The Damned/Irving Plaza/October 31, 2014
The Damned formed at the beginnings of the punk rock movement in 1976 in London, England, debuted onstage supporting the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, and in 1977 became the first British punk band to tour the United States. By 1978, the band had its first of many breakups, personnel changes and farewell tours. Since 2004, the band’s lineup has consisted of original members vocalist Dave Vanian (David Letts) and guitarist Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns), plus keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch (Andrew Pinching) and bassist Stu West. At Irving Plaza, The Damned’s set was based out of an old punk sound, but taken in a goth direction for a hard to define and fairly unique sound. With no new songs to introduce, The Damned played a predictable set including “Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde,” “Machine Gun Etiquette,” “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today,” “Wait For The Blackout,” “Smash It Up,” “Neat Neat Neat” and other songs that had kept the band going through its earlier, creative period. It did seem like a retro show, but it was energetic, wild and colorful, all adding to the Halloween fun.
Born Of Osiris/The Gramercy Theatre/November 2, 2014
Deathcore band Born Of Osiris was formed in 2003 in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. After more than 10 years as an opening act, Born Of Osiris finally are headlining concert halls. At the Gramercy Theatre, the band opened with “Empires Erased” from their first EP, The New Reign. Like far too many metal shows nowadays, the stage was lit from behind, making the band nearly invisible except for silhouettes throughout the show. Vocalist Ronnie Canizaro exhorted the audience to raise their hands, but one doubts he could have seen much of the audience in the darkness that was pierced only by roving lights. As the audience moshed, an energetic Canizaro screamed his growls, the keyboards lent an epic and sometimes symphonic sound, the guitars chugged rich riffs and the breakdowns were executed well. Was it nu metal or was it deathcore? Was it progressive or technical? While the band seemed to have found an interesting way to mix several modern metal influences, the problem is that this overall field of music is so flooded right now that standing out is extremely difficult. A less distracting lighting design that spotlighted the musicians might have helped the audience focus more on the music than on the moshing.
Lucero/The Bowery Ballroom/November 3, 2014
Country-rock jam band Lucero formed in 1998 in Memphis, Tennessee. Caught between rock and country, the band played punk clubs due to a lack of proper venues for mixed-genre artists. The group toured hard and with time crafted a niche audience. On this By The Seat Of Our Pants tour, Lucero headlined three nights at the Bowery Ballroom and opened for itself, starting each night by playing an acoustic set of deep cuts and songs not often performed live with the full band. On the first night, the setlist for the first half of the show was scribbled on a flat brown paper bag, and the looseness on stage made one wonder if this setlist was more fact or fiction. The second set rocked more and featured horns. The attraction was not the individual songs, however, but the spirit in which they were delivered. Vocalist/guitarist Ben Nichols’ deep, gravelly vocals led the charge and the party began. Nichols sang heartfelt songs with vivid, panoramic tableaus of life, love, partying and taking the road. Lucero rocked and twanged accordingly, seldom defining a clear boundary, as if the group was comprised of anti-pop bohemians. The band demonstrated its flexibility, successfully fusing its alt-folk, alt-country, alt-punk and alt-rock sounds.
Richie Kotzen/B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill/November 5, 2014
Richie Kotzen recorded his first solo album by the age of 18 in his home town of Reading, Pennsylvania. Kotzen moved to Los Angeles in 1991 at age 21, and joined Poison, then Mr. Big in 1999 and currently plays guitar and fronts The Winery Dogs. At B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill, Kotzen played with his new trio that showcases material from his 18 solo albums. He made a splash as soon as he came on stage wearing red MC Hammer-type parachute pants, black high top sneakers and a black tank top exposing tattooed biceps. Opening the show with “War Paint,” Kotzen showed his bluesy roots both in his guitar playing and in his soulful vocals. The song exploded with hard and heavy riffs and not one but several guitar solo intervals—and Kotzen was finger-picking, not using a pick. Kotzen showcased fluid legato and arpeggio sweeps using his bare fingertips. In a traditional classic rock style, he used minimal electronic effects and foot pedals, focusing more on what pure sounds he could wring out of his Fender guitar. The songs were well composed and Kotzen sang them well, occasionally climaxing with a soulful screech followed by similar sounds in his wailing, melodic guitar licks. The further he went into his two-hour performance, the deeper he went into his bluesy guitar runs. One can only wonder why he is not a better-known guitarist.
Hozier/Irving Plaza/November 6, 2014
Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known simply as Hozier, was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1990 in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland. The son of a musician, he taught himself to play guitar and piano, and in 2013 he recorded a four-track EP, Take Me To Church, playing most of the instruments and singing all the parts. The title track became his breakthrough song after its video showing a hate crime against a same-sex couple went viral on YouTube. Hozier started his set at Irving Plaza plucking off notes to the gentle, brooding Irish-folk-sounding “Like Real People Do” on a hollow-bodied guitar. Mid-song, his band began accompanying him, playing softly in the background. The excited audience was unable to match the quiet reverence, cheering loudly and repeatedly through the song. In the darkness of the room, Hozier continued with a similarly dark and jazzy “Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene,” also from his first EP. As steam rose from his cup of hot tea, Hozier displayed little flare, chatted briefly with the audience between songs in what sounded like a humble mumble, and generally made the performance exceptionally homey. Mid-set, Hozier’s love of American blues was established with his cover of Skip Jones’ “Illinois Blues,” which he played, along with a couple of original songs, solo on a nylon-string acoustic guitar. His songs articulated emotional aching and longing, and his haunting vocals matched the tone well. Hozier concluded his main set with his signature song, “Take Me To Church,” his anthem about worshipping a lover, and returned for two encore songs, a cover of Amerie’s “1 Thing” and his own “From Eden,” performed in quintuple time signature. Hozier showed he was an artist with the skill to craft solid songs, present them with a charming, minimalistic musical arrangement and sing with enough raw manly-yet-sensitive emotion to make for an appealing performance.