Ada Pasternak was born in Moscow and in 1996, at the age of six, immigrated with her family to Fairfield, Connecticut. Pasternak began studying violin with her aunt, New York Philharmonic violinist Asya Meshberg, and continued her studies with Albert Markov at the Manhattan School of Music. By age 16, however, Pasternak was diagnosed with tendonitis and she thought she would never play music again. After college, Pasternak persevered, wrote songs, moved to Brooklyn and at The Bitter End, she performed her original songs plus a violin-led rendition of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” She fashioned herself in the pop singer/songwriter mode, borrowing a bit from light jazz and classical music, and bordering on cabaret. The frequent use of violin, both bowing and picking, demonstrated her virtuosity, and her backing quartet’s occasional quirky arrangement was curious. Break-ups seemed to be her major source of lyricism; rather than articulate vulnerability or hurt, however, her lyrics more often seemed to tell a worthless former suitor to disappear. Pasternak is petite but she is tough.
Sonata Arctica/Stage 48/September 4, 2014
Sonata Arctica began in 1995 as a hard rock band named Tricky Beans in Kemi, Finland. By 1997, the band gravitated toward power metal, renamed itself Tricky Means and released a demo of fast, melodic metal with heavy keyboards and clean high vocals. Finally the band renamed itself Sonata Arctica in 1999: “sonata” for the music and “arctica” for their home (northern Finland). This latest transformation emphasized keyboard melodies and an easily distinguishable rhythm line maintained both by the bass and the guitar. Drummer Tommy Portimo is the only remaining member from the original band, although vocalist Tony Kakko has been in since 1996. At Stage 48, Sonata Arctica showed a 21st century audience what 20th century metal was like. Radio-friendly melodic songs featured strong, high, sometimes shrilling vocals and clean guitar leads. Some songs offered a wisp of symphonic metal or progressive arrangements, and the set included several power ballads. Sonata Arctica commanded the sound perfectly. It would have been virtually impossible to hear the difference between Sonata Arctica and a veteran classic-metal arena band.
Adrenaline Mob/Best Buy Theater/September 5, 2014
Adrenaline Mob performed its first live performance in New York in 2011. Adrenaline Mob is presently vocalist Russell Allen (of Symphony X), guitarist Mike Orlando, bassist Erik Leonhardt and drummer AJ Pero (of Twisted Sister). At the Best Buy Theater, Adrenaline Mob opened with some fierce rhythms and guitar licks before Allen came on stage wearing a black leather sports jacket, fedora and sunglasses. He worked the audience for a few moments and then began singing “The Mob Is Back,” setting the tone for a raucous evening of hard-hitting rock and roll. In time, he removed his hat and shades, as his singing grew grittier, gruffer and huskier, matching the muscular ruggedness of the ripping music. As the sole guitarist, Orlando was about settling the crunch riffs and then extending flashy guitar licks on “Dearly Departed,” “Hit The Wall,” “Let It Go” and “Come On Get Up” and other tunes. Toward the end of the set, Jeff Scott Soto, the lead singer of Talisman from 1990 to 2007 and the vocalist on Yngwie Malmsteen’s first two albums, came onstage with the band to help sing a cover of Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules.” Adrenaline Mob’s performance was as dynamic as it was incendiary.
Twisted Sister/Best Buy Theater/September 5, 2014
Twisted Sister disbanded in January 1988, but the members reunited after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 at a benefit concert for the NYPD and FDNY Widows and Orphans Fund; the band’s classic lineup now reunites annually to perform at European rock festivals. Twisted Sister ended its brief 2014 tour at the Best Buy Theater with a benefit concert for the Pinkburst Project for Uveitis Research in association with the Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation. As the lights dimmed, the audience sang along to AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll),” a fitting theme for Twisted Sister. Twisted Sister re-emphasized the theme with two rousing openers, “Stay Hungry” and “The Kids Are Back.” With long curly hair falling onto his “Stop Taking Selfies” t-shirt, gripping his hot pink microphone stand, vocalist Dee Snider moved nonstop, welcoming the audience to the band’s long-awaited homecoming concert. Besides the charity, the band had one center of gravity, identified clearly through the anthemic “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “I Believe In Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “I Wanna Rock” and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It).” All the musicians played well, but Snider and his gravelly voice commanded the attention, with so much banter that the last two songs on the setlist, “Come Out and Play” and “Tear It Loose,” had to be cut due to a curfew. A seemingly semi-retired Twisted Sister has not released an album since 2006, but the concert tonight proved that when the rare concert appearance comes along, the fire still burns.
The Buzzcocks/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/September 6, 2014
The Buzzcocks in 1976 opened for The Sex Pistols in Manchester, England, and became among the leaders of the nascent British punk rock movement. After three successful albums, the Buzzcocks disbanded in 1981, but reunited several times beginning in 1989. At Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, the Buzzcocks stormed through 25 songs in 80 minutes. The set opened with “Boredom,” a song from early in the band’s career that announced punk’s attitude through a musical minimalism of three high-speed chords and a two-note guitar lead. Older songs “Fast Cars” and “I Don’t Mind” and new songs “Keep On Believing” and “People Are Strange Machines” followed with very British-sounding pop vocal lines backed by a fast and pounding rhythm section. While the set was comprised mostly of older songs, the new songs were crafted from the same fabric. A handful of songs featured extended guitar solos, including “Nothing Left,” but most were verse-chorus-repeat powered by high-octane rapid-fire guitar riffs. The formula carried the band through to the encores of “Harmony In My Head,” “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” and “Orgasm Addict.” As one of the forefathers of the early punk rock scene, the Buzzcocks recreated a very authentic revival of a 35-year-old music revolution.