Artist: Tony MacAlpine
Venue: DROM Club (New York, NY)
Opener: John Ferrara, Felix Martin
Label: Sun Dog Records
Any fan of Metal guitar is probably familiar with Tony MacAlpine, a pioneering 80s musician, who along with Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman and a few others redefined what was possible to do with the guitar as an instrument and influenced countless other musicians. Tony MacAlpine’s first 2 albums are widely considered guitar classics, especially by fans of the Neoclassical Metal style. MacAlpine has since branched out into more eclectic musical directions such as Jazz Fusion and progressive metal, both under his own band name and as part of groups like Planet X, Portnoy/Sherinian/MacAlpine/Sheehan, and CAB. He also toured with Steve Vai band as second guitarist/keyboardist. A few years ago, MacAlpine embarked on a rare solo US tour, playing the seminal Maximum Security record in its entirety. The tour was a success and was followed by another a year later. Both times the New York City dates were held at Iridium Jazz Club. This year the tour moved downtown, to the cavernous DROM space which has been hosting more Rock gigs lately, picking up the slack for the closed Webster Hall presumably. DROM is a nice venue with upscale ambiance, good acoustics, and, unlike The Iridium, no mandatory food/drink minimum.
John Ferrara, of progressive metal band Consider the Source, was the local opener for this date. To say that Ferrara merely plays bass guitar would be a massive understatement. Through use of various effects, loops, and innovative techniques, Ferrara weaved some really interesting melodies that were complex but still very listenable. It was easily the most musical use of electric bass I’ve ever heard. It was just him and a drummer but they generated enough sound to make you think of a much bigger ensemble.
Second band of the night and MacAlpine’s direct support for the entire tour was another instrumental virtuoso, Felix Martin. While many guitarists these days play 7 and 8 string guitars, Martin takes it a step further by combining two eight string guitars into a double-necked 16-string monster jam machine. He played both necks simultaneously, furiously tapping away with each hand at the strings like a metal lyre master. The songs stayed mostly in the progressive rock/metal/fusion genre with a few Venezuelan folk tracks reimagined as rock songs. Felix Martin is certainly one of the more unusual practitioners of rock guitar as a sound generating appliance. The coordination required of this multi string instrument must be mind boggling. Technique seemed to be focused mainly on tapping the strings, not holding sustained notes. At times, Martin would slap away at the strings with both bands for a heavy almost orchestral sound effect.
After a very quick equipment changeover, mandated by the club schedule which had another show starting at 11pm, Tony MacAlpine band finally took the stage. It was a different band than last time around, featuring Pete Griffin on bass, Gergo Borlai on drums, and Nas Abdalla on second guitar. Previous MacAlpine touring bands did not have a second guitarist, though that may not have been true for all the tour stops based on some YouTube videos I’ve seen. The second guitarist was certainly a welcome addition, allowing MacAlpine to recreate more of the complex instrumental parts live. Setlist was evenly split between songs from the fan favorite first 2 albums, Edge of Insanity and Maximum Security, and later material including several songs from the new album Death of Roses. MacAlpine and the band seemed to be having a lot of fun with the material, with a good amount of improvised moments. Not content with just replaying album tracks note for note, MacAlpine included enough changes and new intros to the old classics to keep things exciting for fans who, like this reviewer, may have heard the songs many times before. Needless to say, no laptops were evident and no backing tracks were used. In the true spirit of rock n roll, what you heard was what you saw, made right in front of you by a few very talented humans. MacAlpine was in top form, equally fluent with both early neoclassical shred standards and the newer progressive jazzy numbers. He also handled the keyboards, sometimes playing the guitar with one hand, and keys with the other. Having someone else on rhythm guitar definitely helped make for a fuller more complete soundscape. In the middle of the set, MacAlpine slowed down and played his customary classical piano solo piece unaccompanied, to both wow the audience with his versatility and give his band a bit of a break.
The turnout for the show was pretty good, especially considering all the competing entertainment options on a Friday night in NYC, and the fairly pricey tickets. I think this shows MacAlpine built up a sizeable fan base during his past several visits here and it’s paying off. The crowd concentrated in the front of the stage to get a good view of the musicianship on display. Fortunately, I was able to get a good spot in the front row and grab a few photos which can be viewed below.
It’s nice to see MacAlpine continue to remain relevant in current musical climate where more extreme and more technical metal seems to be the norm. It would have been great to see him on the next G3 guitar tour with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, but alas Phil Collen of Def Leopard got the nod instead. Most guitar enthusiasts remain puzzled by that choice since Collen, though a good player, is not known for his technical guitar prowess.
Full MacAlpine Photo Gallery: http://piercingmetal.com/tony-macalpine-live-photos-drom-9222017/
1. Chrome Castle
3. Sacred Wonder
4. Poison Cookies
5. Hundreds of Thousands
6. The King’s Cup
7. Napoleon’s Puppet
8. Tears of Sahara
9. Death Of Roses
10. The Witch and the Priest
11. Synthetic serenity
12. Porcelain Doll
13. Stream Dream
14. Concrete Gardens
15. The Vision
Official Website: http://www.tonyMacAlpine.com