Lyle Lovett/Damrosch Park/August 9, 2015

Lyle Lovett was raised on his family’s horse ranch in Klein, Texas, a small Houston suburb named after his grandfather. While in college, Lovett started writing his own music and performing in coffee houses. After recording his self-titled debut country music album in 1986, he began experimenting further in jazz, swing, blues, gospel, folk and pop within the country framework. He frequented landed roles on television and in movies, and is perhaps best known for eloping with Julia Roberts in 1993 after they met on a movie set; they divorced two years later. Lovett has recorded 11 albums, the most recent, Release Me, in 2012; he has won four Grammy Awards.

A free performance at Damrosch Park as part of Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors began with Lovett’s band on stage and his backup singer, Francine Reed, starting the opening song strolling slowly through the audience. Lovett’s set opened and closed with accompaniment from His Large Band, a 15-piece ensemble that helped Lovett deliver swing, jazz and blues songs. The middle half of the two and a half hour set featured a reduced lineup (usually no horns, less percussion and no Reed) playing folk, country, bluegrass and gospel. That Lovett was able to lead all these genres convincingly was a masterful feat in itself. Lovett’s singing highlighted an aching, yearning quality that was ripe for his blues and country songs of love and heartbreak; other lyrics revealed Lovett’s wry wit. He was a generous bandleader, turning many of his songs into jams where every musician’s talents were elevated. Beyond the sincerity and charm of his musical performance, Lovett’s pleasing demeanor was casual, relaxed and chatty, inviting his audience into a cozy ambience. The result was a modern and eclectic performance spanning the various subgenres of Americana, executed with smarts, class and expert technique.


Needtobreathe/Terminal 5/August 10, 2015

William “Bear” Rinehart III and Nathaniel “Bo” Rinehart were raised in Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, and later moved to Seneca, where as teenagers the brothers began playing music together in church. They later performed publicly in coffee houses at Furman University, where Bear was a star wide receiver. In 1999, Needtobreathe took shape as a heartland rock band playing an ever-widening tour circuit. Initially releasing their music independently, the band now has five major-label albums. Live From The Woods At Fontanel is the band’s first live album, released on April 14, 2015. Currently based in Charleston, Needtobreathe (stylized as NEEDTOBREATHE) is Bear Rinehart (lead vocals, guitar), Bo Rinehart (backing vocals, guitar), Seth Bolt (backing vocals, bass) and Josh Lovelace (backing vocals, keyboards), although additional musicians are used in live performances.

Headlining at Terminal 5, Needtobreathe emphasized the heart in the term heartland. Bear sang with a rich, emotive voice that beckoned audience response. Wrapped around well-written and meaningful lyrics, his distinctive voice felt warm, homey and personal. Softer songs weaved between harder blues and country-inflected rockers, all delivered with an honest small-town integrity. Bo played guitar for most of the performance, but when he strapped on a banjo, the band’s Southern calling became more than evident. Likewise, when Bear shouted soulfully, it recalled the brothers’ roots in their dad’s Pentecostal church. Needtobreathe specialized in rocking music that first moved the soul and then the hips.


Philm/Mercury Lounge/August 10, 2015

When he was two years old, Cuban-born David “Dave” Lombardo immigrated with his family to South Gate, California, and was playing bongos by age 8. Shortly thereafter he played marching drum for his school band. By age 10, he had his first drum kit. At age 16, he met guitarist Kerry King, and after recruiting other musicians, thrash metal band Slayer was born in 1981. Lombardo recorded seven albums with Slayer (although he quit the band three times, most recently in 2013) and has worked other projects and genres, including classical music and television soundtracks. His most recent project is Philm, a Los Angeles-based progressive rock trio formed in 2009 with guitarist Gerry Nestler and bassist Francisco “Pancho” Tomaselli. Philm’s second album, Fire From The Evening Sun, was released on September 12, 2014.

At the Mercury Lounge, Philm was a showcase for three musical architects. Left to right, Nestler, Lombardo and Tomaselli were positioned across the front edge of the stage. They spoke little even to each other; the music was the telepathic message. From the start, the polyrhythmic songs twisted and bent in nonconforming and unpredictable turns, not necessarily returning to where the songs began. Pushing past all musical boundaries, was this experimental metal, was it extreme jazz, or was it cacophonic noise? The instrumental breaks dominated the set, and were a labyrinth. Nestler muttered and growled as he played anarchic guitar leads, and Tomaselli intoned a deep, thick bass bottom. Lombardo shone as the fearless master, however, playing perhaps the most innovative and inventive drum patterns of his career on a relatively small kit. Monstrously aggressive and intense, yet shadowy, abstract and perplexing, Philm played some of the most complex progressive music to bleed the ears of heavy music fans.


Coal Chamber/Irving Plaza/August 11, 2015

Vocalist Bradley “Dez” Fafara and guitarist Miguel “Meegs” Rascón in 1993 formed the hard-rocking Coal Chamber, recording three well-received albums before disbanding in 2003. Fafara went on to lead Devildriver for six albums and also sang on movie soundtracks, while the other members tried unsuccessful music paths. Coal Chamber reunited in 2011 and presently consists of the familiar lineup of Fafara, Rascón, bassist Nadja Peulen and drummer Mike Cox. Coal Chamber’s fourth studio album, Rivals, was released on May 19, 2015, and is the band’s first studio album in 13 years.

Headlining at Irving Plaza, Coal Chamber appeared on the dark stage to the sound of eerie sound effects. Once the four members were in position, Fafara greeted the audience, Cox started a hard drum beat, blinding strobe lights flashed into the audience from behind the band, a fast moving video image displayed on a large screen behind Cox, and the band was on its way to launching the set with the industrial rock sound of its oldest hit, “Loco.” The band followed quickly with the heavy thudding “Big Truck.” Starting with two older songs meant the old band was back, but then the blistering new track “I.O.U. Nothing” indicated that the band also came with a present and a promising future as well. Fafara’s harsh growl and lion-like roar, along with Rascón’s coarse and crunching guitar tones, crossed between brutal nu metal and industrial goth. The songs worked gritty headbanging grooves so fluidly that song endings seemed abrupt. The band commanded visual attention as well: the heavily tattooed, face-painted and nose-ringed singer worked the audience while howling into a vintage-looking microphone (and a digitally-lit megaphone on “Rowboat”), the mascaraed guitarist played to the edge of the stage, the bassist in the sexy dress spun around in circles with her long red hair leading the way, and the muscled, bare-chested drummer often played standing up. Coal Chamber closed with a rousing version of its anthemic “Sway.” Coal Chamber’s raw performance was much more dynamic than the band’s more polished recordings, so hopefully the band will remain together for a while and live out its potential.

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