Fleshgod Apocalypse is a technical death metal band formed in 2007 and residing in Rome, Italy. Opening for SepticFlesh on the Conquerors Of The World Festival Tour 2014, Fleshgod Apocalypse came on stage at the Gramercy Theatre resembling Victorian-era corpses, wearing pallid whiteface and dressed in tattered formalwear. The visuals included a masked female opera singer (whom we barely heard), an upright piano, and glasses of wine. The music was brutal technical death metal with strong symphonic elements. Occasionally between songs, vocalist/guitarist Tommaso Riccardi seemed to be narrating the storyline, but it was difficult to follow. In many ways, the growling vocals and blistering guitar leads were good yet standard death metal, but paired with the vast symphonic effects, the music became epic, bombastic and intriguing.
Septicflesh/Gramercy Theatre/June 24, 2014
Septicflesh (formerly known as Septic Flesh) is a symphonic death metal band founded in 1990 in Athens, Greece. The group split up in October 2003, but reunited in 2007. Shortly thereafter, the band altered its name from Septic Flesh to Septicflesh to indicate a new beginning. Headlining the Gramercy Theatre, Septicflesh played symphonic-infused death metal with a performance dependent on pre-recorded symphonic pieces. Wearing charcoal-grey, reptilian-looking faux body armor shirts, the band appeared ready for battle. The group lunged with guttural vocals, atonal guitar leads and complex neoclassical arrangements. Later in the set, Septicflesh diminished the aggression with a slower-tempo and more melodic interlude, though the howling vocals maintained the dark and doom-inspired mood. Overall, Septicflesh’s performance might have been more effective if there had been a live musician performing the symphonic touches.
Elvis Costello/Carnegie Hall/June 25, 2014
In the mid 1970s, Declan Patrick MacManus morphed into Elvis Costello, one of the leaders of the British punk rock movement. Costello recorded more than 25 albums, and his music crossed over to folk, country, cabaret, jazz and other genres. Costello performed two solo concerts at Carnegie Hall, tonight being the second night. Each night Costello performed for nearly three hours with no intermission, accompanying himself for the most part on amplified acoustic guitars. Costello balanced a repertoire of both old and the newer songs, many of which received standing ovations. Costello began tonight’s concert by performing side one of his 1977 landmark debut album, My Aim Is True. He followed this suite with more than 30 additional songs. Costello was a masterful showman, managing an acoustic set that whispered and roared. All of the songs sounded curiously odd in this stripped bare interpretation, but maintained their dignity as solid songs sung through Costello’s distinctive vocals.
Michael McDonald/Town Hall/June 26, 2014
The Doobie Brothers recruited Michael McDonald when Tom Johnston became ill during a national tour in April 1975. McDonald sang with the Doobies until the band split in 1982. He then launched a solo career and collaborated with other artists. At Town Hall, he headlined as part of the month-long Blue Note Music Festival happening in various venues in Manhattan. McDonald sat center stage at an electric piano, sang in his trademark soulful baritone, and pleased his fans with Doobie Brothers hits, including “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “Minute By Minute” and “What A Fool Believes,” songs from his post-Doobies period including “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and “Yah Mo B There,” and a series of rhythm and blues covers, including Marvin Gaye’s ”I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Ashford & Simpson’s ”Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” McDonald was all about the music, as he hardly moved from his piano or spoke to the audience, and sang most of the time with his eyes closed. That was fine. He sang beautifully and his band provided some tasty jazz licks to season the old songs.
Mad Juana/The Bowery Electric/June 26, 2014
Finnish-born Sami Yaffa (born Sami Takamäki) had his first shot of international fame as bassist for Hanoi Rocks from 1979 to 1985. Yaffa moved to New York in 1990 and met his future wife, vocalist Karmen Guy, in 1994. In 1995 they relocated to Mallorca, Spain, where his parents lived, and were inspired by that country’s traditional music. Returning to New York in the mid-to-late 1990s, they collected a changing cast of musicians and founded Mad Juana, named after the insane queen of Castile, Spain, known as Juana la Loca—or Juana the Mad. At The Bowery Electric, he strapped on an acoustic guitar and committed himself to the odd blend of world music that defines Mad Juana. Guy sang sultry, soulful vocals and moved like a dancing gypsy. In the background, one could hear Spanish guitar, funk basslines and brassy horns. The band performed an energetic and hypnotic brew of gypsy-flavored rock, blending in blues, reggae, dub, flamenco, tango, mariachi and punk. Mad Juana may be one of the most unusual-sounding bands in the New York club circuit.
Sharon Needles/Pier 26/June 27, 2014
Aaron Coady was born in Newton, Iowa, and as an adult moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to work as a female impersonator, Sharon Needles. Needles found national fame when she competed and was crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar” on television’s RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2012. Performing at the New York City Pride Rally at Pier 26, Needles downplayed her former dance club style and gave her macabre songs like “This Club Is A Haunted House,” “Dead Girls Never Say No” and “Dressed To Kill” a gothic rock turn. She closed with a punk rock version of Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” She may be a novelty, but she played it live like a true rock star.
Betty Who/Pier 26/June 27, 2014
Jessica Anne Newham was born in Sydney, Australia, and moved to the United States in 2007 at age 15 to attend music school. By 16, she was performing as a singer-songwriter. By 2012, she moved to New York and reinvented herself as Betty Who, a dance music pop singer. Performing at the New York City Pride Rally at Pier 26, Betty Who sang unabashed synthpop songs largely made for the dance floor. Backed only by a keyboardist, bassist and drummer, she sang, danced and generally kept a light, fun vibe going through the audience. “Somebody Loves You,” “Lovin’ Start,” “Alone Again” and “Heartbreak Dream” were wholesome songs, and Who’s charismatic personality embraced them thoroughly. There is a world of teen girls waiting to hear this music.