In the mid to late 80’s, the metal music scene was crowded with guitar heroes and shred symphonies were multiplying daily. Marty Friedman came to everyone’s attention sharing the stage with Jason Becker in the speed metal outfit Cacophony. Following Cacophony’s breakup and the release of his first solo album Dragon’s Kiss, Marty quickly established himself as one of the best guitarists around, heavily influencing legions of future lead guitar players with his epic soloing on Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace”. He expanded his repertoire with Scenes which was co-produced by new age master Kitaro. It was this record which had an even stronger eastern/asian influence, with exotic sounds becoming very prominent; one of the trademarks Friedman is praised for today. Following his departure from Megadeth in early 2000, Marty settled in Japan where besides various music collaborations, he also became a TV celebrity. He continued to put out new guitar oriented albums throughout the 2000’s, although rarely touring his homeland. In fact, he has not committed to a major tour since 2003.
In September of 2014 Friedman released Inferno, and soon after announced plans to tour North America. While rumors of a possible Megadeth reunion were spinning around, the newer generation of guitar aficionados exposed to his mastery were still awaiting to experience his music live.
Long time overdue, the US tour started in Baltimore on Wednesday September 9th and made its second stop in NYC playing The Gramercy Theatre the very next day. NYC veterans Metalfier opened the night at The Gramercy Theatre introducing its new extended line-up now including lead guitarist Jeffrey Monge. While this is a good move in creating a stronger stage presence and filing some noticeable guitar gaps, the band still has room for improvement and should finally define their sound. Nonetheless as it is always the case with Metalfier, Andrew Janda (vocals, rhythm guitar) quickly got the crowd going.
Next on stage was California based Exmortus which is also the main support for the entire North American leg of the tour. Their blend of technical trash/power metal, blistering riffs and dual guitar solos seems to be a perfect fit on the bill. The band released their first EP in 2006 and produced 3 full studio albums since. They continue to tour in support of Slave to the Sword released last year.
After two openers the enthusiastic NYC crowd was more then ready for Inferno – and inferno it was. The show started with “Hyper Doom” off the new record and continued with heavier more aggressive songs from their Loudspeaker album. The crowd remained very involved, shouting Marty’s name whenever they had a chance to do so. The rhythm section of Kiyoshi (bass) and Chargeeeeee (drums) were pumping a big sound in support of Marty’s guitar runs. After a supercharged first 30 minutes, the band delved into softer tunes like “Devil Take Tomorrow” and “Tibet/Angel” off of Scenes. What followed was a little showcase from Kiyoshi; her bass slapping solo transformed into the funky classic “Higher Ground” originally recorded by Stevie Wonder. Another medley began with Rammstien’s “Asche du Asche” going through “Forbidden City” and finally leading to Marty’s trademark solo from “Tornado of Souls”.
Later into the night Marty invited a guitar player from the audience to join him on stage and jam. This not only shows his no-ego relaxed approach to stardom but also the respect and appreciation he has for fans. While you may expect a majority of audience members being shredders of all levels, it shouldn’t be a surprise that more than half of the people were ready to jump on stage. The lucky one to join Marty on stage was youngster Jeffrey Monge, who recently joined the Metalfier lineup. Certainly Marty Friedman fans can play guitar, what might be most important for younger players to remember is not how many notes you play but how you play them.
Most instrumental shows are very different, which usually includes sitting, $20 hamburgers and a waiter taking your orders. Well this wasn’t one of them- and I’m glad. Many times throughout the show a huge moshpit would form in the middle of Gramercy Theatre, with members of both Metalfier and Exmortus joining at some point. A shirtless guy was even dancing what looked a bit like a boogie.. and why not? Towards the end of the night as expected, Marty Friedman’s band played some of the old classics “Dragon Mistress” and ‘Thunder March” finishing up with “Kaeritakunattayo”, a cover of Japanesepop-rock group Ikimono-gakari. Marty Friedman’s band was able to keep the audience interested and engaged throughout the entire set. Marty Friedman’s guitar technique, uniqueness and sensitivity was highlighted throughout the evening. Endless energy and very animated presence from the band made it plenty to listen and watch as well! A long awaited come back to NYC was indeed very successful. I would expect the rest of the tour to be received as enthusiastically as it was in NYC. It’s safe to say that shred is not dead, it’s doing very well in 2015.