Yngwie J. Malmsteen, San Diego Concert Review

I have seen a lot of musical acts in my day. My first concert was Ozzy with guitarist Randy Rhoads just two months before his fatal plane crash. I’ve seen Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimmy Page legendary rock/metal axe-men. I’ve seen classical greats John Williams and the Romeros. I’ve been to the Chicago and Los Angeles  Symphonies. I’ve seen local and less-known musicians come through town and absolutely blow everyone away. I’ve seen some of the biggest acts in the world; Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith…, as well as, some of the most incredible street musicians in America’s big cities…the people you miss your train simply to hear a few more songs. I’ve been to shows in rock, metal, Jazz, classical, world music, pop,…on and on! But, I never saw/heard anything like I did Tuesday night at San Diego’s House of Blues.

Rising ForceYngwie J. Malmsteen put on a clinic!

Since his debut album, “Rising Force,” in 1984, I have been a fan. His blistering fast runs and arpeggios combining Heavy Metal with musical phrasing of the Baroque and Romantic periods are absolutely stunning. ‘The man obviously took his guitar lessons seriously,’ as one of my friends put it!

The knocks against Yngwie for the past thirty years are as earned as his virtuosity.

He is known for being a bit of a Diva and arrogant. ‘Bit’ might be an understatement. His music, although it has stood the test of time for thirty years, is thought to be lacking in general appeal to those outside of the music/guitar aficionado. There are not a lot of hits, hooks and catchy tunes in Yngwie’s output. His sound and style have not changed much over the years.

The Diva tag comes from a somewhat pompous persona. The J. in his name, as if he is going to be confused with another Yngwie Malmsteen. The use of words in his titles like opus. Oh yeah and he is 50 years old and still years leather pants, no shirt and gaudy jewelry…so the argument is made.

Yngwie hasn’t changed much over the years…which can be viewed as both a lacking and admirable trait. Vivaldi the Italian composer wrote over 500 concertos. Since they were all similar in style it is often jokingly asked , ‘Did Vivaldi compose 500 concertos or one concerto 500 times?’ This question might be applied to Yngwie’s output over his career, as well….but no denying the man’s sheer capability to play the guitar like no other.

Heading to last Tuesdays concert I was stoked to see Yngwie, but, more as seeing a relic. He could be crossed off my list of musicians I want to see but haven’t. I thought it would be a little boring. Watching Yngwie shred all over the place while his band sheepishly backs him up.

May 14, San Diego Setlist

I could not have been more wrong! Yngwie was incredible. His showmanship was incredible, his skills were incredible and his band was incredible!

The ability to play a concert is hard enough for anyone…but to put on a show of that caliber and not lose your musical chops is awe-inspiring.

We’ve all seen musicians use gimmicks live. Playing with their teeth, spinning and throwing their instruments, creatively creating feedback while putting on a ‘rock show.’ Yngwie does all of these, but, it doesn’t seem gimmicky. He legitimately has put time into incorporating all these theatrics into his ‘musical’ performance.

His speed and precision have not declined at all in the years since his 1984 debut. Equally astounding is his use of effects. All guitarists use them, like the whammy bar, they often become a crutch to make any level musician sound rocking cool. Yngwie obviously has invested time working out his electronics as part of his guitar acumen.

Most impressive during the show, was his ability, while playing a blistering arpeggio riff to accompany himself with bass pedals using his feet. Not just one note to give a boost underneath but a full contrapuntal  bass line with his feet while seamlessly arpeggiating over the top.

band side YNGWIE SIDEThe band, in typical Yngwie fashion, are not easy to find out much info about. However, these guys played great. Of course to play with Yngwie…who the band referred to as ‘the Maestro,’ throughout the night, you’ve got to  have chops. You have to play fast, but, they put on a rock show, as well. They laid down a rock groove that Yngwie could soar over with his guitar acrobatics while keeping the crowd rocking, not letting it feel like a man and…. oh yeah a band(even though Yngwie does take about 3/4 of the stage for himself)…kudos to those guys!!

Bottom line…if you haven’t seen Yngwie yet but have thought about it….GO!

This is IMPRESSIVE, Cure For Bieber Fever

I saw these kids on the Today Show, they are amazing! In the video below they appeared on David Letterman. Dave was joking and teasing at first then amazed after their performance.

No offense against the Justin Biebers and Jonas Brothers and farther back the Britney Spears and even farther back the Debbie Gibsons and the New Kids on the Block and on and on. The list is endless of industry created acts. Of course they all have talented voices and can dance well and most of them are pretty …even the boys.

However, not one of them got anything on the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys! These three brothers play their instruments with a virtuosic command many long time studying musicians wish they had. They say the name came from the fact the little brother playing banjo was too small to actually hold it up when he started out and would lay down to play.

All the best to these three!!

Here is the link to their website.

Enjoy!

Key Points from My Lecture on Baroque, Classical and Romantic Music

Here are some of the key points to my recent UCSD lecture on music of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods.

Dates

Baroque 1600-1750 The end of the Baroque period corresponds with arguably the greatest composer of the era, J.S. Bach’s death in 1750.

Classical 1750-1820 There is much debate regarding the transition date between Classical and Romantic periods largely focused on Beethoven and which period he belonged.

Romantic 1820-1910 The Romantic period ended early in the 20th Century as an artistic movement. However, in music it is still largely utilized in popular media most noticeably in the film scores of John Williams.(Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter)

Definitions

Baroque -Originally a derogative term to describe a mis-shapen pearl due to the music’s ornateness stemming out of the more ‘refined’ renaissance period.

Classical -Highly formulaic and stylistic. The term ‘Classical’ is often employed when discussing all ART music from Middle Ages through Modern styles.

Romantic -In reaction to classic ideals. Romantics strove to push the envelope and express nature and the human spirit.

Style/Texture

BaroquePolyphonic, Multiple simultaneous melodies creating harmonies(chords)

ClassicalHomophonic, One main melody over chords(most pop music is homophonic)

RomanticChromatic, All twelve notes of the octave became important during this period vs. the propensity to concentrate on the seven belonging to each key.

Composers

Baroque -Handel, Vivaldi, J.S. Bach

Classical -Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven

Romantic -Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Wagner, Mahler

Society

How musicians were chiefly employed

BaroqueChurch, sacred music

ClassicalCourt, employed by the monarchy

RomanticRise of the virtuoso/self promotion, Much in the way bands today distribute fliers for their shows musicians had to pave their way and make a name for themselves.

Global

BaroqueNationalistic, There were several ‘schools’ of composition in Europe. Italian, French, German, English…

ClassicalInternational, Throughout Europe,  Western classical music could be heard with similar styles and tastes.

RomanticNationalistic, Once again styles were locally influenced. In the Romantic period composers actually incorporated local folk music into their works. This created more of an ethnic diversity than the individual stylistic schools of the Baroque.

Examples

Baroque, This is a great illustration of the multiple voices that are integral to Baroque style

Classical, The following clip displays the grace and highly stylistic nature of the era.

Romantic, Compare the grandiose individualistic nature of the following Mahler excerpt to the stylistic Mozart piece above.

RIP Ravi Shankar Renown Virtuoso Sitarist

Not the post I was planning on writing this evening.

2012 has been a brutally tough year with the deaths of many legendary musicians.  Just last week we lost jazz pianist/composer Dave Brubeck and today(Dec. 11) the sad news of Ravi Shankar’s passing.

Ravi Shankar is an amazing musician known for many things, however, there are two highlights on his resume. First, he was a pioneer in introducing Indian sitar music to the Western world. Second, not totally detached from the first was his influence on the Beatles especially guitarist George Harrison. Trained in the Northern Indian tradition of Hindustani music the sitarist was a crossover  in the 1960’s Western pop culture. As mentioned he was an influence on the Beatles and also played the legendary Woodstock Festival. With his amazing talent and global appeal Shankar became an icon of Indian culture. The Indian Prime Minister said of Shankar on his passing, “National treasure and global ambassador of India’s cultural heritage”.

Shankar has two daughters who are also renown musicians. In the tradition of her father, Anoushka, concertizes throughout the world on the sitar and has pushed the sitar further into the Western realm with her collaborations. I was lucky enough to see the two play together at a San Diego concert near the turn of the millennium. Norah Jones, pop vocalist with a smooth voice inherited her fathers musical genes if not his cultural side.

Shankar died right here in San Diego. For those of you curious who are not from here, he actually passed in La Jolla which translates to the jewel. An amazingly beautiful city on the Pacific Ocean fitting of such an ambassadors final breaths.

Scorpions, “Your Light”

This might not be your typical Scorpions song.

Most fans of the German rockers are familiar with hits like “Rock You Like A Hurricane,”  “Big City Nights,” “Still Loving You” and “No One Like You.” The late 70’s to the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s…was when the band developed their signature heavy metal sound. There were however two other incarnations of the Scorpions. First with 16 year old guitar legend to be Michael Schenker. The second, featured guitarist Uli Jon Roth. Under Schenker for just one album, “Lonesome Crow,” the band had almost a psychedelic sound. The Roth era was somewhere in between this and their ultra-stylistic almost hair metal sound of the 80’s.

I don’t consider the Scorpions hair/glam metal for two reasons. They were heavy metal pioneers that all the crappy 80’s bands tried to emulate and moreover they wrote good music. Anyway, somewhere between being very young acid rockers and trend setting perfectors of the ‘Power Ballad’ mega-stars  was the Uli Jon Roth years.

Heavy? Yes!…..Rockers? Totally! But what was their style?

The Scorps were very unique during this period. They were gaining in popularity, they were still under produced and very original. Roth is a great guitarist very spiritual and Hendrix-ish both terms that don’t always apply to heavy metal guitarists. But they were definitely heavy during these years.

The only way to really understand is to listen. Posted below is one of my favorite Roth era Scorpions songs, “Your Light.”

To me this song sums up the band in the early to mid 70’s. Some heavy-ness, some party feel, some hippie-ish feel and of course incredible guitar work. The song starts out heavy then immediately leads into to a funky dance vibe. But the song truly peaks on the two guitar solos. The first comes at 2:15 in the video. A slow Roth solo mostly reserved, with feeling and anthem-ish. The song then returns to the funky playful riff before the second solo. This is where Roth shows off a little more of his guitar acrobatics. It ends on a playful note as Roth solos into a fade out.

The Roth era Scorpions may be some of the truly under rated music in metal history. They were a little more free form in their songwriting than other bands and certainly then when they became a global commodity in the 80’s. Not always a good thing for massive consumption as most listeners seem to prefer produced cookie cutter bites. Most Scorpions fans have found their way back through the bands back catalog and found these gems. I strongly recommend you check these albums out as well especially if you are looking to uncover some truly quality and cool music.

Enjoy!

For previous Scorpions posts.

For previous Michael Schenker posts.

A fellow blogger’s recent post on Uli Roth.

Sabicas- Arabian Dance

I posted a Debussy piece earlier today one if his Arabesques. A friend of mine commented on the post that I should check out Sabicas’ flamenco piece entitled, “Arabian Dance.”  I agree it is a great piece!

Sabicas is one of the huge legends of flamenco guitar and a pioneer in spreading the genre outside of it’s native Spain. I have heard a lot of his stuff but never this one. It is a very virtuoso piece for sure lots of runs and very ‘Arabic’ sounding in its use of the harmonic minor scale. Arabic sounds have always been a big part of flamenco as the Moorish influences moved into Spain and combined with the existing culture.

Enjoy!