Manhattan Beat – First Aid Kit, Robert Plant, & More!

First Aid Kit/The Beacon Theatre/Feb. 13, 2018
    In Enskede, Sweden, Klara Söderberg wrote her first song in 1999 when she was six years old. At age 12, she received a guitar as a Christmas present and quickly learned to play it. Older sister Johanna Söderberg sang with her first at home and then as buskers in the Stockholm metro and in front of liquor stores. They promoted their own country-folk songs along with several covers to radio stations and on social media. First Aid Kit became internationally known when a video of a cover of Fleet Foxes‘ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” went viral. The sisters have since toured internationally and performed at numerous festivals. Johanna (vocals/bass) and Klara (vocals/guitar) are presently backed by Steve “Stebmo” Moore (keyboards, trombone), Melvin Duffy (pedal steel guitar), and Scott Simpson (drums). First Aid Kit’s fourth album, Ruins, was released on Jan. 19, 2018.

    First Aid Kit concluded its tour with a sold-out performance at the Beacon Theatre, the band’s largest headlining concert to date in the United States. Now in their mid-20s, the Söderberg sisters have matured beyond their folk platform to lead a full-fledged pop band, as their set exuberated in melodic hooks and an occasional hard-edged riff. Particularly in the early part of the set, the sisters’ often synchronous vocal pairing recalled old-time country duets, and Duffy’s pedal steel amplified the Americana arrangements, but the songs’ bouncy and danceable rhythms modernized the sound into something much more encompassing. By the time First Aid Kit performed the angry commentary of “You Are the Problem Here” and a cover of Heart‘s “Crazy on You,” the band was all-out rocking. To start the encore, however, the sisters revisited their folk roots as they gathered around a single microphone and started “Hem of Her Dress” accompanied only by Klara’s acoustic guitar. Support act Van William was then invited on stage, and he performed “Revolution,” a song from his album that featured vocal assistance from the Söderberg sisters. First Aid’s overall performance was refreshingly sweet due to its bubbling chemistry of lilting, crooning vocal harmonies and soft, clean arrangements.


Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters/The Beacon Theatre/Feb. 14, 2018
    Robert Plant, CBE, best known as the lead singer and lyricist of Led Zeppelin, was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, and was raised in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. As a teenager, Plant developed a passion for the blues and abandoned training as an accountant to become part of the English Midlands blues scene. By day, he laid tarmac on roads for a construction company in Birmingham and briefly worked in a department store in Halesowen, and by night he sang in blues/rock bands. He bonded with drummer John Bonham while in the Crawling King Snakes. When the Yardbirds split in 1968, guitarist Jimmy Page recruited Plant, who was singing in Obs-Tweedle, for a new band tentatively named the New Yardbirds. Plant and Bonham merged with Page and bassist John Paul Jones, and the band soon came to be known as Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin became the biggest band in the history of hard rock, but disbanded in 1980 following Bonham’s death. Plant briefly considered abandoning music to pursue a career as a teacher, going so far as to be accepted for teacher-training, but was persuaded to launch a solo career. Plant’s eleventh solo album, Carry Fire, was released on Oct. 13, 2017.

    At the Beacon Theatre, Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters performed an eclectic set that adapted Celtic, North African and other world music genres to rock. These influences dominated to the point where the music was no longer recognizable as rock. The compositions often emphasized violin, keyboards, banjo and acoustic guitar more than lead vocals and electric guitars. The Led Zeppelin songs were reworked into mellower arrangements, and Plant’s signature howl was barely heard until the encore. How did the front man for the world’s greatest rock band come to make such dreadful music? Plant, your audience implores you to return to rock.


Joe Satriani/The Beacon Theatre/Feb. 16, 2018
    Joe Satriani was born in Westbury, New York, and at age 14 learned to play guitar only after failing at drums and piano. During football practice in 1970, he heard of the death of Jimi Hendrix and announced to his coach that he was quitting the team to become a guitarist. Early in his career, Satriani worked as a guitar instructor, teaching his fellow Long Island schoolmate, Steve Vai. In 1978, Satriani moved to Berkeley, Calif., where he taught Kirk Hammett of Metallica, David Bryson of Counting Crows, Kevin Cadogan of Third Eye Blind, Larry LaLonde of Primus and Possessed, Alex Skolnick of Testament, and others. Satriani recorded instrumental albums under his own name, but also played in the Greg Kihn Band, Mick Jagger‘s band, Deep Purple and Chickenfoot. He has sold over 10 million albums, making him the biggest-selling instrumental rock guitarist of all time. Satriani’s 16th studio album, What Happens Next, was released on Jan. 12, 2018.

    In 1996, Satriani founded the G3, a recurring concert tour with a trio of guitar virtuosos, and the 2018 edition features himself, former Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci, and Def Leppard‘s Phil Collen. Collen opened the concert at the Beacon Theatre with his side band, Delta Deep, playing bluesy rock and soul songs. Petrucci and his rhythm section followed with a stunning set of chunky and melodic progressive metal instrumentals. Satriani was the main act, however, backed by keyboardist/guitarist Mike Keneally, bassist Bryan Beller, and drummer Joe Travers. Satriani as the highly technical guitarist used all his techniques, including legato with hammer-ons and pull-offs, two-handed tapping and arpeggio tapping, rapid alternate picking and sweep picking, all of which allowed him to play lightning- fast yet smooth and flowing shreds. Volume swells, harmonics, whammy bar effects and just general flashy moves made the sights and sounds more exciting. The highlight of the evening was the G3 jam that closed the evening, when Satriani and his band were joined on stage by Petrucci, Collen, Delta Deep vocalist Debbie Blackwell-Cook, and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Country Communion fame. Hughes led the jam’s cover of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” and Blackwell-Cook and Hughes led Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and the old blues song “Going Down” as the guitarists took turns wailing. For guitar fans, the night was as supercharged as it could be.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy/B.B. King Blues Club & Grill/Feb. 20, 2018
    After playing in punk and alternative rock bands during the 1980s Nardcore scene in Oxnard, Calif., vocalist/guitarist Scotty Morris and drummer Kurt Sodergren started playing music together in 1993 in Ventura, Calif. Morris named the contemporary swing revival band after blues legend Albert Collins signed his poster, “To Scotty, the big bad voodoo daddy.” Big Bad Voodoo Daddy‘s popularity spiked when it performed in the 1996 film, Swingers. The band also performed at the Super Bowl XXXIII Halftime Show, on many television shows, as special guests with many symphony orchestras, and for three U.S. presidents. The band consists of Morris, Sodergren, pianist Joshua Levy, bassist Dirk Shumaker and a horn section of Andy Rowley (baritone saxophone/vocals), Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet), Karl Hunter (saxophones/clarinet), Alex “Crazy Legs” Henderson (trombone) and Mitchell Cooper (trumpet). Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has sold over 2 million albums. Its eleventh and most recent studio album, Louie, Louie, Louie, a salute to the music of Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan and Louis Prima, was released on June 16, 2017.

    In the 1990s, swing music found a new and young audience that perhaps sought an antidote to the reigning grunge and third wave punk, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was among the leaders of this new underground movement. Then as tonight at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, the high-energy band played a horn-dominated set that blended jazz, ragtime, blues, and Dixieland sounds from the mid-twentieth century. Songs from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s were given the same respect as the band’s original songs. All of the musicians were granted the spotlight, stretching their adept chops with fervor and precision to make for good listening and good dancing material. Musically, there was a lot happening among the nine musicians during the nearly two-hour set, and all of it was good.