Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators/Terminal 5/May 7, 2015

Saul Hudson was born in 1965 in London, England. He was about five years old when he and his father rejoined his mother in Los Angeles, California. There he was given the nickname “Slash” by a family friend. At age 14, Slash picked up the guitar and began playing in bands two years later. Eventually he joined Hollywood Rose, which evolved into the multimillion-selling Guns N’ Roses. Slash formed Snakepit in 1994 and officially left Guns N’ Roses in 1996. Snakepit folded in 2002 and Slash became a founding member of the supergroup Velvet Revolver. Slash and his current band, billed as Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, is comprised of Slash, vocalist Myles Kennedy, bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz. The group’s second album, World On Fire, was released on September 10, 2014.

At Terminal 5, Slash came on stage looking much like he did with Guns N’ Roses, wearing his trademark sneakers, leather pants, sunglasses and top hat. Launching into “You’re A Lie” from the current band’s 2012 debut album, the set quickly became more familiar with the second song, Guns N’ Roses’ “Nightrain,” the first of seven Guns N’ Roses songs in the two-hour 20-song set. Kennedy, who also leads heavy metal band Alter Bridge, sang well, and with the band, which included touring guitarist Frank Sidoris, worked the audience and performed a dynamic show. Midway through the set, Kerns sang two songs, “Dr. Alibi,” originally sung by Lemmy Kilmister on Slash’s 2010 solo album, and Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle.” Ultimately, however, the spotlight was all about Slash’s masterful guitar work. During “Rocket Queen,” Slash played lead guitar for 15 uninterrupted minutes. The lights went dim after Velvet Revolver’s “Slither,” but Slash and company returned for a Jimi Hendrix-styled “Hey Joe” featuring The Voice contestant Kimberly Nichole, and ending with a high-octane performance of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City,” complete with confetti canons. With powerful vocals, dazzling guitar work and strong songs, this was as good as hard rock gets.

 

Vicktor Taiwò/The Penthouse At The Standard Hotel, East Village/May 8, 2015

Born in Nigeria, Vicktor Taiwò at a very early age relocated with his mother and two sisters to London, England. As a young adult, he intended a career in photography, but an opportunity to write and record music may have changed the course of his trajectory. Taiwò’s five-track debut EP, Juno, will be released digitally on June 16.

Taiwò made his U.S. debut at The Penthouse At The Standard Hotel, East Village. Backed by a bassist and a keyboardist, Taiwò’s music was a soft, soulful, dreamy synth pop. The set included songs he already recorded as well as new songs that were still under construction. Taiwò is a young man, but he sang both light and dark tunes about relationships as if he had both enjoyed and suffered a plethora of romantic experiences. Several songs were driven by pulsating rhythms, but he seemed most convincing on the slow jams, as he poured his vocals and his emotions over the audience surrounding him.

 

The Damnwells/Irving Plaza/May 8, 2015

Vocalist/guitarist Alex Dezen and bassist Ted Hudson met at Bard College in 1996, played in a few bands, and then relocated to Brooklyn, New York. There they met guitarist Dave Chernis and ex-Whiskeytown drummer Steven Terry and formed the alt-country band The Damnwells in 2000. Chernis and Terry left in 2007, and the band continued with other musicians, but the original quartet reunited in 2013 and recorded The Damnwells’ fifth album, entitled The Damnwells, released on April 14, 2015.

The Damnwells opened a two-month tour at Irving Plaza tonight with 20 upbeat rockers and slow-simmering country-tinged ballads. Dezen led the music with thoughtful, poetic lyrics and understated passion. His singing was limited, however, seeming to strain even within a narrow vocal range. The effect was a bland delivery. The arrangements clicked, however, providing plenty of hummable hooks somewhere between power pop and roots rock. The concert ended with the mid-tempo “Golden Days,” featuring backing vocals from Dezen’s sister, gospel singer Cameron Dezen Hammon, and opening acts Ari Hest and Julian Velard. It was all performed in good taste, but with an overarching mildness that begged for greater standout uniqueness.

 

Robert Gordon/The Bowery Electric/May 9, 2015

Robert Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, where at the age of nine he heard the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel” and decided to become a singer. Gordon moved to New York City in 1970 and in 1974 became the lead singer of a punk rock band, The Tuff Darts. Just as the band was about to sign a record deal in 1976, Gordon abandoned the punk rock movement, went solo and recorded his first love, rockabilly music, collaborating with guitarists Link Wray and later Chris Spedding. Gordon’s 12th and most recent album, I’m Coming Home, was released on June 24, 2014.

The 68-year-old Gordon brought a retro set to The Bowery Electric. Much of the repertoire was comprised of songs recorded by other artists in the 1950s and which Gordon has been singing since the 1970s. Even a modern song like Marshall Crenshaw’s “Walk Hard” was given the same old-timey treatment that Gordon gave to Jack Scott’s “The Way I Walk,” Johnny Cash’s “Sea Of Heartbreak,” The Everly Brothers’ “So Sad,” Johnny Horton’s “I’m Coming Home” and Johnny Burnette’s “The Fool.” Almost 60 years after Gordon first had the dream of singing these songs, he still gave them the Presley-esque baritone, even when he messed up Presley’s “Devil In Disguise” mid-song and wound up singing Presley’s “Suspicion” instead. Accompanied by a simple but very able guitar-bass-drums trio led by Rob Stoner, Gordon proved he was not a throwback but a classic.

 

Tremonti/Highline Ballroom/May 11, 2015

Mark Tremonti, originally from Detroit, Michigan, as a youth relocated to several states with his family, but it was in a Florida high school that he met vocalist Scott Stapp. They started Naked Toddler in 1993, which became the multimillion-selling Creed in 1995. Creed disbanded in 2004, with Stapp starting a solo career and the rest of the band becoming another successful hard rock band, Alter Bridge. Creed reunited in 2009, so Tremonti presently plays guitar in three bands, including Tremonti, a heavy metal band he formed in 2012. The band Tremonti will release its second album, Cauterize, on June 9, 2015.

Tremonti would have had a platinum catalogue to choose from if it wanted to play the older songs live, but at the Highline Ballroom, the show was about distinguishing this band from Creed and Alter Bridge. This band was comprised of Tremonti, guitarist Eric Friedman, drummer Garret Whitlock and bassist Tanner Keegan, filling in for Wolfgang Van Halen, who is on tour with the band Van Halen. After years of in the background of Stapp in Creed and Myles Kennedy in Alter Bridge, Tremonti was now the frontman, singing and playing lead guitar in his new band. Perhaps he should continue leaving the singing to others, as his vocals were adequate but had very little range and often seemed forced. His guitar work, however, was masterful. The set was comprised of songs from the band’s 2013 debut album, three songs from the forthcoming album and a cover of Big Wreck’s “Prayer.” Tremonti presented variety, in that some songs were melody-driven with anthemic choruses like they were designed for commercial radio, while others were an incendiary thrash assault meant exclusively for mega-metalheads. The focus always came back to Tremonti’s lightning fast licks, enhanced by the band’s thrusting, chugging backing. The show’s main feature ultimately was that Tremonti’s many extended guitar solos were now far heavier and more crunching than in his other bands. The band Tremonti may never win the popular acclaim of Creed and Alter Bridge, but it gives rock fans another place to witness guitar wizardry.

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