At age 15, New York City native Tash Neal discovered classic rock. The vocalist/guitarist formed a power trio called The London Souls in 2008, released a self-titled debut album in 2011 and recorded a second album a year later. Tragedy then struck; Neal was in a traffic accident that left him in a week-long medically-induced coma and led to multiple brain surgeries. Less than five months later, Neal was back on stage, playing a concert. The London Souls became a duo, pairing Neal with drummer/vocalist Chris St. Hilaire. The band’s second album, Here Come The Girls, was released today.
At the Bowery Ballroom, The London Souls reached back to the very earliest days of hard rock, sounding very much like late 1960s Cream, The Who and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The melodies sounded like what British bands did back then to American blues and pop, with fast and fierce guitar leads and whirling drum patterns filling out the songs bombastically between lyrics. The London Souls did this authentically, with all the volume, power and fuzzy distortion of the band’s pioneering predecessors. No synthesizers, no pre-recorded tape loops; the only relatively new effect was the over-billowing dry-ice fog. Highlights included “Alone,” “All Tied Down,” “When I’m With You,” the fast-then-slow medley of “The Sound” and “Sweet Thang,” plus a reinterpretation of the Beatles’ “Get Back” with a slice of The Who’s “Magic Bus.” Hard rock does not get more Woodstock-era than that.
The Sonics/Irving Plaza/April 8, 2015
In 1960, Larry Parypa, a teenager in Tacoma, Washington, started making music with a cheap guitar and in 1964, the garage-rocking Sonics started performing live. Despite a strong following, the band fractured by 1968. The original Sonics reunited briefly in 1972 for a live show. In 2007, Parypa, vocalist/keyboardist Gerry Roslie and saxophone player Rob Lind reformed as The Sonics with a new rhythm section. This Is The Sonics, the band’s first album of new material in 48 years, was released on March 31, 2015.
At Irving Plaza, Roslie, Parypa, and Lind, with bassist Freddie Dennis and drummer Dusty Watson, demonstrated how The Sonics became a major influence on punk, garage, and grunge music. From the opening song, “Psycho,” one of the first songs The Sonics ever recorded, the compositions built on simple chord sequences played harder and faster than ever. Roslie, Parypa and Dennis took turns singing lead on seven new songs, several vintage cover songs including Little Richard’s “Keep A Knockin’,” Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” and Richard Berry’s “Louie Louie” and original signature songs including “Strychnine” and “The Witch.” The setlist was rooted in the 1950s and 1960s, but the torrid power they unleashed was pure, unbridled and timeless rock and roll mayhem. The Sonics brought back the boom, ready to teach a new generation of garage rockers how it all began.
The Devil Wears Prada/Irving Plaza/April 9, 2015
Founded in 2005 in Dayton, Ohio, the name of the melodic metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada represented an anti-materialistic mindset that appealed to the musicians. The Devil Wears Prada presently consists of Mike Hranica (vocals), Jeremy DePoyster (rhythm guitar, vocals), Andy Trick (bass), and Daniel Williams (drums). The group has released five albums, the most recent being 2013’s 8:18; the Space EP will be released this summer.
Following last month’s departure of founding member and guitarist Chris Rubey, The Devil Wears Prada embarked on the Zombie 5 tour with the band’s guitar tech, Kyle Sipress, taking on the guitar parts. The tour celebrates the fifth anniversary of the band’s Zombie EP, and so the band performed all five songs, along with one to three songs from each of its albums, plus two new songs from a forthcoming EP. Opening with “Assistant To The Regional Manager,” The Devil Wears Prada began its bludgeoning assault. The charm was in how amidst brutal metal licks, the band moved from dark lyrics and harsh vocals to lighter lyrics accentuated by clean vocals. While not a unique technique, these brief moments of balance were executed exceptionally well. The fist pumpers dominated the set and bristled with friction, however, maintaining melody over fierce breakdowns and torrential barrages of metal cavalcades. This was primal, pounding metalcore stitched together with refreshing interludes of brightness.
OK Go/Terminal 5/April 11, 2015
Vocalist/guitarist Damian Kulash and bassist/vocalist Tim Nordwind met when they were 11 years old at a Michigan arts camp. Nordwind later relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where he formed a band with drummer Dan Konopka. Kulash joined and the band was named OK Go in 1998. Three years later, OK Go relocated to Los Angeles, California, and guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Andy Ross joined in 2005. OK Go’s fourth studio album, Hungry Ghosts, was released on October 14, 2014.
At Terminal 5 tonight, OK Go’s show was filled with clever moves and masterful effects. As the houselights dimmed, a large sheet hung over the apron of the stage, obscuring the band. The show opened with a video montage of film clips of actors saying either “okay” or “go.” Behind the screen, OK Go opened with “Upside Down & Inside Out.” Thanks to cameras attached to the microphone stands, the audience watched massive close-ups of the musicians’ faces as they sang the lyrics; during the later verses, the projections stopped and the audience saw through the screen to the band performing the song. Later, Kulash asked the audience to stamp feet, clap hands and hiss, recording these sounds on his cell phone and then utilizing these sounds as the percussion during “There’s A Fire.” Kulash crowd surfed during “This Too Shall Pass” and later sang “Last Leaf” solo from the middle of the audience. Three times during the show, OK Go fielded questions from the audience. Confetti and soap bubbles were shot into the audience several times. For the encore, the four musicians wore white jumpsuits and performed a choreographed dance to “A Million Ways.” For “White Knuckles,” colored lights shone on the musicians and their white outfits mysteriously developed swirling neon green and red stripes. All evening, the quartet engaged the audience well, but overall the songs were lightweight pop songs with only intermittently interesting arrangements. OK Go’s lighthearted antics and elaborate stage production proved more memorable than the songs.
At The Gates/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/April 12, 2015
At The Gates was formed in 1990 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Within a few years, At The Gates became a major progenitor of melodic death metal. At The Gates disbanded in 1996, reformed in 2007 for a reunion tour, split in 2008, then reformed again in 2010. At The Gates presently consists of original members Tomas Lindberg (vocals), Anders Björler (guitar), Jonas Björler (bass), and Adrian Erlandsson (drums), with early member Martin Larsson (guitar). At War With Reality, the band’s fifth album and its first in 19 years, was released on October 28, 2014.
At a sold-out Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, the stage darkened as At The Gates’ pre-recorded spoken word track “El Altar Del Dios Desconocido” played over the public address system. The band then stormed into “Death And The Labyrinth” from the most recent album. A hearty eight of the 19 songs performed were from this album, the rest culled from highlights of the band’s 1990s catalogue. The stage show was a no-frills performance, with Lindberg pacing the stage, stopping at the lip with one foot on a monitor to growl lyrics into the audience, and the flashy guitarists and bassist similarly working the audience. While not breaking new ground, At The Gates stood above similar bands simply through the music itself. Lindberg’s blood curdling grunts and growls were backed by smooth, melodic guitar leads. The melodeath masters blazingly demonstrated muscle and finesse without sacrificing heaviness or thrash, and the band’s stripped-down ferocious aggression powered the fluid melodic structure well. In the 1990s as in the present, this is where uncompromising thrash and dark metal best meet.