TesseracT/Irving Plaza/December 7, 2015
In 2003, guitarist Alec “Acle” Kahney began posting clips of his technical guitar leads on online forums and the feedback helped him improve his technique. He formed progressive metal band TesseracT in 2007 in Milton Keynes, England. Due to Kahney’s heavy guitar style, TesseracT became one of the pioneers of the djent movement in progressive metal. TesseracT presently consists of Kahney on lead guitar, vocalist Daniel Tompkins, rhythm guitarist James ‘Metal’ Monteith, bassist Amos Williams and drummer Jay Postones. TesseracT’s third and most recent studio album, Polaris, was released on September 18, 2015.
TesseracT concluded its North American tour with a headlining show at Irving Plaza. Daniel Tompkins, who was TesseracT’s vocalist from 2009 to 2011, returned to the band in 2014, and the reunion proved a fine match. Tompkins’ clean vocals frequently soared like a melodic power metal anthem with an emphasis on long, drawn out notes, but when the music transitioned to gritty, he brought back the harsh growl that had been missing from TesseracT in recent years. While Tompkins was the main focal point, Kahney’s djent guitar technique was coarse and gave the band its guts. Polyrhythmic riffs and odd time signatures gave the band its progressive credentials, but expansive atmospheric interludes quieted the swirling music with ambient layers that contrasted the djent. TesseracT combined technical, progressive metal with a crooning vocal style and cranking, headbanging djent for interesting results.
Panic! At The Disco/Basketball City/December 10, 2015
Four high school friends formed Panic! At The Disco in 2004 in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, Nevada. While the musicians were still in school, Panic! At The Disco began posting original songs online, and the band was discovered by Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. Two original Panic! members left shortly after the band began recording and touring, and a third member left in 2014, leaving vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie to continue Panic! At The Disco with hired musicians. Panic! At The Disco’s fifth album, Death Of A Bachelor, is scheduled for release on January 15, 2016.
Panic! At The Disco opened for Fall Out Boy at the Pandora Holiday free concert at Pier 36 Basketball City. The performance was centered on Urie’s range of vocals and animated stage presence, with Urie charging forth and the musicians supplementing Urie’s direction. Hook lines abounded, and Urie frequently left his station by his sequencers to work the crowd. The majority of the set sounded like 1980s new wave dance-pop, with faster songs approaching a rocking peak. The set leaned more on newer albums, including the singles from the forthcoming album, but all five albums were represented. The curious addition was a fairly faithful cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Panic! At The Disco presented a few curves and twists in the musical arrangements, but overall the performance was drenched in sparkling, bouncy, commercial fare.
Fall Out Boy/Basketball City/December 10, 2015
Several musicians in Chicago’s hardcore punk rock scene sought a pop punk side project and formed Fall Out Boy in 2001 in suburban Wilmette, Illinois. They took the name Fall Out Boy from the fictional character in The Simpsons and Bongo Comics. Success came rather quickly, with the band at the forefront of the “emo pop” movement in the mid-2000s. After selling millions of records, Fall Out Boy took a hiatus in 2009 and reunited in 2013. Fall Out Boy presently consists of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Patrick Stump, lead guitarist Joe Trohman, bassist Pete Wentz and drummer Andy Hurley. Fall Out Boy’s sixth studio album, American Beauty/American Psycho, was released on January 20, 2015. Fall Out Boy also released a remix version of that album, Make America Psycho Again, featuring several rappers, on October 30, 2015.
Headlining the Pandora Holiday concert at Pier 36 Basketball City, Fall Out Boy performed a high energy pop rock set whose unfettered intensity was the only element that hearkened to the band’s punk roots. Otherwise, the songs were rich with agreeable melodies and infectious hook lines. The audience responded heartily to the string of hits, with Stump engaging the fans to sing the chorus of “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” and other songs. As Fall Out Boy performed “Immortals,” scenes from Big Hero 6, the animated film that featured the song, were projected behind the band. Along with the originals, Fall Out Boy covered Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and “Uma Thurman” included the melody line from the theme to The Munsters. The dizzying pace of the stage lighting matched the frenetic all-out rocking performance. Fall Out Boy excelled as a pop emo band and kept its young fans happy.
The Ludlow Thieves/The Marlin Room At Webster Hall/December 11, 2015
New York-based guitarist Dan Teicher recorded a few original songs but was disappointed with his own vocals. He sought someone with a unique voice. He met Danny Musengo, who had relocated from Guttenberg, Iowa. Musengo had recently been the sole survivor of an automobile accident that claimed seven lives, and was seeking peace and purpose through music. After trial and error, The Ludlow Thieves by 2012 became a sextet featuring Teicher, vocalists Musengo and Laura Martin, violinist Amanda Lo, keyboardist Isamu McGregor, and drummer Bruno Esrubilsky. The Ludlow Thieves’ third EP, Sing Me Back, became available on December 18, 2015.
The Ludlow Thieves headlined The Marlin Room At Webster Hall. Drawing from alt-folk, pop and a dash of gospel, The Ludlow Thieves opened a window to a fresh breeze of sunny sounds. Musengo often sang extended notes like Marty Balin, and with Martin singing along, the dual counterpoints recalled Jefferson Airplane. Teicher’s jangly guitar work gave gravity to the structures and Lo’s chamber violin ignited an earthy chime to many songs. Perhaps The Ludlow Thieves’ cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” was a nod to classic rock influences, but Teicher’s songs and the Musengo-Martin vocal delivery impressively towered over any need for resonating tunes of the past. The Ludlow Thieves is an experiment in progress, but tonight’s performance proved that the band’s diverse components are very close to merging into a unified heartland heartbeat.
Sting/Carnegie Hall/December 14, 2015
Gordon Sumner was born in Wallsend, England, and played bass in Newcastle’s jazz bands. A fellow jazz musician thought he looked like a bee in his black and yellow sweater with hooped stripes and nicknamed him Sting. Drummer Stewart Copeland persuaded Sting to leave his teaching job in 1977 and relocate to London where together they would form The Police. The Police became one of the world’s most popular rock acts until its demise in 1983, and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2003. Solo and with The Police combined, Sting has won 16 Grammy Awards and has sold over 100 million records. Sting’s 11th and most recent solo album, The Last Ship, was released in 2013.
Although Sting has performed in more than 20 multi-artist benefit concerts at Carnegie Hall, tonight’s benefit was the first time he ever performed alone on the bill. For “An Evening with Sting: Symphonicities,” Sting was backed by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, under the musical direction of conductor/musical arranger Rob Mathes. Sting began his set aptly with “Englishman In New York,” with the enthusiastic audience singing along to the lyric, “Be yourself, no matter what they say.” “I sincerely hope that THIS Englishman in New York has earned a place here,” he said, revering Carnegie Hall for being a “hallowed, sacred venue.” Sting’s unique vocals carried the set, which included solo and Police songs and a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” with Chris Botti on trumpet. Hearing Sting backed by an orchestra was majestic, even though the orchestral backing softened the catalogue so that often it seemed like Sting was singing all standards. The audience responded especially favorably to The Police songs: “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” which Sting dedicated to his departing manager of 38 years; “Roxanne”; “King Of Pain”; “Every Breath You Take”; and a final encore of “Message In A Bottle,” which he played solo on acoustic guitar. The personable singer also shared amusing anecdotes about his life and his songs between most songs. The concert may have been among Sting’s finest moments, and also raised over $2 million for music education programs at Carnegie Hall.