Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Uli Jon Roth/ Vinnie Moore/ Black Knights Rising / Old James @ Empire 2/9/2015

I went to see the XG Extreme Guitar Tour featuring Uli Jon Roth ($25) with special guests at Empire. Uli Jon Roth was amazing the last time I saw him, and did a monster over 2 hour set! I didn't know how this time would fare with that high standard! I saw  Neil and Michelle, Juani and Ariel, Teresa, and Tony Dio and his lady there all the way from NC! Well worth the trip taken, I assure you!

There were probably around 250 people there at the high point. There were actually people coming in later, like after 10:30 to see Uli! A pretty great turnout for a Monday night!

Merchandise was more than expected- a number of shirts, at least one for each band (a steep $35 I think), Uli DVDs, some signed drum heads, and I think a solo CD from Uli. Old James had a bunch of merch for their album as well.

Old James was on when I got there, playing to a pretty full floor already! They had some high vocals and a pretty blusey or funky sound (actually very similar to Living Colour songs I have heard, strangely enoough). I was taking in the scenery, the merch, and the like and I really only fully listened to the last song. They were OK, I didn't really get into them.

Black Knights Rising, which is basically a Dio/Deep Purple/ Rainbow cover band (aka heavenly), was on next. They were comprised of Vinnie Appice (so many bands- Dio, Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath, etc.-  Drums), Craig Goldy (ex-Dio, guitar), John West (Royal Hunt, vocals), and Elliott Rubinson on bass. It was great enough seeing their setlists for other shows, but to hear these guys live was like Blackmore's Buddies (as they did more Blackmore than Dio stuff, as the Dio Disciples were totally Dio-riffic). For a big Blackmore fan like me, they really sounded great. Craig Goldy's no Ritchie Blackmore, so some of the solos were a bit lacking (for the purist perhaps a bit rough, but to hear these songs live and by a pretty great guitarist, it starts to make up for the years of Blackmore ignoring a lot of these songs, some would argue).

John West was singing pretty well, and was squinting nearly the whole time for some reason. One other observer noted that he looked very nervous initially and that he was even shaking at one point! I'm not sure what was going on, because this is NOT the first night of the tour. Vinny Appice was playing with his drumsticks upside down (which I thought was odd), and on a tiny drum kit. As my friend mentioned, it was so bizarre seeing him in arenas in front of thousands, and now on a tiny stage in front of 200 or so people. Highlights were hearing "Death Alley Driver" and "Mistreated" as they are rarer cuts to hear! I am glad they didn't do "Heaven and Hell," but why not pull out some other underappreciated gems like "Turn up the Night" or "Jealous Lover" (which they DID do recently)? In any event, I think these guys were going to be pretty hard to top. It was a little odd that the crowd for all bands was pretty silent and motionless (for the most part) until the end of the song, when applause would be showered upon the bands (They were a bit more lively for Uli tho).

Vinnie Moore (UFO guitarist) was up next, and he was in great spirits on the last day of his part on the Extreme Guitar Tour. His spirit and attitude were very positive and he seemed really glad to be there, playing his material. I hadn't heard his solos stuff, just him in UFO, which was pretty damn good. I was pretty astounded by his set- his sound reminded me of Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, somewhat ethereal sounding at times. There was only one song in his set ("Riding High") that I was underwhelmed by, but otherwise he had a pretty great set. Mr. Rubinson  was back for "Round 2" as indicated by his shirt as well. I think Old James members came out near the end and hoisted Vinnie onto one of their shoulders for a little bit, all the while Vinnie was still playing. Vinnie had a rarely noticeable keyboardist (Alessandro Bertoni I think) and Richie Monica on drums. He played about an hour, and it didn't seem too long (as is the case for many instrumental only bands) apart from the drum solo.

The banes of my existence, drum solos, were in huge supplies. Not only did every band  I saw (minus Old James) played a drum solo, but there was on before Uli's set during the sound check. That's 4 drum solos, which is 4 more than we need to hear. I think if I had seen Blame Canada (Rush cover band) open, then I would have been "treated" to a 5th one.

The man of the night, the legendary Ex-Scorpions German guitar player (and basically a hippy looking Hulk Hogan) Uli Jon Roth took the stage around 11- he had the same young guitar player David Klosinski, Mr. Rubinson back for round 3 on the bass, Alessandro back on barely heard keys, Jon West handling vocals, and Kofi Baker (son of Ginger Baker) on the drums. People really just were transfixed by Uli, tho- he cranked his volume up perhaps a little too loud, but sounded amazing. At one point, someone yelled that they couldn't hear the vocals. Mr. Roth smiled and replied that that gentleman was standing in the wrong place- and waved to the side where he would be able to hear the vocals. And then he indicated that all the "guitar freaks" would be right in the front/middle. He smiled again as he calmly picked his guitar back up and played even louder (in a subtle F U move one might say)! Young Dave looked a bit nervous, and didn't really get any solos this time around, which I thought was odd (he's about...18 now?).

That being said, the guitar sound was hella loud, but amazing. The drums, also loud enough to hear, but the bass, keys, and vocals were all basically secondary and not easy to hear near the "Guitar Freaks" section, unfortunately. Uli was on fire, and even during the acoustic song he played with his 'new guitar,' people were positively mesmerized. After the drum solo there were 1 or 2 songs, but they may have blended in with "Fly to the Rainbow." Other nights on the tour have "Polar Nights" nestled between "...Rainbow" and "Dark Lady," and I somehow couldn't pick things apart. I swore I heard part of "If 6 was 9" but I can't confirm- I was taking videos of songs I already knew! Last time he played a much longer set, but still, this shorter (still a little over an hour) was definitely worth the wait.

After "Dark Lady," they bid their adieu, which seemed odd, as usually Uli throws some Hendrix in the mix. The lights turned back off, then on again and the PA came on at the end, then off, which gave us mixed signs as to what was going to happen. We didn't get an encore, sadly- we just saw Uli running off to somewhere, lead by his stage manager or someone. Perhaps for the meet and greet after the show?

Overall a great show, despite the mountain of drum solos. I think I may be a little out guitared for a while, tho. Saw some great old songs brought back to life (Scorpions, Deep Purple, Rainbow), and then some more noodling (Vinnie) to even things out a bit. Totally worth the price of admission!

Next show: 1349? Uriah Heep?

Old James (~7:48- 8:02, was playing when I got there)

  • ?
  • ?
  • Don't Put It On Me
Black Knights Rising (8:17- 9:10)

  • Death Alley Driver (Rainbow cover)
  • The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath cover)
  • Burn (Deep Purple cover)
  • Man on The Silver Mountain (Rainbow cover)
  • Stand Up And Shout (Dio cover)
  • Drum Solo
  • Neon Knights (Black Sabbath cover)
  • Mistreated (Deep Purple cover)
  • Highway Star (Deep Purple)

Vinnie Moore (9:31-10:27)

  • Check it Out
  • Daydream
  • The Maze
  • Rain
  • Hero Without Honor
  • Midnight Rain
  • Drum Solo
  • Riding High
  • Meltdown

Uli Jon Roth (10:55-12:08)

  • All Night Long
  • The Sails of Charon
  • Sun in My Hand (Uli sings)
  • We'll Burn The Sky
  • In Trance
  • ? Acoustic song, flamenco like
  • Drum solo
  • ? 1 or 2 songs here 
  • ?
  • Fly to the Rainbow
  • Dark Lady (Uli sings)