Roxy Music live in Melbourne – March 3, 2011

On Thursday night Mrs I Heart Guitar and I went to the Roxy Music gig at Rod Laver Arena here in Melbourne. We don’t get to go to many concerts together – I’m a metalhead and she likes far classier music than involves far less shouting, skulls and demons – but occasionally our tastes overlap. Like Zappa, Steely Dan and David Bowie. The Roxy Music gig was great, with a balance of the rowdier, glammier moments that we live for, and the more poppy, radio-friendly early 80s fare that it seemed the rest of the audience was waiting for with folded arms. My buddy Joe Matera was also at the gig – he recently interviewed Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera for Guitar & Bass Magazine – and he was kind enough to let me accompany him backstage to say hi to Phil afterwards. Thanks Joe!

By the way, Manzanera used some great guitars during the gig, including his red Gibson Firebird, a 3-pickup Les Paul, and a Fender David Gilmour Stratocaster.

Here’s the setlist.

India (Tape, for walk on)
The Main Thing
Street Life
Prairie Rose
If There Is Something
More Than This
Jealous Guy
Like A Hurricane
In Every Dream home A Heartache
Bitter Sweet
To Turn You On
Same Old Scene
My Only Love
Virginia Plain
Love Is The Drug
Editions Of You
Do The Strand
Let’s Stick Together
For Your Pleasure

If you’ve never really checked out Roxy Music before, might I suggest this, which I hold up there with Bowie doing ‘Oh You Pretty Things’ as one of the greatest things ever to happen in the early 70s.

GIG REVIEW: Dream Theater, Palais, Melbourne, December 7 2009

Once upon a time, if my brother (hi Steevil) and I wanted to listen to Dream Theater we had to order the CDs as imports from the cool old Dutch dude who ran a CD store in our local main street. Forty bucks later we’d have ‘Images & Words’ or ‘Awake.’ This was the height of grunge and such musical tastes were frowned upon by my peers but I didn’t give a feck. Dream Theater were my band. They represented how I felt, what I thought about and how I liked to play.

Cut to today, and Dream Theater CDs are readily available in stores. And not only that – they’ve even started coming all the way down to Australia to prog our socks off at regular intervals. Their first ever tour of Australia was in January 2008 and already they’re back.

My evening started quite awesomely indeed with a 15-minute one-on-one chat with John Petrucci backstage at the Palais in St Kilda a few hours before the gig. You’ll be able to read that interview here later this week so I won’t spoil it for ya, suffice to say that JP was really friendly and talkative and it was so cool to have a chunk of his time to talk guitar geek stuff. Another of those “If the 15 year old me knew this would happen someday he’d probably pass out” moments.

Anyway, on to the gig. Pain Of Salvation were the support. I haven’t listened to them too much but it was cool to see them. They somehow manage to blend proggy rhythms with anthemic melodies without sounding trite at either. I was glad I saw them (and it’s great to see a band using Laboga amps on stage – check them out some time, especially the Mr Hector head), and I’ll definitely check them out further. Vocalist Daniel Gildenlöw has one hell of a high range. Good lord.

As for Dream Theater, the setlist wasn’t as all-encompassing as last year’s shows, where they took great pains to give Australia a “Sorry we’ve never played here before” show. Instead they dipped a little deeper into the catalog, in addition to three songs from this year’s kickass ‘Black Clouds And Silver Linings’ album. The show was bookended by the opening and closing tracks. Nice touch.

1. A Nightmare To Remember
2. A Rite Of Passage
3. Hollow Years
4. Erotomania
5. Voices
6. Keyboard Solo
7. Forsaken
8. Solitary Shell
9. In The Name Of God
10. Encore: The Count Of Tuscany

It was cool to hear Hollow Years live (what was with that bit they added to the pre-chorus? Threw off my singalong!), while it was a little bit jarring to hear Erotomania and Voices without The Silent Man following them up and rounding off the ‘A Mind Beside Itself’ trilogy. Forsaken was suitably epic, with the animated, vampire-laden video playing in the background. Solitary Shell was played at almost double the tempo but somehow it worked. In The Name Of God was one of my least-listened to tracks from Train Of Thought but one could never grizzle about having to hear that incredible solo breakdown.

Highlights included Jordan Rudess’s wizard (I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t caught this tour yet) and iPod solos, Mike Portnoy’s wander around his drum kit during a low-key interlude, and trying to figure out what James LaBrie might be doing when ducking behind John Petrucci’s amps during extended instrumental sections. My guess is that he has a Nintendo Wii back there and is trying to beat his high score in bowling. Petrucci’s tone was monstrously huge, no doubt due in part to his new DiMarzio Crunch Lab and LiquiFire pickups, and he played with all the precision and fire we’ve grown to expect from him. Fun fact: Petrucci is using his B rig in Australia, which is based on the Mesa Boogie Mark IV amp.

If I were to pick my own ideal Dream Theater setlist, it’d probably look a lot different to this one. But that’s probably why I enjoyed this gig so much – they didn’t play what I expected, and there were three tracks that I would call completely left-field choices (Hollow Years, Solitary Shell and In The Name Of God). It takes balls to play a mere 10 songs over two hours and not play more obvious tracks. And in my mind the setlist went a long way towards making up for the many, many years Dream Theater never toured Australia, by saying “Hey, you got all the big stuff last time, but now we’re buddies, we all know each other, and we’re gonna go a little deeper into the catalog.”

Tickets are still available for tonight’s second Melbourne show.

Remaining Australian tour dates:

Dec 08, 2009: Melbourne, Palais Theatre
Dec 09, 2009: Adelaide, Thebarton Theatre
Dec 12, 2009: Perth, Metro City

LINK: Dream Theater at Roadrunner Records Australia.

GIG REVIEW: Unclechunk @ Evelyn Hotel, Fitzroy

September 5, 2009.

I was psyched to check out the new line-up of Unclechunk. After all, the latest addition is bass player Rohan Drew, a dude I have much respect for due to his time holding down the low end in The Upperhand. And even moreso because by a twist of fate I ended up in The Upperhand myself and had the pleasure of watching him rock out on a regular basis from right there on stage with him. Dude’s got chops to spare and a sense of rhythm like you can’t believe. Ro and I are still working on stuff together but it’s awesome to experience his mad bass skillz as an audience member again.

As for Unclechunk, how do you describe this band? Ok, imagine Faith No More in their ‘King For A Day’ era, crossed with Primus, crossed with too much red cordial and not enough sleep. Mike and Marc Russo on guitar and drums respectively (they share vocal duties) have been rockin’ together since 2001. Striding out onto a stage festooned with all manner of handmade japery (see pic!), there’s a certain kind of manic energy swirling around Unclechunk. You kinda get the feeling you’re being invited into someone else’s very defined yet quite twisted world. And it’s awesome to be there, even if you’re not quite sure what’s going on half of the time. But that’s ok because you get the feeling the band is in complete control. Crunchy riffs frolic about with groove-heavy single-note lines, broken up by the occasional staccato burst and all tied together with the most finely-honed conglomeration of guitar tones you’re likely to hear.

The band were really cookin’ tonight, and honoured the crowd with a handful of new tracks which fully take advantage of the bass talents of Mr Drew. It was only his second show with the band (and with his new Spector six-string bass), by the way. I was especially impressed by the near-psychic interplay between all three members, and especially especially impressed by Marc’s drumming, which is reminiscent of some of Terry Bozzio’s work crossed with Rush’s Neil Pert on a caffeine jag. Mike’s guitar style is eminently listenable and effortlessly intricate, like the best of Trey Spruance crossed with Dweezil Zappa during the Z era. Y’know, progressive and with occasional bursts of technical fury but without sounding pompous or clinical about it. And the riffage, my god, the riffage. To be honest I’d like to poach all three of these guys to be the rhythm section for my solo instrumental stuff, but I shouldn’t be greedy.

Mike gets special points from me for slinging a Washburn Culprit (one of the lesser-known Dimebag Darrell models, dontcha know), also hoisting an Aussie-made Maton Mastersound for one song. And anyone who rocks a Mesa/Boogie Triaxis preamp is cool by me!

For more info about Unclechunk, hit up the website here or the myspace here.

Thanks to Nathan English for the photos.