LIVE: Johnny A. @ the Upper Room, 1/12/17
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
Boston area native and current Yardbirds guitarist Johnny A. (Antonopoulos) made the trip west on I-90 to Albany earlier this month in support of his solo album Driven, originally released in June of 2014.
His impressive resume also includes several years touring and recording with J. Geils frontman Peter Wolf.
Although the weather outside was pretty good for a mid-January night, the audience was kind of sparse, although enthusiastic, anticipating a full-fledged instrumental onslaught. The thin crowd may be partially due to the fact that Albany’s Upper Room is still a fairly new and still developing a following of its own. It was, however, a great place to see a show.
While Johnny A. played several of his songs from his latest album, such as “Ghost” and “From a Dark Place,” he also branched out to some of his older stuff, in addition to instrumental versions of the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul” and a Beatles’ medley which included some audience participation for “Hey Bulldog.”
Continuing with the instrumental, the band seamlessly morphed from Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” to Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and back again. Backed by a flawless trio of Gary Tawa on guitar, Matty Richards on drums and bassist Jesse Williams, the sound was at once in your face and intimate.
While Johnny was obviously the frontman of the group, he stepped aside and let each of the others take their turn in the spotlight.
All in all, it was a great night of music despite the low attendance numbers. The only downside was several of the effects on Johnny’s pedal board didn’t work. While I’m sure it threw him off, the audience never knew, demonstrating the old adage, the show must go on. After the show, Johnny came out to the front to chat with fans (which is when I found out about his pedal issues).
I’m looking forward to his return visit promised by the Upper Room owner, Chris Pratt.
Opening the night was the Holly & Evan Band with their brand of funk/jazz/soul. Their 45-minute set of all originals got the audience into the evening early and didn’t let up throughout. The quartet – made up of Evan Conway on bass and backing vocals; Josh Greenberg on sax and flute; and Bob Morris on drums – were the perfect complement to singer/guitarist/songwriter, Holly Taormina’s heartfelt, but hard-driving songs, such as “Satisfied” and “I Call You Baby.” The intensity came in swells, but they also lightened up the mood for more upbeat, happier tunes, such as “Good Day.”
Review & photographs by Ed Conway