The Dead Daisies/The Highline Ballroom/July 17, 2017
In Sydney, Australia, David Lowy started his career as a businessman and a key player for a family-owned multi-national company that invested in shopping centers around the world. On the side, he was also a pilot, regularly performing at air shows flying a WWII Spitfire and a Vietnam War-era A-37B Dragonfly ground attack jet. It was after all this, at almost 50 years of age, that he began playing guitar professionally in rock bands, including Doc Neeson’s Angels (2003-2005), Red Phoenix (2005) and Mink (2006-2008). He formed the Dead Daisies in 2012, which quickly attracted renowned personnel. Although the cast has changed multiple times, the present band consists of Lowy, vocalist John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, The Scream), lead guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Lynch Mob, Ted Nugent), and drummer Brian Tichy (Ozzy Osbourne, Foreigner, Billy Idol, Seether, Velvet Revolver). After three studio albums, the Dead Daisies’ most recent album is a live set, Live & Louder, which was released on May 19, 2017.
After a European tour that ended with the Dead Daisies playing with an orchestra in Poland, the Dead Daisies embarked on a 12-date “Dirty Dozen” tour of the United States that came to the Highline Ballroom. The all-star line-up worked well together, playing 1970s-influenced blues rockers, but with a rougher, faster 1980s pacing and a whole lot of timeless flash. Corabi worked the audience throughout the show, always moving along the edge of the stage and encouraging the audience to sing, raise their hands or listen to his quips between songs. Aldrich started out playing modestly, but his solos within the songs grew longer and more searing until he performed a very extended solo with no one else on stage. Tichy also performed an extended solo that showcased him pounding the drum skins with his bare hands. If there was any doubt as to what sound the band was trying to achieve, consider the Dead Daisies’ six covers, all hailing from 1968 to 1974: Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Fortunate Son,” the Who‘s “Join Together,” the Beatles‘ “Helter Skelter,” Grand Funk Railroad‘s “We’re an American Band,” the Sensational Alex Harvey Band‘s “Midnight Moses,” and Deep Purple‘s “Highway Star.” The beauty of the ensemble was that they weaved the magic together: strong vocals, muscular guitar leads, big choruses and catchy hooks. The Dead Daisies gave a modern perspective on a tried and true hard rock sound.
Mark Lanegan Band/The Gramercy Theatre/July 18, 2017
Mark Lanegan was born and raised in Ellensburg, Washington, a small logging town 107 miles east of Seattle. As a teenager, he was a high-school quarterback but he also had a police record, arrested several times for public drunkenness, shoplifting and drug possession; the last time he was arrested, he dodged incarceration by vowing to participate in a year-long rehabilitation course. Lanegan worked picking peas, building fences and working in a video store where his first band, the Screaming Trees, also rehearsed starting in 1984. The Screaming Trees moved to Seattle and wound up among the pioneers of the grunge scene until the band split in 2000. Lanegan also joined Mad Season, Queens of the Stone Age and the Gutter Twins, and worked on numerous collaborations. Lanegan’s 10th solo album, Gargoyle, was the fourth attributed to the Mark Lanegan Band and was released on April 28, 2017. Lanegan currently is based in the greater Los Angeles area of California.
The stage at the Gramercy Theatre was bathed in dark blue and red back lighting all night, making visibility more of a mystery than a reality. For most of the set, the audience saw Lanegan’s silhouette with a rare partial view of his face. The music was similarly deep, dark and mysterious, with Lanegan’s gruff, talky baritone seemingly cutting through boisterous, booming accompaniment from his band. Lanegan barely moved on stage, and his singing paralleled his calm, foreboding demeanor, while his band chugged bombastic pairs of chords. Of the 18 songs performed, all but two originated from Mark Lanegan or Mark Lanegan Band albums; the exceptions were “Deepest Shade” from his days with the Twilight Singers and a cover of Joy Division‘s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Perhaps this was because Lanegan has moved far from the grungy psychedelic sound of the Screaming Trees and has moved closer to the Cure/Smiths breed of bleakness. Nevertheless, though light seems to be Lanegan’s nemesis, someone ought to remind him that fans pay good money to see him, not just hear him, so silhouettes are insufficient.
Panzie*/The Gramercy Theatre/July 19, 2017
Guitarists DC Gonzalez and Jonnie Rockit were childhood friends in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. After playing in several bands together, they formed the hard-rocking Panzie* in 2008. The Trashcan Diaries EP in 2010 and debut, Love and Blood, album in 2013 helped Panzie* get more East Coast gigs and gain a heartier following, but also led the band into a hiatus in 2014. Rockit continued working as a professional guitar tech and Gonzalez was recruited to play in Killcode. In 2015, Gonzalez and Rockit began rebuilding Panzie*, recruiting drummer John Servo Di Salvo, who played in Chem Lab and KMFDM, and then vocalist Jasin Cadic, an actor, screenwriter, artist and former front man for industrial hard rock bands Handful of Dust and Starkiller. Panzie* now also includes bassist Kevin Jones.
Panzie* was an impressive opening act for VampireFreaks’ Stabbing Westward concert at the Gramercy Theatre. Panzie*’s hard rock was fierce, featuring guttural singing, twin guitar leads and a super heavy rhythm section. The overarching sound borrowed the best elements from death metal, groove metal and industrial. The combination was raw, raucous, gritty and brutal. The band had captivating stage appeal as well, with corpse paint, blotched and torn wardrobe on Cadic and red outfits on the other musicians. The theatrics also including a pig mask and oversized butcher knife, and later a noose held high by colorful helium balloons. New York has not had a band this exciting in years, and given the right opportunities, Panzie* could be huge.
Stabbing Westward/The Gramercy Theatre/July 19, 2017
Vocalist Christopher Hall and keyboardist Walter Flakus formed Stabbing Westward as an industrial rock band in 1986 while working at a college radio station in Macomb, Illinois. They relocated the band to the closest music mecca, Chicago, and started building a following, then moved again to Los Angeles, California. Ten years after forming and several personnel changes later, Stabbing Westward’s second album was certified gold on the strength of two radio songs. Subsequent albums did not sell as well, however, and the band split in 2002. The band’s fourth and most recent album is 2001’s Stabbing Westward. Stabbing Westward reunited for two 30th anniversary concerts in 2016, which then morphed into a 2017 tour. The band presently consists of Hall, Flakus, guitarist Mark Eliopulos and drummer Johnny Haro.
VampireFreaks presented Stabbing Westward’s concert at the Gramercy Theatre, the band’s first New York performance in 16 years. Oddly, the band played only three songs from its most successful album, performing more songs from the first and third album than from the second. Altogether, Stabbing Westward played 13 songs, including the better-known “Shame,” “What Do I Have to Do?” and “So Far Away.” Throbbing synth beats and crunching guitar chords made for a pulsating drive that alternately whispered and roared, much like Hall’s melodic vocals. On several songs, the band leaned on the softer, dreamier side of the industrial genre, but then quickly provided enough bristle to spike new waves of energy. This was where the band sounded most interesting.