Stone Temple Pilots/Irving Plaza/April 27, 2015

Stone Temple Pilots began in 1985 in San Diego, California. Catching the grunge wave with a debut album in 1992, Stone Temple Pilots sold nearly 40 million records by the time the band split in 2002. Stone Temple Pilots reformed in 2008 for a reunion tour, then fired lead vocalist Scott Weilland in 2013 and continued with Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington. The band presently consists of Bennington and three original members, guitarist Dean DeLeo, bassist Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz. The band’s only recording with Bennington so far has been a 2013 five-track EP, High Rise.

Stone Temple Pilots was unable to hide the elephant in the room at Irving Plaza. Stone Temple Pilots’ most notable product was written and sung by someone who is no longer in the band, and the band has recorded little new music since his departure. Stone Temple Pilots performed 22 songs, and only one, the comparatively unknown “Out Of Time,” was recorded after Bennington joined the band two years ago. How could a hard rock fan listen to the old songs and not compare the revamped band to the previous personnel? Bennington was a fine singer, and added his own spin to the old songs, but not enough to prove that the new lineup was a distinct and credible band moving forward. More than halfway through the show, Dean DeLeo interrupted “Big Empty” to demand that someone in the audience be removed; was the offender a heckler? DeLeo offered no explanation. The band started the song again. While the band ably played the hits and many deep cuts, there was no way around the big emptiness in the performance. Perhaps the band should record a substantial amount of new material and introduce these songs into the live set so that the live show does not sound like karaoke night.

 

Dustin Kensrue/The Studio At Webster Hall/April 28, 2015

Guitarist/vocalist Dustin Kensrue founded the post-hardcore/experimental rock quartet Thrice in 1998 while in high school in Irvine, California. Early in its career, Thrice played fast, hard music based in heavily distorted guitars, prominent lead guitar lines, and complex time signatures, later incorporating electronic beats, keyboards, and more experimental and nuanced songwriting. The band is on hiatus, as Kensrue explores being a solo artist. Kensrue released Carry The Fire on April 21, 2015.

Dustin Kensrue appeared on stage at The Studio At Webster Hall with only an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and a microphone. The set included several songs from his solo albums, particularly the new album, but also included acoustic renditions of Thrice songs, including “Words In The Water.” Until recently, Kensrue was a church elder, and so not surprisingly some of his lyrics alluded to his biblically-based ponderings. The acoustic performance was tame, nowhere near as inventive as a Thrice performance, and showed a more reflective and sensitive side to Kensrue. While the folk-styled concert was pleasant, one can only hope that Kensrue soon will return to the stage with a band.

 

Kamelot/The Marlin Room At Webster Hall/April 29, 2015

Thomas Youngblood began playing guitar at age 15 and began playing in bands in 1988 in Tampa, Florida. He founded the progressive/symphonic power metal band Kamelot in 1991. Kamelot released its first album in 1995. Two later mid-period albums reinterpreted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragic play about the legend of Faust, a man who sells his soul to the devil, and the subsequent battle between good and evil. After many personnel changes, the present band consists of Youngblood, bassist Sean Tibbetts, drummer Casey Grillo, keyboardist Oliver Palotai and vocalist Tommy Karevik. Kamelot’s 11th studio album, Haven, was released on May 5, 2015.

Kamelot headlined The Marlin Room At Webster Hall with both straight-ahead rockers and complex progressive compositions. The overall sound was epic, however, with each song building up to a blaring pinnacle. The hard-rocking songs were propelled by smooth vocals, melodic guitar leads and banging percussion, with flourishes added from a symphonic-sounding keyboard and an occasional female background vocalist. Opening with “When The Lights Are Down” from 2005’s The Black Halo, followed by the title track of 2007’s Ghost Opera album, the 16-song set often revealed a dynamic yet melancholy approach to cinematic melodies and aggressive thrust. Karevik engaged the audience with encouragements to raise fists and chant “whoa-o-o-os,” at one point telling the fans that he would enjoy performing for them all night. Closing with the title track of the new album, Kamelot demonstrated that 24 years after it began, the band is still a creative entity performing with hungry integrity.

 

The London Quireboys/The Bowery Electric/April 29, 2015

In 1984 London, England, vocalist Jonathan “Spike” Gray formed The Choirboys, which soon became The Queerboys. By 1987 the band was booked to perform at the Reading Festival under the obligation that the name would change. The Queerboys became The Quireboys and released a debut album in 1990; in the United States, the band was named The London Quireboys. The Quireboys split apart in 1993 but Spike assembled a new lineup briefly in 1995 and again in 2001. After more than 20 personnel changes, the band presently consists of Spike, guitarists Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin, keyboardist Keith Weir and drummer Phil Martini. The London Quireboys’ 12th album, St. Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul, was released on March 30, 2015.

With guyliner around his blue eyes, a long kerchief covering his head and spilling down his back and stage moves à la Mick Jagger swagger, Spike looked like the leader of a glam band. Ironically, however, The London Quireboys performed an acoustic sit-on-a-stool set at The Bowery Electric. Throughout the unplugged-style performance, Spike sang folky-bluesy songs with a Rod Stewart rasp, backed by two twanging acoustic guitarists and a keyboardist. Together they echoed 1970s British rock and roll outfits like The Faces and Mott The Hoople. The Quireboys performed acoustic honky-tonk renditions of its earlier catalogue, including “Roses And Rings,” “Beautiful Curse,” “Hates To Please” and “Monte Cassino (Lady Lane),” as well as some newer songs. The set ended with Steve Conte of The New York Dolls and Kyf Brewer of Company Of Wolves joining the band onstage for “7 O’clock.” Even within the unplugged setting, The London Quireboys rocked—only it was a bit softer.

 

Bush Tetras/Le Poisson Rouge/May 1, 2015

Pat Place played guitar in James Chance & The Contortions in New York’s No Wave movement in the late 1970s. By 1979, she left and formed Bush Tetras with vocalist Cynthia Sley, bassist Laura Kennedy and drummer Dee Pop. Bush Tetras dominated the local club scene and became forerunners of the indie movement, with quirky punky funky tunes like 1981’s “Too Many Creeps.” By 1983, the four members moved on to other bands but reformed in 1995 for live dates and an album released a year later. Kennedy left in 1997 and was replaced by Julia Murphy in 2005; after a two-decade battle with Hepatitis C-afflicted liver disease, Kennedy died in 2011. Cindy Rickmond replaced Murphy in 2013. The band’s third and most recent album, Happy, was recorded in 1997-98 but shelved by the defunct record company; it was finally released in 2012.

Bush Tetras performed a 35th anniversary concert at Le Poisson Rouge and revisited the sound that made the band unique three decades ago. As Place prominently played slicing, jittery guitar riffs in a Tom Verlaine style, Sley created a similar hypnotic monotony with sniping, repetitious half-spoken/half-sung phrases, and the rhythm section kept pace with a similarly sparse and jagged funk rhythm. Place’s sometimes dissonant and distortion-filled riffs intensified the mesmerizing chaos. Opening with 1981’s “Things That Go Boom In The Night” and 1982’s “Cowboys In Africa,” Bush Tetras designed to revive an era long past. The band followed with a deep cut, “You Taste Like The Tropics,” originally the b-side of an early single. The set also included a cover of John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey,” which the band originally recorded in 1983. The band was joined on stage for several songs by Felice Rosser of local band Faith. Bush Tetras ended with 2007’s “Voodoo” and 1981’s “Too Many Creeps.” The band’s scrappy funk style has been co-opted by newer bands like Savages, but tonight’s performance accentuated that this is where it began.

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