Review: Orianthi – The Gov, Adelaide 21 Dec 15

Adelaide born and raised, Orianthi came back to the Gov to play one show… and what a show that was! Orianthi is known the world over as the guitarist chosen by Michael Jackson for his ill-fated return to the limelight. Following that, she moved to the Alice Cooper band, and then solo for some high profile gigs and albums. Recently, she has performed at a number of festivals with Richie Sambora, playing a range of blues classics, as well as tracks from her solo albums. I had not seen Orianthi play before, but had heard some incredible stories from those who had. The people who I had spoken to didn’t strike me much as rock fans, but every one of them gave a glowing report of Orianthi as a guitarist and performer. Coming from a week of gigs that were quite ‘unruly’, I was pleased to see a very well behaved group of people, with many young kids, and the majority being female fans. Great to see, and its a shame we don’t see it more often, but its certainly testimony to Orianthi’s broad appeal as a role model to budding guitarists as well as rock/blues fans. I know the Gov well, and have seen everyone from Midge Ure to Helloween there, but it seemed much busier than usual. I squeezed down the front waiting for the gig, not entirely sure what I was in for.

Orianthi’s performance was nothing short of startling. Passionate but controlled playing completely floored the audience, which I have to say was far louder then many I have seen at metal gigs there, so there was great energy in the room. Song after song was just sublime, intricate, and just a joy to watch. And doesn’t Orianthi know how to treat her fans! At each major solo she made her way from centre stage to a different part of the crowd each time. It was an effort getting photographs as I was watching the show and just like the audience who were just entranced by what was going on up on the stage. There was not a dud song the entire night, and there was never a lull in the performance. There were a couple of standouts however. ‘ How Do You Sleep?’ was something else, it was just the most incredible guitar performance and played and sung with incredible accuracy. This was the performance of the night; absolutely faultless. A close second was, ‘Pride And Joy’, which was the last song. Orianthi was intent in squeezing out every last drop of energy and power from the night, and again it was a stellar performance. The band, made up of friends and ex-band members, were perfect for the night, and all proved to be very accomplished musicians. The band felt balanced, and although Orianthi’s performance was that of a virtuoso, the band was never drowned out or irrelevant. Most charming though, was the egoless nature that Orianthi displayed when talking to the crowd. It was conversational, relaxed and thankful. Spotting a young fan in the crowd with one of her signature Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitars she asks, “You have a one of our guitars. How is it for you, you like it? That’s great. Come backstage and I’ll sign it for you later“. Next time I’m bringing a guitar and put it on expenses. I left there knowing I had seen a show.

I walked outside and texted my wife to say that I was on my way home. She asked how it was and I said that my top five favourite guitarists needs to be reviewed, something that I don’t do lightly because I know what I like!! I have a new guitarist in my top five – Moore, Orianthi, Blackmore, Lifeson and May. A few days later I haven’t changed my mind.

Having been at the birth of the New Wave of Heavy Metal and watching the pioneers and their disciples play guitar, you think you have seen it all. Today I walk away always disappointed that you have to make allowances, you have to take all sorts of things in to consideration when you review. Well Orianthi is known the world over so it would be unfair of me to hold anything back as I’m not reviewing some new kid on the block. I split guitarists into 4 main categories of style; these being dexterity, ferocity (attack), tone and passion. When I saw Jeff Healy he had the 4 skills but near the end the passion seemed to wane but he was shining star. Gary Moore had it all and his encore performance on the steps of the Opera House in 1978 for Thin Lizzy is perhaps the most aggressive and passionate playing that you will ever see. Maybe Petrucci comes close but loses passion for technique sometimes, as is definitely the case of Vai and Satriani. Rory Gallagher maybe, but like Bonamassa always played well within his capability and I’m sure that neither truly left the stage giving everything they had. Lifeson, my hero, has it all but the lack of ferocity raises it head all to often. Just give us one shred Alex! Brian May has it in spades but his ferocity is masked by playing that looks effortless.

So what? Well I would say that Blackmore, Healy, May and definitely Gary Moore are the most accomplished guitarists I have seen. I also have no doubt in my mind that its the greatest disappointment that we will never have the chance to see Orianthi and Moore on the same stage because it’s the only time that I would expect that the greatest guitarist of my generation, that being Gary Moore, would have been challenged.

Orianthi oozes passion for the guitar and knows the players, especially those who have influenced her. That passion drives every song she plays. Her dexterity, especially for the blues, comes from that passion. Its not technical and technique driven, but comes from the understanding that she has from playing the sounds and listening to the style of those guitarists who made those songs famous. You can occasionally hear the phrasing of Santana but the tone is spectacular. But, this being the first time I have seen Orianthi, I was taken aback by the ferocity. The attack on the guitar was impressive, but it did not break the tone nor did it slide into party tricks at the expense of the melody or the feel of the song. Watching Moore, I can recall him torturing guitar after guitar taking it to its limits almost in frustration of having played every note possible, but Orianthi leaves nothing onstage, its all out there, but the passion and attack is controlled and, unlike Moore, there wasn’t a point that I heard a frustrated guitarist. Moore was a tortured soul at times, but Orianthi is as relaxed as can be. However, I cannot split Orianthi in capability or performance from the person I consider the best blues guitarist of my era, Gary Moore. I will be there next year without a doubt.

Review: Craig Grant

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