Angel Vivaldi/The Studio at Webster Hall/August 31, 2016
Growing up in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Angel Vivaldi was inspired to teach himself guitar at age 15 after listening to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. He played in bands from 1999 to 2000 before launching his own solo project in 2003. His 2008 debut album, Revelations, caught the attention of vocalist Max Illidge, formerly of popular Jersey-based band 40 Below Summer. Illidge and Vivaldi led a new melodic metal band called Black Market Hero. Vivaldi performed live in With Daggers Drawn while actively in Black Market Hero during most of 2009. After two years in Black Market Hero, Vivaldi left in 2010. Occasionally he played in other bands, but in 2015, Vivaldi quit his day job and dedicated himself to his solo career. A re-recording of his 2009 EP, The Speed of Dark, was released as The Speed of Dark: Revisited on August 26, 2016. He is hoping to release his second album, Synapse, by the end of 2016.
Angel Vivaldi began a month-long Operation Domination Tour co-headlining with Gus G. at The Studio at Webster Hall. Vivaldi’s instrumental pieces were progressive poly-rhythmic, starting here and ending there, a completely different location. The music was heavy and melodic, loaded with chunky riffs and dizzying extended guitar flurries. Vivaldi’s virtuosic guitar work remained steadfast as the pivotal foundation for each composition. This was shred, tasteful with engaging arrangements while also blasting with Vivaldi’s spectacular fretwork prowess. Vivaldi’s performance demonstrated that he has all that is necessary to become the next Steve Vai.
Gus G./The Studio at Webster Hall/August 31, 2016
Konstantinos Karamitroudis (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Καραμητρούδης) was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, where his father was a part-time singer who sang Greek folk music at bars and taverns. The boy was inspired to start playing guitar after listening to his father’s classic rock album collection. At age 10, he asked his father for a guitar. His father bought him a classical guitar and the boy started to take lessons from a local music school. He received his first electric guitar at age 14 and took lessons from a rock guitar teacher. At age 18, he relocated to the United States in search of a music career, renamed himself Gus G., recorded nine studio albums with his band Firewind, and played in Arch Enemy, Nightrage, Dream Evil, and Mystic Prophecy. His biggest break has been playing in Ozzy Osbourne’s band since 2009. With Firewind on hiatus, G. released his third solo album, Brand New Revolution, on July 22, 2015.
Sharing a headlining bill with Angel Vivaldi as their Operation Domination Tour opened at The Studio at Webster Hall, G. showcased his guitar wizardry through a set of songs that were rooted in classic hard rock structures. The set list included songs from G.’s solo albums, Firewind and even Ozzy Osbourne. With G. focused on dazzling guitar leads, James Paul Luna of Holy Grail handled vocals, ably supported by Jake Skylyr on bass and Alex Bent (ex-Battlecross, Testament) on drums. As the rhythm section provided a speedy crashing backbone, G. ripped into mighty, melodic guitar dynamics. The set ended with a meeting of the masters, as G. invited Vivaldi on stage and the two guitarists showcased extended solos. There was plenty of awe there for both the headbangers and the guitar students in the venue.
The English Beat/City Winery/September 2, 2016
During a period of high unemployment and social upheaval in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, Madness, The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat started a revival of Jamaican ska music and had audiences dancing to positive vibrations. The Beat was founded in 1978 in Birmingham, England. In North America, the band was renamed The English Beat because an American band already took the name of The Beat. The English Beat’s music fused ska, pop, soul, reggae and punk rock on three albums in the early 1980s. After the breakup of The Beat in 1983, the band’s two vocalists, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, performed in General Public from 1984 to 1987 and again briefly in the mid-1990s. In 2004, the VH1 show Bands Reunited tried unsuccessfully to reunite the Beat’s original lineup. Wakeling and Roger later formed separate bands playing their old catalogue. Wakeling is touring with The English Beat mostly in America while Roger is leading The Beat in the United Kingdom. Wakeling’s band is expected to release Here We Go Love, an album of new compositions, in 2017.
The English Beat that headlined two nights at City Winery consisted of Wakeling on lead vocals and guitar, with vocalist King Schascha, keyboardists Kevin Lum and Minh Quan, saxophonist Matt Morrish, bassist Brad Engstrom, and drummer Nucci Cantrell. Trinidad-born Schascha, who was moonlighting from his solo career to be in The English Beat, was particularly show-worthy with his speedy toasting and high-stepping on the small City Winery stage. As expected, the set rocked with favorites including “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Hands Off, She’s Mine” and “Tears of a Clown,” a cover version of the hit by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, as well as General Public’s reggae remake of The Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.” Working as a unit, the septet became a party band, and even though the chairs at City Winery were pressed rather tightly together, dozens of audience members were inspired to create space for dancing to the Beat.
The Low Anthem/City Winery/September 3, 2016
Vocalist/guitarist Ben Knox Miller and drummer Jeff Prystowsky met while DJing an overnight jazz show on a local university radio station in Providence, Rhode Island. They became friends and teammates for a local baseball team. Miller and Prystowsky played together in classical, jazz and electronica ensembles before formed the indie folk band Low Anthem in 2006. The Low Anthem released its fifth studio album, Eyeland, on June 17, 2016. The band currently consists of Miller, Prystowsky, guitarist Bryan Minto and violinist/vocalist Florence Wallis.
Once a folkier band, The Low Anthem at City Winery gravitated to more experimental and electronic soundscapes, many improvised spontaneously. Soft and broody ambient sounds wrapped around Miller’s pillow-talk vocals for most of the performance. A few songs crashed like thunder in a storm, but the majority of the set was comprised of dreamy, whispering dalliances. The experimental nature was most evident when one composition was centered around Miller taking a violin bow to a saw. The musicians’ vision all evening was left-of-center, appealing to the most adventurous musical tastes.