Concert: Between the Buried and Me, The Dear Hunter, Leprous
Venue: Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 3-24-18
Rare is the night in South Florida where a prog band comes to town. Even more rare is a great bill with more than one band. When the tour was announced for prog metal stalwarts Between the Buried along with The Dear Hunter and Leprous, the immediate thought as someone who lives in Florida was ‘well, would’ve been nice to see that show.’ Luckily, a stop was already scheduled for Ft. Lauderdale at the rock club Revolution. In fact, BTBAM, have played this venue before, so kudos to them to coming back to a fan base thirsty for metal bands.
Upon entering the venue around 7pm, the first thing that was noticeable was a cello player on stage performing alone. He was clearly skilled, but could he be at the wrong place? A few minutes later, the members of Leprous took to the stage and the cello player stayed on. The band tore through songs mostly from their last 2 albums, The Congregation, and their latest, Malina. The band are a tight, in synch, machine. Vocalist and keyboard player, Einar Solberg, exudes passion and intensity with every note, hitting impressive falsettos throughout. Their singles “From the Flame” and “The Price” definitely struck a chord with the anxious audience, who showed up early to see this band as well. The set concluded with the epic “Mirage,” a tour de force, power-prog track.
A band that is difficult to place in any category, The Dear Hunter, took the stage next. Casey Crescezno and the gang went straight into the opening number “The Old Haunt” and sounded as pristine as their gloriously recorded albums. Playing tracks mostly from Acts 3, 4 and 5, with one new song from their recent EP, the band displayed their diversity with tracks like the metal-tinged “Wait” to the Supertramp-esque “Bitter Suite IV & V”. “The Revival” from Act V saw the most engagement from the audience as many seemed to know every word. Having seen the band before on headlining shows, their was a noticeable lack of banter from the band to the audience, except for a couple of times when they played some smooth jazz while tuning their guitars. But the band was in fine form and closed with a heavenly version of “The Moon/Awake” from Act V. While they share similar audiences with bands like Leprous and BTBAM, it was a bit strange as they ended their set, to imagine the thunderous metal that was about the hit us; quite a contrast in styles indeed.
Without wasting too much time, BTBAM hit the stage and began playing “Condemned to the Gallows” from their latest release Automata. Immediately, the bombastic drums, razor like guitars, and guttural vocals from Tommy Rogers, decimated the crowd. It was going to be an intense set right from the start. The band sounded brilliant and like a fine-tuned machine. Next came a pair of songs from Coma Ecliptic, followed by a string of songs from Automata. Having played the entire Colors album recently on their 10th anniversary tour of the album. there were no songs played from that album. Nevertheless, BTBAM delivered as only they know how to do. And the audience did not seem to mind in the least, as evidence by the ever-expanding mosh pit.
This was everything a prog rock show in 2018 can be: diverse, melodic, intense, powerful, and creative. You leave knowing that this music is in good hands with an offering for any type of fan. More combined bills like this is what this genre needs.
Concert: Eric Johnson
Venue: The Pageant, St. Louis, MO, 3-22-18
Review and Pics by: Jon Fiala
Eric Johnson has long been one of the most respected guitarist in music since the early 1990s. Guitar Player magazine did a lot of promoting of him before his first major album, Tones, was released, That brought him many accolades in the guitar world, and his fame grew from there. Riding the high praises from Guitar Player, Eric released his most successful album, Ah Via Musicom, in 1990, which solidified his rank in the guitar god world. In the world of Satriani, Morse and Vai, Eric Johnson belongs up with them. One thing that separates EJ from the typical guitar shredders is that he sings on about half of his songs. His voice is very soothing and melodic, and adds another great aspect to his music.
On Thursday, March 22, Eric brought his current tour to the Pageant in St Louis. Joining Eric on stage were his backup duo from his early touring days, Kyle Brock on bass, and Tommy Taylor on drums. They very proficiently reproduced the sound that Eric has been known for, his super clean guitar with impeccable tone. His concentration on what he’s creating on the guitar, while not being flashy showman, is clearly his forte. It was an evening of getting absorbed into his music, watching him recreate the sounds of our younger days.
The first set comprised of a wide variety of songs. Eric’s latest CD, 2017’s Collage, had only one original song played, the opening instrumental Stratagem, which was as good as anything that he did during his most popular time. Three instrumentals came from his follow-up album to Ah Via Musicom, Venus Isle, (S.R.V., Camel’s Night Out and Manhattan), were played to the great delight of the crowd. He really shines as he’s taking center stage with his guitar. Eric also offered the audience a few covers from Beatles (The Night Before), Led Zeppelin (Black Mountain Side) and the Chantays (Pipeline – also found on Collage).
The second set was what many people came to see, his breakthrough album, Ah Via Musicom, played in its entirety. Starting with the spacey title track, leading into what is his arguably most popular song, the instrumental, Cliff of Dover, the trio played it like they did in 1990. The rest of the evening was a treat to watch, as Eric flawlessly, without showmanship, concentrated on giving the crowd his best. He even included a track, Western Flyer, which was an outtake from the Ah Via Musicom sessions. The lone encore was Zap, from Tones.
The opening act was Arielle, a singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas. Her blend of rock, folk, country and a little bit of jazz was very well received by the crowd, as she introduced each of her guitars to us. Her skills on the guitar were definitely strong as she joined Eric to play one of her songs during his first set, and then traded off solos with him during the encore. She has a very impressive story, playing with artists beyond Eric such as Brian May, Joe Bonomassa, and Nuno Bettencourt.
Eric Johnson still has the attention of the guitar greats followers. It was a true joy to see him still be so prolific in his craft.