Trinity/B.B. King Blues Club & Grill/November 27, 2016
Trinity is a trio of heavy metal singers. Geoff Tate was in Queensrÿche during its glory years, Tim “Ripper” Owens replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest from 1996 to 2002, and Blaze Bayley replaced Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden from 1994 to 1999. Tate’s current band, Operation: Mindcrime, was recording an album and Tate invited Owens and Bayley to sing on a song, “Taking on the World.” The three were shooting a video for the song in Tate’s hometown of Monroe, Washington. What was at that time planned to be the beginning of an Operation: Mindcrime tour turned into Trinity, a 10-night Northeast tour where the three vocalists would sing pivotal songs from their careers backed by Operation: Mindcrime.
The brief tour closed with a headlining engagement at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. The nearly two-hour concert began with the three vocalists singing together on the song that brought them together, “Taking on the World,” from Resurrection, the second album in a concept trilogy from Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime project. For the bulk of the show, however, the vocalists rotated time on the stage without the others. Tate sang two Queensrÿche songs, Bayley sang two Maiden songs, Owens sang his namesake Priest song, “The Ripper” and then a song from his more recent band, Beyond Fear. The three vocalists then rotated again for three songs apiece before the three reunited onstage together for a cover of Maiden’s “Wrathchild” and later, a finale encore of Priest’s “Living after Midnight.” The band did much of the heavy lifting, providing strong backup to the three vocalists, who also performed to their strengths. In the end, however, just as Owens began his music career in a Priest tribute band, no one attempted to break new ground beyond the opening song but instead made for a unique retrospectives band.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra/Hard Rock Cafe/November 29, 2016
Brian Setzer was born and raised in Massapequa, New York, and by 1979, had formed a rockabilly trio called The Tomcats that played locally but achieved little success. A year later, the trio changed its name to The Stray Cats, relocated to England, and had significant success that spilled back to the United States in 1982. The Stray Cats separated in 1984, but reunited briefly several times to record albums and mount tours. Meanwhile, Setzer became the lead guitarist for the touring version of Robert Plant’s band, The Honeydrippers, in 1985 and 1986, until Setzer launched a solo career. In 1990, however, Setzer once again resurrected an older and nearly forgotten form of American music, jump music, when he formed a swing revival band, the 17-member Brian Setzer Orchestra, the first ever big band to be led by guitar. Setzer’s efforts have sold 13 million records and The Brian Setzer Orchestra has won three Grammy Awards. Setzer was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2015, but he now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra brought its “Christmas Rocks!” tour to the Hard Rock Café for an invitation-only concert for SiriusXM listeners. On a stage with two Christmas trees, gift-wrapped boxes and many lights, Setzer’s 19-piece orchestra performed rockabilly, swing, jive, boogie woogie, jazz and Christmas songs for nearly two hours. Initially wearing a leopard-print shirt and shoes and slinging a leopard-print guitar, Setzer played before 13 horns (four trumpets, four trombones and five saxophones), a piano, upright bass, drums and two backing vocalists. The band played tightly and smoothly, with Setzer allowing the musicians opportunities for solos before concluding with crisp endings. Setzer’s original tunes intermingled with traditional fare, all given innovative, classy arrangements. Midway through the set, the horns took a break and Setzer performed several songs in stripped-down form, including a solo version of “The Christmas Song.” Although less than half the songs were Christmas fare, Setzer rang up the holiday hoopla for the end of the set. Setzer and the orchestra performed a brief but danceable rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite.” The closing swing version of “Jingle Bells” included Santa Claus throwing candy canes into the audience and then two cannons showering “snow” confetti over the dance floor. The festive extras enhanced the fine performance for an evening of holiday joy.
Dinosaur, Jr./Irving Plaza/November 30, 2016
While in high school in western Massachusetts in 1982, J Mascis and Lou Barlow played drums and guitar respectively in the hardcore punk band Deep Wound, but the band split in 1984. Mascis then enlisted Barlow, Deep Wound’s vocalist and drummer Emmett “Murph” Murphy into an “ear-bleeding country” band called Mogo. After one concert, Mascis disbanded the group and a few days later invited Barlow and Murph to form a new trio, Dinosaur, with Mascis on guitar and vocals, Barlow on bass and vocals, and Murph on drums. Later renamed Dinosaur Jr., the trio succeeded in the alternative rock world but disbanded in 1997. The original lineup reformed in 2005, and the band’s 11th and most recent album, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, was released on August 5, 2016.
On the first of two headlining nights at Irving Plaza, Dinosaur Jr. was a cross between a classic power trio rock band and a noisy jam band. Mascis’ trademark guitar sound was loud, fast, fluid and bordering distortion for most of the set. The rhythm section powered the songs recklessly behind him like the Who, usually providing fireworks rather than nuance. As usual, Mascis’ drawling, melodic, country-flavored vocals stood in contrast to the unleashed chaos surrounding them. Mascis’ extended guitar jams remained forefront, mystically commanding attention through inventive, squalling leads and effects-laden dissonance. Furthering the level of crash and burn, Dinosaur Jr. invited former Negative Approach frontman John Brannon to scream throughout “Don’t.” (Brannon’s new band, Easy Action, opened the concert.) Yes, there is such a thing as good noise.
Low Cut Connie/Bowery Ballroom/December 2, 2016
Adam Weiner is from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, but he paid his professional dues in New York City playing piano in gay bars, karaoke bars, restaurants and ballet classes, often under the name Ladyfingers. He began collaborating with other musicians in 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The rock and roll project eventually was named Low Cut Connie, reportedly referencing a post-middle aged waitress who often wore low-cut tops at a restaurant near where Weiner lived. Low Cut Connie’s third album, Hi Honey, was released April 21, 2015; a fourth album will be released in early 2017. Low Cut Connie presently consists of vocalist/pianist Weiner, guitarists James Everhart and Will Donnelly, bassist Lucas Rinz and drummer Larry Scotton.
Returning to the Bowery Ballroom after headlining there just seven months ago, Weiner was even more ostentatious in his presentation. “Are you guys here, are you guys ready to get weird, are you guys ready to make a baby tonight?” Weiner asked the audience. Low Cut Connie opened with a fearless rocker, “Back in School,” then launched into “Boozophilia,” a song about people who love to drink in dive bars; that song achieved stardom when it was included on President Obama’s summer playlist. The piano-led barroom rockers maintained a feverish pace throughout the set. Lyrics were humorously decadent in “Pity Party,” “Scoliosis in Secaucus,” and “Rio,” but probably reached maximum silliness in “Shake It Little Tina,” a song about a man who dresses up like Tina Turner on the weekends. The band also introduced three songs from a forthcoming album. The set also included a reworked piano-led version of the Misfits’ “Where Eagles Dare,” Iggy Pop’s “Success,” and ended with Prince’s “Controversy.” Taking tips from Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, Weiner inflicted extensive abuse on his piano, which he named Shondra after an aging dancer in Atlanta. Quite the stage ham, Weiner stood on his piano, banged its keys with his body and his microphone stand, and generally knocked Shonda around recklessly. Low Cut Connie played fine rock and roll, and Weiner once again proved to be an electrifying performer.