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Saturday, 17 May 2014 15:28

Concert review: Mike Keneally delivers surprises and virtuosity to the audience at the Demo, Friday, May 16

Concert review: Mike Keneally delivers surprises and virtuosity to the audience at the Demo, Friday, May 16
Written by Jason Warren
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The dimly lit room of mostly blue lights and an urban industrial vibe created peculiar warmth as Mike Keneally, bassist Doug Lunn and Drummer Gregg Bendian took the stage at the Demo Friday night.

The trio of musicians launched into "Skies of LA," making it clear the audience was going to get more than what they paid for. Do not think that the words "intimate show" mean one guy sitting down with an acoustic guitar to sing a few songs. While Keneally's music is epic in scale, the small room was a perfect match for making a close and personal connection between audience and musicians.

Lunn and Bendian are a perfect foil for Keneally, navigating quick time and tempo changes while maintaining a groove that keeps the songs moving forward. These thick grooves did not bog the songs down with superficial eccentricities that are common place among musicians who grew up with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, King Crimson and Rush.

Keneally, armed with his guitar and keyboard, moved between instruments with astounding proficiency, many times playing counterparts on guitar and keyboard simultaneously. It is no wonder that the legendary Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Dethklok have Keneally as a member of their musical line ups. He is not only is he a master musician, his compositions make him stand out from the pack. He is fearless in making music that draws from influences ranging from XTC, classic rock and his former employer Frank Zappa.

The band blasted through a set that included the Fire Merchants' song, penned by Doug Lunn, "Hamsterdam," Gregg Bendian's "Current," inspired by Nikolai Tesla, and songs from Keneally's expansive career. The Keneally songs included the hard hitting "Frozen Beef (Come with Me)," his collaboration with XTC frontman Andy Partridge, "Your House," and "It's Raining Here, Inside," which Gregg Bendian called "Mike's hit single."

The night ended with a tour de force. "We're Rockin' All Night With the Tangy Flavor of Cheddar" ripped off the stage, through the P.A. and into the audience, but Keneally's shows generally hold an element of surprise, and that came in the form of Led Zeppelin's "Out on the Tiles" superimposed into the song. Bendian and Lunn fell deep into the groove while Keneally took the melody and guitar further than Jimmy Page could imagine, but still retained the essence of what makes Zeppelin a standard bearer.

Like everything, all good things must come to an end and so did this intimate connection between the audience and musicians. Before the band walked off stage, Keneally put down his guitar and played the Beach Boys' standard, "Surf's Up," another surprise for the audience. The song, which is one of Brian Wilson's most heart wrenching, was offered minus the huge harmonies and wall-of-sound production that Beach Boys recordings are known for, but the essence and emotion came through Keneally's voice and piano as if he had written the song himself.

But wait there's more! Keneally, Lunn and Bendian came back for an encore and to a shouted request from the audience. Keneally shrugged his shoulders in agreement, and the band launched into "Scotch," which summed up the excitement of the night and left the audience hungry for more from these three exceptional musicians.

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