Apocalyptica/Irving Plaza/May 20, 2016

Apocalyptica formed in 1993 with four cellists at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. They adopted a neoclassical metal style without the use of guitars. Initially, they played Metallica covers, but soon covered Faith No More, Sepultura, and Pantera, and began composing original songs. Later songs introduced vocals. After a couple of lineup changes, Apocalyptica presently is comprised of classically trained cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso, and drummer Mikko Sirén. Apocalyptica has sold over four million albums, and is the first Finnish band to top the Billboard rock chart.

Headlining at Irving Plaza, Apocalyptica embraced both its instrumental era and its vocal era, with Franky Perez coming on stage intermittently to lead the singing. On many songs, the cellos themselves seemed to sing. When the band roared into an eight-minute instrumental cover of Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets,” however, it was the audience that sang along to words that were not there. In all, Apocalyptica performed four Metallica covers, including an as-yet-unrecorded cover of “Seek & Destroy,” two Sepultura songs, and a metalized interpretation of Norwegian composer Edvard Greig’s 19th century piece “Hall Of The Mountain King.” The set also included 10 original compositions. All were performed dynamically as complex progressive metal songs, often with classical bridges, with cellos that sounded identical to crunching thrash metal guitars and basses. Is this the future of cello concertos? Probably not, but Apocalyptica’s testosterone-heavy headbanging performance may be remembered as the only cello concerto unique enough to generate rabid mosh pits.


Edward Rogers & The Biba Crowd/The HiFi Bar/May 23, 2016

Singer-songwriter Edward Rogers was born in Birmingham, England. He was 12 years old when his family moved to Rhode Island and then New York City, coincidentally just as the British Invasion hit America’s Top 40. Later, during the punk era, Rogers played drums in several garage bands. This was interrupted when in 1985 he fell between speeding subway cars and lost his right arm and right leg below the knee. Rogers soon turned to songwriting and discovered that he enjoyed singing and writing more than playing drums. Rogers has released five solo albums and two albums with a folk trio he founded called The Bedsit Poets. Rogers’ sixth solo album, Glass Marbles, was released on March 11, 2016.

At The HiFi Bar, Rogers was a folk-rocking troubadour, displaying both his British and American roots. Rogers’ lyrics were well composed and meticulously arranged, little stories told in verses. His talky singing came fitted with a melodic lilt to 1960s pop. Local guitarists Don Piper and James Mastro, along with bassist Sal Maida and drummer Konrad Meissner, added a colorful shimmer and driving spark to the resonance of the songs. Rogers’ music deserves to be heard by a larger audience.


Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin/The Marlin Room At Webster Hall/May 24, 2016

Keyboardist Claudio Simonetti was born in São Paulo, Brazil, but was raised in Italy. There he formed a progressive rock band called Oliver in 1972. The band was renamed Cherry Five for its first album, but then changed its name again to Goblin when given the opportunity to record the score of an Italian film in 1975. Goblin became a popular band, but became better known for its many soundtracks. Over the years, however, the personnel changed frequently, and many splinter groups emerged, including Simonetti’s heavy metal band Daemonia. In recent times, different combinations of former members of Goblin have regrouped as Goblin, Back To The Goblin, New Goblin, Goblin Rebirth, The Goblin Keys, The Goblins and, most recently, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. When New Goblin split, Simonetti gathered its guitarist, Bruno Previtali, and drummer, Titta Tani, and recruited bassist Federico Amorosi from Daemonia to form Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. In 2014 Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin released the album The Murder Collection, consisting of new, but faithful, versions of some of Goblin and Simonetti’s most well-known compositions.

Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin headlined at The Marlin Room At Webster Hall, and the music was often accompanied by clips of the films from which they were born, including Suspiria and Dawn Of The Dead. Indeed, many of the movies that Goblin scored were suspense or horror films, so there was more than sufficient gore on the screen as the music played. Led by Simonetti, the instrumental pieces were intricate, delicate compositions that ranged from soft aesthetic to raging thunder. Unlike much of today’s progressive rock, the emphasis was not on odd time signatures or anything else that would be jarring. The emphasis was on fluid musicianship, where Previtali proved his worth as a tasteful, textured guitarist, and Simonetti demonstrated advanced skill in playing and arranging his keyboard sounds. Was this music a soundtrack for the film clips or were the film clips the accompaniment for the band’s impressive music? The lines were blurred even more when a woman in a burlesque-styled outfit came on stage twice to dance to the music. While it was easy to get lost in the film clips or the dancer’s moves, neither visual diminished the value of the quartet’s ambitious music.


Flatbush Zombies/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/May 24, 2016

Rappers Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick “The Architect” Elliott, all of Jamaican descent, have been friends since they bonded over the Japanese anime Dragon Ball Z in grade school in the largely West Indian Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. They formed the rap trio Flatbush Zombies in 2010, releasing two popular mixtapes and several music videos, rapidly building a following for the Brooklyn-based hip-hop movement known as “Beast Coast.” A debut album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, was released on March 11, 2016.

Flatbush Zombies’ two sold-out tour-closing nights at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom were a study in what makes the Brooklyn trio unique in a world cluttered with would-be rappers. What attracted a packed hall full of white youth to see three Black Jamaicans perform? What was this message from the rappers to “open your mind” all about? There might not be any clear answers to these questions, but this might have been a warm-up to Flatbush Zombies leading its followers into a zombie apocalypse. A booming prerecorded voice introduced Flatbush Zombies, saying, “In a world full of haters stands a single group who clearly separate themselves from the rest.” Appearing on stage without a live band, rapping to pre-recorded tracks, Flatbush Zombies traded vocals in front of a screen that showed anime and psychedelic kaleidoscopic images as audience members chanted along and bounced their raised hands to the rhythms. The show veered away from the typical gangsta culture, although the trio did acknowledge several fallen fellow emcees early in the show. Otherwise, the raps dealt with topical issues, with numerous references to marijuana and other mind-bending experiences. Suburban parents, beware, your children may become disciples of Flatbush Zombies.

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