Sparksss’ 20-minute set was odd and captivating.
Limp Bizkit/Best Buy Theater/October 8, 2014
While growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Fred Durst was interested in breakdancing, hip-hop, punk rock and heavy metal. He began to rap, skate, beatbox and deejay. He formed Limp Bizkit in 1994, selling 40 million records worldwide. At the Best Buy Theater, the band members launched into “Why Try” with the appropriate opening lyric, “Oh no, guess who’s back.” Durst announced toward the end of the song that he was going to kick it old school and “we’re going to party like it’s 1999,” adding that they were going “retro.” He asked the fans to put away their cell phones, and he and bassist Sam Rivers repeatedly doused water on all those near the stage who were photographing. The band then performed Ministry’s “Thieves,” a cover song rumored to be on Limp Bizkit’s forthcoming album. This led to “Rollin’,” “My Way,” “Rearrange,” “My Generation” and a cover of George Michael’s “Faith,” among other songs (no “Nookie,” however). Limp Bizkit surprised many fans with a “Master Of Puppets” jam and covers of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle” (Durst claimed Axl Rose was in the audience). During “Eat You Alive,” Durst walked through the audience. The musicians played like a rock band, but mostly due to Durst’s vocals, the Limp Bizkit show was more hip-hop than metal. Closing with “Break Stuff,” Durst waved to the fans, singing an extended a cappella chorus of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” before walking off the stage. Maybe that lyric was a fitting closing statement from the 20-year-old band.
Jessie J/Gramercy Theatre/October 9, 2014
Jessica Cornish was born in London, England, and at the age of four, she was in ballet classes, followed by modern and jazz dance and then acting classes. By age 10, she was in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End production of Whistle Down The Wind, then appeared in a 2002 production of The Late Sleepers. In 2003, at age 15, she won Best Pop Singer in the TV show Britain’s Brilliant Prodigies, and realized that might be in music, not theater. As Jessie J, she became the first woman to score six Top Ten singles from one album in Great Britain. Headlining a sold-out album-release concert at the Gramercy Theatre, Jessie J exhibited a fair amount of skin and, more importantly, soulful vocals and an extended vocal range backed by rhythm & blues, pop, electro-pop, and hip-hop beats. She opened with “Sexy Lady” and her biggest American hit, “Domino,” before covering DJ Cassidy’s “Calling All Hearts.” She often sang a single syllable of lyric and cascaded it through several different notes. By the end of the night, closing with the anti-materialistic “Price Tag” and the pop hit “Bang Bang,” there was no new ground covered but one could say “Wow, what a voice!”