In case you didn’t know, it’s International Guitar Month. So, what better time to buy your first guitar? Sites like thesoundjunky provide a list of guitars for all budgets, and you might want to have a look at it if you’re interested in getting yourself a new guitar. In the interest of our continuing coverage of International Guitar Month I attended the last stop on The Ultimate Guitar Experience Tour featuring guitarists David Klosinski, Andy Timmons, Jennifer Batten and Uli Jon Roth in Melbourne, FL. I also attended the second show on the tour in Orlando six weeks ago (please see The Ultimate Guitar Experience) which was my first article for Metal Nexus and what earned my spot on the staff. At the show in Orlando, I got to see the improvisational genius of Andy Timmons and Jennifer Batten due to difficulties with Uli’s band and their temporary work visas. While quite a treat for those of fortunate enough to attend, I wanted to see the show as intended by this guitar master.
It took place at the Maxwell C. King Center For the Performing Arts on the campus of Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne, FL which seats just under 400 people and was either sold out or very close to it. Very intimate with not one bad seat in the house, we were started off with a short performance by Uli’s touring guitarist, David Klosinski playing songs from his newly released instrumental album: Electric City. He is a straight up, electric Blues player with just enough Pop to make his hooks accessible to just about anyone. This man’s playing is extremely soulful and classy and just drips with that European Electric Blues feel. Very moving and a wonderful opener for what was to come. Check him out at David Klosinski.
Next to hit the stage was my man, Andy Timmons. Using Uli Jon Roth’s drummer Richie Monica and bass player Nico Deppisch, Andy tore straight away into his classic “Electric Gypsy” tune followed by the Beatles “Strawberry Fields” off of his newest solo album “Andy Timmons Plays Sgt. Pepper“. Both songs are a marvel to hear and see live. He is quite animated with an ever present smile on his face; obviously loving every minute of his time playing. His next song “Groove or Die” is his dedication to the great Yngwie Malmsteen. Technically complex at breakneck speeds, Andy lays down a perfect performance that would surely make Mr. Malmsteen proud. After a few minutes of improv soloing and some humorous banter with the crowd, Timmons tore off into what he terms “chicken pickin” for his tune “Farmer Sez” with his signature Ibanez “Telecaster”. Promising to play the song faster as the crowd got louder, he blew a freaking gasket! I have never seen clean guitar playing at that speed outside of maybe Brad Paisley. Quite a sendoff. Astonishing…
With only the setup of an array of computers and foot boards along with a large projector screen, Jennifer Batten was ready to go within ten minutes of Andy’s performance. Throughout her set, Batten played home made videos relating to the music being played and certainly disappointed no one. For example, when she played “Godzilla“, her video showed scenes from the classic films. Her extensive use of MIDI controllers and backing tracks emphasized her unusual two handed tapping technique and absolute song writing genius. From beautifully inspirational tunes like “Nadia” dedicated to her visits to India to quirky transitions from Jaco Pastorius into Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit“, Jennifer’s talent and inventive approach to guitar playing just shine. To further the experience, Batten’s use of a Charlie Case computer animated piece during her performance of “In the Aftermath” was breathtaking. A journey for the eyes, ears and soul. An absolutely brilliant use the media. As was the case for the first show, Jennifer closed her set with a showcase of electric guitar legends dedicated to all of us guitar nerds. What followed were vignettes of Buddy Holly, The Ventures, Chuck Berry, Dick Dale, Eric Clapton, Rick Derringer, The Allman Brothers, Steely Dan, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Synyrd, Led Zepplin, Robin Trower, Jimmie Hendrix, David Bowie, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and finally Michael Jackson proving that she can play everything and play it well.
Featuring his touring band with John West on vocals, Nico Deppisch on bass, Niklas Turmann on guitar and vocals, David Klosinski on guitar, Corvin Bahn on keyboards and Richie Monica on drums, the legendary axe-man, Uli Jon Roth screamed directly into songs from “Scorpions Revisited“, Electric Sun and Sky of Avalon to a crowd already on its feet. With his unusual, signature Dean Sky guitar, Uli is simply other worldly. So precise, unbelievably technical both in his playing and songwriting, I found myself moved to tears more than a couple of times. There are no adjectives strong enough to describe this man’s brilliance and aura. From “Catch a Train“, to the Scorpions “Sun in My Hand” and “The Sails of Charon” to the haunting beautiful “We’ll Burn the Sky” and everything in between, it is easy to see how Uli’s playing has influenced other greats such as Kirk Hammet, Ynwie Malmsteen, Joe Stump, Gus G, Hank Shermann and many, many others. It is also quite lovely to see him stop at points during the show, close his eyes, lean back completely relaxed and play to himself. The crowd, the stage, the band all seem to disappear leaving Uli to to almost hover in mid-air as he plays notes pulled from his soul. Occasionally, Uli would take to the microphone to sing as well. Raspy and soulful, his voice tastefully fits with his playing and stellar band. No wrong can this performer do. Live or recorded, Uli Jon Roth stands at the very pinnacle of guitar players and song writers of all time.
In grand fashion, the finale of the show was a free-for-all improvisational solo-fest of Beatles songs played by all four of these seminal players; each one trading licks and riffs with one another or sitting back comping rhythms while the others went at it. Definitely not amateur hour, they somehow never strayed too far from the original Beatles compositions. Guitar nerd or not, there were noticeably slack jaws throughout the crowd staring on in awe at the spectacle taking place in front of them.
For the second time in less than two months, I left a venue almost in tears, shaking my head, trying to wrap my head around what I just witnessed or just laughing in disbelief. So moving, so incredible, so talented this group of musicians. If you ever have the chance to see any of these slingers, do yourself a favor and go. I don’t think I could ever get tired of the feeling I still have today after seeing them…