Newspaper Articles – Issue 13
by Niall Krumpett
European keyboard wizard Jan Hammer and his excellent celestial outfit — Steve Kindler, Fernando Saunders, and Tony Smith enraptured a nearly full house recently at The Beacon Theatre, a concert which closed out a short but successful season for new audiences at that venue. For this tour, The Jan Hammer Group was without the services of one Jeff Beck. It is understood that our temperamental Beck-ola hied himself off to the South of France and went into hiding after completing approximately one-third of his contracted 90-gig date sheet with the JHG . . . sounds as if Beck is up to his old trix! However, undaunted, this hot outfit turned out a performance of the first . The Beacon show was almost an exact replica of the nearly disastrous Capitol/Passid gig in which Kindler’s violin cord acted up and the acoustics were deplorable. They opened with “Country and Eastern Music” featuring Kindler on violin, utilizing a modified Freeman symphonizer which allows his single violin to sound like a quartet — the effect is sparsely used and shattering. “Seventh Day” followed with the classic “Darkness: Earth In Search Of A Sun” close on its heels. This masterpiece featured both Hammer and Kindler on dual keyboards in a mind-altering melange of string device blended with synthi. This segued into a fine bass solo by Saunders which led directly into “Earth — Still Our Only Home” . . .segueing into a Tony Smith drum solo which led to an auditory battle twixt Smith and Hammer, the latter featured his portable moog keyboard. “Gently” came next with Kindler on electric guitar and Saunders taking over the vocals — the fadeout was exceptionally beautiful. Longtime favorite, “Oh, Yeah”, was wildly received and the hometown crowd roared its ‘oh yeah’ answerbacks religiously. Kindler and Hammer traded tasty lix during this most powerful of funky tunes. It was a most excellent gig topped by a well-deserved encore. The Jan Hammer Group deserve acceptance on a much wider scale — their time has definitely arrived.
Al DiMeola and his sixpiece headlined for Hammer and were covered in last month’s gospel; however, their topnotch performance cannot be ignored. This very fine progressive band were truly heavy and in a particularly fine fettle with an ecstatic crowd behind them 100%. There is no stopping the ex-Return to Forever guitarist and his highly gifted ensemble. You must see it to believe it — don’t miss them. Crimson devotees will not be disappointed.
The scene was most definitely set: on the second eve of a near record-breaking run of six SRO’s (Elton tops with seven), 20,000 thronged Madison Square Garden for the inimitable kings of British metal, the Zep . I mean, I had caught them last with Will Blake at the Lyceum Strand in 1969 and I wondered just how much they had lost on stage within the course of eight years. (By the way, also on that same Lyceum all-nighter bill were Audience, Howlin’Wolf, and the Kirwan-Green-Spencer Fleetwood Mac, one of Green’s last gigs.) Anyway, back to biz. It was a 50-minute late start and the overly impatient, yet surprisingly laidback (and laid out) crowd greeted the four with a rowdy welcome. Now, I’m not totally up to date on what the Zeps perform ‘live’; all I can say is that the first few tunes were hard and raucous and the band were in a fine fettle. Posing Percy Plant, not hopping about as in days of old, was in top vocal form as was his silver-suited prodigy, a shaded Pagey. Zep graced us with a few selections off “Physical Graffiti” and the vaults: “No Quarter” with smoke filling the stage and Plant utilizing a heavy echo effect and Jimmy an eerie D-string modulator unit (he later used a Theramin as well as a digital delay echoplex). Production values were good for this tour with two green lasers projecting onto the rear corners of the stage. JP Jones took on the 3-neck monster (mandolin, 6- and 12-string) during an acoustic set which featured “As It Was” and “Been To California” with Page on mandolin. “Baby, What’s Wrong With You?” got the adrenalin flowing again with Jones on upright electric bass. The incomparable “White Summer” ensued with Page on guitar backed by Bonzo>. This segued into an unfamiliar piece with effective stage lighting. Next was Bonzo’s nearly disastrous drum solo: it had been going on for about 20 minutes when, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there were two flashes at the rear sides of the stage unleashing white smoke clouds high over the stage. The platform on which the kit was set, along with our Bonzo, then slid forward to stage front. The kit then became synthesized and different parts of the kit were lit by colored, flashing lights — the effect was shattering. When the flashpots went off at the end of his solo, we knew that Bonzo had been saved by Dr. Clang, King of techno-flash. Page then took his solo. During the course of the show, he availed himself of a number of guitars: a custom-designed 12- and 6-string double-neck, a ’58 Les Paul Sunburst and a ’76 Stratocaster, as well as a Martin D-18 and a Phil Everly model Gibson acoustic, pushing four Marshall Super leads. For this solo, Page used his bow, causing an incessant, high-pitched screaming (the placement of palms over exposed ears was herewith a necessity). Near the end of his spot, the laser then encompassed Page within its outer shell — it was a cosmic occurrence. (I could go into the good luck involved with meeting new friends with certain celestial accoutrements; however, I know they’d chop it up.) “Achilles’ Last Stand” was a monster as was “Kashmir”. JP Jones had used bass pedals for a great part of the proceedings and it was in this song that he blew it all with an ill-timed error on piano. After a ten-minute ovation, “Whole Lotta Love”, the old Small Faces tune, reaffirmed that Led Zeppelin over the course of three hours and 15 minutes had once again exhibited the reasons why they are still near the top of the ranks of international touring outfits — a great show.
The New York City premiere of high-voltage British jazz outfit Brand X was certainly a gala affair. A thoughtful pairing slotted the quintet as support for quality craftsmen Supertramp at The Palladium venue. Leader, ace keyboardist, arranger, and producer Robin “Wind Harp” Lumley was igniting fireworks onstage as the band applied finishing touches to their tuning up just prior to the all-too-short 45-minute set, setting a festive mood for the occasion. There was top UK session percussivist Morris Pert cutting a particularly dashing figure on upright percussion. Kenwood “Woody” Dennard was on traps, a last minute replacement for the previously-announced Joe Blocker in a separate and unfortunately embarrassing “all-change” situation. John Goodsall was playing a “compressed-style” style guitar owing its sound largely to Fripp. Bassist Percy Jones was also in top form. Musically, an electrifying, unrelenting set spotlighting the talents of all soloists with Lumley shining on electric piano, synthi and Roland string device. An unfortunate PA buzz slightly marred such arresting works as “Disco Suicide”, “Malaga Virgin”, and “Deadly Nightshade” (a new Pert piece). But it was the finale of “Nuclear Burn” which cleared the decks. If you lucky readers get the chance to view Brand X, you will not be disappointed in this classy, inventive outfit. We can’t wait to see them in a more favorable situation with a longer set. I must own up that I had never seen Supertramp in concert. Oh, I had heard of their reputation as being British musician’s musicians, and their latest LP, however, I was not prepared for the excellent show served up by this highly deserving fivepiece. Apparently, Supertramp embrace quality in their concert performances. All aspects of their stage production were of the first : top sound, a most excellent mix, as well as effective, yet not overbearing lighting (a photographer’s dream). The accent was on the music and its inventive arrangement and this band does it all very well. Supertramp are a multi-instrumental outfit with various switches occurring here and there. When treble-keyboard, they are mind-boggling. Top songs of the killer set included the evasive hit single “Give A Little Bit” with its lovely vocals. “Sister Moonshine” scored well with its three-way harmonies. The older standout “Dreamer” was hot stuff. John Helliwell on sax, a Heinekin man, comes off in a bit of comic relief here and there as a mild-mannered madman and a sitting clarinetist. “Another Man’s Woman” provided your odd bit of Gentle Giant and 10 CC. However, the set’s main pieces came at the end of the evening. The huge crowd-pleaser, “Fool’s Overture”, was excellent with the band utilizing a rearstage screen on which was projected a skyline scene of London. Then, during the middle portion, a frightening slide show using the same screen came about. Approximately two frames per second exemplified main slices of history of mankind’s 20th century . . . a highly effective and staggering production coup. Thankfully, the band double-encored with “Where Do We Go From Here?” (Supertramp are the only band I know which sits under an umbrella onstage), and the grand finale “Crime Of The Century”, during which a film was projected zooming through the universe onto the “cosmic grate in time” which you will remember as an album cover design. Heavy! Supertramp provided us with a very fine show and they certainly deserve all accolades.
The English art-rock octet Deaf School made its Gotham debut recently to an ecstatic crowd at the Bowery venue CBGB and OMFUG. Deaf School, who hail from the Liverpool area, have come a long way from garnering first prize as winners of the Melody Maker Rock Contest a couple of years back. With a sound which was excellent and tight, and superb mix, Deaf School might be looked upon as the Manhattan Transfer of the late seventies. Visually, it is an exciting entourage with three frontliners providing a focal point as well as being topnotch vocalists. All eight were resplendent in some type of garish garb: the pianist was frocked out as a reverend, there was a wasp woman vocalist up front, a couple of flash-types, a quite mod bassist, and four Dr. Feelgood lookalikes — all of which made for arresting viewing. Unfortunately, not all of their repertoire sound uniquely original; one tune borrowed heavily from Roxy Music‘s “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”, with its exact chord structure. However, their Paul Shuttlesworth lookalike crooner stole the show in a finale which brought many to their feet. The tune “I Wanna Be Young: utilized heavy echo effect on vocals as he got up on a rightside table and swung an overhead light to and fro in a mad frenzy. Deaf School are a good little band worth watching; they are pure entertainment and should do very well for themselves on a cabaret level. Atlanta lads The Fans opened for Deaf School and this interesting little foursome managed to stir a healthy response from the audience. Although obvious heavy influences from Sparks, Roxy and Sailor abounded, The Fans turned us on with top tunes like “Nice Girls” and “Nadine”. Anyway, a group which opens their set with “Telstar” should not be dismissed by any means.
Judas Priest, champions of British heavy metal, made their American debut recently at The Palladium. With four solid albums under their belts and headlining your status in their homeland, the Birmingham-based quintet could do real damage in a country which craves this kind of raunch. Appearances aside, it is easily ascertained that vocalist Robert Halford is one of the best in the genre on either side of the Atlantic. Musically, the repertoire we heard was basic, raw and unpretentious, with dual lead guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing slicing the crowd apart. Top former English single “The Ripper”, “Diamonds In Rust”, and the encore “Starbreaker”. Judas Priest need to concentrate on thematic development a bit more, to ease the constant riffing, but try to catch them, should they visit your area. We suggest football helmets for all.
An interesting and unique double pairing was presented by Pat Kenny at his Castaways Club (now ensconced in The Village) which saw near-legendary English songstress Bridgett St. John open for the inimitable John Martyn, back from a self-imposed retirement. The honey-throated Bridgett at one time was signed to British DJ John Peel‘s Dandelion label (a small UK indie far ahead of its time) and released two fine LPs early in the seventies. Many will remember her serving up harmony vocals on the Kevin Ayers album Shooting At The Moon on the selection “The Oyster And The Flying Fish. Apparently, many present knew of her work somehow and were delighted to see her with Martyn. Bridgett was ably assisted by Dick Morrisey (ex-If and J.J. Jackson Big Band) on flute and sax as well as Jim Mullen (ex-Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express) and later Kokomo). Both were in The Big Apple recording as The Mullen-Morrisey Band, with Herbie Mann doing the chores for his own Embryo label. There were many highlights to this lady’s set, however: her voice excelled on the Martyn tune “Back To Stay”. We trust that she is! Bridgett St. John is looking around for a recording contract and our opinion is the farsighted firm will snatch her up. An ecstatic audience roared their approval as John Martyn, in a rare local appearance, staggered to the stage. Now, for all of our American readers, take note that Martyn, for all of his soothing, laid-back tunes, is a well-respected raver. He was in his cups, and when this happens John becomes Dr. Jekyll and becomes harmlessly insulting and cynical. This is his stage persona and he uses his loose tongue to his advantage. For those who have never seen Martyn work live, you are in for a rare treat. Martyn came on with a number of acoustic pieces, including “Jelly Roll Baker” and then pulled his famous switch to electric guitar with devices. The sounds that this one man can wrench from his guitar must be considered incredible. with the use of a repeater and echoplex, John manages at times, to sound like three-fourths of Pink Floyd. The spaciness and extreme heaviness of his uptempo electronic pieces are unique in the genre. Martyn came back down to earth with the timeless “Bless The Weather” as well as the lovely “Over The Hill”, during the latter his voice was in top form. He then went back to another electronic piece, and uptempo thing which owed a certain amount of feel to the Floyd’s “Fearless”. Don’t fool yourself; John Martyn is a giant amongst single performers. Should he return to the States, you cannot afford to miss him.
The long-awaited Gotham debut of top Scottish rocker Frankie Miller came to pass recently at the beanery posing as a night club, and I mean The Bottom Line. With Paul Rogers of Bad Company laying back a little too much for his own good, Frankie Miller, one of the UK’s top rock vocalists, certainly more than fills the gap . . . you can actually close your eyes and see Otis Redding in your mind’s eye. This looner is tops. Some will recall Frankie as the bloke who insisted on sitting in with an unmentionable group not long ago at the Marquee Club in London. they refused him. One thing that one does not do is refuse anything to a Scotsman who’s been into his cups. the story hoes that fists flew, and Brian Robertson, Frankie’s countryman, of Thin Lizzy fame, stepped in and promptly had a bottle smashed over his playing hand, severing an artery and nearly bringing another USA tour cancellation for the Lizzy. (Gary Moore subsequently depped for Brian.) Frankie is heavy! Miller’s outfit was cool and clean and sported, of all people, Chris Copping (ex-Procol) on organ (the obvious tie-in is that Miller is managed by the unlikely Keith Reid); as well as Chrissy Stewart (ex-Spookies) on bass. All of Miller’s tunes were memorable and raunchy; however, a handful were bloody outrageous: “Fool In Love”, the tribute to Otis, “Love In Vain”, “Brickyard Blues” and the Lennon opus “Jealous Guy”. Frankie cuts a fine figure onstage — a black stovepipe hat (his trademark), a royal blue velvet coat, and black vest. There’s nothing to stop this Scottish rocker from being a monster — all the needed ingredients are there. Check this band out!