Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pat Travers Band - Live At The Iridium NYC - Kicking As Hard As Ever

Pat Travers Band
Live At The Iridium NYC
Frontiers Records srl
January 23, 2015

Pat Travers has always realized the importance of having a great band. He still does, and Travers and company are hitting it hard, and on the mark with their new Live At The Iridium NYC set. As seventies guitar heroes go, Pat is still delivering the goods in spades. Coming off a very strong studio release (Can Do), the man and his band are on fire and still kicking ass. This is definitely not an oldies act.

Travers' trademark tone is largely unchanged and his love for the heavier groove is still in tact, and that's a beautiful thing. He never mails it in, or rests on staid pentatonic licks, he's still one of the sleeker models of his era, and he keeps himself in check by having a very hot handed co-guitarist in the band in Kirk McKim, who supplies great twin leads with the man, and some stunningly good rhythm work - when either player takes a solo, the other guy is digging in and pushing it all further down the road.

Surprisingly, it's Travers' voice that may be the most impressive relic from the hey days - at a very young 60, he's turned to martial arts training to keep himself strong, and limber, and others would do well to take note. When he goes into the choruses on the classic 'Crash and Burn', he's as strong as ever. He went through his blues period, as most hot pickers do at some point, but it's great to see him rocking so hard. 'Heat In The Street' is another classic that runs as fast as it did in '79, and when Travers and McKim lock into the dual guitar sections it's guitar nirvana. Sandy Gennaro (drums), and Rodney O'Quinn (bass) are a brilliant rhythm section, an they push the guitars hard on every track.

'Josephine' from Travers' 2010 release, Fidelis, slows things down a bit, and it reminds me a lot of Phil Lynott's more romantic moments. It's a ballad, but the band doesn't back down its intensity a bit, and there's still plenty of hard hitting moments. Even when the band does a blues, they kick like a mule - 'I've Got News For You' is a twelve bar blues of significant swagger, and bluster. But what the band does best is Travers' funk informed take on hard rock and dare I say, boogie. 'I La La La Love You' is a perfect example as Gennaro chops up the beat, and Travers does his best 'I'm really more of a soul singer' thing that he does so well.

Travers has always specialized in dipping his guitar tone in some time based effects to spice up his PRS/Marshall rig, and his take on the standard 'Red House' never wears thin as a result, and again McKim is right there with him. Together they manage to keep this old chestnut most interesting. 'If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day' delves into ZZ Top territory, and special guest Jon Paris plays some fiery harp around the slippery slide guitars. This is great stuff.

I tried yet again to listen to Cream's reunion concert CD the other day, and I still could not abide Clapton's insistence of playing his Strat instead of a Gibson on these occasions, and when I hear what Travers and McKim do on 'Spoonful' and I know why. This is thick, syrupy, tough hum bucking tones, and it's exactly what the song requires.

'Black Betty' closes out the set, and it remains one of my very favorite seventies guitar moments - my friend Bill Bartlett had the hit with his band Ram Jam back in 1977, and I know he'll smile when he here's this faithful version that's been in Travers' live set for quite some time. Travers and McKim are terrifically in sync as they nail every harmony, and together they are blistering.

If you like Southern fried hard rock and blues rock, you absolutely can't go wrong with Live At The Iridium NYC. Pat Travers still has it in spades - but this CD, and get your ass to see one of the most passionate guitar heroes still out here on the boards.

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