Manhattan Beat: Recapping Soulfly, Lana del Rey and More!

Soulfly/The Gramercy Theatre/Oct. 22, 2017
Born and raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Massimiliano “Max” Cavalera and his family were in a state of financial crisis and family turbulence when he founded thrash/groove metal band, Sepultura, in 1984. In the early 1990s, Max relocated to Phoenix and introduced a side project called Nailbomb in 1994, but that project split after one album and two public performances in 1995. He remained Sepultura’s lead singer and rhythm guitarist until 1996. He then initiated Soulfly as his main band in 1997, but later also launched several side projects, including the Cavalera Conspiracy in 2007 and Killer Be Killed in 2011. Soulfly has released 10 studio albums, the most recent being 2015’s Archangel.

Nailbomb was a quick blip in the metal landscape and was abandoned for two decades until Cavalera announced in April 2017 that Soulfly would perform Nailbomb’s album, Point Blank, on a five-week fall tour. That tour came to the Gramercy Theatre, with a lineup that consisted of vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera, lead guitarist Marc Rizzo, bassist Mike Leon, vocalist/synthesizer player Igor Cavalera and drummer/percussionist Zyon Cavalera (the last two being Max’s stepsons, both also in opening act, Lody Kong). Soulfly played the entire Nailbomb album, extending it with a guitar solo during which only Rizzo remained on stage. For about 50 minutes, Soulfly hammered Nailbomb’s brutal metal assault with its industrial beats and thrash guitar riffs. This was not typical Soulfly, in that the band stored away its signature tribal beats and world music influences, and instead became a Nailbomb tribute band. With Nailbomb co-founder, Alex Newport, absent the concert felt more like a showcase for Max and the new generation of Cavaleras, with father and son frequently up front and alternating vocals, and Igor’s synthesizers dominating many sections. Nevertheless, it was a night of solid metal mayhem that pleased most anyone within earshot.


Lana del Rey/Terminal 5/Oct. 23, 2017
Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, known professionally now as Lana Del Rey, was born in New York City and raised in Lake Placid, NY. She was a cantor in her church choir when she was a child. After graduating high school, she moved to Long Island with her aunt and uncle while working as a waitress, and her uncle taught her how to play guitar. She began writing songs and performing in New York clubs, where she called herself Sparkle Jump Rope QueenLizzy Grant & the Phenomena, and May Jailer. She later renamed herself and moved to London. As Lana del Rey, she won numerous music awards and scored number-one albums; her second album, Born to Die, sold 3.4 million copies in 2012, making it the fifth best-selling album of that year. She released her fifth and most recent album, Lust for Life, on July 21, 2017, and it became her second number-one album in the United States. She now resides in Malibu, Calif.

The stage at Terminal 5 was dressed with palm trees, other foliage and two swings, plus two sets of steps mostly for her two dancers/backup singers’ choreography. In keeping with the tropical theme of the stage set, and that which her name envisaged, del Rey opened with “13 Beaches.” The set began with a slow torch song, and pretty much stayed there for the entire performance. The concert was intriguing in that except for a few songs that ventured into light rapping, the show was not rocking at all. Pianist Byron Thomas, guitarist Blake Stranathan, bassist Kevin McPherson, and drummer Tom Marsh played subtly behind del Rey, almost invisibly but providing the cleanest context for del Rey’s compositions. Del Rey’s repertoire consisted of light pop songs, but several cleverly deviated from the dynamic verse-chorus pattern desired by radio. Del Rey reportedly possesses an expansive contralto vocal range which spans three-plus octaves, but regrettably it was challenging to confirm that because the audience drowned her out for much of the performance. Much of the audience, largely young and female, seemed more intent on singing along than listening attentively, which speaks strongly of how del Rey’s lyrics articulated the soulful experience of these fans.


Queens of the Stone Age/Madison Square Garden/Oct. 24, 2017
In 1987, when he was 14 years old, guitarist Josh Homme formed Katzenjammer, a punk rock-influenced heavy metal band, with schoolmates in Palm Desert, Calif. In due time, they changed the band’s name, first to Sons of Kyuss, then shortened it to Kyuss. The stoner rock band garnered a cult following by the early 1990s, often performing in the desert at “generator parties.” After three albums, Kyuss split in 1995, and Homme joined the Screaming Trees as a touring guitarist for one year. He then founded heavy rock band Gamma Ray, which became Queens of the Stone Age in 1997. Queens of the Stone Age presently consists of vocalist/guitarist, Homme, who is the sole remaining original member, along with guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, bassist Michael Shuman, keyboardist Dean Fertita, and drummer Jon Theodore. Queens of the Stone Age’s seventh and most recent album, Villains, was released on Aug. 25, 2017.

Queens of the Stone Age closed its Villains Tour with the band’s first headlining gig at Madison Square Garden; Homme said he was “stoked.” The stage was littered with tall, thin LED light tubes that flickered and flashed to the music as stage lights strobed into the audience, matching the band’s equally electrified riff-oriented, heavy rock. The musicians performed particularly well, but Homme remained the focal point, singing gruffly and sweetly and jamming intense, distorted guitar riffs. The 20-song set drew from all of the band’s albums, with Homme introducing “Mexicola” as a song that was more than 20 years old, but leaned more heavily on the last two albums. Homme was especially personable between songs, and spent perhaps too much time on banter, including a long-winded scolding to two men who fought in front of the stage; these rambling, unfiltered stream-of-consciousness digressions more than likely cost the band, as the show went 20 minutes into overtime at the union-staffed venue. One encore song was cut from the set as well. Otherwise, Queens of the Stone Age more than capably matched melodic vocals with ferocious chops for a ripping two-hour, hard rock performance.


Lords of Acid/The Gramercy Theatre/Oct. 26, 2017
During Belgium’s New Beat period, some 25 years ago, producer Maurice Engelen, known professionally as Praga Khan, used dozens of musical vehicles to produce various kinds of dance music. The acid house, “I Sit on Acid” in 1988, attributed to the then-fictitious Lords of Acid, became an international dance club hit in part due to its sexually-explicit lyrics, and so Khan developed a concept, more music and a real band around it. The 1991 album, Lust, again attributed to the Lords of Acid, was recorded especially for the American market, folding rock guitars into techno dance music. Additional albums would lean increasingly towards the new industrial movement, with more screaming guitars, dark danceable techno rhythms and risqué tongue-in-cheek lyrics shouted by women singers. Now based in America, Lords of Acid presently consists of Khan on synthesizers and programming, lead vocalist DJ Méa, guitarist Joe Haze, keyboardist Roland Turner, backing vocalist Devon Disaster, bassist DieTrich Thrall, and drummer Galen Waling. Lords of Acid’s eighth and most recent album is 2017’s, Pretty in Kink.

Lords of Acid came to the Gramercy Theatre on its first North American tour in six years and performed the 1994 album Voodoo-U in its entirety, plus a handful of additional songs. While Praga Khan was the mastermind behind the project, the audience was focused on vocalist DJ Méa, who danced, sang the raunchy lyrics and occasionally touched herself provocatively. The songs were constructed around deep electro-industrial grooves and outrageously sexual lyrics that made the concert fun. Méa came on stage dressed in fetish wear, brandishing a microphone in one hand and a leather belt in the other hand as she repeatedly whipped the stage and the butts of other band members. During “Rubber Doll,” an inflated sex doll was tossed into the audience, which ripped it apart and threw it around for the duration of the song. Towards the end of the concert, keyboardist Roland Turner invited women from the audience to dance on stage to “Pussy.” The fast, throbbing pulse of the set turned the night into a rave, as Lords of Acid provided the soundtrack for the R-rated party.