Archives for category: Electric Guitar

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Mercy Lounge – Photo/ Brad Hardisty

Thursday night would mark three years since the first time I saw Jason Isbell (former Drive-By Truckers) and his then “new” band, The 400 Unit in 2009.  Jason was at Mercy Lounge last night at what he called his first “hometown” gig, I might be wrong, but, I think he said since he moved here.

Whether or not that is correct, Jason was playing a Nashville “insider” guitar, a session guy’s new secret weapon, a Duesenberg Gold Top with the futuristic looking German engineered vibrato arm. The retro looking euro-high tech guitars were first popularized by Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) but are making their way into Nashville via Rock Block Guitars in a big way.

Jason has always been known for tasty guitar licks, but, he has really developed some deft country licks without going pure Brent Mason. It still has that Muscle Shoals “where Soul meets Country thang” going on.

I was excited to see where he was at since hearing his new project back in 2009. Back then, it was like he was excited to kind of graft in the family tree of Muscle Shoals legends with something akin to The Band or The Heartbreakers (Tom Petty not Johnny Thunders) but now, three albums in and four years on the road, The 400 Unit (named after the former Psychiatric Ward at Florence, Alabama’s Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital) is a crackerjack five piece band, tight and lucid like the heir apparent to The Decoys, that features classic Muscle Shoals players, David Hood, Scott Boyer, Kelvin Holly and sometimes even Spooner Oldham on keys.

Jason has put a lot of weight on his shoulders by putting himself squarely in the middle of a heavy tradition with writers and players like Eddie Hinton, Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts. I have to say it is working out much better than the first time I heard him.  The set was great, the tone, the crowd and the band. I’m glad that he is doing what he is doing. He has refined the dynamics and is now digging a little deeper than the Gibson Les Paul into a Fender thing.

In fact, he pulled a 1970’s era classic Muscle Shoals tune out of his hat as well as a little “Stone Free” on the bridge of the last song before the encores. There was even an ounce of continuity or deja vu for me between that 2009 set at The State Room in Salt Lake City and the one in Nashville the other night.

Justin Townes Earle, The State Room, Salt Lake City, 2009 – Photo / Brad Hardisty

Justin Townes Earle opened for Jason Isbell back on that tour as he was taking off with The Good Life   then Jason Isbell played on Justin’s Harlem River Blues and  Justin was their last night for Jason’s set just catching it from the back.  It’s hard to miss Justin, he’s a tall presence, back then, he had a little Hank Williams style going on, now, it was an overcoat and fedora flair.

Hey, but, let’s get back to Jason. The Country music business is going about creating their own brand of country while there is this parallel universe where most of the Country Artists out of Texas, as well as newcomers, the august, and independent folks like Adam Hood and Jason Isbell pack them in when they come to Nashville.

Jason is some country, some soul and some heart wrenching lyrics, in reality, it’s all about Alabama, with a nod to Hank Williams-style sad lyrics, Duane Allman style ( Jason rocked on this, sometimes with a slide on two different fingers)slide guitar and a country boy from Greenhill, Alabama telling life stories that makes this worth listening too.  He has some solid fans in Nashville.

Dead Fingers, Mercy Lounge, 2012 – Photo / Brad Hardisty

Openers, Dead Fingers, Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor from Birmingham, Alabama got the invite and as Taylor said, “Alabama, represent!” Taylor has some of his own style going on, incorporating some Mississippi Hill Country Blues and rawhide Country into some Indie folk goings on.

Kate sang probably the strongest set I have heard her do so far; a real standout and an accomplishment at six months pregnant.  Kate has a great mix of Emmylou Harris and sixties vibe queens like Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane of Spank & Our Gang somewhere in that voce bella.

Dead Fingers were just at The Basement two weeks ago. Nashville is looking forward to hearing some more tracks in the future. You could say they are Birmingham’s Civil Wars, but, that would put them too much into a box after all the true Mississippi connections Taylor has made as well as his work with Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band.

Taylor’s slide playing was a standout last night. One of the fun things about Taylor’s playing is when you know his songs, you know when he is experimenting or seeing if the band will go wherever he wanders off too. He didn’t too much of that last night, but, he still looked like he was having fun and there were plenty of Nashvillians and probably some Bowling Green patrons wandering south for the night in the audience when they went on at 9 PM. 

Great Alabama-centric night at Mercy Lounge!

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Last Friday night, after trying to figure out how to get from West End across the I-24 construction zone to East Nashville on surface streets (can you say, “Where the hell am I?”), I barely made it in the door at 11 PM, at The 5 Spot in Five Points for the CD Release Party, get near the stage, Ben Lowry (guitar) glances up and then Abby Hairston (drums) says, “Brad! Ya Made it!” and Bang Ok Bang starts into one of the loudest sets I have heard at The 5 Spot.

Bang Ok Bang/ The 5 Spot – Photos – Brad Hardisty

Bang Ok Bang, is the latest project that puts Ben on guitar instead of Bass with The One Through Tens (The 1-10’s) where Abby also rocks on the skins.

This is a lot heavier and a little more insane then The One Through Tens.

Bang Ok Bang joins the A-list Nashville two man bands, The White Stripes (RIP), The Black Keys and Jeff The Brotherhood. The only difference is Bang Ok Bang would be a great opener for somebody like Queens Of The Stone Age or Slayer.

Ben puts a twist on Chet Atkins picking style by covering the low end through an Ampeg Bass rig, with some gnarly snaking fuzzy bass lines a la Vincebus Eruptum, with stripped down Ministry- influenced- at- Motorhead speed chords and notes through a Marshall.

The only other player I have seen that simultaneously can play the low end and the chords and melody like a total fake out is Lightnin’ Malcolm, the bad ass one-half of the 2 Man Wrecking Crew with Cedric Burnside.

How does the two-man-heavy-stoner rock go over at The 5 Spot? Well, the room was packed where they were the third band up and everybody pulled away from the bar and crowded the stage, grinning and kind of thinking, “Is this guy really pulling off Dickie Peterson and Al Jourgensen at the same time?”

Hey Mr. Marshall meet Mr. Ampeg and try to keep up with Abby. Abby was a solid Bill Ward influenced box beater going from kick to heavy thrashing of the Toms between solid grooves and stoner prog breaks.

With songs like “Above The Surface”, the tender titled “Always For You”, not to be confused with an Everly Brother’s number and “Chemicals Pt. 1 & 2”, I think it is time to pull a two man band festival.

Okay, bring back The White Stripes one more time and let’s have Lightnin’ Malcolm & Cedric Burnside, Jeff The Brotherhood, The Black Keyes and Bang Ok Bang all on the same bill at The Ryman. I would pay $100 to see that show.

Ben’s vocals are what you see is what you get punk rock ethos. I don’t think he could pull off a Josh Stone or Freddie Mercury anyways. Hey, but that’s okay, it’s dang close to Blue Cheer with a healthy Ministry grinding to keep heavy freaks and East Nashville hobnobbers  showing up at the same venue kind of like a Crema Cuban Triple Espresso with a Rooster’s Texas style Brisket Sandwich with all the spicy 911 Jack’s BBQ sauce you can handle.

If I had to compare them to any regional scene band it would be Black Tusk out of Georgia witnessing a little “Hillbilly Voodoo” at a Southern Gothic movie convention in Cordova, Alabama with Ministry providing the soundtrack, Juicifer providing cocktails and Henry Rollins on vocals.

I picked up the “limited to 150” new EP CD and it sounds great. Four songs to irritate office workers as you roll down the window of your Ford Fiesta and crank it full volume. I have number 86/150 and I won’t take less then 5K for it okay, so don’t even ask. If you want yours, you better show up for their next set at The Zombie Shop on July 27th.

Bang a gong, get it on!

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Jim Fitzpatrick – Celtic Artist

Irish Artist, Jim Fitzpatrick, who designed the Thin Lizzy logo, was responsible for the album covers of most of the classic Thin Lizzy era.

Arturo Vega working on Ramones backdrop

When I think of artists being a part of defining a bands look, there are only a few who come to mind, Arturo Vega, who took on The Ramones logo and artwork, developing almost a militaristic approach to the bands look, which in turn had an effect on the artwork of future punk bands such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols.

Tales From The Topographical Ocean/ Artwork – Roger Dean

 Roger Dean, who designed the classic Yes logo and many of the bands album covers such as Fragile and Tales From The Topographical Ocean, creating an almost Lord of The Rings landscape feel to the bands look.

Pink Floyd – Animals, Artwork – Hipgnosis

While many bands turned to design houses like Hipgnosis in the 70’s, Thin Lizzy, had one of the greatest Celtic Artists of all time, Jim Fitzpatrick, painting album covers starting with Vagabonds of The Western World.

Artwork – Jim Fitzpatrick

Jailbreak cover insert – Artwork – Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim’s artwork was eclectic with the band fitting whatever the title of the album was such as Nightlife, to the comic book looking bestseller, Jailbreak. The Jailbreak album cover has the American comic book style of Stan Lee or Jack Kirby of Marvel fame.

Artwork – Jim Fitzpatick

Yet, Jim did this work as well as the Celtic influenced intricate design of Johnny The Fox. Johnny The Fox may be the closest to his traditional Celtic Art, yet, he went onto design future totally different designs for Black Rose and Chinatown.

Jim had a break with Bad Reputation, which may have been a response to Phil’s punk rock friends, in some kind of solidarity, with nothing more than a simple gritty black and white, silkscreen style print photo of the band, with the same flavor of The Ramones, Rocket To Russia cover as well as the band shot of The Clash on the back of their first album.

Che Guevara , Artwork – Jim Fitzpatrick

It is interesting that Jim Fitzpatrick’s most famous work was his simple two tone portrait of Che Guevara. The famous photo taken by Alberto Korda on March 5th, 1960 in Havana, Cuba was known as “Guerrillero Heroico” or “Heroic Guerilla Fighter.” Jim turned this into a poster in 1968 and this probably became the most copied artwork in the world, with silkscreen street artist painting this all over South America and many parts of the free world on many walls long before Banksy.

Celtic Art – Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim’s portrait of Che is now a part of the fashion industry much like Bob Marley or Jerry Garcia. I would like to know how many design houses pay Jim Fitzpatick a royalty.

Phil Lynott Family Portrait – Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim Fitzpatrick remained friends with Phil Lynott his entire life, painting even personal portraits of Phil’s family and members of the band.

Black Rose rough sketch – Jim Fitzpatrick

I provided a link to his website which has a lot of his Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott work.

Artwork – Jim Fitzpatrick

U2 may be the most famous Irish band, but, from my perspective, Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy always portrayed Irish life accurately both in art and music. Thin Lizzy was a link to Irish history and sonics in a modern context.

Artwork – Jim Fitzpatrick

It would be great if bands went through the thought process of what image they wanted visually and worked with the right artist to help develop that context.

By the way, last night’s Thin Lizzy tribute was a winner!  The opening act, an original Nashville hard rock, The Eastside Gamblers, played a solid set that featured a straight up rocking cover of “Living Loving Maid” as well as a new song that had some decent AC/DC style riffage.

The second band, Blockhead, seemed to be a quick throw together that featured a couple of the guys that would play in Jimmy The Weed.  They started off with three Sweet numbers, “Action,” “Little Willy” and “Fox On The Run.” I was having a blast, I never heard somebody cover Sweet for at least two decades. If you hear Sweet live, you’ll see where Motley Crue came from, especially “Kickstart My Heart.”

Jimmy The Weed, Mercy Lounge, June 2012, Hottest month on record

Jimmy The Weed, was a group of Nashville musicians that play in different combinations in original bands as well as Metal tributes and full on Kiss makeup shows. There are a lot of great guitarists in Nashville and last night was no exception where they took on two of the Black Rose songs, “Waiting for An Alibi” and “Do Anything You Want To” which Gary Moore played on and were some of the most difficult twin lead passage recorded by the band as Gary Moore had a big influence on them with some of the twin note modals as well as the matching vibrato. Scott Gorham has written about how difficult that was, yet produced some of the most technically proficient patterns that Thin Lizzy ever did.

Paul Simmons with Reverend Horton Heat

Drummer, Paul Simmons, who plays in the legendary Nashville hard rock band, Simmonz, as well as The Reverend Horton Heat, Petra and projects too numerous to mention anchored the Brian Downey chair and did justice on “Bad Reputation.”

Paul is arguably the best rock drummer in town. He always reminds me of Denny Carmassi. Denny hit hard and had impeccable tone when I saw him with Sammy Hagar and Heart. Paul is the same. His drums sound the same, quintessentially perfect whether he has one mic on the snare or a full consortium of microphones. This skill is lost on a lot of modern drummers, because they play to the microphones or to the compressors.

Old school drummers like Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham and Bill Ward had to play their drums as if they had to be heard over stacks of amplifiers without the possibility of great microphones picking up every nuance.

Jimmy The Weed, Philip Shouse, foreground.Mercy Lounge

Guitarist, Philip Shouse, truly had the Johnny The Fox, Brian “Robbo” Robertson tone down playing through a mid-70’s non-Master Volume Marshall MKII with the four input front like the old JTM 45’s.  The tone was heavenly to these ears. There are certain Holy Grail Marshall Amps and this is one of them. I won’t get too technical, but, let’s just say they had transformers big enough to break your back! If you want a Marshall, you should go old school. Forget all the bells and whistles and scooped tones, even the JCM800 which  tries to emulate Michael Schenker before putting any pedals on it.

Get an old school Marshall, open up the back and have the tech look and see if any of the parts have been messed with. If not, you are on the right path, Grasshopper!

Jimmy The Weed did play “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed.” Not only that, they got into “Warrior,” “Emerald,” as well as crowd favorites, “The Cowboy Song” and the closer “The Boys Are Back In Town.”

I know my Thin Lizzy and satisfied my hungry soul as well as that of a hardcore Lizzy fan from Europe who was wearing his Brian Robertston T-shirt and bouncing up and down on the front row.

I wish that they would make this at least an annual event, let’s say, on St. Patrick’s Day?  The only non-plus was the round robin singers. While they had a lot of fun and kept the rest of the band going, it would have been better if they found Justin Taylor, who not only played bass, but, did the best job at singing Thin Lizzy I have heard yet.

I don’t know if he is still in town and I realize that his friends had to talk him into doing the Black Rose show telling him how much he looked, acted and sounded like Phil Lynott.  Justin plays in other projects and it was not his idea to pull together that show.  When other people tell you that they remind you of Phil that is huge.

Get Justin next year, make it a four piece and make it a true pint of Guinness.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Thin Lizzy, 1978, Brian Robertson, Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, drums

Nashville talents takes on Thin Lizzy once again when Jimmy The Weed rocks tomorrow night, June 30th at Mercy Lounge down on Cannery Row.

Black Rose at The 5 Spot, Photo- Steve Cross

This will be the third incarnation of a Thin Lizzy tribute in Nashville over the last few years. The first was a group put together from some local talent called Black Rose, who did a great set at The 5 Spot in 2010, with bass player, Justin Taylor, a dead-on, unimaginable representation with the look, voice and style of Phil Lynott, in the same way as some of the best Jim Morrison acts like Wild Child that used to do his thing out in L.A.

The next Thin Lizzy throw down was at Mercy Lounge on Saint Patty’s Day in 2011. This turned into a little bit of a “well-intentioned” mess. It was suppose to be two bands and only one showed and they only knew a few Thin Lizzy songs, just enough to satisfy a real Irish night of rock. The best song they did was “Johnny” off of Johnny The Fox, which I had never actually seen Thin Lizzy perform.

Jimmy The Weed, was an actual British Gangster, who has written an autobiography that was the inspiration behind the Thin Lizzy song, “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed.” The album was somewhat of a rock opera with some songs about “Johnny” weaved throughout the record.

I saw Thin Lizzy, or rather met Thin Lizzy, on the Johnny The Fox Tour. They were out on the road opening for Queen, who had a big radio hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” from their current album, A Night At The Opera.

I was really looking forward to the show as Thin Lizzy and Queen were two of my favorite bands at the time. The day before the show, it was announced that Queen would not be at the Selland Arena show in Fresno, California in 1977. Freddie Mercury had some health problems.

I was afraid Thin Lizzy was going to cancel, but, the promoter made a radio announcement that Thin Lizzy would go on with Sammy Hagar (a perennial Fresno favorite) opening. One could either go to the show or get their money back. The arena was about 85% full instead of a sell-out with then openers, Thin Lizzy headlining.

My friend Bob Martin had managed to get a photo with Ritchie Blackmore when his new band, Rainbow had come to town, by going down to the Fresno Hilton after school to see if the band would check in and sure enough they did.

Brad talking with Scott Gorham, Thin Lizzy, 1976, Selland Arena, Fresno, CA

Bob was sure we could do the same thing and so there we were, High School Sophomores, hanging out at The Fresno Hilton when the members of Thin Lizzy checked in. We recognized Phil Lynott and Scott Gorham right away, but no sign of Brian “Robbo” Robertson. It turned out the other guitarist for that tour was Gary Moore, who we had never heard of. If only we had known. I have a photo at the hotel where Gary Moore is standing behind Phil.

Well, Thin Lizzy invited us to show up for sound check in a half hour and we did. I got a few shots with my Kodak Instamatic Camera at sound check.

Backstage at Selland Arena, Fresno, CA, with Sammy Hagar

We also met Sammy Hagar and he invited us in for 15 minutes or so to hang with his band that at the time featured Denny Carmassi, drums, Bill “The Electric” Church, bass, who both played with Sammy Hagar in Montrose and a lead guitarist named Gary Pihl, who looked just like Tom Scholz in Boston and in fact ended up playing in Boston after Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen.

Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore years, Scott, Gary Moore, Not Brian Downey, probably in Australia, and Phil Lynott

What do I remember about talking to Thin Lizzy? Well, we went to talk to Phil who had camped out in one of the arena seats to get an idea of what the stage looked like from the audience. My friend, Bob, wasn’t sure how to be polite so he said, “Sir?” and Phil said, “Don’t call me fu**ing sir!” Then he grinned, we chuckled and just let him know how much we liked the song structures and the sound of the band.

I ended up hanging out with Scott Gorham for a short time and we talked about Ritchie Blackmore and how much Scott made playing in Thin Lizzy. I was expecting an accent, but, it turned out he was from L.A.

It was a great show, starting out with “Jailbreak” with police lights and police radio calls filling up the arena as the band walked on and started kicking out the jams. “The Boys Are Back In Town” actually became a radio hit when the Johnny The Fox album was out. It was from the previous album “Jailbreak” but for whatever reason it became a big radio hit during that tour.

It is interesting how some bands as they become ancient history age like a vintage Harley Davidson. Thin Lizzy just seems to get more respect as time rolls on.  They really were the root band of the twin metal guitar attack with twin leads whether you think of Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Megadeath, Metallica (who did “Whiskey In The Jar” on their Garage Days Revisited album), Def Leppard, Judas Priest all the way through what is now high bred twin lead death metal.

Thin Lizzy is like the Hank Williams of all that. Phil was a great storyteller (“Johnny The Fox”), hopeless romantic ( “Sweet Marie”), weaving Irish folklore (“Black Rose”) with ruthless tales of the rougher side of town (“Chinatown”) and at the same time remained true to his feelings (“Dedication”) and even personal prayers of faith (“Dear Lord”)became a part of his song cycle.

He wanted to imagine Thin Lizzy as a band remembered for their guitar players like The Yardbirds, which it did accomplish, but the songwriting depth and honest gut feel that Phil put into his music and lyrics gained even the respect of punk rock England who sided with the band and Phil when they threw their wrath at Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. They considered Thin Lizzy to be one of them also.

The Greedy Bastards: Thin Lizzy Meets The Sex Pistols, Paul Cook and Steve Jones down front and become a band

Phil became fast friends with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols and even played on Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls) solo album, So Alone on “Daddy Rollin’ Stone “ which also featured Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie).

Featuring: Phil Lynott

You can find almost every Thin Lizzy album at Grimeys, just like a classic indie Red Hot Chili Peppers or Janes Addiction record. There is nothing like hearing twin lead guitar harmonies being played by two guitar players and not a harmonization digital stompbox.  Thin Lizzy is meant to be heard Live and so it is.

Opening for Jimmy The Weed will be Blockhead and The East Side Gamblers.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

It has been 31 years since I last saw David Lee Roth front Van Halen on the Women and Children First Tour, when Valerie Bertinelli was sitting with the front of house sound guy and we were wondering who she was with, when Van Halen hit the stage at Bridgestone Arena Friday night at about 9 PM.

Kicking it off with a hard core Van Halen fan favorite, “Unchained,” it was definitely an interesting ride that really showed Eddie back on top of his game while David Lee Roth seemed to do a little soft shoe a la Gene Kelly meets Jaco Pastorius.

Wolfgang was wearing the stripes on his bass while Eddie was showing off his latest Ebony neck Stealth Wolfgang. Alex Van Halen sat behind a very classic Van Halen Ludwig kit with the four double deep bass drums in holographic silver. The only thing missing was the fire extinguishers.

It’s kind of a strange ride to see Van Halen come out as the elder statesmen of guitar pyro technic rock when it doesn’t seem that long ago that I saw them burst out as true revolutionaries on their own tour at Utah State University in 1979 the day Van Halen II came out. Back then, my jaw hit the floor as they started into “Light Up The Sky.” David Lee Roth came running off the drum riser at least 10 feet in the air and landed in front of the mic stand just in time to deliver the first line. Even today, that stands as a mark in time like the moon landing or the day the wall came down in Germany.

The things that I found interesting in this set was, that they didn’t shy from playing their Roth era radio hits, “You Really Got Me” and “Pretty Woman.”  The first original song to do moderately well on radio back then was “Dance The Night Away,” but, when Fair Warning failed to produce a hit and didn’t sell as well as Women and Children First, it was back to cover Halen, “Pretty Woman,” that turned things around.

Wynona Judd at The VH Show

Okay, impressions on Wolfgang, I had seen clips from the last tour, and seeing him now I thought, how cool is that? He gets to tour with his Dad who just happens to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time and he is only 18 or so. What he brings to the band, is his knowledge of what the fans want to hear and act as a balancing act between his Dad and Roth, who seem to play very well together in the sandbox nowadays. I think their egos are in some kind of balance now.

Eddie and Wolfgang did fine on backup vocals, but, Michael Anthony’s high as Frank DiMino background vocals were a part of the classic sound. Wolfgang doesn’t seem intent to do what Michael did on the bass. Michael was old school in that his bass propelled Alex’s bass drum and was so much in the same frequencies as the kick drum that it was hard to distinguish Michael, like where did the bass go? But, that was because he wasn’t sloppy. He was totally in sync with Alex.  What Wolfgang did show off was guitaresque Billy Sheehan harmonies on the new stuff, like”Chinatown.”  If I had to try to mind read Wolfgang, it would seem that he is itching to come out on guitar, but, the bass gig with Dad and Uncle Alex is a great place to be.

Alex had a somewhat brief solo, with pseudo big band tracks that reminded me a lot of Neil Peart solos over the last few years.  Alex is extremely underrated. He has what a lot of drummers lack now and that is the bridge between the original jazz drummers that is the core of rock drummers back then which was Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Louie Bellson then mixed with what he grew up with, Ginger Baker and Keith Moon and then throw in early 70’s contemporaries that had that swing groove, Brian Downey from Thin Lizzy and Frank Beard from ZZ Top.  Although it was a good solo, Alex’s high point for me was the Balance (Hospital) Tour.  It amazed me when Alex was wearing a collar brace and was literally not suppose to move his neck and I watched his hands snake all over the drums with no neck movement playing like a demented Gene Krupa – Billy Cobham. The Balance Tour is when my respect for Alex was cemented into my brain.

Of the new songs, “Tattoo,” did become somewhat of a sing along and people got it. There were plenty of 40 something Dads with 14 year old sons wearing matching Van Halen Concert T’s.  I had a couple of them with Dad in the row in front of me and when Eddie would take off on a solo, they would point and gawk much like I did in 1979.  Excellence never grows old. Speaking of excellence, last time I saw Eddie live was the Balance tour and I did enjoy it, but, Eddie was steeped in the Steve Lukather wet-dry-wet-, digital delay and processing and a lot of the edge was gone. For me, the highlight of the Balance Tour was the song “Amsterdam.” Now, Eddie is all about his signature stomp boxes, EVH Amps, his own guitars and the dynamics and definition were there. It sounded phenomenal, very tube old school, loved it.  There was only one step better and that was Van Halen II when Eddie toured with the 100 Watt Gazarri’s House Amp Marshall that he recorded the brown sound on.  But, this was fantastic.

Back during Van Hagar, Sammy had a clip when he played guitar alone on “When Eagles Fly,” on this tour we get to see Diamond Dave’s champion cattle and sheep dogs in black and white film as they compete and Dave talks about what the dogs could do before going into “Ice Cream Man.” Dave has always been larger than life on and off the road and this was about the most human I had ever seen Dave. It was very cool.

As far as Dave banter, he didn’t say he forgot the words, because he didn’t, but, he did say some great lines like,”A kid asked me if I had ever seen a screen as big as the one in the backdrop of the band?” to which Dave said “Oh yeah, we had one of those in Indiana out in a field, we called it a Drive In Movie.” One of my favorites was an old school reference when Alex kicked in the drum intro to “Everybody Wants Some,” and Dave started singing, “From the land of sky blue waters…” I think that was Hamm’s Beer.

There were definitely some songs I missed like “Light Up The Sky,” “I’m The One,” “On Fire” and “Top Jimmy,” but, “Hear About It Later” and “Romeos Delight” were great deep track shredders.

Eddie was not slacking at all, his solo which was kind of a “Variations on Eruption” thing, showed him spotlighted in front of the amps and then perching in his surfer kid hair cut on one of the drum riser stair steps. It had more the feel of seeing Eddie practicing on the end of his bed as a kid then a rock star running all over the stage. The camera was right on the neck in total focus showing what his fingers were doing on a giant back screen.

This tour has less set design and was more stripped down like the Balance Tour. It’s hard to express this, but, it felt like an intimate post card to true Van Halen fans in a big arena setting. In fact, it didn’t feel like an arena until the last song, ”Jump,” with confetti dropping out of the ceiling and Dave waving an oversized checkered flag. With Dave, there always needs to be something Texas sized about the show.

The band more than made up for Bridgestone Arena’s very poor acoustics. In this town, T-Pac or The Ryman is the place to really “hear” a band, but, if Van Halen did that, they would have been here all week long. The arena was definitely a near sell out.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Sometimes you gotta wait till the right moment, let things simmer a bit, unwind at an Indie film about Lee “Scratch” Perry at the Belcourt Theater, listen to some bands you never heard at the Grimey’s listening station before turning to the obvious. Such was the case since I have known about Jeff the Brotherhood’s Infinity Cat Records release We Are The Champions for a while.

It really is a trip when you think that The White Stripes ended up down here with Third Man Records before a final break up, and then The Black Keys announced they were making their new home in Music City and all this time, at least for the last few years, we got Jeff the Brotherhood; our own homegrown Two Man band.

Jeff the Brotherhood were the show to see during Next Big Nashville last fall at Third Man with the live set being released on Third Man vinyl within a few days. In fact, the twelve inch can still be found in the Third Man Records shop any day of the business week.

Then came Bonnaroo. Jeff the Brotherhood started their own mania when they were supported by the first 30 people making up most of their audience being other local bands. How cool is that? Other local bands stirring up so much dust that another 200 people stop to see what all the fuss is about?

Nashville could not be in a better place right now. We have our own labels, our own scene, make that multiple scenes with a ton of bands that don’t sound the same. For me, that is exciting. It has been an interesting path between the gulch and the backside of the mission to where things are right now.

Jeff the Brotherhood and PUJOL are on lists in Rolling Stone Magazine and other national publications. They are on lists that really matter. Maybe they don’t have albums blazing up the charts, but, it is a grass roots thing, you gotta search them out or maybe your friend tells you about their live show. The difference is Jeff the Brotherhood are bad, they’re nationwide.

We Are The Champions is stacked and capped mixing up tones that fit the song, like stripped down, complicated garage rock, this was not thrown together, it’s like a stack of seven inch records to do some downhill skateboarding by or shut down Seattle and Portland. Okay, maybe not shut down but turn a few heads, sell a few records and rock the house.

photo - Pooneh Ghana

In a way, the title can be a laugh, using a standard rock term, like you thought you made it up yourself while everybody around you is thinking; don’t they know Queen Live at Wembley with 100,000 Brits singing along? But, in fact, this is Nashville’s time. It may be a metaphor for what it means to be accepted among your peers, the other bands in Nashville.

Back in CBGB’s time, Television played for The Ramones, The Ramones played for Blondie and The Dictators saved Rock and Roll. It is now Nashville’s time to leave their mark. It says a lot when bands show up to support one another and buy each others’ records. It says a lot more when Infinity Cat Records ran by the band and their father, Robert Ellis Orrall, goes nationwide.

Jeff the Brotherhood have a solid set here. Listen up.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

The Jeff Beck stop in Nashville at the historic Ryman Auditorium last night brought more thunder in-doors than the storm that was encircling Nashville.

 Tyler Bryant, a promising young guitarist with a Texas lineage, who played at the 2007 Crossroads Festival at Eric Clapton’s invitation, warmed up the sold out crowd with some sonically altered Acoustic Guitar and Vocals.

When Jeff Beck took the stage, the biggest change this tour was hearing Narada Michael Walden devastating a double bass kit, a blast from the past, who did tracks with Jeff back in the Wired days during the Jan Hammer era.  There are only two drummers that play with that kind of power and style, Narada Michael Walden and Billy Cobham.

 A couple of great tracks from Wired, “Led Boots” and “Blue Wind”, gave him a chance to tear it up like he did back in the Seventies. If Tal Wilkenfeld was the added bonus last go-around, Narada Michael Walden more than made up for that.

Rhonda Smith, Bassist-Singer, most known for gigging with Prince, offered some flexibility to do his version of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” as well as Sly & The Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher” during the encore set.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t read previous reviews because I had no idea he was going to tribute Hendrix with “Little Wing”. If there was a “close- to- God” moment it was during “Little Wing”. It was so sublime, if Jimi is an angel, I’m sure he was smiling.

Jeff nailed material from Emotion & Commotion like Jeff Buckley’s take on “Corpus Christi Carol” as well as one of his standards over the last few years, The Beatles’ “A Day in The Life”.

It is amazing what Jeff can get out of his fingers with a Fender Stratocaster. I have seen some players take Jeff Beck’s approach to solo lines but the tone and the in-between note stretches have never been duplicated in over four decades of guitar majesty.

Jeff stretched from the Les Paul track “How High the Moon” to the Puccini Aria “Nessun Dorma” before disappearing into the tour bus in the alley at The Ryman.  Tyler Bryant did an 11PM set at The Rutledge at an after-show with his full band.

If you enjoyed any of the recent Jeff Beck live DVD releases, hearing him live takes it to the next level.  If you get the chance, go see Jeff on this round with Narada Michael Walden demolishing the drums in the most extreme Jazz-Rock fusion style imaginable.

***Update**Received a copy of the set list, sharing via photo, note Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” leading into “Led Boots”

  – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com