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Gig Review : Aristocrats – Opium Dublin

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Review by Richard Henry for MPM

Here we are, a lovely day in the Irish capital, six hours in the car and a 320-mile round trip for me. We have a trio of musicians about to entertain and scare every musician in the room and there are a few here tonight, that’s for sure.

I have been a fan of these guys since the start but, it’s my first time seeing them as a trio, I have seen Guthrie before at clinics but never with the band, so I am looking forward to seeing the interplay and interaction between these guys as a unit!

They are on tour supporting both the fourth album, “You Know What” as well as the recently released live album “Freeze Live in Europe”.

Stupid 7 – Straight off we are on the third album “Tres Caballeros”, well straight off we are in odd time, hence the title of the song, great riff that Marco is just dancing around, swirling time sigs, then into a much heavier rockier riff that drives then we stop into a quieter section with rimshots before the chaos starts again, there isn’t time to catch your breath, until the break with the bass part on its own and the buzz snare roll to bring the next section in where Guthrie can take a solo, this solo reminds me of Satch at the very start, always has since I heard it first, the other thing seeing these guys live is the smiling between the guys and they genuinely look like the love playing together, I’m going to say this a lot but is Guthrie the best guitarist on the planet, I have seen most of them in all genres and I mean it’s just scary, it’s so hard to catch it all live, from the little accents and stuff Marco is putting in to the bass parts Bryan is doing, I know the studio version well but live it’s so much more aggressive sounding and in your face! The crowd is loud, to say the least, great atmosphere in this place and so nice to see it absolutely packed to the rafters as well!

Hey Where’s My Drinks Package – So we get an explanation from Marco about the origins of this song,this one is a new track from the upcoming album, it a really complex (no surprise), song in terms of the switching time signatures, there is one part where the accents are completely nuts, I literally sat and watched Marco most of the way through this one as its just crazy, now I have to be honest I can’t remember all of this and as it’s a new song I can’t find any footage of it to reinforce my memory, however I can say, if you see it live watch Marco!

Sergeant Rockhopper – So this song is about a penguin, and if you look at the cover of the live album “Freeze”, the is a penguin arresting the band who are in Lego form, so there you go that’s why the song is called that! Starts off with a floor tom driving groove and for these guys a pretty straight forward riff to kick this one off, then it sort of changes and the riff gets peppered with more staccato parts before we go into an octave melody section, it sort of dances about on a groove before we get to a section that lays out over some spacey chords, then we hit a really syncopated section with all the instruments following the guitar riff, doesn’t lose the feel of the song but really interesting part, then into the solo, which is just bonkers, speed picking, tapping, legato, well I mean it’s all there isn’t it, now I am assuming this is maybe part improv and part worked out if it’s a new track but if it is improved there isn’t a wrong note in the whole thing, another syncopated section with Marco adding in a touch of double bass to it, then a bit of drum fills over that static chordal part both Guthrie and Bryan and playing, before we slip into yet another section, with a bit of another Guthrie solo before falling into that sliding octave riff again, and then back into the original riff and that is us!

Now these gentlemen’s Guinness drinking skills are as impressive as the musical play at show on the stage, Bryan with the crowds calls of chug chug, demolished his in one go, Guthrie did the proper first drink, it should take the level to the bottom of the harp on the glass and Marco was a bit more reserved with his, good work on all fronts!

Bad Asteroid – Now all I am saying is, if Guthrie did and audiobook talking about the decline of thedinosaurs I would buy it, as we got an explanation of the song from him at the start of this one!I love this track, I bought the guitar tab from JTC to learn it years ago, such a laid-back groove at the start of it with the little sliding guitar figure, Marco just laying back before the dynamics come up a bit when Guthrie adds a bit more gain, love the little bass chord bits that Bryan adds, then that tapping part that is an absolute nightmare to play, then into that riff part where Bryan adds little bass fill in parts in the breaks, before we hit the swing part, Guthrie adding and changing to the original parts of the solo, the guitar sound is awesome as well, a bit of outside playing in the first part of the solo before he plays that speedy picking break in the second part, then we change and the faux Leslie organ sound comes out for the breakdown of the track and Guthrie throws in all the fusion licks on this, it’s like Scott Henderson in parts, then we are in unison land with all the guys playing around the riff before we break into another sort of breakdown section with the clean guitars and sidestick on the snare, back into the original melody at the start of the song, then into that tapping part again, really interesting to watch what Marco is doing in the background of this section, loads of little accents on cymbals and things that could be easily missed, bit more improv then into the melody and we are out!

The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde – This is a song about people stealing stuff, specifically the guy’sequipment, it’s so cool getting the context of what the songs are about right from the horse’s mouth before they start the tracks! Starting off with that ride cymbal groove, into what I can only say is a part that reminds me of like an Italian melody, think the Godfather, it’s that thing, maybe just me, it’s a nice break of pace as well, after the onslaught so far, really playing on the melody, Bryan adding little runs under the main part, then the beat changes, bit of a shuffle idea, with the melody still going and Bryan adding droning chords under it, that groove though that Marco goes into, where he still has the ride pattern going but he is playing double strokes on the toms is really cool, that chordal moving part that comes up next is just lovely, the next unison riff with Bryan and Guthrie playing is definitely intricate enough, Bryans fingers flying away over there, then he gets to play a bit more as the other two bring the dynamics down and let Bryan play a bit of a solo, then it’s down to Guthrie, playing a nice bending start to the solo, then he starts playing phrased sections which Marco follows along on, again it’s all there on show, technically flawless but really soulful on those bends, then we get a vamp where Marco gets to play around, rolls, flying feet, again the guy is a master of his instrument, then it comes down to a melody before we pick up again with the melody with the band jumping in, I love the chords between the melody, the end with that tribal drum groove has Bryan flying around the neck while Guthrie holds down the melody part, then we are done!

Aristoclub/Drum Solo – I think someone has a new patch on the Axe FX, what I can only describe as a synth splicer sound, it’s hard to describe, like a tremolo synth maybe, we have a 90s dance music theme to this one, yeah, I said 90s dance music , Bryan is laying down a four to the floor beat as is Marco, the next melody that comes up really reminds me of Satch ala Crowd Chant or something just with the bass drum in the background playing behind it, there is some lovely interplay between the next melody part and the drums, lot of fast snare work on that part, the solo is a shred fest, again you expect it from Guthrie but the sheer amount of content in the solo, both harmonically and technique wise is something to see up close, and while my brain is trying to compute it, clean part with a bass melody and then… drum solo!! If you’re a drummer, I mean, the fills, the rolls, the syncopation, I mean just the work round the kit, with the splashes and going back and forth and cycling through all the techniques is astounding, I still remember Marcos solo from the Satriani tours, it’s not even just a show of technique, it builds and ebbs and flows in much the way a song would, we all know how fantastic Marco is and this just yet again proves he is 100% world class!

Through the Flower – Back to Tres Caballeros for this track, nice unaccompanied start from Guthrie on this, almost like his Cliffs of Dover moment, just harder to play! Slow song, put there is so much going on even with that first riff, the amount of syncopation between everyone is just crazy, then it breaks into a really delicate chordal passage with just Guthrie playing, it’s very Vai in this part, even the fifths ascending lick, Marco smiling away while playing the accented drum part and throwing in some crazy fills and Bryan swaying away over on his side, the dynamics on this are incredible, just up and down and section after section, it’s just such a beautifully written track, then a bit of a solo section from Guthrie at the end, with a really nice almost funky bass line from Bryan, then it all gets a bit nuts with Guthrie stretching out and out and out, before we go back to that melody at the start of the track with Bryan following it on the bass, again lovely playing to support it from Marco as well

Ohhh Nooo – Trip to album number two “Culture Clash”, this song’s title came about as Guthrie’s amp took a trip and hit the floor and the following words came from his mouth about said unfortunate accident, I think I would have sworn a lot had it been me and it was my amp! That’s a really nasty riff on the top of this one, with that slow deliberate groove underneath it, then that really quirky Zappa like melody comes in, again just watch what Marco is doing underneath this part, it’s not just a straight groove, my favorite part is that clean counterpoint riff where it breaks down to a clean sound and Marco hitting rimshots over it, then it builds and changes and the distortion comes in and Marco just expands and expands what he is playing over the top of it, the undoubted stars of the show come out for this to accent the next part, the pig and the chicken and if you don’t know what I am talking about then go get the live DVD and all shall be revealed!! We then get to a clean section where Bryan gets to play a solo, bless the guy, he had one then both amps fail on him tonight and ended up having to go direct through the PA, didn’t let it fluster him and played his ass off all night, then after that the dynamics get brought right down to the guitar part with Marco accenting then with rim shots across the drums to follow it, then into the unison section where the double bass kicks in while accenting all those unison parts Guthrie and Bryan are playing, then we hit that heavy intro riff, fast snare roll and we are out! The crowd is deafening in here with the response to each track!

Furtive Jack – So for those that don’t know, this is another piece of the cops and robber’s trilogy, the other two being Sergeant Rockhopper and The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde, this one is about the robber and how Guthrie sees him 98% of the time sneaking down the alleys to avoid the local constabulary, this track is from the self-titled debut album, we are in semi reggae territory in feel for this one, with that lovely little chromatic melody at the start, some of the fills Guthrie puts in between the melody parts are just ridiculous, we then shift tempos into a fast jazz shuffle while playing the same melody over the top of it but adding in some more chromatic lines and phrasing, Bryan gets to stretch out a bit more on this one with a fast moving bass line while Guthrie just comps the chords underneath before we get Guthrie’s solo on this, seemingly unending flow of ideas just all comes out of his hands, back into a melody and then into a clean guitar section where Marco gets to play around a bit more while the other guys hold it down, the interplay between these three guys is just something to behold, they are constantly looking at each other and playing off one another, just great improv around some of the parts of the songs!

Last Orders – And as the title suggests, we have all been there, when that bell sounds and we knowwehave only time for one more, just like that Marco hits the bell of his cymbal, symbolizing that it is indeed “Last Orders”, from the last album “You Know What”, the song itself is a masterclass in rhythm playing, very Mark Knopfler crossed with Eric Johnson, it is the slowest track of tonight, bringing it right down, Bryan playing a really nice bass solo on the fretless while Guthrie comps chords over the top, it then picks up with a more forward riff, bit more distortion but still clean enough, then into a solo, lots of bends and blues phrasing with still lots of technique on display but beautiful feel on this, then it breaks back into a Guthrie chordal backing and Bryan gets another solo on this one, then as it gets near the end, Marco switches over to the brushes, it’s all very George Benson/Wes Montgomery from Guthrie, lots of sliding octaves and blues fills, beautiful track to close the set, except, we still had one more to come!

Blues Fuckers – So, I have never been to a show with a Father Ted improv from the crowd, well I nowcan’t say that anymore, we had, feck, arse, drink and many combinations of all these words, Marco did film it on his phone so I hope the footage gets put up on the socials, again the fact these guys are selling out and filling places with music that is challenging and complex is something I love to see, I genuinely love these guys since I heard that first album, I had heard Guthrie back in 93 when he did Guitarist of the Year!

Anyway, back to the song, Marco tells us how they got on the parental advisory list because of the title off this song, now we have three lucky people whose job it is to count off three of the sections, we had a girl beside me, a fella on the other side of the stage and a guy in the balcony, and BANG, off we go, after the slowdown of the last song, this is like getting slapped around the face with a rubber chicken, what do you mean you can’t play a blues riff with thrash tempos, apparently the guys didn’t get the memo, back and forth and changing tempo and feel before, we get to section two, where we get counted off by audience member number two, the guys went so far out on this that they were in a different zip code, all a bit Zappa, or organized chaos, hilarious as well, we get into the chord part where Marco gets to let fly between the notes, as expected, flying feet, ridiculous rolls round the kit, it’s all there, then into shuffle land for this next part, before section three gets counted off by the guy in the balcony and it’s into the original riff, and the shifting tempos under it before the blues turnaround both backwards and forwards before we hit the end of the song!

Outstanding musicianship from every single guy on the stage, and it was an absolute joy to watch them at work tonight, it’s no surprise as every member of the band is a top-class musician, but to see the joy these guys have and the fun playing this stuff together is what makes it come alive on the stage, shout out to the most important members of the band who often get overlooked, the chicken and pig without who the gig wouldn’t have been what it was! If you haven’t seen or listened to these guys, and you love your guitar playing, drumming or bass playing, I highly recommend starting with either, “Boing we do it Live” DVD or the Culture Clash Live DVD, you will love it!!

Photography by Stephen Brophy for MPM

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