Review: Steve Lukather live in Hamburg, Markthalle 03/24/13

Update: My comments on the overall sound in general and especially bass guitar sound obviously angered Steve which wasn’t my intention, and it’s only my observation – Sabine from Dream Out Loud had no issues with the overall sound, on the contrary. I went back to the text and made sure to be clear that the guitar sound was perfect and although the sound could have been better it was a great performance.

I have documented that Steve Lukather has a special place in my (guitar) education so it doesn’t come as a surprise that I pre-ordered his newest release as soon as it was available and – thank you Mascot Records – received it on the promised day.
The nine track-effort, labelled as the final part of a trilogy (2010’s All’s well that ends well and 2008’s Every changing times are the other two pieces) continues in his established style but with a more seasoned and relaxed approach. The opener Judgement Day for example features a simple melodic solo you could whistle along to, serving the song not any notes per minute ratio. Creep Motel feels like a highway song, the groove grabbing you to nod along, no doubt pushed also by the bass playing of Lee Sklar.
There is the classical power ballad in Right the wrong with epic chorus section and the much appreciated (almost) instrumental epic in Transition. It is the subtleness in his compositions that on the one hand make it easy on the ear and interesting to the listener who discovers layer after layer, e.g. percussion, monotonous piano, and background vocals in Last Man Standing. For all the simplicity of the recording process (Music Man Luke III, Bogner amplifier, Sure SM57) the record sounds great on small ear plugs, laptop speakers and the big system which I can’t say for every new release I heard this year.

Last night, Lukather and band (Steve Weingart on keys, Renee Jones on bass and vocals, Eric Valentine on drums) visited the Markthalle again, playing a little over 2 hours worth of tunes (no support band), with material from Transition, All’s well that ends well, Ever Changing Times, Candyman, Luke and the release with Carlton (here is the setlist).

Due to my interview duties I was at the venue when Steve arrived as he commented “I have a good feeling about tonight”, and it certainly showed. Lukather was in a very playful mood, but not in the “shut up, we know you can play” meaning. Rather, as on the latest record, he seemed to pour his heart into the songs. You can often tell how committed an artist is too a song and the audience when he’s more focused on the setlist tape or his hair. Luke was in the zone, with all the emotional ups and downs the stories of his songs tell At least that’s how I saw it. Very tasteful, just a great guitar player.
The rest of the band was following in his foot steps, most notably drummer Eric Valentine who’s a joy to listen to and look at, he brings a lot of energy to the band. Weingart was formidable and played great solos but that’s about all I can say because:

The sound was horriblenot as good as it should have been for the most part. It’s hard for me to understand how four people can sound worse than the eleven who were on stage at the same time when I saw Neal Morse/Flower Kings last month. Guitar and drums were audible but bass guitar basically non-existens (not helped by the cabinet being pointed rather to the side) and ‘rhythm’ keyboards drowning in the mix. And it wasn’t even that loud, so there must have been room for improvement, especially since the venue was packed and echoes thus manageble. And I don’t think it were my ears either: Renee Jones’ bass guitar was bad in the mix during Lukather’s November 11 concert so I was very excited to finally literally hear her but no. And I switched positions too, fearing I was in a dip or black hole of the venue but to no avail. Although I could clearly see her play the bass guitar was mostly nonexistent aside from the sections where Lukather and Weingart played with less volume (which apparently was a resut of a blown speaker).

Too bad reallyThat was a bit of a let down,  since Lukather was in prime time form and he and the band visibly enjoyed playing for a very receptive and thankful crowd which loved every minute of it (edit: added the Italics part). Of course I took some stupid cell phone pictures too, you can find them here.